Minutes of a meeting of the FINANCE & GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE held at 7.30pm on Wednesday 23rd September 2020 using the Zoom platform
PRESENT Cllr J O’Brien (Chairman), Cllrs M Caton, M Jessup, A Khan, F Richards and G Sell
ATTENDING Mrs Emma Philbrick – Admin Assistant, Cllr J Hudson
389 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from the Clerk Ruth Clifford
390 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – None
391 TO RECEIVE THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 4TH MARCH 2020
RESOLVED to accept the minutes of the meeting held on 4th March 2020 as a true and accurate account
392 MATTERS ARISING
Cllr O’Brien spoke regarding the following:
Black Bridge Footpath – Network Rail replied to our approach to ask for the clearance of the vegetation from the footpath between Water Lane and the Black Bridge and work was carried out during August. On inspection, it was noted that all the cut debris had been left on site and clearance was not as extensive as hoped, leaving a dark area which does not offer a clear view of the path up on to the bridge.
Unfortunately, there was no contact with regard to our proposal for arranging a site visit to assess the possibility of installing some form of lighting on the bridge or to discuss other safety issues.
One possible topic for discussion with Network rail is the possibility of the PC taking over responsibility for clearing ground between Water Lane and the Black Bridge path to ensure good lighting from our recently installed twin streetlamp which is intended to spread light up to the bridge.
One possibility could be we purchase the area for a nominal fee, say £1 or take a long lease of negligible rental.
I wish to propose that this council continues to seek a meeting with Network Rail to discuss removing the barriers to a safe environment for members of our community to walk between Water Lane and West Road.
This was seconded by Cllr Sell and unanimously agreed
Day Centre – We have a disadvantage of not having any drawings or plans of the building as these were lost on transfer between Uttlesford and the Parish Council when ownership was gifted to us. This has caused significant issues as we are not in a position to understand the true dimensions of the structure. The replacement doors and windows have been installed but, because of Covid, we are not in a position to reopen the building for use by members of our community. We are awaiting guidance from Uttlesford, but it seems that, at the moment they do not generally consider reopening now s safe and are looking into the new year to reopen centres.
The Day Centre Management Team has already received a request from a community group to use the Day Centre. The issue for us is that the building requires redecoration work. Should the building be made available for hire this would require a deep cleaning process after each use, especially with regard to the number of soft furnishings there and we have to be sure this was a thorough clean.
After discussions between members it was agreed that the Parish Council does not feel it can safely offer the Day Centre to groups at present. It is too risky especially with Covid-19 rising again and the Parish Council would take its lead from UDC who are not opening yet.
The Windmill – work has been carried out to repair the mechanism for adjusting the angle of the sails and a new mechanism, with which to facilitate the manual turning of the sail structure, from the ground, has been partly completed.
It is a shame that 2020 has brought about a cancellation of their annual fete.
The Youth Centre – Owing to Covid regulations the premises was not allowed to hold its usual evening gatherings. An email offering the use of a “Covid Compliant” space at the Youth Centre for small groups, at daytime, has been received, but It was felt that, before such an offer was accepted, risk assessments would need to be carried out and that all groups involved were made aware of their responsibilities.
393 CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
A copy of the report is attached
Flash Flooding – Cllr Caton advised that she had been informed that the drains had been cleared by Essex Highways and that one local business in Lower Street had witnessed this being done. Cllr O’Brien had met with a specialist who was present during one of the downpours and they thought that it may have been just the pots that had been cleared and not the lines. After some discussion it was agreed that the first step should be for Cllr Sell as the Chair of Highways to request a zoom meeting with Kevin Bentley Chairman of Essex Highways as well as County Cllr Ray Gooding.
Noticeboards – Cllr O’Brien advised the meeting that he felt a noticeboard would be better placed at the opening of Croasdaile Road and not Hargrave Close.
After being proposed that additional noticeboards be funded by Cllr O’Brien and seconded by Cllr Jessup it was
RESOLVED to accept the recommendations by Open Spaces to install two new noticeboards but to ask them to reconsider the location of Hargrave Close.
This was unanimously agreed
a PAYMENTS FOR AUTHORISATION – None
b VAT Return to 30th June 2020 – Circulated by Email
c Income and expenditure statement to 31st August 2020 – Circulated by email
a OUTAGE REPORT – Two lights currently not working – one in St John’s Lane and one in St John’s Road
b GENERAL – Nothing to report
396 GRANTS – TO CONSIDER AWARDING COMMUNITY GRANTS FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE FUND
The Clerk forwarded a report to members explaining how much of the budget was left, who had been awarded grants already and how much, who had applied for grants and which companies the Parish Council had written to for more information before the Committee would consider their application.
The report advised that two new grant applications had been received.
These were from St Mary’s Primary School for a contribution towards their proposed allotment garden and from the Footpath Strimmers Group for funding to purchase strimmers and associated safety equipment.
Support for Sight had applied but the committee then asked for evidence of how many parishioners are supported by their work. They responded to say that there are 22 registered users and they assist others who just want information, advice or guidance but don’t want to formally register. Cllr Maureen Caton declared an interest as Cllr Melvin Caton is a trustee for Support for Sight.
It was advised that District Councillors A Khan and M Caton were giving St Mary’s Primary School £500 (£250 each) out of their personal budget to the school towards their allotment garden. Cllrs Sell and Caton commented that they would like to see the school raise some of the money themselves and it was also commented that as they were a Church of England school that they should be looking to their Diocese for some funding. Cllr Richards felt that as The Forest Hall School was only awarded £500 towards theirs that the same or less should be awarded.
Having been proposed by Cllr Caton and seconded by Cllr Richards it was:
RESOLVED to award a grant to St Mary’s School of £350 and award £200 to the Footpath Strimmers Group.
This was unanimously agreed.
Discussions took place regarding the application by Support 4 Sight. Cllr Sell commented that they are currently going through turbulent times and their office in Saffron Walden has gone but the work they do remains. He had spoken to parishioners who had been helped by them and the need is there.
Cllr Caton and Cllr Sell both agreed that they are not convinced of how much work they were doing in Stansted.
It was agreed that no grant would be offered to them until they showed more evidence of the work, they were carrying out in the Stansted Community.
397 STAFF MATTERS
Cllr Richards advised that both sets of minutes from the Personnel meetings had been circulated. She had sent a letter to Mr & Mrs Hagon and had not had a response. Cllr Khan asked if the matter was now finished? Cllr Richards confirmed that as far as the Council are concerned that this has been investigated and concluded.
Cllr Jessup asked if the interviews for the Receptionist role had taken place. Cllr Richards updated that they had done three interviews but that the person who had been offered the job had declined as they had been offered another role which suited them more. She now needs to speak to the Clerk on her return from holiday to decide the next step forward.
398 DAY CENTRE – This was covered in the Chairman’s report
Cllr Jessup asked if it would be worth getting architectural drawings done for the future especially if the Parish Council wanted to extend at some point. Cllr O’Brien agreed to get quotes.
Cllr Caton asked for it to be put on record that although she understood that quick action needed to take place with the emergency works on the Day Centre but she had asked for a commissioning and procurement policy and guidance to be put in place for any similar future issues where emergency expenditure was to be actioned.
399 WINDMILL – This was covered in the Chairman’s report
The Chairman advised that estimates are awaited, for the improvements to the grounds around the Mill.
400 YOUTH CENTRE
Cllr Caton confirmed what the Chairman had said in his report that the Youth Centre was not able to operate normally as Covid regulations prohibited large gatherings. Gemini were doing outreach work, but she thought this work was limited and not reaching the majority of the youth that attended the Youth Centre before lockdown. The PCSO has also said she would support outreach visits by the Youth Centre staff if she were aware of their date/time and location. A UDC Initiative scheme to help supply volunteers to local groups had been distributed to all organisations in Stansted but only two responses had been received which was disappointing. This did not include the Youth Centre although they had been chased.
A Youth Council was being set up and the Youth Centre Leader was disappointed that the age ground started at 13 and not 11. Cllr Caton had explained that 11 years olds are normally busy settling into their secondary schools – able to be out later in the evenings etc. 13 years was agreed to be the lowest age.
Cllr Caton advised that in future we may need to review what we would like to see delivered from the Youth Centre and what and who we need them to support.
Meeting Closed at 8.20pm
392 – Cllr O’Brien to seek a meeting with Network Rail
393 – Accept recommendations by Open Spaces but ask them to re-consider the Hargrave Close location – Cllr Barnes
393 – Cllr Sell to request a zoom meeting with Kevin Bentley and Cty Cllr Ray Gooding
398 – Cllr O’Brien to obtain quotes for architectural drawings of the Day Centre
Committee Chair Report: John O’Brien
The effects of Covid – This year has turned everything upside down, throwing us all into confusion by an unseen enemy. Among the consequences of this has been that our new Library and Parish Council offices and the Day Centre have had to remain closed to members of our community.
The continuing emergency has forced the Millers to cancel their annual fete and that the November Fireworks event will not go ahead.
The pandemic, and prospective local government reform has raised questions for the future funding of the lower echelons of Local Government. This council needs to carefully consider whether we are well placed to weather the financial turbulence this may cause. From a personal perspective I feel it is essential this council becomes proactive in its financial planning rather reactive as it has been for some time.
The issue for this village is that development was allowed unfettered in the 1960’s and 70’s where the new roads were not adopted, thus leaving a considerable area uphill from Lower Street with no drainage system.
During August, Stansted village suffered two flash flood events which tested the soundness of the surface water drainage system. The result was that it failed miserably. I was concerned, after seeing the Kings Arms flooded out on 13th August, this council needed to seek expert advice.
A site visit was arranged with a drainage consultant who fortuitously arrived on the day of the second August flash flood and was able to view, first-hand, the effects of such an event on the drainage infrastructure.
One observation he made was that it appeared that although the pots of the drain gullies in Lower Street were not blocked it seemed that the lines into the culvert may not be performing as expected.
At the last Full Council meeting a £3,000 budget was approved for Drain Clearance which is hoped to provide us with the facility to take action at short notice. It will also allow us to take pre-emptive steps to ensure the main surface water drainage system at the lowest part of the village is working to its intended potential.
During my investigations I have noted the following drainage issues.
Church Road: – There are 45 issues involving blocked drain gullies and main surface water drains.
Chapel Hill: – 4 issues, the most serious of which is outside the Kings Arms and has been known for a minimum of 4 years.
Lower Street: – 2 issues
Grove Hill: – 1 issue
High Lane: – 5 issues
Hargrave Close: – 1 issue (unresolved for 4 years)
Cambridge Road: – 6 issues (1 unresolved for 4 years)
Silver Street: – 10 issues
Pines Hill: – 6 issues
Total issues: – 80
In view of the above I should like to propose that the Parish Council seeks a full explanation, via a Freedom of Information Request if necessary, from Essex Highways, for why so many drainage issues, many of which appear longstanding, have not been addressed. Similarly, this council needs to seek reassurance from the Environment Agency that the planned Natural Flood Management scheme, scheduled for the Ugley Brook, will be carried out as a matter of urgency.
Parish Council Noticeboards
At the recent Open Spaces committee meeting the topic of providing council Noticeboards was raised and that committee recommended that two new noticeboards to be established – one in Walpole Meadows and the other at Hargrave Close.
I should like to propose that this committee accepts their recommendation for new noticeboards but asks that the position of Hargrave Close be reconsidered. REPORT ENDS
NOTICE OF MEETING You are invited to attend a meeting of the FINANCE AND GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE to be held on Wednesday 23rd September 2020 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 4th March 2020
4 Matters Arising
5 Chairman’s Report
a) payments for authorisation
b) VAT return to 30th June 2020
c) Income and expenditure statement to 31st August 2020
7 Lighting: a) Outage Report. b) General
8 Grants – to consider awarding Community Grants from the remainder of the fund – see Clerk’s report to be circulated
9 Staff Matters -to receive an update from the Personnel Sub-Committee meetings
10 Day Centre – To receive an update on the current closure
11 Windmill – To receive a report on recent work
12 Youth Centre – to receive a progress report from Cllr Caton
Ruth Clifford, Parish Clerk – 17 September 2020