Parish Council needs to press reset

The Parish Council plans to spend up to £10,000 on external consultant’s fees to help make it fit for purpose. Councillors agreed unanimously an independent expert should review the Council’s practices and procedures and report back to a future Council meeting.

Bob Jones, the interim Chairman, acknowledged the move could be criticised in some quarters. However, he thought it necessary for the Council to move forward. An entirely new Parish Council would soon take over following the May elections. They would have a lot to sort out. People need to have confidence things are being done properly. Five out of eleven seats will still be unfilled, which means more work for those six elected councillors. Rebuilding confidence should encourage more new councillors to come forward.

As one member put it, Lydiard Millicent PC needs to “press the reset button and define what good looks like. ”

Other highlights include:

  • Draft minutes approved after lengthy discussion of their accuracy. Some paragraphs removed as the Chairman considered them to be unnecessary opinion.

  • The future of the £3,000 Wiltshire Council grant towards the improvement of the footpath behind the Sun will be discussed by the new administration after the May elections.

  • Financial payments approved. One councillor questioned the £372 payment to Webb Paton. The clerk confirmed this was a routine annual item, which had started before she had taken office. It relates to filling in a form to claim grant payments for Lydiard Plain. She confirmed the Council receives £3,000 for this each year.

  • Budget management needs to be a main priority for the Council.

  • In future, the handyman is to check work done against the grounds maintenance invoice to ensure all work done (councillor and clerk to liaise with him to facilitate this).

  • There were no objections to any of the planning applications considered. Those in time were supported. In future, the Chairman suggested the Council may want to consider a policy of either supporting/not supporting applications. Councillors could request the clerk to respond to Wiltshire Council without bringing each application before a full Council meeting.

  • The clerk’s email address is to change to to promote a more professional image.

  • The clerk gave her report. This should become a regular agenda item and the Chairman suggested referencing items so they could be followed up in future meetings.

  • Progress has been made in freeing up storage space. Clubs’ surplus items, the Chairman said, should be collected or the Council should tell them it will charge for disposal.

  • Some dog walkers are letting their animals foul the field. Apart from the obvious hygiene issue, this could curtail its use for sports. The Council will keep under review and consider whether to require all dogs to be kept on a lead. The Chairman made the point many sports fields exclude dogs altogether.

  • The handyman has trimmed back the hedge (before nesting season) and made improvements in the cemetery.

  • Efforts of volunteers maintaining flowerbeds and Speed Indicator Devices acknowledged.

  • Application made to the Land Registry for registration of the play area at the Mews. Solicitors have indicated this will not be completed until October because of the Land Registry’s backlogs.

  • The website needs updating “as and when possible. ” It is not up to date and may not meet the standards required of a public service website. The clerk explained E-Mango (the platform providers) are doing an update and this should help improve matters. Currently, it appears a lot of the clerk’s time (six hours according to timesheets) is spent uploading material.

  • Councillor Allsop detailed her review of the Risk Assessment. As a result, a number of items were altered.

  • The Chairman said that the Council should review its standing orders in November 2020. They are out of date and contain errors. For example, their coverage of BACS and cheques. Banking has moved on, but the Council’s standing orders haven’t, he said. This needs to be a priority for the new Council, and he recommended a working group be set up to deal with this as soon as possible.

  • Councillor Hacker had looked into the new electric oven for the JCH. Estimated cost would be within budget (£349, with original ceiling being £350). However, there would be additional fitting and delivery costs, and electrical works. The net result would be a likely spend of £550 - £600. So, councillors agreed to hold this decision over for the new administration.

  • The letter of complaint contained confidential material, so discussion was limited. However, the Chairman outlined the findings of his review and he would write to the complainant. The lack of a clear, published, policy on bookings and use of the sports field may have contributed to the complaint.

  • The asset register needs to be reviewed. The current one is 2013. Councillors debated what the purpose of the asset register is. In its current format, it appears to have little value.

  • Freedom of Information Act Requests discussed. The Chairman questioned why these had been referred to solicitors. One of these related to the report on title at the time the Council bought the community field. The clerk explained she could not find the information in the system, and solicitors would charge in the region of £500 for this. (Although it was not clear, it was intimated this would be £500 per request). Chairman said this would not be a good use of money especially if replicated. Member of the public said it should just be a case of solicitors copying report already supplied to Council, so queried this cost, especially as she’d been told in 2019 this was already in hand.

  • The Council does not have a good grasp on what it owns generally. The clerk confirmed solicitors were instructed (in 2019) to prepare “a land terrier” of the Council’s property holdings, but this has not yet been completed.

  • The next Council meeting will be face-to-face as the Covid relaxations, which allow virtual meetings, end. The meeting is provisionally set for 20 May. It will need to comply with government guidance on social distancing, so restrictions on numbers may apply. Councillors and the clerk discussed the ability of the public to access, which was the reason for the slightly later than planned date. The Chairman emphasised the need for the Council to reengage with residents.

Moment Factory Reset Button 05-22-2012 © Karel Chladek - C2-MTL by C2 Montréal is licensed under CC BY 2.0

122 views0 comments