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Parish Reserves to be Spent

Posted on 7th July, 2019

 

UPDATE post 08 July 19 - BPC didn't discuss the target of spending £22K by April 2020. It was stated that this item was for information only and skipped to the next agenda item? It was subsequently minuted as 'NOTED' (Min 324.14)? 

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The spending of the parish Reserve fund is on Monday's 8 July Agenda but BOB is confused as to how the Reserves were built up, for what purpose and why they are being spent now.

 

On top of the £45K BPC has received this tax year, from Bleadon residents via its precept, councillors now appear to want to spend an additional £22K from Reserves by the end of this financial year?

 

July 2019 Min 324.14 To Note the Reserves Schedule.

01 April 1901 July 19Target 01 Apr 2020
Reserve Amount

£66.5K

£58.5K£44K

Compare with last last July 2018Min 311.11 To Approve the allocation of Reserves.

[TOTAL] £56,600.00

 

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DETAILED INFORMATION

 

July 2019

Min 324.13 To Note the bank balances at 30 June 2019

Deposit = £76,348.54. Current = £2,144.60

 

Min 324.14 To Note the Reserves Schedule.

Reserves at 1.4.19 = £66,518.09

 

Allocated from Special Reserve 10.4.19

Road safety signs -1,650

Car Park one way - 910

Bleadon in Bloom -1,750

BIB addition (Hall) - 480 (--Bleadon in Bloom?)

Seating planter - 300

CCTV -2,000

Total allocation -7,090

 

Allocated from Special Reserve 13.5.19

Defib cabinet etc -1,000

Total allocation -1,000

 

Reserves Schedule at 1.7.19 = £58,428.09

 

TARGET reserves 1 April 2020: £44,100

 

Min 324.15 To Consider allocations from Reserves, including:

1. Inspection of trees required on BPC land at the junction of Celtic Way and Roman Road. The beech trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders but are encroaching on neighbouring land and some surgery may be warranted.

2. Public Toilets: there is a duty of care under HSE legislation regarding Legionella testing.

3. VE Day celebrations: preparation in this financial year.

Compare with last July 2018:

Min 311.11 To Approve the allocation of Reserves.

RESERVES

Staff contingency £ 3,500.00

Staff gratuity/pension £ 1,000.00

Election expenses £ 3,100.00

Special reserve* £21,000.00 restricted specifically for improvements in the parish.

General reserve £25,000.00

Church Grounds £ 3,000.00

[TOTAL] £56,600.00

For years BPC has had one of the highest precepts per capita in North Somerset, currently £45K - so why is it kept so high and what do Bleadon councillors spend it on? As BOB previously made new councillors aware, this type of information used to be published in a BPC Annual Report (e.g. 2013 Summary Receipts & Payments, separate to the annual resident's (APM) meeting minutes (E.g. 2013-14 APM Precept Presentation), and also annually in BPC's Newsletter (E.g.BVN96 in 2013 p3-7 Reports, finances, elections, Cllr info, etc.), but this seems to have stopped over the last few years, why? In 2015 BPC produced their Annual Budget by Cost Centre, do BPC still do this, is the information publicly accessible?

 

Also, residents have previously been told that a high Reserve fund is needed for 'unforseen circumstances'. Over the last three years BPC councillors have raised BPC income/tax/precept from Bleadon residents from  £38K (Min 280.5) to £39K (Min 291.11) to £45K (Min 315.18), seeming to accrue an additional £14K in taxes over the 2016 budget of £38K in that time (£1K+£6K+£7K)? So why is BPC now appearing to spend significantly more than that amount (£22K) in one year? What did councillors collect and save these taxes/Reserves from Bleadon residents for? The question has been asked before but there has been no clear answer and/or information published (e.g. Min 315.3)

 

As BPC councillors are aware the 'Good Councillor's Guide to Finance & Transparency' on Reserves states:

"Local councils need to hold an amount in reserves to meet unexpected expenditure, otherwise they could run A council should typically hold between 3 and 12 months expenditure as a general reserve. If the general reserve is too low then it may not be enough to cover unexpected expenditure or emergencies, whilst if the general reserve is too high then local electors have paid a tax which is not being used for the benefit of the local community.

 

Local councils have no legal powers to hold revenue reserves other than for reasonable working capital or for specifically earmarked purposes, therefore the year-end general reserve should not be significantly higher than the annual precept.

[Note above that BPC state: "Reserves at 1.4.19 = £66,518.09" vs this years precept of £45,344, in BPC's case 47% higher?]

 

The council may have ‘earmarked reserves’ for specific projects, where money is allocated for a specific purpose but may not be spent in that financial year. This may include reserves to purchase or renovate a building, develop a sports facility or community centre.

 

Many councils also hold an ‘election reserve’, as all reasonable costs of holding local council elections can be fully recharged by the district or unitary council to the local council. In the case of contested elections for a council with several wards then these costs can be relatively high.

 

If the amount of reserves at the year-end are above a certain level in relation to the annual precept then the council must advise the external auditor of why this level of reserves is required."

[Note: What reason, if any, was given to the auditor?]

 

So what was the Reserve amount for each of the last four years, what were they collected/allocated for, and what were they spent on? Why were the reserves increased?

 

With regard to residents' ability to hear, read and understand what is happening to Bleadon finances (i.e. openness and transparency of councllors' decision making ) it was decided in

June 2018 (Min 310.3) "To invite public participation ... A member of the public asked that ... reserves ... should not be held in camera. Cllr Hemingway proposed, Cllr Baines seconded, that the items be discussed in public – all agreed." 

 

Nov 2018 (Min 316.3) "To invite public participation ... BPC Reserves should be spent on items for which BPC is responsible ... BPC could better use its reserves for raising awareness and communicating with residents ... "

In July 2018 (Min 311.7) BPC amended the previous and adopted the current Terms of Reference for its Finance & Personnel (F&P) sub-committee:

"2.1 To meet quarterly in public in a properly convened meeting as required by law, with no public participation permitted except at the discretion of the Committee Chairman."

So why has there been no F&P publicly held meetings this Financial year (Apr 19-date) and only three meetings held last financial year, with no 2018 minutes or agenda currently published on the BPC website? (See BOB archive for some missing minutes)?

 

NB: From national guidance and BPC's Code of Conduct adopted March 2019:

"Accountability Be accountable to the public for decisions and actions; submit to scrutiny appropriate to the office.

Openness Be be as open as possible about all decisions and actions. Give reasons for decisions; restrict information only when the wider public interest demands.

Honesty Observe the duty to declare any private interests relating to public duties; take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest."

--

WHAT IS A PRECEPT:

 North Somerset Council states: "Parish ... councils raise their money primarily from a levy called a precept. We collect the precept on behalf of ... parish councils and pass it on to them."

 

i.e BPC decide how much they want to spend for the year and this amount is added to the NSC Council Tax bill (see NSC CTax guide 2019-20 e.g. p14-15)

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