Agenda and minutes
Venue: Shrubbery Hotel, Station Road, Ilminster TA19 9AR
Contact: LCN Team Email: email@example.com
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Paul Bradly of Misterton Parish Council.
Declarations of Interest
To receive and note any declarations of interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.
(The other registrable interests of Councillors of Somerset Council, arising from membership of City, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes: City, Town & Parish Twin Hatters - Somerset Councillors 2023 )
There were no declarations of interest from Somerset Council Councillors present at the meeting.
To approve the notes from the previous meeting.
The notes of the previous meeting held on 21 September 2023 were agreed as a correct record by those present.
Update - Somerset Council Financial Position
The Chairman introduced Cllr Theo Butt Philip (Lead Member for Transformation and Human Resources) who provided an update on the financial position of Somerset Council. He noted the authority needed to reduce spending as there was a projected overspend in the current year and pressure to close a forecast £100million budget gap for the coming financial year. He briefly explained how the majority of funding gets allocated, and noted the authority would be asking parishes and communities to look at helping to deliver some non-statutory services if they wish to protect that service in their community. Somerset Council would need to seriously look at what services it could continue to provide into the future, and there were some difficult decisions to be made.
During a question and answer type session, Cllr Theo Butt Philip (Lead Member for Transformation and Human Resources, Kate Hellard (Service Manager LCNs) provided some responses to points of detail. A summary of some of the points and responses are provided below:
· Assume Council Tax will have to go up and parishes possibly their precepts – so public getting a double whammy?
Finance have already factored in a 5% increase in the Somerset Council element of Council Tax into the £100m shortfall figures. If communities want to see level of services continue as have done until now it will require more money.
· The £100m gap hasn’t happened overnight – how many years has this situation been building up?
The £100m isn’t a current deficit – it’s what is being forecast for the next financial year. Part of the issue has been the process relating to the Fair Cost of Care exercise which was started, and then postponed with central government not funding the gap – care costs have considerably increased from approx. £500 to £900 per week per person/placement.
· Have looked at some data since reading the Leader’s letter to parishes. Parish precepts vary hugely depending on the size of the parish. People look at percentages more than the actual figures sometimes. Groups of parishes could group together to share resources. Not sure can just justify increasing parish precepts.
There is limited scope for manoeuvre. Somerset Council may not be able to continue to provide some non-statutory services as no budget. Parishes and communities may need to consider how much they value a specific service, and if the want is great enough, do the parish look to provide/resource that service in their locality.
· The Leader’s letter only refers to cost cutting with little mention about possibilities to increase income. Would like to see a cost cutting side but also a proactive regeneration side.
We are looking at all the council services including any that people / parishes can buy into.
· Using the Parish Ranger Scheme as an example (acknowledge the service has been withdrawn) – many people didn’t seem to know about it. There needs to be more promotion of services the council provides to help improve income.
Acknowledged and noted.
· The council is in serious financial ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Public Question Time
The Chair to advise of any questions, statements or petitions received that are not covered by items on the agenda for the meeting on which members of the public have requested to speak.
The Chairman of Horton Parish Council referred to the consultation document – ‘Creating Places for People’, which he had mentioned at the previous meeting. He noted he had recently spoken to a developer who didn’t seem to know anything about the document or consultation. He queried how many responses had been received to the online consultation and asked why the deadline had not been extended to enable discussion by all LCNs?
In response, Kate Hellard (Service Manager LCNs), explained that she didn’t know the response rate for the consultation as the LCN team were not a statutory consultee. In agreement with the Chairman of Horton Parish Council, she noted she would put him in contact with the correct person in the planning team to discuss directly his queries and concerns regarding the Creating Places for People consultation.
Updates from Highways
The Chairman briefly reminded everyone of the discussion with colleagues from Highways at the previous LCN meeting. He noted there had been further conversations since that meeting and a suggestion out forward is that this LCN forms a sub-group that meets with Highways officers on a regular basis to discuss issues and take things forward – the sub-group would be a conduit between the LCN and Highways. The suggestion was for 6 or 7 volunteers to form the sub group (from across the LCN area) and to meet during the daytime virtually via Teams. A date for an initial meeting was proposed for Tuesday 5 December at 2.00pm. The Chairman asked if those present thought this would be a good idea.
During a short discussion, there was no indications against the idea but some questions and points of details were raised – Kate Hellard (Service Manager LCNs) responded to the comments made and referred to the Exmoor LCN model which had a Highways Steward, and the additional benefit that forming a sub-group might have.
A comment was also raised regarding training of volunteers to undertake some Highways works and the costs and bureaucracy encountered by parishes when doing this. The Chairman acknowledged the frustrations, and noted he had had a discussion with Highways about delivering some specific (rather than broad) local courses specific to the needs of parishes for local issues and tasks.
Kate Hellard showed a slide highlighting the nine themes which had been raised at the first meeting of the LCN. In seven breakout groups, attendees were asked to agree their top three priority themes and whether any other themes had been missed. For each of the three priority themes, groups were also asked to consider what data may be needed, what do residents say and how could they be consulted, who else might the LCN need to talk to and what was already happening.
1. Lack of public transport, Highways, active travel
2. Environmental Issues, lack of public transport, Somerset Council
3. Environmental issues, Highways (flooding), lack of public transport
5. Communications for residents
6. Support for children and young people, environmental issues (resilience planning), health and well-being
7. Services / environmental issues, Highways (including speeding and flooding), Transport
Some attendees felt that support for children, cost of living, housing, health & well-being, and crime & community policing were topics that possibly could be themes, but it was acknowledged these may be included under the ‘services’ theme.
Comments noted under each priority / theme included:
· Lack of public transport especially in the rural villages
· Lack of public transport links to social / rural isolation and difficulty accessing services – reliance on a car. Some people struggling to access medical appointments due to lack of transport.
· Could there be discussions with Tesco about provision of transport to their local store?
· Footpaths – many might be used more if better access – some have steep steps and are slippery. Need links for onward travel.
· Disappointment about withdrawal of the parish ranger service – how might parishes seek an alternative.
· Flooding linked to highways, plus drainage and sewerage.
· Recent flooding - the Environment Agency had recently sent some useful information to Lopen with links to a reporting tool online and other information.
· One parish had recently experience severe flooding – could the water companies be invite to the LCN so that a better understanding from both sides can be heard?
· Believe a council somewhere has purchased a speed camera which can issues fines – is this an option?
· Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs) – several parishes struggle with locations approved by Highways, there have also been issues with revenge vandalism.
· Linked to communications – regarding contingency planning parishes need contacts for when highways blocked by flooding or fallen trees etc.
· Stop Line Way – used for pleasure but also commuting to Ilminster and Chard from some locations. Several outstanding issues regarding access and permissions in some areas which have been ongoing for several years and need to be resolved as there is the wider opportunity to link more parishes.
· Has links to climate / environmental issues too.
· Bins, grass, lighting and dog bins
· Need effective communications from Somerset Council
· For contingency planning - parishes need direct contacts for when highways blocked by flooding or fallen trees etc.
· Parishes need a list of statutory services which ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
Action and next steps
The Chairman reminded everyone of the discussion earlier in the meeting regarding setting up of a Highways sub-group, and requested that any volunteers for the group to contact the LCN team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dates of future meetings
The dates for future meetings of the Crewkerne and Ilminster LCN were noted as:
· Thursday 18 January 2024
· Thursday 21 March 2024
· Thursday 13 June 2024 (AGM)
The LCN team also reminded everyone about suggesting venues for future meetings, noting that good wifi was essential.
Contact officer for the meeting – LCN team: email@example.com