Minutes of the meeting held in the Village Hall
Monday 2nd September
7013 Present: Cllr Coy (Honorary Clerk), Cllr Harper, Cllr Kirkby, Cllr Malone, Cllr Nott-Bower, Cllr Shearer, Cllr Thomas (Chairman).
County Councillor Chris Batters, PCSO Lloyd Paynter and four members of the public
The meeting began at 7.15 when the Chairman welcomed all.
71‐13 Members Declaration of Interests or any requests for dispensation: none
72‐13 Apologies: none
The Chairman began by welcoming PCSO Paynter and inviting him to deliver his report first, given that he was under some time pressure.
PCSO Paynter said the fact that the meeting was being held on a Monday had enabled him to attend; Wednesdays were more difficult because of his work schedule.
He covers eight parishes and has been in the job for six and a half years. Crime-wise, he said, nothing had been reported in Withiel or the surrounding area; things had been quiet in rural parishes in general. Perhaps the light evenings discouraged crime; people tended to be out and about until late and the risk of discovery was high.
One issue he was dealing with concerned boy racers using the Innis Downs vicinity for high speed car racing. There were masses of skid marks in the road and on the roundabout which indicated what sort of activity had been going on there. If anyone saw such activity taking place, they were asked to note registration numbers and contact him. The police had been bearing down on youths racing in Priory Park, he said, and had probably displaced some of the activity to places like Innis Downs. They had also done £4,000 worth of damage to the new surface of the car park at Lanhydrock.
Cllr Malone asked whether the emergence of the ad hoc car sales lay-by at Innis Downs had any connection with the issue. PCSO Paynter said that was largely down to members of the travelling community, not thought to be connected to the road racing.
People had been lighting fires on the moor at Delford Bridge, he went on, and there was a risk of fire spreading as the long dry summer continued. This was to be discouraged where possible.
They had scored a few successes on the littering front; a load of rubbish had been found on the moor at Cardinham, and in it the dumper had left a letter telling him he hadn’t got a job he’d applied for. When visited he confessed to dumping the rubbish and was required to clear up the mess. They had also given a Section 59 warning to a young man who had been seen by a member of the public throwing litter from a car. Police had been informed and the youth had admitted the offence. These things are important, PCSO Paynter said, because littering affects us all; if you see something, phone it in and the police would deal with it.
(A Section 59 warning can be given by police in cases of anti-social behaviour in a car, and if the offence is repeated within 12 months, the car involved can be seized).
PCSO Paynter concluded by saying the public’s co-operation in reporting unusual activity in vans had contributed to a reduction in the number of thefts of scrap.
The Chairman thanked PCSO Paynter for making the time to come to the meeting; he commented that there were fewer and fewer police officers and support staff, and they were being spread ever more thinly. Under the circumstances, he said, it was extremely good of him to make his report in person. PCSO Paynter then left.
73‐13 Invitation to members of the public to address the meeting.
Jenny Pentland remarked that there were two events which should be given publicity in the parish – the show on the Saturday following the meeting, and the quiz at the end of the month to raise funds for the Village Hall. This is on the 28th September at 7pm.
74‐13 To approve the minutes of the Council meeting of the 7 August 2013 and the closed meeting of the same date. The Chairman went through the minutes of both meetings item by item, and both were approved.
75‐13 Matters arising from the previous minutes: None
76‐13 To establish a Council policy for the circulation of Council minutes and agendas. The Chairman said it was desirable to circulate the agendas and minutes of meetings by email to regular attendees at parish council meetings, and indeed to anyone in the parish who wanted them.
It was decided that when the agenda or minutes were put up on the website www.withiel.com, an email would be sent to all those who wished to be informed containing a hotlink to the minutes or the agenda. Proposed Councillor Shearer, seconded Councillor Kirkby.
77‐13 Councillors’ reports
Footpaths: Councillor Shearer reported that she and County Councillor Chris Batters had put pressure on Mr Toby Lowe, the countryside manager in charge of repairs at Cormac, to move the repair of the bridge at Tregawne up the priority list. As a result of pressure engineered by the Parish Council from a number of directions, repair of the bridge had moved first into this year’s estimated (it had slipped into the 2014 financial year) and then up the list of priorities to the point where it was now proposed that it be repaired in November. Cllr Shearer said she was awaiting a precise date for the repair and would be continuing to pursue the issue, with help from Councillor Batters.
Cllr Batters said the delay was exacerbated by the absence of many council officers on holiday, but things should become clearer as the County Council got back into full swing.
Neighbourhood Development: The Chairman said it was necessary to fix a date for a public forum to discuss all aspects of the Neighbourhood Development Plan. The meeting would discuss whether we wanted to go it alone in providing a neighbourhood plan, and what that plan should contain. After some deliberation, a date was settled upon – Tuesday November 12th, in the Village Hall, starting at 6:30pm.
The Chairman said arrangements would be made to give the event as much publicity as possible in the Parish. Some money may be made available for tea and coffee for those who attended.
Finance: Councillor Kirkby reported that the council’s finances looked slightly better than last month. We have £662 in the bank, having received a refund of VAT, a refund of training costs from the previous clerk, and payments from councillors for their training. A further £100 in refunded training costs was expected, and the second tranche of the precept was due around September 8th. This would allow for the footpaths work to be funded, the notice board to be repaired, and other work to be undertaken.
Cllr Coy reported that the council had received another letter from the former Clerk seeking additional payments. A draft reply had been circulated among councillors, and was being referred to the Cornwall Association of Local Councils for their advice. As had happened previously, CALC’s guidance on content and tone would be followed.
Cllr Malone said he deprecated the fact that this issue had taken up so much of the council’s time and traced the problem back to the April 3rd meeting of the last council. Quoting from the minutes of that meeting he read: “Clerk’s salary review. Up to this point the Clerk’s salary was capped at 12 hours a month. It was proposed by Cllr Hore and seconded by Cllr Hancock that the Clerk’s salary from 3 April 2013 will be paid according and subject to a timesheet kept by the Clerk and available for inspection by the members each month.”
This, Cllr Malone said, was inexplicable. They had effectively given someone with no experience an open invitation to work whatever hours she saw fit, and bill Withiel Parish for it. It would never have been possible to retrospectively refuse to pay the Clerk for whatever she put on the timesheet. It was unfair and wrong to put the Clerk in such a position with no real guidance. As a result, the Clerk’s first bill to the new council had been 400 percent of the budgeted figure, and subsequent invoices had been far ahead of budget.
Cllr Coy said the end result had been that the Council was now operating with a zero-cost clerk, which would release more of the precept for much-needed work around the parish.
78‐13 To consider the recording of meetings.
Cllr Malone said he supported the recording of meetings and would like to do so himself, in order to assist with his duties as record-keeper. Cllr Shearer also supported recording. The Chairman said that for the minute-taker to record the meeting was fine; the problem arose if members of the public recorded the meeting, then edited recordings for reasons of their own. It was also not desirable to store audio records because it could lead to endless work if people sought recordings under the Freedom of Information Act. It would, he said, be possible for an audio recording to be made to assist as an aide memoire, then destroyed.
Cllr Coy said that whatever audio was recorded, the minutes as agreed were the official record of the meeting, whether in the House of Commons, where Hansard was routinely amended ex post facto, or at Withiel Parish Council.
Councillor Batters pointed out that while members of the public are expressly not allowed to record proceedings of Cornwall Council and its committees, proceedings were routinely filmed by the Council and streamed as a webcast.
It was agreed that Cllr Malone should record the proceedings of Withiel Parish Council to aid the transcription of the minutes, and that the recordings should be preserved for 30 days from the publication of the draft minutes, then be wiped. Proposed Cllr Malone, seconded Cllr Shearer, adopted unanimously.
79‐13 To consider the extension of the participation of members of the public at Council meetings.
The Chairman said members of the public had requested that as well as being given the opportunity to speak at the beginning of Parish Council meetings, they should also have the opportunity to speak at the end. This had been brought up at the last meeting, with people saying that they’d appreciate the chance to comment on proceedings without having to wait a month to do so. Cllr Thomas proposed that members of the public be allocated time to speak at the end of the meeting, and that this time be limited to ten minutes. Seconded Cllr Coy, adopted unanimously.
80‐13 Footpath Contract: to receive tenders for the maintenance of Parish Footpaths.
Cllr Coy open two sealed bids for this work. The first, from Sam Chapman, trading as Agave Landscapes, was £300. The second, from Max Simpson, was for £560.
Cllr Coy said both tenders had been done to the same specification.
The Chairman said Mr Chapman had contacted him to obtain a specification, and had told him he had previously done the coastal footpaths for the county council before the work was taken over by Cormac.
Cllr Shearer asked whether the quote was realistic. It was almost half that of a tendered who had long experience of doing the work.
Cllr Coy said the work had to go to the lowest tender, and Cllr Shearer, as footpaths officer, would inspect the work and decide whether it was being done properly. The work would have to be certified as having been done to a proper standard. If the low tenderer had over-reached himself, there were options available to the council.
The Chairman said there was a work sheet for each footpath, against which the work could be checked. The local government rule was that the most economically advantageous tender must be accepted.
The tender of Mr Sam Chapman in the sum of £300 for the maintenance of Withiel Parish footpaths was accepted.
Cllr Coy said the Parish Council had a Section 160 interest in the large Kerriers solar park because of its implications for the Parish.
He requested an update on the second Varcoe turbine from Cllr Batters.
Cllr Batters said the application was yet to be processed.
Cllr Malone asked Cllr Batters to ensure that the application was not decided by council officers under delegated powers but was brought before the planning committee, and that the Parish Council’s stated objections were made known.
Cllr Coy also asked Cllr Batters to seek a site meeting before a decision was made.
Cllt Batters said site meetings were expensive and the council was reluctant to organise them other than in exceptional circumstances.
Cllr Coy said site meetings had been arranged for the Drake and Piper turbines, which were turned down by the council but later forced through by a planning inspector. He said it was necessary for councillors to see the proximity of the proposed Varcoe turbine to the first Varcoe turbine, and to the Firkin turbine. Withiel had already been burdened with too many turbines, he said.
A planning application had been lodged for listed building consent for the replacement of rotten windows at Meneghyjy, Withiel PL30 5NN on behalf of Dr M Davey. Application number is PA13/06317 and the Case Officer is Sarah Stevens. The Parish Council will consider this at a special meeting on September 18th.
In his County Council report Cllr Batters said drastic cuts were in prospect, with savings of £172 million required by fiscal year 2015/16. This represented some 27 percent of current spending. The council had cut out all the fat and was now cutting into flesh and bone.
Cllr Malone questioned whether this was so, citing the example of Trevor Doughty, Cornwall Council’s Corporate Director for Children, Schools and Families, who had made more than half a million pounds in a single year by applying for voluntary redundancy from Northumbria County Council, getting a year’s salary of £140,000 and a pension payout of £260,000, before starting work with Cornwall on a £130,000 salary ten days later. As long as he was taking a second pension, it could hardly be claimed there wasn’t fat to cut.
Cllr Batters said he had been assured that behaviour like that could never happen again.
The Chairman said differences between the way private businesses and county councils operated were stark, with council employees on 35-hour weeks working from home two days a week and having generous holidays and pensions. Such a situation could not be sustained in the private sector in time of recession.
Cllr Batters said a meeting would be held in the Shire House in Bodmin on September 12th at 6:30 where members of the public could make suggestions as to how cuts might be found.
83‐13 Date of next meeting: October 2 at 7:15.
The Chairman closed the meeting at 9.05 thanking those who had attended.