Finance and General Purposes Committee minutes

Meeting details

  • Date: 20th October 2021
  • Duration: 19:00 - 20:50
  • Location: Parish Office

Meeting minutes:

FGP25/21To receive Apologies for Absence

There were no apologies received. All Councillors were present.

FGP26/21Declarations of Interest

No interests were declared.

FGP27/21Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the meeting held on 14th July 2021 were considered. Cllr Brian Foster was present at the meeting (the signed version had been updated) and it was noted Cllr Bannell had offered his apologies. Subject to amendments the minutes were approved as a correct record and were signed by the Chairman.

FGP28/21General Power of Competence

The Clerk explained The General Power of Competence enables Parish Council’s in England “to do anything that individuals generally may do” without the need to identify whether a the Council has a specific power to act, providing greater freedom and flexibility. The Council is still required to have regard to its legal and procedural obligations. For example Health & Safety legislation and Employment Law.

At a meeting of the Parish Council, Members are required to confirm that it meets the criteria for eligibility. The criteria are that, not less than two thirds of the total number of Councillors is elected (7), and that the Clerk holds a least one of the sector specific qualifications (CiLCA).

After a brief discussion it was Resolved to recommend to Council that the General Power of Competence be adopted.

FGP29/21Updated Financial Strategy

Committee Members received an updated Financial Strategy dated October 2021 that set out the proposed strategy for the budget for 2022/23, the Councils spend of the current budget (or committed funds (55.1%)), the proposed General Reserve Policy and a review of the current and proposed Earmarked Reserves.

The Clerk explained the difference between an Earmarked Reserve and the precept allocation in the current year to projects. Moving forward new Earmarked Reserves are proposed that reflect known financial commitments in both short term and long term.

The Peel Park Charity Fund

A previous decision of the Council had been to allocate the money held within the fund (£985) into the Parish Council’s funds. It was unclear whether charity fund was active, who the Trustees and its purpose. The Clerk was unclear how the funds are accessed and would investigate.

It was proposed that the funds are held in an Ear Marked Reserve for play equipment replacement at Peel Park.

FGP30/21Review of the Council’s Bank Account & Investments

Committee Members considered a scope and timescale for a review of the Council’s Bank & Investments. The Council funds are held across three banks and national savings. The Chairman proposed the investments are reviewed in terms of where general reserves and earmarked reserves are held.

The Clerk advised the Committee consider an investment with the CCLA that manage investments for charities, religious organisations and the public sector.

The review would be considered at a future meeting of the Committee. A decision regarding timescale was not determined.

FGP31/21Draft Budget & Precept 2022- 2023

The Chair explained that in the current economic climate the draft budget had been prepared on the basis that the precept level of 2021/22 would be maintained in 2022/23, whilst increasing spend. This would be achieved by using the Council’s income (tennis courts, and allotment rent) and anticipated unspent budget to offset the increased budget.

Cllr Bannell queried whether the Committee could agree its strategy at this point in time to maintain the precept for 2022/23 at 2021/2 levels, until it can be determined it can be maintained. The Chairman explained the new format for the budget. The Clerk explained the current budget headings do not enable the Council to easily determine its spend in specific areas e.g. allotments. Additionally, the new budget headings will enable the Council to effectively monitor the income and expenditure against its agreed spend.

Members of the Committee reviewed the draft budget line by line. The following comments and adjustments were agreed:

  • Business rates (Clanfield Centre) £2,000 – a budget of £1,000 would meet anticipated costs.
  • Replacement benches at Peel Park x 3 (£1,000). A memorial bench has just been purchased for £788. A budget of £1,000 would only allow one bench to be purchased. Three benches have been identified for replacement in Peel Park.
  • Playground inspections – the proposed budget of £1,200 takes into account the reduction in the number of inspections from bi monthly to monthly.
  • Playground maintenance – In view of the costs in previous years it was proposed the budget was increased to £2,000.
  • Signs – There was a previous Council decision to review all signage on its land. A budget of £1,000 would not enable this to be undertaken.
  • Tennis Court Annual Maintenance – A budget of £1,100 would suffice.
  • Grounds Maintenance Contract
  • There was a detailed discussion regarding the cost of grounds maintenance contract in relation to the challenges presented this year. The grass had grown excessively during July and August however the number of cuts had not kept pace. Additionally RP had experience some staffing challenges during the same period.
  • It was highlighted that the grounds maintenance contract has provision for a 2.5% increase year on year, and should be reflected in the budget.
  • Additional costs were expected when the new football pitches are transferred to the Parish Council, in the latter half of 2022. A report by the Institute of Groundsman had indicated that the new pitches would require 25 cuts per annum. It was estimated that an additional £1,500 would be required in the budget to accommodate the additional cuts (pro rata September 2022 and March 2023). It was expected that the additional costs to the Council would be offset by the income received for the use of the pitches.
  • Tree Maintenance – It was highlighted that there are six Ash Trees on Parish land including Chalton Lane that are likely to require maintenance during 2022/23 and the budget should reflect this.
  • Litter picking – It was queried whether the budget of £1,000 could be reduced and supplemented by the use of volunteers.
  • Footpath maintenance - There is currently no heading in the draft budget. There are a number of footpaths on Council land that will need to be maintained.
  • Down Farm Barn – There was a query on how a budget of £9,000 had been calculated. The Chair advised it had been allocated on the basis of ongoing maintenance and professional fees.
  • Community Working Group – It was noted that the budget could be reduced to £2,500.
  • Tennis Court Resurfacing EMR – The timescale for renewal of the surface is 10-12 years (from 2017).

Other matters:

In the context of supporting the budget process:

  • It was agreed to investigate what other Town and Parish Council’s charge for the use of their football pitches.
  • It was agreed to investigate where the Lengthsman scheme is operating in the locality.

FGP32/21Internal Audit Service 2022-23

Three quotations had been received for the internal audit service for the 2022/23 financial year. The quotes were requested on the basis of an interim Audit and at Year End.

A number of Committee Members had researched the company’s websites. Members discussed the level of detail obtained prior to the quotations. The Clerk confirmed she had been asked to complete a quotation request form by Auditing Solutions Ltd. Members were concerned that one of of the quotations appeared to underestimate the time required to complete an audit, especially with a new Council.

Cllr Foster enquired why the existing Auditor had not been asked to submit a quotation. The Clerk advised that it was prudent that the Council reviews the effectiveness of the internal audit. The current auditor has been with the Parish Council for at least 20years.

After a detailed discussion of the information provided, Members agreed to recommend to Council that Auditing Solutions Ltd is appointed as the Council’s Internal Auditor from April 2022, initially for a period of one year.

FGP33/21Annual Review of the Council’s Risk Assessment

The Clerk had reviewed and updated the Council’s Risk Assessment for Members of the Committee to review. A couple of typos were noted.

Page 3 Down Farm Barn Controls – Add Regular checks carried out by open spaces Officer and recorded.

Page 5 Litter and Glass – Litter and glass removed from site on a weekly basis by contractor. It was noted that this meant the Ground Maintenance Contractor. However it was reported that this was not completed weekly or routinely. It was therefore agreed to add Reports of litter and glass are removed as soon as practicable by Officers or Councillors.

Page 14 – Employees - Add a date for a Lone Working Policy to be developed.

Three risks were identified as missing, these were:

i. Community First exercising a break clause in their Lease; what we would do and how we could mitigate against the risk happening.

ii. The Bowls Club not making adequate provision to meet their responsibility (under the terms of their Lease) to renew the carpet on the Bowling Green (when it becomes necessary) - this can be mitigated by PMC asking the Bowls Club the level of provision that they have made to date when they are doing their annual inspections.

iii. The Council not being able to afford to renew facilities when needed, potentially resulting in their eventual closure – this would be mitigated by financial provision being made Subject to these amendments the Risk Assessment the Committee agreed to recommend to Council that the Risk Assessment be adopted.

FGP34/21Date of the next meeting

The date of next meeting will be held on Wednesday 15th November 2021 at 6.30pm.

All meeting minutes