Whitestone Parish Council
Minutes of Whitestone Parish Council held at Whitestone Parish Hall on Thursday 10th May 2018 at 7.30 pm
Chairman ‐ Councillor L Hickman
Councillors Mrs M Belt (left the meeting at 9.30 pm), D Munro, R Phillips, A Reed, A Rose
Mrs P Vaughan, Clerk to the Council.
Mr D Friend, Mr and Mrs Mingo, Mrs S Greenfield, Mrs L Hickman, Dr A Kellagher, Mrs J Kellagher
Apologies: Councillors Mrs L Fairley, Mrs B Netherway
Dr Kellagher said she was in attendance regarding concerns that the Parish Hall Committee have over the ownership of the defibrillator which is housed in the Parish Hall and the Hall Committee wish to clarify the situation. It is understood that the Parish Council have suggested that it is moved to an outside position to make it more available to the public. Cllr Hickman responded that he has investigated the conditions under which the defibrillator was purchased and subsequent correspondence. He suggested that a meeting is arranged with representatives from the Parish Hall Committee and Parish Council representatives to discuss the matter further as he is sure that the Parish Council would be prepared to fund any such move if it proved to be advantageous,
Dr Kellagher said she also wished to raise the question of potholes which were of serious concern throughout the Parish and asked if it was possible for the Parish Council to arrange for a Road Warden Scheme to be implemented. Cllr Hickman said that this issue has been raised in the past and volunteers had been sought to fill this role, however it does mean that the persons concerned would have to undergo Chapter 8 training to enable them to work on the roads. Only one volunteer had come forward but when he learned of the implications of the role he had withdrawn his offer to help as he had concerns regarding insurance issues. The Clerk then read from a letter received from County Councillor Connett which indicated that he has chased up the complaints with Devon Highways regarding potholes within the parish following attending the Parish Meeting last week.
Dr Kellagher and Mrs Kellagher then left the meeting.
36. ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
36.1 Cllr Hickman reported having received a letter of resignation as a Councillor from Mrs Beryl Bramhall and expressed thanks to her for her term of office. All agreed that a letter of thanks would be sent to Mrs Bramhall in thanks for her contribution as a Councillor and in particular for her role as Crossway Park Officer.
Cllr Hickman, the retiring Chairman, opened the Annual General Meeting and stood down as Chairman in order for the election of officers for the year 2018/2019 to take place
36.2 Election of Chairman
Councillor L Hickman was proposed by Cllr Belt and seconded by Cllr Reed. All in favour.
Councillor Hickman was thereby elected and signed his declaration of office as Chairman and called for nominations for the following:-
36.3 Election of Vice Chairman
Councillor Reed was proposed by Cllr Phillips and seconded by Cllr Munro. All in favour. .
36.4 Footpath Warden
Councillor Munro was proposed by Cllr Belt and seconded by Cllr Reed. All in favour.
36.5 Church House Foundation Member
Councillor Belt was proposed by Cllr Reed and seconded by Cllr Munro. All in favour
36.6 Crossway Park Officer
Councillor Rose was proposed by Cllr Hickman and seconded by Cllr Reed. All in favour.
36.7 Parish Hall Committee
Councillor Rose proposed and Councillor Reed seconded that Councillors Belt, Phillips, Fairley and Hickman be elected en bloc. All in favour.
36.8 Parish Hall Liaison Member
Councillor Belt was proposed by Cllr Reed and seconded by Cllr Phillips. All in favour.
36.9 Asset Group
Councillor Hickman proposed and Councillor Munro seconded that Councillors Reed, Phillips, Belt and Rose be elected en bloc. All in favour.
36.10 Responsible Financial Officer
Mrs P Vaughan proposed by Cllr Hickman and seconded by Cllr Belt. All in favour.
36.11 Internal Independent Auditor
Mr D Hinchliffe proposed by Cllr Belt seconded by Cllr Rose. All in favour.
The Council then proceeded to the business of the Parish Council Meeting
37. Minutes of the Council Meeting held on 12th April 2018 and the Annual Parish Meeting held on 26th April 2018 having been circulated were taken as read and signed as a true copy by the Chairman
Cllr Hickman declared an interest in the application for “The Firs” and left the room whilst this was being discussed.
The following applications were examined and discussed and the subsequent observations were confirmed to be relayed to Teignbridge District Council:-
38.1 18/00482/FUL Agricultural building and re-surfacing of access track on land adjacent to The Old Chapel Whitestone. Not supported on the basis of visibility of access onto main road, query as to water source for cleaning vegetables grown and the water disposal of same. Query over car parking for employees and facilities for employees.
38.2 18/00836/FUL Garage including installation of wood boiler with ancillary accommodation at first floor at Folley Hill, Folley Lane. Supported
38.3 18/00700/FUL Single storey side extension and new vehicular access at The Firs, Whitestone. Supported
Grant of Conditional Planning Permission
38.4 18/00384/VAR Variation of conditions 2 and 3 on planning permission 17/00550/FUL (replacement dwelling and associated works) to make alterations to approved heights, ground levels and fenestration at Folley Hill, Folley Lane.
Refusal of Planning Permission
38.5 18/00358/FUL Demolition of existing outbuilding and erection of double garage, workshop and storage building at Way Farm
39. MATTERS FOR DISCUSSION
39.1 The Clerk reported that Mr David Hinchcliffe had now completed the internal audit for 2017/18 and he has confirmed that they fairly represent the Council’s financial activities in the year with the year end balances of £33.133 being held in three accounts at the Natwest Bank. He has reviewed the Council’s financial systems and procedures and found them to be satisfactory and being properly operated. He states that in his opinion the Council’s financial work is being well and efficiently undertaken. He commented upon the size of the Council’s balances in view of the small amount of interest which had been earned. Cllr Belt proposed a vote of thanks to the Clerk for her input into the work necessary throughout the year for this satisfactory conclusion
39.2 Cllr Reed reported that handrails on the stairs in No 1 had been replaced. Holes in the rendering outside both houses have been filled in and painted. These had arisen by the bins being knocked against the walls when they were emptied by Teignbridge Council employees and arrangements have been put into place for the bins to be placed against the wooden fence in future to avoid this damage re-occurring. Both houses have been inspected by the Letting Agents and reported to be in good order.
39.3 Cllr Belt raised the question of the gate into the Park being locked but after discussion it was decided that the padlock should remain in place as a preventative measure for illegal use of the Park.
Estimates for replacement of shed at rear of garages
39.4 As agreed at the April meeting estimates had been obtained for the provision of a weather boarded shed
It was proposed and seconded that the quotation of £680.38 should be accepted. All in favour.
39.5 Cllr Reed stated that he and Cllr Hickman would undertake to remove the existing wall and asked if Cllr Belt would be willing to arrange for someone to collect the debris which would occur or a skip would have to be hired at a cost of £243. Cllr Belt said that arrangements are already in hand for the removal of same.
39.6 Cllr Reed said that there was a need for some fencing and post repairs at the rear of the gardens at 1 and 2 School Houses and he has obtained a quotation of £129.40 for this work which would be done by the same contractor doing the work for the shed. It was resolved that this quotation should be accepted.
Teignbridge District Council Community Infrastructure Levy
39.7 Information has been received from Teignbridge District Council that Whitestone Parish Council have been allocated the sum of £1631.91 from the above fund which may only be spent on the provision, improvement, replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure. There should be further £1,631.91 in October 2018, another in April 2019 and a final one in October 2019 making a total of £6,527.61. A report has to be sent to Teignbridge In December each year covering the way the money has been allocated. If not spent within 5 years or if applied otherwise than in accordance with regulations the Council may be required to repay the monies.
Parish Council Insurance Renewal
39.8 Notification received from Came & Company regarding the renewal from the 1st June 2018. Three quotations were offered and it was recommended that the Council should accept the policy with Inspire. If the Council agree to an inflation adjusted 3 year binding Long Term Agreement the annual premium can be reduced from £1,209.11 to £1,151.16. Discussion followed and it was resolved that the option of a long term agreement be accepted. All in favour.
Parish Plan Outcomes
39.9 Cllr Hickman opened the meeting to allow Mrs Greenfield to speak on this subject and she suggested that an Open Meeting led by the Parish Council should be fixed possibly for early June. After discussion it was suggested that Councillors have a pre-planning meeting on 16th May and the Clerk was instructed to book a room at the Hall for 7.30pm.
40. MATTERS RAISED BY THE CHAIRMAN
Annual Parish Meeting
40.1 Hopefully you will all have read the minutes from the Annual Parish Meeting. I am sure you will all agree that we are fortunate to live in Parish where so many positive activities, covering a wide range of interests, are taking place. Whilst the Parish Council has not been directly involved with all the groups I believe we should be proud of the part it has played in encouraging and supporting small initiatives in order to improve the individual life of parishioners and promote social connection. May I also take this opportunity to record a special thanks to those representatives who took the time to give reports on the activities of their particular group, or have ensured a report was made available the Clerk to enable other parishioners to learn of the opportunities open to them in the Parish.
As the new Parish Council year commences it wouldn’t be appropriate for me not to make comment on the one negative and very critical statement, which has been included, in its entirety, alongside the positive reports highlighted above. As can be seen from these negative comments, which, for regular attenders at Parish Council meetings will note, have moved from criticisms about the financial behaviour of the Council. These comments failed to mention the annual stringent auditing process, that includes inspection by the Audit Commission, in respect of the Councils financial activity.
To the complainants concerns relating to procedure and process a feature of this council has indeed been to encourage comment and the raising of issues to allow the Parish Council to act to benefit the Parish. However, parishioners may not be aware that a feature of the volunteer life of the Councillors, particularly this year, has been that we, as Councillors, have been subject to behaviour perceived as moving from reasonable comment and questions to being aggressive and may be considered as inappropriate towards elected Councillors.
I have taken the opportunity to research and also take advice in respect of the criticism received. As expected, the items at best might be called selective, at worst seem to be a bid to embarrass and undermine the Council. There seems little purpose in answering each individual comment as these are the personal views of a very small number of parishioners, but, in order to balance the information currently in the public domain I offer a response to some of the points raised -
The statement starts by questioning the lawfulness of how the Council sets its agenda, however, it fails to mention that only a small number of directives are supported by legislation, the remainder are decisions that can be made locally. Nevertheless the concerns regarding the lack of sub-headings in the agenda appear to be rather overstated, for example - the agenda item ‘Crossways Park’ - for the sake of practicality sub headings are not placed on the agenda, indeed this has never been the case, as a number of items may be raised under this heading. Common sense dictates that there may well be some issues that become apparent during Council discussion with the reporting officer. The consequence of not being able to discuss a certain aspect, just because it does not appear as an agenda subheading, is delayed decision making and a Council that is far from pro-active.
The statement highlights damage to democratic process using the words “disturbing, surprising and inconvenient”, in relation to not publishing financial information. Again this fails to acknowledge that audited financial accounts are published each and every year. The budget plan, which is agreed by the elected members at the beginning of the year is a working document for Councillors to monitor ongoing expenditure, which they do on behalf of all Parishioners. The aforementioned statement does not recognise that the Councillors are elected to represent all parishioners and make decisions that are believed to be in the best interest of the Parish.
There have been a number of occasions when the accuracy of the minutes have been questioned, either by personal representation, or in respect of a joint representation. In the spirit of goodwill, on these occasions, minutes have subsequently been re-worded but seemingly this has not satisfied the complainant. I can confirm that the practice of rewording minutes on the behest of the public has ceased, as the minutes are the official record of the meeting, and as such can only be amended by the elected Councillors, as representatives of Parishioners, in respect of any errors. They are not for altering by those people not elected just because, on personal reflection, they don’t indicate what they believed they stated at the meeting. At parish council meetings we have been inclusive and have reflected the views, if any, of the public attendees, in the official minutes. The minutes provide a record of what was heard, therefore if ten Councillors heard what was said, and two presenting thought it was something else, the majority view will stand. On occasions where there is disagreement, and in the spirit of openness and transparency, an addendum from the concerned parishioner may be added to the minutes. I believe we should also reflect that some comments have been made in relation to meetings where the complainant was not present, or they reflected views of another person.
The essence of the aforementioned statement appears to center on process and procedure. We should acknowledge that both this Council and previous Councils, are composed of volunteers, who are not perfect, nor have been perfect in the past. Some of us will remember the issues around the selling of School Houses that caused division in this Parish, as the Council was out of touch with parishioners. This Council will continue to aim to move forward, and be measured by achievements. I believe that this progressive approach is supported by a majority of parishioners, as opposed to an approach that is unnecessarily tied down by procedures that give rise to delay and slows down decision making, resulting in a Council that either fails to deliver anything, or lacks response in a timely manner.
On a positive note, the negative comments have highlighted the cumbersome nature of some of the Standing Orders, thus indicating they should be reviewed and possibly amended to ensure the Council can be even more responsive.
Clearly it is very disappointing to hear that the Parish Council is falling short of some parishioners expectation, albeit a very small number. In this, the final year of this Councils term of office, we will continue to strive to be inclusive and reflect what we believe a majority of parishioners would like to see. I welcome the views, and constructive comments of all the parishioners, my tel no. is 811909 if you would like to speak to me or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. In either case if you wish to remain anonymous, that is also fine.
40.2 A number of parishioners have raised concerns in regard to the working practices of the loaders of the vehicles. Due to poor practices litter is falling from vehicles and contributing to our litter problem. This issue will be raised with Teignbridge District Council.
40.3 Following the previous meeting, joint discussions will be put in place to consider the most effective positioning of the defibrillator.
40.4 Confirmation that the pantomime group has now received keys to the new garage doors which have been installed.
41.1 Authorisation of decision taken at Council meeting on 12th April that the Clerk’s honorarium should be increased to £9 per hour as from 1st April 2018 and reviewed annually. Proposed and seconded with all in favour.
Authorisation for continuation of Grants
It was proposed and seconded that the following grants be continued. All in favour.
41.2 Parochial Church Council (for inclusion of minutes in the Church Magazine) £165.00
41.3 Whitestone Gardening Club for tending the Community Garden adjoining Crossway Park £100.00
41.4 Teignbridge District Council Community Infrastructure Levy £1,631.91
41.5 2 School Houses rent to 01 June 2018 £800.00 ‐ £76.80 (includes £12.80 VAT) = £723.20
41.6 1 School Houses rent to 30th May 2018 £675.00 - £64.80 (includes £10.80 VAT) = £610.20
The following expenditure was proposed and seconded for payment. All in favour and the cheques were signed by Councillors Phillips and Munro.
41.7 David Hinchliffe (Internal Audit) £200.00
41.8 Clerk’s expenses £91.45
41.9 Came & Company ‐ Insurance Renewal 1/6/18 to 31/5/19 and for 3 year period £1,151.16
41.10 C R Kibbey Ltd £60.00 (includes £10 VAT) repair at No 1 School Houses paid through Carter Geering
42.1 A letter of complaint has been received from 21 residents concerning the hedges bordering roads within the parish. The Clerk read from a letter which has been received from County Councillor Alan Connett following his attendance at the Parish Meeting when some of these concerns were raised. He states “our local highways officer has visited this week and tells me that the Council will be contacting relevant land owners asking them to cut back hedges regarded as in need of attention” and the Clerk was requested to pass this information on to those concerned.
43.1 Cllr Hickman mentioned that the owner of Glebe Farm had contacted him regarding potholes. Mr Hewitt of Devon Highways had visited the site and found that the potholes were not due to any work undertaken. He had confirmed that drainage would be explored and the potholes repaired in due course. Mr Hewitt welcomed parishioners to contact him if they had concerns.
The meeting closed at 9.45 pm