Parishes Liaison Meeting
Wednesday, 16th February, 2005
BATH AND NORTH EAST SOMERSET COUNCIL
PARISHES LIAISON MEETING
Wednesday 16th February 2005
PRESENT -: Councillor Les Kew, Immediate Past Chairman of the Bath and North East Somerset Council
Representatives of Batheaston, Bathampton, Camerton, Chew Magna, Clutton, Combe Hay, Compton Martin, Corston, Dunkerton, Englishcombe, Farmborough, Freshford, High Littleton, Hinton Blewett, Hinton Charterhouse, Keynsham, Marksbury, Newton St Loe, Peasedown St John, Publow with Pensford, Saltford, South Stoke, Timsbury, Wellow and Whitchurch Parish/Town Councils
Councillor Douglas Jackson, Chairman Bath & North East Somerset Local Councils Group and Miss Janet Wallis, County Secretary Avon Association of Local Councils
Bath & North East Somerset Councillors Matt Davis (Group Leader), Sir Elgar Jenkins, Malcolm Hanney, Vic Pritchard and Rosemary Todd (Executive Members) and Gitte Dawson; John Everitt, Chief Executive and Council officers
Apologies for absence: Bath & North East Somerset Councillors Paul Crossley, Francine Haeberling and Phyllis Gay (Group Leaders); and representatives of Charlcombe, Stowey Sutton and Ubley Parish Councils
Councillor Kew welcomed everyone to the meeting and gave apologies on behalf of Councillor Marian McNeir, the Chair of Bath & North East Somerset Council who was unable to attend.
2 EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROCEDURE
The Chair(person) drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure as set out on the Agenda.
At this point Councillor Kew referred to a request from South Stoke Parish Council for improvements to the parish cluster meetings to be discussed at this meeting and explained that, following consultation with the Chairman of the Bath & North East Somerset Local Councils Group, it had been agreed to pursue this matter separately as the relevant Head of Service, Steve Howell was unable to attend. Councillor Kew invited Robert Hellard, Chairman of the Parish Council to make a statement (a copy of which is retained on the minute book). Sir Elgar Jenkins, Executive Member for Transport and Highways, responded by outlining the steps already being taken to improve the running of the cluster meetings and indicating the Council`s commitment to positive co-operation with Parishes to solve issues of concern in a realistic way within resource and other constraints. Mr Hellard thanked the Executive Member for the assurances given.
3 MINUTES: PREVIOUS MEETING: WEDNESDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2004
It was agreed that the minutes of the previous meeting held on 29th September 2004 be confirmed as a correct record andbe signed by the Chair(person).
4 LOCAL COMPACT WITH THE VOLUNTARY COMMUNITY SECTOR
Annalise Elliott, Group Manager Community Cohesion Unit gave a presentation on the consultation being undertaken on a Local Compact with the voluntary community sector and how Parishes could be involved in developing this. She encouraged Parishes to respond to the consultation taking place on the framework for the Compact and responded to questions from Parish representatives about its impact.
5 INTERACTIVE WEBSITE FOR PARISHES
Andy Thomas, Corporate Projects Manager gave a presentation on the proposal to develop an interactive website for Parishes as part of the initiative stemming from the Local Strategic Partnership and responded to questions from Parish representatives. He encouraged Parishes to take part in training and contribute to the development of the site. He agreed to circulate further details of the practical implications for Parishes including estimated costs as soon as they were available via the Local Councils Group.
6 DEVELOPMENT CONTROL PROCEDURES
Geoff Webber, Acting Planning Services Manager attended for this discussion and responded to concerns raised by a number of Parishes about - delays in enforcement action; inadequate consultation with Parishes on variations of significance to the local community; instances of lack of communication between Planning Services and individual Parishes; inadequate officer liaison with Parish Councils before delegated authority is exercised.
He outlined the structural changes taking place in Planning Services to address these concerns, improve communications with the Parishes and the public and meet the targets required by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. He referred to the guidance leaflet on enforcement procedures issued by Planning Services which explains the process including the reasons for apparent delays because of the requirement to seek negotiated solutions where possible. The revised scheme of delegations was currently being reviewed after its first year of operation and Parishes were encouraged to respond as part of that process. Further training for Parish Councils would be arranged to assist more recently elected Councillors in understanding the process.
Councillor Rosemary Todd, Executive Member for Sustainability and the Environment thanked Parishes for the honest feedback and requested them to be patient with Planning Services as these changes worked through. Improvements were already evident as a result of the changes introduced last year and further improvements would be achieved when the restructuring was implemented.
7 2005/06 BUDGET AND COUNCIL TAX
Councillor Malcolm Hanney, Executive Member for Resources introduced the discussion requested by the Local Councils Group on the impact of the Council`s major capital funding commitments on ongoing expenditure priorities in the 2005/06 Budget being proposed by the Executive to full Council on 22 February. He outlined the key pressures on spending and indicated that significant decisions would need to be made by the Executive to moderate potential Council Tax increases in future years.
Sir Elgar Jenkins, Executive Member for Transport and Highways responded to concerns from Parishes about the levels of spending on highways and outlined the process now established for prioritising bids for improvement schemes from Parishes, Ward Councillors as well as those generated through assessments within the Service.
Councillor Jackson, on behalf of the Local Councils Group, asked what action the Executive was recommending the full Council to take on the Group`s request for the Joint Working Party on Double Taxation and associated issues to be re-established to take forward the work done in 2004. Councillors Malcolm Hanney and Rosemary Todd responded and indicated that, whilst it was not proposed to reconvene the Working Party and the Executive did not consider the Special Expenses option to be equitable, efforts were being made to formulate fair and workable mechanisms to resolve the inequalities identified in the various Service areas and the Executive was committed to continuing this process. Councillor Jackson expressed disappointment that, notwithstanding these commitments, the valuable work begun by the Joint Working Party was not to be carried to its conclusion.
8 UPDATES FOR INFORMATION
The meeting noted the update paper circulated with the agenda on the following issues: Parish Sweeper Scheme; Children`s Play Area Equipment Grants; Election of Parish Representative and Reserve to Standards Committee; Training for Parish Councillors on Code of Conduct and other ethical framework issues.
Councillor Hanney updated the meeting orally on progress on the Play Area Equipment funding applications and acknowedged that Parishes needed more time to absorb the result of the inspections so the uncommitted budget allocation would be carried forward to the 2005/06 financial year.
Councillor Jackson, on behalf of the Local Councils Group, advised the meeting that the letter from the Solicitor to the Council in December 2003 consulting on Standards Committee membership had been overlooked in error by some Parishes.
9 DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS
Dates of meetings were agreed as previously notified: Wednesdays at 6.30pm on 8th June and 26th October 2005. The meeting agreed that Keynsham Town Hall was the preferred venue but requested that all possible action be taken to improve the sound system.
The meeting ended at 8.25pm
Date Confirmed and Signed
Prepared by Democratic Services