Minutes of Parish Council Meeting, 13 January 2016

In attendance: Mrs Pat Clare (Chair, presiding), Mrs Mary Button, Mr David Hamblin, Mr Richard White and Mr Jason Cantrill (Councillors) and Mr Mike Balmer (Clerk). 6 Parishioners. County and District Councillors absent.

16.01 Approved absences – none.

16.02 Declarations of interest – None.

16.03 The minutes of the previous meeting on 18 November 2015 were approved and signed.

16.04 County Councillor Report
Barry Stone had apologised for not being able to attend as he had an urgent meeting at County Hall. However he had sent his latest report which had been published on the website.

16.05 District Councillor Report
Jaan Larner had also tendered his apologies and hoped to attend the March meeting.

16.06 Parishioner Questions
A parishioner said that while Hellington Beck had been cleared recently, the Environment Agency had used an open cage device which removed reeds etc but did not dredge any of the silt material in the Beck, rather than a conventional bucket which would have done so. The Clerk confirmed the same process had been carried out at Carleton Beck. This was likely to increase the prospect of flooding. The Clerk was instructed to ask the Agency why this had happened and whether they were planning a proper dredging at some stage.

Concern was expressed at the speed of traffic in both directions at the Hellington crossroads. A lower speed limit was something previous County Councillor Adrian Gunson had been campaigning for up to his retirement. The Clerk was instructed to draw the County Councillor’s attention to this issue which concerned a large number of parishioners.

The Council was asked whether anything could be done about the condition of the track between Burton’s Farm and Apple Acre, which was heavily potholed and very difficult to walk along. Although this is a Public Right of Way, it is private land and the landowner has no obligation to keep the track graded.

16.07 Tender for grass-cutting
The Clerk had forwarded the results of the recent tender. 5 of 6 firms approached had responded. 2 were several hundred pounds higher than the others. One was not VAT-registered meaning their bid came in much more expensive. While one of the remaining bids was slightly lower and the bidder had provided one Parish Council as a referee, the Clerk had not had any response to two approaches he had made to them for a recommendation. In the circumstances the Councillors unanimously agreed that the contract should be awarded to Norse, who were well known to them and had performed well in the past. The Clerk will contact all 5 bidders with the news.

16.08 2016-17 Precept
The Clerk had provided all Councillors in advance with details of the grant available from SNC (£92 in 2016-17) and a range of options for the Precept, with notes on the impact on Council Tax bills, After discussion there was unanimous agreement that a Precept of £3,997 should be sought for 2016-17, and the Chair and Clerk signed the application form, for despatch to SNC after the meeting.

16.09 The Government’s Satellite Broadband Voucher Scheme
The Clerk explained that the eagerly-awaited Voucher Scheme had launched in December, but that it was likely to cost average households around £400 a year, after the value of the voucher had been taken off. He felt this unfairly penalised rural users, as traditional fixed-line broadband service providers (BT, Virgin, Sky, PlusNet etc) all had offers which gave several months free at the start of a new contract meaning significantly lower costs, whereas the satellite broadband provider offers were “take it or leave it”. Richard Bacon MP had said when re-elected last May that rural broadband was his first priority, and the Clerk asked for permission to write to him on behalf of the Council to express Claxton’s dissatisfaction with the Voucher Scheme, and to ask him to lobby the Government, BT and others to find a better, fairer solution for such locations. The Council approved this request and the Clerk will send them a draft.

16.10 Request from BYRUS for a donation
The Clerk had circulated a letter from the Bramerton Group of Churches asking for a donation towards their youth worker. No-one at the meeting had been aware of such a position, and after discussion the Council declined to make a donation.

16.11 Planning Matters
There had been 3 applications since the last meeting.  2015/2680 (border fence at the Old House, Church Lane) was to have been decided the previous day.  2015/2684 (Pond Cottage vestibule) was due for decision on 25 January and 2015/2802 (Durrant’s Barn change of use) was scheduled for a decision on 29 January.  Given that they had supported the original application for Durrant’s Barn the Council agreed to support this latest one and asked the Clerk to register this online if there was still time.  They also asked him to register support for Pond Cottage if possible.

16.12 Finance
a) The bank balance at 13 January was £3,943.35. Budget and bank statements had been circulated separately.
b) Receipts – none.
c) Grants – none.
d) Payments

Cheque No
Helen Balmer
Start-up grant for Community Café ***
£ 100.00
Robert Ellis
Bill for replacement of manhole cover in VH car park ***
£ 92.86
M A Balmer
Salary (Dec-Jan) and Admin (Nov-Jan)
£ 336.11
Councillor training for Jason Cantrill
£ 45.00

*** both payments had already been made. The first had been approved in November and the second was made under the emergency rules in the Standing Orders. Pat Clare proposed approval and David Hamblin seconded.

16.13 Updates on the Parish Plan and Playground Facilities
The Council agreed the Clerk’s recommendation that updates should only be provided when there had been changes.

16.14 Clerk’s Report
The Clerk reported that he had carried out a litter pick in the village in early December, and hoped to organise another one in February/March. He had attended the Clerks’ Consultation meeting at Long Stratton where much of the focus was on budgets. He had prepared options for 2016-17, and had completed the tendering and assessment process for letting the grass-cutting contracts. He had also organised the paperwork for Richard White to become a third signatory on the Council’s bank account.

16.15 Correspondence
The Clerk tabled a list of correspondence which had been circulated to Councillors or received prior to the meeting.

16.16 Items for next Agenda

16.17 Date of next meeting
The next meeting will be on Wednesday 16 March 2016 at 7.30pm in the Village Hall. The Chair thanked everyone who had attended the first Community Café the previous day and hoped they would spread the word around the village about the next one on 9 February.

The meeting closed at 2015.

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