Parish Council Meeting, January Summary
Discussion over the 2017/2018 budget dominated the meeting, with the Councillors resolving to increase the precept to continue to provide the services residents need and want.
The Parish Council met on Thursday 5th January 2017.
Five members of the public attended. Councillors Harris, Pfleger, Dodge, Sharp and Kayani attended. Councillors Montgomery, Cobb, and Hearn sent apologies. Deborah Bourne attended as clerk to the Parish Council.
County Councillor Groom did not attend, but gave a written report, which the Chairman read out at the start of the meeting.
The Chairman announced the resignation of Councillor Robert Baggs and thanked him, in his absence, for his contribution.
Thanks given to the Parish Council for the Christmas tree. It was enjoyed by many residents, and others. The Chairman extended particular thanks to Councillor Pfleger.
Given the traffic chaos caused by the closure of Junction 16 earlier in the day, what involvement did the Council have over traffic management in relation to the ongoing works to Junction 16?
The Chairman said this was a good question, but was down to Councillor Groom, with whom the Parish Council had already raised the issue. The Clerk said she would add any updates to the Council’s website.
Shouldn’t the wreath for Remembrance, from the Parish Council, be laid on the War Memorial rather than in the Church?
The Chairman indicated the Parish Council was amenable to such a request, but it should really come from the vicar, rather than the Parish Council.
Councillor Sharp gave his Neighbourhood Watch update. There had been no known issues in the village. However, in the wider local area, there had been issues with hare coarsing, gas cylinder and diesel thefts. Councillor Sharp distributed cards about the community messaging service, and urged residents to sign up. Residents can then receive messages about policing and crime matters in their local area, by email or text. For further information, see www.wiltsmessaging.co.uk.
The Chairman also raised the issue of fly-tipping, and reminded residents that they should make sure they are using an authorised carrier when disposing of waste – otherwise they may be liable for any unlawful dumping.
The Community Field
The Chairman stressed this was an important community resource. He had checked with a local farmer, and some use of the field could commence without major expenditure. (Three grass cuts a year at approximately £50 a time, no levelling necessary). This would allow the field to be used for car boot sales, and fetes, by community organisations. At the moment, though, tractors could not access the field, so he suggested putting in a five-bar gate between the field and the Parish Hall Car Park, which would cost approximately £470 plus VAt, the cost, if agreed, to be spilt with the Parish Hall Trustees.
The meeting agreed unanimously to support this in principle.
Councillor Dodge reported slow but steady progress following steering group meetings in December, and the Neighbourhood Plan is to become an agenda item each month.
Draft budget for 2017/2018
The Chairman stressed it was important to look at overall figures, rather than percentage terms.
The Clerk had also circulated a background report to Councillors, which showed that in overall terms the Lydiard Millicent precept was relatively low. She also drew attention to the possibility that Central Government would cap Parish Council precept rises next year, possibly, at 2%, so if the Council did not raise its base cost now, then it may be limited in what it can do in the future.
The Councillors then debated various options. These appeared to include-
- Decreasing the precept, but it was felt residents would not benefit from the necessary reduction in services.
- A 2% rise, which would not allow the Council to continue with the provision of existing services. This would equate to a 92p rise for a Band D property.
- A more moderate rise, equating to a £5 rise to the precept for a Band D property, which would allow the Parish Council to “stand still” in terms of what it provides.
- A 24% increase, equating to an additional £8.10 a year for a Band D property. This would allow the Parish Council to carry out the projects it had previously budgeted for, yellow lining for road near the Butts etc.
- A slightly larger increase, which would allow the Clerk to provide more hours of service to the Parish. This would equate to a £14.24 increase to the precept for a Band D property, or
- A much larger increase, equating to a £41 increase for a Band D property, which would allow the Council to undertake more projects and future proof it against capping by Central Government.
[Editor’s note; option paper not circulated to press/public, figures taken from notes made of oral discussion. General thrust though was to increase precept to provide additional services without drawing on reserve. The Council’s view is that the increase in absolute terms, as opposed to percentage terms, is not great.]
Councillors Sharp and Dodge voiced concern over the last option, which another councillor had likened to “only a pound a week.” The no-rise option was felt to be a “no-brainer” [i.e. not a realistic option].
Ultimately, councillors unanimously agreed to a precept increase which will see the cost to a Band D property rise by £14.24 a year.
Using savings to implement a wish list
With savings made from this year’s budget, the Chairman put forward a number of projects that could be supported. These comprise-
- Bus Shelters at Forge Fields and Stone Lane (£1,500). This would benefit children waiting for school buses, and others. Councillor Sharp said he had received an estimate of £4,670 plus VAT for two shelters.
- Cricket square (£2,000). This would enable the JCH field to be used for cricket, and help generate income for the 2018 season.
- General Maintenance (£600). This would allow the Council to employ its own contractor to carry out tasks the Parish Steward couldn’t do, such as clearing leaves.
- New Website (£1,000). It was felt the current website (a freebie) was old-fashioned and hard to keep updated.
- Community field (£400).
- Maintenance of telephone boxes (£1600).
The Chairman said that this would allow the Council to move forward, the list being arrived at after a meeting held at his house to sound out what residents wanted.
There are three boxes in the parish; in the Street, at Greenhill and Stone Lane. They are not in good condition, although not wrecks either. It would cost in the region of £650 to have these repainted, and they could then be maintained by locals agreeing to “adopt” them. Greeenhill residents already looked after theirs, the bell-ringers were amenable to adopting the one in the Street, and the Chairman was hopeful someone would look after the Stone Lane one.
Keep Britain Tidy Campaign
It was agreed that the annual Parish Litter pick would be on 6th March to coincide with the National Campaign.
Next Month’s Meeting
This will be on Thursday 2nd February, at 7.30pm at the Parish Hall.