Minutes of a meeting of the FINANCE & GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE held at 8.05pm on Wednesday 1st December 2021 at The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex
PRESENT: Cllr J O’Brien (Chairman), Cllrs M Caton, J Hogg, J Hudson, M Jessup, F Richards and G Sell
Mrs Ruth Clifford – Parish Clerk
Mrs Emma Philbrick – Trainee Deputy Clerk
Cllrs A Barnes, P Davies, A Guney, J Kavanagh and L Prior
1 member of the press
1 member of the public
270 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Smith due to the imminent arrival of their first child. Having been proposed by Cllr Richards and seconded by Cllr Hogg it was unanimously:
RESOLVED to accept the apologies from Cllr Smith
271 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – None
272 TO RECEIVE THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 27TH OCTOBER 2021
RESOLVED to accept the minutes of the meeting held on 27th October 2021 as a true and accurate account
273 TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE ON PROGRESS SINCE THE LAST MEETING
The Chairman advised that this would be covered in his chairman’s report.
274 TO RECEIVE THE CHAIRMAN’S REPORT – Attached
a) To receive an outage report
Lights on Church Road and Brewery Lane out and these have been reported to the contractor. Cllr Caton reported a light out on the path on the Black Bridge up to The Spinney. Cllr O’Brien advised that lights 1 and 4 in Mount Drive are both out.
b) To receive a general report on lighting
Cllr Sell reported that he had held discussions with Cty Cllr Gooding and a senior planning officer regarding lack of street lighting in King Charles Drive. This was not a planning condition, and it is unlikely that lighting will be provided through the County Highways adoption of the road. It is more important therefore that lighting is installed at the far end of Cambridge Road and its return into High Lane.
- a) To approve the list of payments for authorisation – Tabled and approved
- b) To receive the Internal Auditor’s Report
This was circulated to members ahead of the meeting and the Clerk advised that there were three action points.
1 – Invoices needed to be stamped – This was now being done including the invoices tabled at tonight’s meeting.
2 – Two step system for authorisation – This comes as part of the switch to Unity Bank
3 – Petty Cash Account – The Clerk confirmed that consideration will be given to closing this once alternative arrangements are in place with Unity Bank.
There being no further queries, members accepted the report.
277 TO CONSIDER THE DRAFT BUDGET FOR 2022/23
The Clerk reported that various questions had been raised by some members prior to the meeting. She hoped that these would be addressed as this item progressed but if not would try to return to them later in the discussion.
The Clerk referred to her note circulated ahead of the meeting with the draft budget.
The Chairman and Clerk talked members through each cost centre on the draft budget addressing queries where they were raised and in particular:
a) Staff salaries – a 2% increase has been allowed in the budget but actual increases will be determined by the Finance Committee following recommendations by the Personnel Sub-Committee before the start of the new financial year. The Clerk reminded members that part of the reason for employing the HR Consultants was to get all staff onto the National Joint Council pay-scales as recommended by the Auditor.
b) The Clerk confirmed that the grass cutting contracts and the gardening and grounds maintenance contract are up for review for 2022/23 onwards. The gardening and grounds maintenance contract will be posted on the Governments Contract Finder website as required under our Financial Regulations. The Clerk confirmed that the draft figures shown against these contracts would be reviewed after the preferred contractors had been selected.
c) Stansted In Bloom – The budgeted amount is to cover any expenses which may be incurred e.g., entering Anglia In Bloom competition. The Clerk reminded members that when the Stansted In Bloom group ceased its activities, they paid the funds remaining in their accounts (£833) over to the Parish Council. The Clerk believed that this should be set aside in an Ear Marked Reserve and paid over to any constituted replacement group. It was noted that Cllr Prior suggested this money could be put towards a new flower planter in Lower Street if that project proceeds.
d) Play Equipment – Expenditure in the current year has been higher than budgeted as the Council had to buy in the safety checks of its playgrounds. Now that a member of staff has qualified to undertake the inspections the costs will reduce going forward. However, all of the equipment is getting older and as such maintenance costs will
e) Trees – Following the survey of all of the Council’s trees this year, there has been a good deal of maintenance work carried out increasing our expenditure. However, with the work now behind us it is not expected that costs will be as high until the time of the next inspection. Cllr Sell reported that UDC has a considerable climate change budget which might benefit the Parish Council in terms of large-scale tree planting at Elms Farm or other sites around Stansted. The Clerk confirmed that she would register the Parish Council’s interest in applying to this fund once the UDC process has been
f) Windmill – The Chairman explained that historically the Council has contributed £4,000 per annum to the Windmill Capital Fund to ensure that when major projects need to be undertaken there is a healthy starting point to support grant applications. The Chairman expressed his concern however that this sum has never been increased and is therefore actually diminishing year on year. He suggested that the committee consider increasing this sum by 2% per annum (£168 next year) for the next 5 years.
g) Crafton Green Complex – In response from a question from Cllr Caton, the Clerk confirmed that there could be savings to be made relating to Crafton Green House once the lease is signed with Touchpoint. As lease holders they would be eligible for rate relief and the Council would not be liable for the business rates on the building. The Clerk reported that the results of recent electrical surveys meant that works may be required to update the equipment.
h) Lighting – The Council’s current practice is to allocate £10,000 per annum to upgrade the aged lighting stock around the village. The old post-top lanterns are now obsolete and as these fail new lanterns have to be purchased. It was noted that energy costs are also on the rise.
i) PCSO – Cllr Caton reported that a meeting had been held recently with Elsenham and Henham Parish Councils, our PCSO, her two superior Officers and the appropriate officer from UDC. The neighbouring Parishes had aired a few concerns about the time the PCSO spends in their villages and a better system of reporting had been agreed going forward. The UDC Officer had been trying to establish the current salary scale together with any proposed increases to help all the Council’s with their budgeting.To date this has not been received.
j) Unadopted Road – The Parish Council has a policy to make a contribution (of around 15%) to any properly constituted residents’ group which plans road improvements. This contribution acknowledges the use of those roads by the general public. In addition, for 2022/23 the Parish Council has a legal obligation, as a frontager, to contribute towards repairs on the Recreation Ground Road. Cllr Caton queried whether the amount budgeted would be sufficient as it was possible a request would be forthcoming from Stoney Common/West Road residents.
k) Election Costs – When setting the budget for the current year, members had agreed to raise £2,500 this year and the same amount in 2022/23.
l) Fireworks – It was confirmed that the £4,000 from last year and £500 in the current year were safeguarded for the 2022 event. It is suggested to raise a further £500 next
m) Day Centre – Discussions with Touchpoint regarding a lease are ongoing and, as with Crafton Green House, quotes for various improvements are being sought. As previously reported, we have lost the annual grant following UDC’s decision to no longer support Day Centres. With the centre being used more frequently, cleaning is heading back towards pre-pandemic frequency.
n) Mountfitchet Exchange – Energy costs are looking more favourable than expected but the Clerk pointed out that we are only just into the winter period.
o) Christmas Lights – It was confirmed that the £5,000 raised in the current year would be safeguarded for Christmas lights in 2022. The review of suitable sites for additional Christmas trees would be addressed in spring 2022 in conjunction with the lady who has organised the community Christmas Tree for the last 3 years.
Cllr O’Brien asked members to ponder the draft document and make any further comments to him and/or the Clerk. The precept figure shown on the draft document allowed for a 2% increase on the previous year and members would be asked to make a policy decision on whether to agree a 2% increase, a 4.2% increase in line with inflation or no increase at all in which case some services may need to be reduced. All figures will become clearer in the new year, particularly on receipt of the gardening and grass cutting quotes.
Finally, the Clerk referred back to her report listing items proposed but not yet included in the forward budget. To this list were added some kind of celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the potential for toilet facilities at the Skatepark. After brief discussion, it was agreed not to include the second-hand trailer for the generator.
In response to a query from Cllr Davies, the Clerk confirmed that UDC has yet to receive confirmation of its Welcome Back Fund application to the Government. Cllr Davies asked whether members could receive more detailed background information relating to each budget item. He went on to refer to the Council’s Earmarked reserves and the Clerk offered to circulate the current list of EMR’s to all members.
278 TO CONSIDER A REQUEST FROM THE STANSTED MILLERS FOR FUNDING TOWARDS THEIR AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY FETE
The request from the Millers was circulated ahead of the meeting. The Clerk gave background information on how the funding is normally raised by the Millers and that they had previously been awarded Lottery funding. This year they have bigger capital projects which they need to apply for grants for. The Millers are asking the Parish Council to pay an estimated £2,000 towards the cost of setting up of the fete in 2022 and then they would pay this back after the event from the profits. The Clerk advised that members should consider paying this from the Windmill reserve. Cllr Hogg commented that this would be very limited exposure as the only reason that this couldn’t be paid back is if no one turned up for the event which was unlikely to the happen after the huge success of this year’s event. Cllr Sell commented that this had now turned into a village event and had been going ahead for a very long time meaning a very small risk and would show a gesture of support.
Having been proposed by Cllr Sell and seconded by Cllr Caton it was unanimously:
RESOLVED to agree to the request by the Millers and pay the initial set-up costs of the Bank Holiday Fete 2022 with intended reimbursement after the event.
279 BONFIRE NIGHT – TO RECEIVE A PROGRESS REPORT
The Chairman advised that the Parish Council had been offered one site and suitability and practicalities were being looked at and he had thought of another possible site. At both of these areas there are concerns about vehicular access and car parking and it is a long walk from any roads and also is unlit. The Parish Council had approached another landowner but unfortunately this would not be a possible site.
The Chairman advised that there was a rumour that the school may allow the use of their field again. Cllr Caton advised that this was more than just a rumour and that along with the Clerk, she had a meeting planned with the headteacher to discuss. The search for other possible premises would continue as the ideal would be a site where a bonfire would also be permitted.
280 DAY CENTRE – TO RECEIVE A PROGRESS REPORT
The Chairman advised that we are awaiting quotes back from contractors to modernise the kitchen. One had been received back so far. Other repairs would also need to be carried out. Touchpoint are keen to take on both buildings and to increase the meal provision at the Day Centre.
Cllr Sell confirmed that the original management committee has now been wound up and the remaining funds donated to Touchpoint. It had been made clear to Touchpoint that these funds had been donated to the Day Centre when its focus was provision for the elderly, and he hoped that this sentiment would be carried forward as Touchpoints plans progress.
281 WINDMILL – TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE FROM THE CHAIRMAN
Cllr O’Brien reported on the Sub-Committee meeting which had taken place prior to this meeting. The Millers have achieved good progress on projects including the striking chain, the overhaul of the striking gear, replacement of a broken tooth in the curb and the purchase of timbers for the new stock clamps.
One quotation has been received for the replacement of the fire alarm which is no longer fit for purpose. The Clerk will endeavour to obtain further quotes after which the matter will revert to the Trustees for a decision.
Finally, the Chairman informed everyone that Santa’s Grotto will be at the Windmill on Saturday 11st December from 1pm – 5pm. Admission is £4 per child to include a gift from Santa and there will also be refreshments and a raffle.
282 YOUTH MATTERS – TO RECEIVE AN UPDATE
Cllr Caton reported that the Youth Council had met the previous week. Two new members had joined and unfortunately a third had been unwell on the evening. It is hoped to organise trips to the Houses of Parliament and to Westminster City Council in the coming months.
As reported earlier in the meeting, Cllr Caton and the Clerk will be meeting the new head prior to Christmas and will discuss how to encourage more youngsters to join the Youth Council.
Meeting Closed 9.43pm
275 Report lights 1 and 4 out in Mount Drive
by John O’Brien
The annual preparation for the budget and setting of the Precept for the 2022-2023 Fiscal year commences today with an opportunity for committee members to consider options going forward.
This Council’s current policy is for a minimum annual increase of 2% but this committee may wish to consider other options namely to take note of the Government’s expected inflation figure for 2022/23 of 4.2% or even no increase.
The appearance of Touchpoint and its impact of its community initiatives will necessitate some funding from the council which couldn’t be budgeted for in this year’s precept. Grants are being sought and tenders for work to be done to Crafton Green House and the Day Centre are awaited.
The Windmill has been this village’s emblem for many years and this council approved a £4,000 annual contribution to its upkeep, but this amount has failed to keep up with inflation with the fund having effectively lost £1,000 in buying power over the past 12 years. The Millers are due to embark on an expensive part of its repair with the renewal of the Stocks, which hold the sails. I would like the committee to consider and annual inflation matching increase over the next five years, to be review after, starting with an increase in the budget of 4.2% being £168 for 2022/23.
Actions points from the last meeting
An article was published in the Bishops Stortford Independent and a copy sent to our MP Kemi Badenoch who is happy to support us to obtain a meaningful dialogue with the EA. The article also brought some information of which we had no knowledge.
After writing to the CEO of Network Rail we had swift action taken to clear the vegetation which prevented the light spread from the nearby streetlight in Water Lane reaching the full length of footpath leading to the bridge. Also, Greater Anglia kindly cleared the vegetation smothering the streetlight opposite the Scout hut. Water Lane is a much friendlier path to follow.
We have also been offered a licence to carry out work to light the Black Bridge, but no application will be made until the full consequences of going for a licence are understood.
Cambridge Road – The clerk has written to Councillor Scott, portfolio holder for Highways and Infrastructure and a supporting letter was also sent by Fr Lee of St Theresa’s Church asking for streetlights to be installed up to the Walpole Meadows roundabout, including High Lane.
Church Road – all lights apart from one ECC and one SMPC column are now working. The main issue is vegetation masking light spread and we need to look at some dark areas.
An alternative site for Bonfire night is ongoing. Report Ends.
NOTICE OF MEETING You are summoned to attend a meeting of the FINANCE AND GENERAL PURPOSES COMMITTEE to be held on Wednesday 1st December 2021 at 8.00pm in The Mountfitchet Exchange, Crafton Green, 72 Chapel Hill, Stansted, Essex, where the following business will be transacted:
1 To receive apologies for absence
2 To receive Declarations of Interest
3 To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 27th October 2021
4 To receive an update on progress since the last meeting
5 To receive a Chairman’s Report
6 Lighting: a) To receive an Outage Report b) To receive a general report on lighting
7 Finance: a) To approve the list of payments for authorisation – to be tabled b) To receive the Internal Auditors report – attached
8 To consider the draft budget for 2022/23
9 To consider a request from the Stansted Millers for funding towards their August Bank Holiday Fete – See attached
10 Bonfire Night – To consider future plans
11 Day Centre – To receive a progress report
12 Windmill – To receive a report from the Chairman
13 Youth Matters – To receive an update
Ruth Clifford, Parish Clerk- 25 November 2021