Minutes of a meeting of the FINANCE & GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE held on Wednesday 11th January 2023 at 7.30pm in the Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex
PRESENT Cllr J O’Brien (Chair), Cllrs M Caton, J Hogg, M Jessup, P Jones and T Smith
Mrs Ruth Clifford – Parish Clerk
Mrs Emma Philbrick – Deputy Clerk
Cllrs Barnes and Prior – via Zoom
1 member of the press
1 member of the public – via Zoom
294 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Richards and Cllr Sell – both family commitments. Having been proposed by Cllr Smith and seconded by Cllr Jones, it was unanimously:
RESOLVED to accept the apologies from Cllr Richards and Cllr Sell
295 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – None
296 TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 7TH DECEMBER 2023
RESOLVED to approve the minutes of the meeting held on 7th December 2023 as a true and accurate account.
297 TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON ACTION POINTS FROM THE LAST MEETING
The Deputy Clerk confirmed that the light outage had been reported and the issue with the Christmas light resolved.
298 TO RECEIVE A REPORT FROM THE CHAIR, CLLR O’BRIEN
a) TO RECEIVE AN OUTAGE REPORT
The Deputy Clerk advised that there is an issue with the lights in Park Road and Stoneyfield Drive. The contractors attended site, but the issue is with the supply. This has been reported to UKPN. She also confirmed that outages in Chapel Hill, Lower Street and Church Road had been reported to the contractors today.
The Chair advised that we are still awaiting a quote to restore the power supply to SR2 in Station Road.
b) TO RECEIVE A GENERAL REPORT ON LIGHTING
The Chair referred back to his Chair report and the grant application that has been submitted.
The list of payments was checked against the invoices and signed by Cllr Jones before the start of the meeting. The list of payments was approved.
301 TO RECEIVE THE SECOND DRAFT OF THE BUDGET AND A REPORT FOR 2023/24
The second draft of the budget was circulated to all members ahead of the meeting. The Clerk advised that this was based on the views from the previous meeting when members asked for a 0% increase. The Clerk explained that there was a small increase on the precept figure but as we have more council tax paying residents in the village this year, it means a 0% increase on the band D charge.
Cllr Jones commented that he could not see that the village firework event would go ahead in the coming years as there is no suitable site available in the village and he also questioned whether a firework event was climate friendly. He therefore proposed that the Earmarked Reserve for Fireworks should be renamed as Community Events to ensure that some sort of event for the village could take place at any time during the year. After a brief discussion including the idea of joining with another parish/town, the proposal was seconded by Cllr Jessup, and with five votes in favour and one vote against, it was:
RESOLVED to rename the Firework Earmarked Reserve to Community Events
Cllr Hogg asked regarding the handyman budget and the Clerk explained the rationale behind the proposal to employ contractors to undertake the tasks that cannot be performed by the members of staff currently employed. She stressed that the spending for any jobs would be monitored and the 50% wage allowance for the handyman role would allow the Council to employ someone part way through the year should they consider it necessary.
Cllr Jones stated that the Council has declared a Climate Emergency and feels it should be committing itself to this and allocating money to support the work of the Climate Change Working Group. The Working Group has only been going for a short amount of time but he is already staggered by the enthusiasm they are showing and the work that is going into it. They may be looking for some money towards expenses such as printing, distribution and tree planting. He also commented that if they are going out for grants, they may be asked for match funding or asked to demonstrate the Council’s support for Climate Change. Cllr Jones proposed that £5,000 be taken from the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) Earmarked Reserve (EMR) and moved into a Climate Change EMR. Cllr Jessup asked how much was in the NDP EMR and how much more funds it was likely to need. The Clerk confirmed there was just over £8,000 and that a minimal amount was needed to finish the draft plan before it is sent to UDC who then pay the remaining costs. Having been seconded by Cllr Caton and unanimously agreed, it was:
RESOLVED To move £5,000 from the Neighbourhood Development Plan Earmarked Reserves to an Earmarked Reserve for Climate Change.
In response to a question from Cllr Jones, the Clerk confirmed that we are working towards Touchpoint taking on a Licence to Occupy Crafton Green House. This will hopefully be completed during 2023/24 and would result in a saving to the Council on the Business Rates.
The Chair flagged up that not increasing the Band D rate this year, could result in higher percentage increases in future years when our energy prices and other costs start to rise. However, as it is the Committee’s view that a 0% increase is desirable, he proposed that any shortfall during 2023/24, arising as a result of not having increased our Band D by the usual 2%, should be met from that year’s contribution to the FHP Community Reserve Fund. Any money taken from the £25,000 would be added onto the end of the payment term. The Clerk advised that as this would contravene the Council’s current policy to repay the £200,000 at £25,000 per year over 8 years, the final decision should be taken by the Full Council and the decision not be made by just the F&GP Committee. The Committee agreed to make the recommendation to Full Council.
RECOMMENDATION to take any shortfall in 2023/24 from the FHP Community Fund.
302 TO MAKE A RECOMMENDATION TO THE FULL COUNCIL FOR THE BUDGET 2023/24
The Chair proposed the following:
RECOMMENDATION That the Council be asked to approve the draft budget version 2, as circulated to all members, with a 0% increase to the Band D Council Tax.
Having been seconded by Cllr Caton, it was unanimously agreed
The Chair proposed the following:
RECOMMENDATION That the Council should set its precept for 2023/24 at £436,650.
Having been seconded by Cllr Caton, it was unanimously agreed.
303 CRAFTON GREEN – TO RECEIVE ANY UPDATES ON THE COMMUNITY BUILDINGS
The Clerk advised that they are in talks with Touchpoint about taking on the Licence to Occupy for Crafton Green House but there are some remedial works they would like carried out first to make it more useable. They now have someone working for them who is working on a report so that is awaited. The new windows are all done and thanks to a grant which Touchpoint obtained, most of the downstairs windows were replaced and not just the damaged ones. Touchpoint are currently trying to find a grant to enable the upstairs windows to be replaced.
304 WINDMILL – TO RECEIVE ANY UPDATE
The Chair advised that the Santa’s Grotto was a great success. A profit of £607 was made compared to £439 the previous year. They had 120 wrapped presents but had 140 children visit. They managed to obtain some additional gifts to ensure everyone received one.
305 YOUTH MATTERS – TO RECEIVE ANY UPDATES
Cllr Caton advised that a successful partnership meeting had taken place before Christmas with several organisations attending. Several follow up meetings have been arranged as a result of this. On January 20th, the Chair and Clerk have been invited to visit the Peter Kirk Centre, to look at the new lay-out. Once the building is up and running, Essex County Council are looking to utilise the building when the Youth Club is not operating which is a positive step forward.
Stansted Youth 2000 will be handing over their funds to either the Parish Council or the Youth Club directly.
The Youth Club is hoping to be up and running again in February as long as the works are complete. They had to cease before Christmas due to flooding at the old site. As we have commissioned Essex County Council to run the service, we have been advised that we are their first priority in terms of staffing. They have been sending flyers out to recruit new members and keep current members interested.
Cllr Caton has been speaking to UDC leaders and it appears that all they are all experiencing similar issues as us and it is actually a universal problem. Schools do not have the time to interact or encourage children.
The Police have advised that they carry out visits to the schools and have invited Cllr Caton to go with them so that she can promote the Youth Council.
At a recent awards ceremony she attended at UDC, Fiona Gardiner who is the Head of Communities, Health and Wellbeing, advised they are now looking at recruiting children from Year 6 and this is something the Parish Council should copy to bring children through earlier.
Today, she and the Clerk had met with Daniel Burford, Community Engagement Manager, from Stansted Airport after she had seen an article in the Link that he was setting up a Youth Forum. He has agreed to help with the publicity of our Youth Council.
306 STAFF MATTERS – TO RECEIVE ANY AVAILABLE UPDATES
Nothing to report
Meeting closed at 8.20pm
NO ACTION POINTS
NOTICE OF MEETING You are summoned to attend a meeting of the FINANCE AND GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE which will be held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 11th January 2023 in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex where the following business will be transacted:
1 To receive apologies for absence
2 To receive declarations of interest
3 To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 7th December 2022
4 To receive an update on action points from the last meeting
5 To receive a report from the Chair, Cllr O’Brien.
- a) To receive an outage report
- b) To receive a general report on lighting
7 Finance: To approve the list of payments for authorisation – To be tabled
8 To receive the second draft of the budget and a report for 2023/24 – to follow
9 To make a recommendation to the Full Council for the budget 2023/24
10 Crafton Green – To receive any updates on the community buildings
11 Windmill – To receive any updates
12 Youth Matters – To receive any updates
13 Staff Matters – To receive any available updates
Ruth Clifford, Parish Clerk -5th January 2023