Minutes & Agenda – 13 January 2021

Finance & General Purposes Uploaded on April 26, 2023


Minutes of a meeting of the FINANCE & GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 13th January 2021 using the Zoom platform.

PRESENT          Cllr J O’Brien (Chairman), Cllrs M Caton, J Hogg, M Jessup, A Khan, F Richards and G Sell


Mrs R Clifford – Clerk

Mrs E Philbrick – Admin Assistant

Mrs L Azure-Marxen – Committee & Project Support Assistant

Cllrs A Barnes and D Wallace Jarvis

1 Member of the Press

1 Member of the Public

455      APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE         –           None

456      DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST    –           None


RESOLVED To accept the minutes of the meeting held on 9th December 2020 as a true and accurate account.


            Cllr O’Brien advised that the meeting with Network Rail will hopefully be taking place in April

459      CHAIRMAN’S REPORT   –           See attached


Only one light out in Park Road which was only reported today. All others have been repaired.


The Clerk advised that they had been trying to obtain quotes for repair work to be completed to brickwork on a property in Stoney Common which was damaged by a streetlight which was on the property. So far 4 different builders had been contacted for quotes but none of them had come back despite being chased on several occasions. If any Cllrs know of anyone in the trade who could quote, then suggestions were welcome. Cllr Caton advised she had spoken to a neighbour who was a builder and will let us know the outcome.

461      FINANCE – PAYMENTS FOR AUTHORISATION    –           Approved


Cllr O’Brien discussed with members his idea to change from a fixed sum to a percentage and why he thought this was a good idea. Cllr Caton asked if this item could be moved to the end of the meeting once discussions on the budget had taken place and this was agreed.


Cllr O’Brien advised that the proposed budget set the Grants at 2% of the precept for the next financial year. Cllr Sell had suggested at a previous meeting that the Council be more proactive and approach organisations who they wanted to support and maybe set up an “Organisation of the Year”. Cllr Sell advised that it was more of a comment than a suggestion and that he had still not decided if he fully supported the idea. He felt that whatever the Council decided to do it would be good if the Parish Council and District Councillors could work together with the New Homes Bonuses alongside.

Cllr Richards felt it was good to be strategic and the 2% was a good idea but she would worry about setting a theme in advance as other themes that might need supporting may develop during the financial year. Cllr Khan felt that the Parish Council needed to more proactive rather than reactive. He agreed with Cllr Sell that with the current pandemic that mental health would be a good choice and he would fully support this. Cllr Caton felt that as the Local Government was promoting regeneration this was something that needed to be supported. How can the Council support our Community post-Covid-19.  A working group should be set up to promote the grants and work on ideas to bring back to the Committee. The Clerk advised that this would be publicised far and wide to reach as many people as possible.

Having been proposed by Cllr O’Brien and seconded by Cllr Sell it was:

PROPOSED to make the 2% effective for the next financial year.

This was unanimously agreed


The Clerk advised that the two new members of staff were settling in well. It was still early days and it’s not as easy to train when you have to maintain a Covid-19 secure environment, but all was going well so far. Cllr Richards commented that she had sent thank you letters to all staff members at Christmas and that the Council were lucky to have them. Cllr Sell asked Laila Azure-Marxen to introduce herself and give the members a brief insight which she did.

465      DAY CENTRE

The Clerk advised that the Day Centre was still unfortunately closed for the foreseeable future. Cllr O’Brien advised that there were plans to get quotes for internal redecoration at some stage. Structural surveys had recently been carried out on the Day Centre and Crafton Green House and the results were due any time.

Cllr Richards advised that some Day Centre volunteers had kept some services going during lockdown in conjunction with Cooks of Stortford. They delivered frozen meals over a couple of weeks.

466      WINDMILL

Cllr O’Brien advised that they still hoped to hold their summer fete this year and had already started making enquiries.


Cllr Caton advised that the Youth Council had held their first Zoom meeting last night as the one due to take place in December was hit with technical issues. The young members involved were very upbeat and gave food for thought on topics such as working with the

PCSO on Youth Crime and how to prevent it, working on the Sports Strategy and also the Neighbourhood Development Plan. They are now going to introduce themselves to each

other separately and discuss ideas before the next meeting which was scheduled for 23rd February @ 7.00pm.

Cllr O’Brien asked how many members had signed up and Cllr Caton confirmed that it was 7 possibly 8.

With regards to the Youth Centre, this was still very much an outreach service but that the Parish Council alongside Essex County Council and Uttlesford District Council were looking to see how the service could be improved.

468      BUDGET

Members confirmed that they had no queries with the items on the revenue budget.

Cllr O’Brien spoke regarding the options on discretionary items which had already been circulated to members before the meeting.

Christmas Lights

Cllr Sell advised that he could not support this when things are so difficult for people due to Covid-19 and lockdowns and felt this should be re-visited another year.

Cllr Khan also agreed with this.

Cllr Caton advised that she agreed to some degree but for the sake of the mental health of many in the community that seeing more lights up at Christmas would be good to cheer everyone up.

Cllr Richards commented that from the perspective of mental health she thought that the Christmas tree in the village would have more of an impact than Christmas streetlights. More families would appreciate colourful trees around the village so it may be worth spending some money on that instead.

It was agreed that members could not support £15,000 towards this during such difficult times.

Having been proposed by Cllr Sell and seconded by Cllr Jessup it was:

RESOLVED to put forward to the Full Council that £5,000 be put into a Christmas budget, and to agree how to spend it as the year progressed.

This was unanimously agreed

Play Equipment

A young parishioner had previously addressed the Council requesting more play equipment on the Mountfitchet Estate for older children.

£10,000 has been suggested to towards play equipment here and on Foresthall Park (FHP).

Cllr Barnes advised that a member of the Open Spaces committee is working on identifying where and what equipment is needed in the different play areas. £10,000 would not cover the cost of everything that needed to be done but match funding would be looked into.

Cllr Caton also commented that this amount of money would not buy everything needed but that the Council needed to do what it could and it could be an ongoing process over a number of years.Cllr Sell asked if there was any money left in the S106 Community Fund at Uttlesford and shouldn’t this be used towards their play areas? This would greatly help the residents living in flats with no gardens.

The Clerk advised that she knows there was some money left and she would speak to Uttlesford to find out exactly how much.

Having been proposed by Cllr Sell and seconded by Cllr Jessup it was:

RESOLVED to propose that the play equipment at Forest Hall Park be funded through the S106 Community Fund.

This was unanimously agreed

Having been proposed by Cllr Sell and seconded by Cllr Jessup it was:

RESOLVED to propose that £15,000 be allocated for the Mountfitchet Estate play equipment.

This was unanimously agreed

£25,000 repayment back to the Parish Council S106 Community fund

Discussions took place on the amount of money that should be allocated to pay back in the next financial year. Members felt that a commitment had been made and there was a policy in place for £25,000 so this should be honoured.

Having been proposed by Cllr O’Brien and seconded by Cllr Jessup it was:

RESOLVED to propose that £25,000 be repaid in the next financial year.

This was unanimously agreed.

Crafton Green House

A recent structural survey had taken place and although the official report had not been  received yet, they had indicated that the building was structurally sound and that it was mainly external repairs that would need to be carried out. Cllr O’Brien advised that due to this he was suggesting a reduced figure of £20,000 be put into the budget for Crafton Green House.

Cllr Hogg advised that he didn’t understand why so much money was being put aside for a building that may never be used. Only a small percentage of the community had responded to the consultation and that most of the suggestions could take place in other facilities around the village. Councillors need to make a decision on the future of the house.

Cllr Caton advised that yes only approximately 0.03% responded to the consultation and she also felt that a decision needed to be made sooner rather than later. With so many other premises around the village such as the Day Centre, Mountfitchet Exchange and a number of other halls and venues, what else could Crafton Green House offer that they couldn’t.

Cllr Jessup advised although these were all factors that money did have to be put aside in the budget in case of any repairs that needed to take place regardless of other discussions which still need to take place before decisions are made.  The Clerk commented that this could still be reviewed again once the survey report was received and prior to setting the precept.

Having been proposed by Cllr Khan and seconded by Cllr Jessup it was:

RESOLVED to propose putting £20,000 into the budget towards any costs involved in the final decision on the future of Crafton Green House.

462      FREE RESERVE (Cont)

The discussion about the level of the Council’s Free or General Reserve resumed.  Cllr O’Brien was keen that this be set at a percentage of the annual expenditure rather than at a fixed sum to avoid the risk of devaluation by rates of inflation.  Audit requirements state that the bare minimum should be 25% of expenditure but he would be happier if this were 30%.  Cllr Caton considered that given the savings members had made in acknowledgement of harder times for parishioners, there was not much scope to raise money to boost the free reserve in the next year.

After further discussion, Cllr Sell proposed and Cllr Jessup seconded, it was

RESOLVED        to maintain the free reserve at a minimum of 25% of expenditure, working towards raising this to 30% as year-end surpluses permitted.

This was unanimously agreed.

Meeting closed at 9.16pm


NOTICE OF MEETING You are summoned to attend a meeting of the FINANCE AND GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE to be held on Wednesday 13th January 2021 at 7.30pm using the Zoom platform.

1          To receive apologies for absence

2          To receive Declarations of Interest

3          To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 9th December 2020

4          Matters Arising

5          Chairman’s Report

6          Lighting:          a)         Outage Report         b) General

7          Finance: Payments for authorisation – to be circulated to PC members

8          To consider the Council’s policy on Free Reserves

9          Parish Grants – To consider whether to set an annual theme or “Organisation of the Year”

10        Staff Matters

11        Day Centre

12        Windmill

13        Youth Matters – To receive an update from Cllr Caton

14        Budget – To consider the draft budget for 2021/22 and to form a recommendation to the Council on setting the precept for 2021/22 – Draft budget and Chairman’s report to be circulated to PC Members

Ruth Clifford – Parish Clerk, 6th January 2021