ASHAMPSTEAD PARISH COUNCIL
MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL PARISH MEETING
HELD IN THE JUBILEE HALL ON MONDAY 18 MAY 2015
AT 7.15 p.m.
Present: Councillors T Butcher, C Butler and F Worth and former councillors D Mountain, A Dick and T Davies
In attendance: Paul Thompson (Clerk) and District Councillor V Von Celsing
Former Councillor David Mountain chaired the meeting.
The Minutes of the last Annual Meeting were approved and signed by the Chairman.
You will probably now be aware that this is my last report as Chairman or Councillor. It has been an eventful year with one particular matter dividing the village and testing our complaints procedure. More of which later!
As in previous years, certain councillors agreed to take lead roles for specific matters. I undertook planning, Alex Dick undertook police matters, Colin Butler undertook footpaths and highways and Trudi Butcher represented the Council on ART. In addition, Tim Davies agreed to inspect the telephone box and carry out the necessary repairs.
The Council was asked to make observations on a total of ten planning applications over the last year, including one as a neighbouring parish. One was allowed following an appeal, one was refused by West Berkshire Council, seven were granted planning permission and one is awaiting a decision.
I am pleased to report that Dog Lane was finally resurfaced last autumn following numerous requests to West Berkshire Council. We had asked that this should include the section of Holly Lane running from the crossroads to Noakes Hill but this was ignored. However, we have been advised that this is included in the resurfacing schedule for the current year. The Clerk continues to report potholes to West Berkshire Council on a regular basis.
The Council continues to monitor footpaths and byways, reporting problems to either the landowners or West Berkshire Council. We have added glass covers to the main parish notice board which is a considerable improvement. We continue to cut the grass on the recreation ground and will meet the cost of tree surgery there on behalf of ART, although the Trust still maintains the playground. We have recently planted a tulip tree on The Green to replace the diseased horse chestnut which had to be felled.
Councillor Alex Dick continues to update us on police matters through the text alert system and dog watch which help to reduce local crime. These do however rely on residents being vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity to the police and Alex.
Councillor Trudi Butcher carried out a review of the emergency planning procedures in view of the relatively poor information provided by Thames Water following the contamination of the supply. It was subsequently agreed that an email alert system would be used via mailchimp.com with co-ordinators alerting those residents who did not have access to email.
The Council was disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm for a refresh of the Parish Plan, following the October pub evening event, particularly as there are one or two matters, such as the pavilion, which clearly need attention. An independent group is required to carry this forward as they are expected to ensure that the organisations responsible for projects, such as the Council and ART, follow them through. I would however like to thank Rob Barker for the support and help that he has given the Council in delivering the village website that can be found at Asampstead.org. This now operates on a simpler format but needs a volunteer to help with maintenance and editing.
At the November meeting we had a presentation by Gill Comley regarding the West Berkshire Volunteer Village Agent Scheme, The proposal requires a volunteer to have training in the type of services that are available to the elderly or isolated residents in need of a little help so that they can steer those residents towards such services. We regret that we have, to date, had no response to the request for a volunteer.
I now come to the contentious matter which has caused some disquiet to both Councillors and residents. I am referring of course to the proposed bus shelter. When it was requested by a number of elderly residents more than two years ago, the Council discussed the matter with ART who were supportive of the project as it would also benefit children catching the school bus. Being conscious of the fact that the shelter would be in the conservation area, the Council decided that it needed to be of a traditional wooden structure rather than metal and glass. For this reason the Council determined to increase its contribution to the project to £4,210 being one-half of the anticipated cost. As fund raising would be required to meet the balance, the Clerk was asked to put the project on “Findmeagrant” with the unexpected result that we received a grant of £2,500 from the Vibrant Villages Fund. With this offer and having found a lower quote for the proposed shelter we were on the point of going ahead when we received our first objection to the project, quickly followed by others, and a formal complaint which was dealt with at the March Meeting. In view of the objections, we consulted West Berkshire Council over both the shelter’s position and other planning requirements. The Council then decided that the best way forward was to make a formal planning application which will give all parties concerned an opportunity to make their views known to WBC. This process is ongoing.
Following changes to local government rules the Council’s finances will only be subject to internal audit from 2015/16. As part of these changes you will receive more detailed information of payments in the future. With this in mind I am providing a little more detail of our financial transactions for the year to 31 March 2015. The Council had set a precept of £6,680 to which was added the council tax support grant of £121, We also received a refund of £494 in respect of VAT paid on goods and services purchased by the Council during the year. The Vibrant Villages grant of £2,500 received in the year was repaid following the decision to seek planning permission for the shelter. The Council’s income was spent on the following items, excluding VAT:
Clerk’s salary £1,500; Clerk’s expenses £155; Grass cutting £1,924; Glass cover for main notice board £200; Contribution to Broadband Improvement Project £580; Website £177; Insurance £159; Subscriptions £129 and Donations to local charities £215. This resulted in a surplus of £1762 against a budgeted deficit of £3,935, largely due to the delay in the bus shelter project. There was also no tree surgery carried out in the year as ART is awaiting advice from WBC’s tree officer.
The Council’s funds of £10,374 at 31 March 2015 include a specific reserve of £4,210, as a contribution to the cost of the proposed bus shelter, and an election reserve of £800.
The precept for the current year was again set at £6,680 excluding the Council Tax Support Grant. We have since been advised that we will receive a support grant of £81.
I would like to thank our local District Councillor, Virginia Von Celsing, for the information and support that she has given the Council on a number of matters. I should like to offer Mrs von Celsing the Council’s congratulations on being re-elected to the West Berkshire Council
As this is my last report, I should like to end by saying that I have enjoyed the last eight years working with you all, as your chairman. I feel that we have achieved some progress during that time.
I would like to thank you, my fellow Councillors, and also the Clerk, Paul Thompson, for their support. I would like to commend Paul for the tremendous amount of work that he puts in on our behalf and for all the reminding and assistance that he has given to me personally. Even though I have needed a “memory jog” on several occasions he has never written an irritated e-mail or made a phone-call that was anything other than amiable. He has also been of great assistance guiding me through the regulations and the rules, as they are being constantly updated. We are very fortunate to have the services of Paul and I know that he will provide a guiding hand when required.
I wish the Ashampstead Parish Council good fortune in the coming period of office and, of course, beyond.
The Chairman then invited our District Councillor Virginia Von Celsing to read her report to the meeting. Virginia advised that it had been a great privilege to represent Compton Ward for the past four years on West Berkshire Council and was very pleased to have been elected for another term. She hoped that that residents found her easily available when they needed to contact her.
For the last four years Virginia was mainly involved with planning and environmental issues, acting as deputy to the portfolio holder for those two areas. Projects included the brilliant recycling plant at Padworth and the opening of the refurbished Museum on the Wharf in Newbury, There were also some tricky planning issues. Virginia sat on the Scrutiny Committee, the Overview & Scrutiny Management Commission, as well as having the role of Vice Chair of the Western Area Planning Committee. She also sat on the District Planning Committee and the Planning Policy Task Group. Virginia will undertake similar roles in the new administration.
Virginia continues to work hard to try to get Superfast Broadband to the Villages in the Compton Ward. Economic restraints make some of the provision difficult but as a resident who at present gets no broadband service at all, Virginia said that she was very much on the case in ensuring that the Council Officers keep Compton Ward as a high priority with BT.
The Chairman expressed doubt that the majority of residents, living in the main part of the village would be included in the next Superfast Broadband upgrade in 2017. Having had discussion with various people, he believed that the only solution would probably be a wireless system paid for by residents themselves
Virginia stated that that she would endeavour to attend the Parish Council meetings as she had done in the past.
There being no further business, the meeting closed at 7.44 p.m.
ASHAMPSTEAD PARISH COUNCIL
MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE PARISH COUNCIL
HELD IN THE JUBILEE HALL ON TUESDAY 18 MAY 2015
AT 7.45 p.m.
Present: Councillors T Butcher, C Butler and F Worth
In attendance: The Clerk, P Thompson, and former councillors D Mountain, T Davies and A Dick.
Apologies: V Von Celsing
The Chairman, David Mountain confirmed that he and Tim Davies were retiring from the Council.
Election of Chairman and Vice Chairman:
Councillor Trudi Butcher was re-elected as Chairman and Councillor Colin Butler was elected as Vice Chairman. Both accepted their respective offices.
Trudi took this opportunity to thank David and Tim for all their hard work in recent years and presented them with small gifts.
The minutes of the last Annual and ordinary meetings of the Council were approved and signed by the Chairman.
Co-option of Councillors:
Alex Dick agreed that he would return as a councillor and was duly co-opted. Councillors will endeavour to fill the two remaining vacancies.
Declarations of Acceptance of Office:
The Councillors’ declarations of acceptance of office were duly completed.
Agreement of roles and responsibilities:
It was agreed that the Chairman would continue to represent the Council on ART, Alex Dick would take police matters and Colin Butler would take footpaths and byways.
Standing Orders and Financial Regulations:
The amended draft Standing Orders were reviewed and approved subject to a revised starting time of meetings of 7.00 p.m. The Financial regulations were also reviewed and approved without amendment.
Inventory of land and assets:
The inventory of land and assets was reviewed and approved.
It was agreed that, as the standard policy offered by AON covered more risks as well as being at a lower premium than Zurich, the Clerk should arrange cover through AON under its three year agreement.
Internal controls and annual governance statement:
The Councillors reviewed the statement of internal controls, the risk management register and the annual governance statement. These, together with the annual accounts had been reviewed by the Council’s internal auditor, Caroline Billing, as confirmed by her Annual Internal Audit Report. All were approved and the Annual Governance Statement in the Annual Return was duly signed by the Chairman and the Clerk. The Chairman recorded her thanks to Caroline for carrying out the internal audit so promptly.
Receipts and Payments Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2015:
The annual accounts which had been circulated to the Councillors prior to the meeting were approved for signing by the Chairman and the Clerk. The Accounting statements included in the Annual Return were also approved and signed by the Chairman and the Clerk.
The existing complaints procedure was reviewed and approved without amendment.
Requests under the Freedom of Information Act:
The existing arrangements were reviewed and approved.
It was agreed that ordinary meetings would be held at 7.00 p.m. on Monday 6 July 2015, on Monday 21 September 2015, on Monday 2 November 2015, on Monday 11 January 2016 and on Monday 14 March 2016.
The Statutory Annual Parish Council Meeting closed at 8.14 p.m.