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Communication & Outstanding Questions

Posted on 12th February, 2013

From: "Bruce Poole"

Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2013 10:00:39 -0000

To: Jo

Subject: RE: Communication and Outstanding Questions

 

Dear Jo

 

I am in receipt of your e-mail and will as always bring the contents of it to the attention of the parish councillors. Again when the current financial discussions have been completed by the Parish Council I will gladly respond to your questions in full. My inability at this present time is due entirely to a lack of sufficient time over and above what is concentrating my time in respect to Parish Council Precept.

 

Bruce

 

Bruce Poole BA(Hons); Fellow ILCM; MMC

Bleadon Parish Council

Clerk to the Parish

Rooftops

10 South Street

Burnham-on-Sea

Somerset TA8 1BS

Tel: 07887802922 

E-Mail: parishclerk@bleadonparishcouncil.gov.uk

Web Site: www.bleadonparishcouncil.gov.uk

 


From: Jo

To: "parishclerk@bleadonparishcouncil.gov.uk"

Sent: Sunday, 10 February 2013, 11:45

Subject: Communication and Outstanding Questions

  

Dear Parish Councillors/Clerk,

 

Thank you for your correspondence to date. We want to make it clear that it is not our intention to vex anyone The reason we, and other villagers, are asking these questions is that through the current communications mechanisms, including the minutes, we cannot find the answers by ourselves. FYI, the questions we have asked the Parish Council since December have been raised by a number of villagers and subsequently collated by us to follow up on their behalf. We are periodically being asked by them whether we have received any information or answers to the questions submitted to you. We are all frustrated by the process so far, you may well be too, hence our need to write the question summary below to ensure that no questions are overlooked by accident through the current process.

 

1. Agenda & Minutes (original email to PC 06/12/12)

 

Our understanding is that when an agenda is published it is final i.e. no further items can be added by the public but the contents of an email/request/query from the public are circulated to the members who will give it their consideration.

 

If a person couldn't attend the PC meeting, and the minutes are not published for at least 1 meeting/1 month how can a member of the public tell what has been discussed, addressed, or needs to be added to the next agenda? (An agenda item every month is to consider the previous month’s draft minutes). As the agenda is published 3 days before the next meeting, sometimes in advance of the minutes, a person potentially can't add a new agenda item for another month i.e. 2 meetings/2 months will have passed.

 

We assume that all queries/concerns emailed before a meeting will be discussed at the meeting only if there is an associated agenda item. Please confirm what happens in this instance e.g. whether new queries or associated questions not on that agenda are automatically put on the next months agenda.

 

The clerk has informed us that he follows the LGA (1972) guidelines for publishing the agenda, and minutes?, but these communication guidelines were written before the digital age and before the fast/instant emailing technology in most peoples homes, or accessible in public places e.g. village café.

 

As communication, transparency and inclusiveness between the PC and villagers are paramount could the minutes be published as soon as possible after the meeting? (We are now in February but are yet to see the outcome and minutes of the January meeting and the agenda has already been set). Timely and detailed minutes would enable members of the public who cannot attend meetings due to illness, work or family commitments to see what was discussed, feel included and potentially add an item to the next meetings agenda. We feel that this would also improve communications and therefore better support our understanding of the aims of Quality Council Status and the Localism Act. If minutes aren't timely and detailed and a person was unable to attend the meeting a person cannot successfully interact in the process and potentially feel excluded and not represented.

 

2. Conferences (original email to PC 13/01/13)

 

Please state what these are for, why they are necessary and what cost/benefit they yield.

 

3. Financial Analysis (original email to PC 14/01/13)

 

The clerk informs us that the Parish Council maintains an analysis as it is required to do within its governance and auditing regulations and that he would gladly provide us with a copy.

 

Please send us copies of past and current financial analyses.

 

4. Best Value (original from email the PC 11/01/13)

 

The clerk has informed us that services are being devolved downwards by district councils without regrettably any suitable funding. Obviously where pressure can be put on the district council the parish council will continue to do so.

 

How is the PC ensuring best value when taking on additional services previously undertaken by North Somerset with their economies of scale? E.g. Footpaths/PROW, Toilets, Dog Bins, Litter collection, Grass Cutting, etc.

 

Please can the PC tell us which of these decisions they have challenged on the public’s behalf?

 

5. Precepts (original email to PC 13/01/13)

 

Bleadon Parish precept has nearly doubled in the last 9 years. The clerk agrees and states so have the facilities and the benefits it provides.

 

What tangible benefits in terms of facilities & services does Bleadon have now that it didn't in 2003 for a lower precept cost?

 

So as not to duplicate effort, as we appear to have done for the financial analysis, has a benchmark against other similar and comparable local parishes been done? If so please can we have a copy?

 

6. Quality Council Status (original email to PC 05/12/12)

 

The clerk informs us that the physical cost to the Parish Council for accreditation and reaccreditation was just the application fees with the cost of preparation in terms of work time being absorbed in Parish Clerk’s working time and members time.

 

We disagree. There has been a consequential financial cost beyond simple application fees. Eg: The extra clerk qualification courses partly paid by the PC and subsequently gained by the clerk as a pre-requisite of the scheme has resulted in higher salaries and a pensionable employee status commitment for Bleadon's future. It has also led to an adoption of SLCC 'approved' contractors, contracts and training, e.g. SLCC Enterprises that were not previously needed but now are. One only has to look at pre-QC status precepts & expenditure for a comparison. Research has indicated that the QC scheme has had a very low acceptance amongst town & parishes (approximately 7%) and has now been suspended.

 

Now this scheme has been suspended and is being reviewed, what has been the cost to Bleadon, both to date and ongoing? E.g. permanent employments and pensions, qualifications, subscriptions to various bodies and trips to meetings, increased technology support, etc.

 

What tangible benefits in terms of facilities & services does Bleadon have now that it didn't in 2003 due to this scheme?

 

7. Neighbourhood/Village/Action Plan (original email to PC 05/12/12)

 

The clerk informs us that each year the Parish Council revisits the Village Plan in order to check as to its progress against the aspirations and where necessary provides monetary support to see that they are implemented.

 

Please send us a copy of the current action plan/targets to which this refers.

 

The clerk informs us that the plan that the Parish Council is now considering follows the suggestions of The Localism Act 2011 whereby it promulgates the idea of neighbourhood planning.

 

If the Parish Council revisits the current 20 year village plan (now only 7 years old) surely we already have a plan. This current plan has already been completed during the QCS accreditation period with wide consultation with villagers at a cost of over £5,000. Why is a working party needed now if the PC revisit the Village plan annually? Would this not incur more costs and time like the original Village Plan?

 

8. Relationships (original email to PC 13/01/13)

 

Please can you explain the financial relationship and responsibilities between the church and the village halls to the PC?

 

9. Technology (original email to PC 13/01/13)

 

What are the specific individual broadband and IT infrastructure costs like website and 'cloud' based server and backup technology provided via BT, CRM & VSM?

 

Why are these IT products specifically needed for Bleadon since 2003? Who uses them, for what purpose and why?

 

What percentage financial contribution is made by the PC toward these costs? What usage statistics are there to determine value for money?

 

Broadband - What about a different (cheaper) supplier?

 

10. Toilets (original email to PC 05/12/12)

 

What is the total initial and ongoing costs (e.g. approx £3,000 per annum maintenance, legal costs, insurance, etc) and effect on precept?

 

The clerk informs us that the long term aim of the PC is to incorporate say a disabled toilet within the hall complex with an external access and then the current toilets would be available for re-use.

 

Can you tell us what the parish council intends to use the building for, other than toilets, as this too may potentially have planning and building control application costs, ongoing maintenance, utility and insurance implications that may need to be covered by future parish precepts?

 

As regards this future development, why would the PC need to use council tax money (district and parish) to re-develop and re-use a facility that is designed for purpose and has been brought up to standard when it aims to lose this facility in the long-term anyway?

 

How long is long term?

 

North Somerset Council presumably got a better 'deal' for its toilet maintenance and cleaning contracts as it had 20+ toilets. Has the PC considered working in partnership with other PC's to reduced any maintenance and cleaning bills/contracts for the current toilets if/when they are taken on?

 

Please send us a copy of the Clerks report on the toilets.

 

11. Goal Posts (original email to PC 05/12/12)

 

What exactly is this new equipment and for what age group is it intended?

 

The clerk informs us that the playground equipment has been replaced but the park is now missing its climbing equipment and appears from previous minutes to be replaced with ‘goal posts’. We're glad the PC is still investigating this, and we see that it is a February agenda item. We hope that any new equipment will be more appropriate and challenging for older children in the junior and lower senior school age bracket.

 

12. Grass Cutting (original email to PC 13/01/13)

 

What hourly rate is charged, or is it a contracted price?

 

 

We hope the above question summary helps the PC to review all our outstanding queries/questions and ‘we’ all look forward to hearing the responses in the near future as some queries have been outstanding for two months. We truly thought that these would be simple questions that could be quickly answered by our Quality Status Parish Council relatively quickly considering some are ongoing agenda items and that some replies from you indicate the information is available, especially as éffective communication between all is essential for inclusion.

 

If any answers have now been detailed in the January minutes, which have not been published yet, we thank you in advance. If any of the above requires an additional agenda item please add it to the March meeting agenda.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

Jo Gower-Crane, Chris Butler et al.

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