Agenda and minutes
Venue: Edgar Hall, 8 Cary Hall, Somerton Business Park, Somerton, TA11 6SB
Contact: LCN Team Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Cllr Emily Pearlstone.
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 other declarations of interest received.
To approve the notes from the previous meeting.
The notes of the previous meeting held on 20th September 2023 were approved as a correct record.
Update - Somerset Council’s Financial Position
To receive an urgent update on Somerset Council’s financial position.
The full presentation used for the meeting can be found here
The Chair welcomed Kate Hellard, LCN Development Lead at Somerset Council, and Cllr Liz Leyshon, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive member for Resources and Performance to address the Local Community Network (LCN) following the decision by Somerset Council’s Executive to declare a ‘Financial Emergency’ on the 8th November 2023 (as advised in a letter that had been sent to all parish and town councils from the Leader of the Council, Cllr Bill Revans) Cllr Leyshon explained how the decision to declare the financial emergency had been reached and the impacts on service provision. She advised that the Council was taking immediate action to significantly reduce spending and close the current in-year budget gap of £27.3m, and that it would be putting in place an action plan to reduce the £100m budget gap forecast for the year 24/25. Cllr Leyshon stressed that The Council would be doing everything it could to avoid a S114 noticed being served on Somerset Council.
The Deputy Leader of the Council invited comments and questions from those in attendance, and the following points were discussed: -
· Parish and town councils need to work collaboratively with Somerset Council to ensure any gaps in service provision within the community can be mitigated.
· Parish and town council precepts will be set in the coming weeks, all parish and town councils need to carefully consider their position on this. Parish and Town councils were advised to look at increasing precepts to enable them to ‘build a war chest’.
· The differences between how the Council’s assets are categorised and disposed of; Commercial Investment Assets Disposal, Council Occupied Assets, and Devolution of Assets to town and parish councils.
· If the Council cannot set a balanced budget and a section 114 notice is served, all non-essential service provision will cease, including Local Community Networks.
· Parish councils may wish to consider the Power of Competence.
· Local Community Networks are not a legal entity and do not hold a budget. Any money that parish/town councils have ring fenced for LCN funding is NOT payable to Somerset Council, and will be retained by the parish/town council to reallocate if necessary.
· The largest contributor to the budget shortfall is Adult Social Care, and this is a national issue due to many factors including inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, the energy crisis and crucially the impact of the abandonment of the Fair Cost of Care exercise on local authorities.
· As well as taking drastic action to reduce spending in the short term, the long-term aim is transformation of Somerset Council to create a smaller, sleeker more efficient council that is more financially sustainable for the future.
· The Council is working on a set of infographics to enable greater understanding of the ‘Financial Emergency’ declaration, and this would be shared with all parish and town councils and be made publicly available on the Councils website as ... view the full minutes text for item 20.
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.
There were no questions received from any members of the public.
Presentation and Q&A with the Police
To receive a presentation from the Police, followed by an opportunity for questions and discussion.
The Chair welcomed Ian Cromey-Hawke, PCSO Supervisor of Avon and Somerset Constabulary to give a presentation to the LCN (slides 3-23). He talked members through the slides, advising that some of the data had been sanitised because it was for internal (police) use only. He invited comments and questions from those in attendance and the following issues were discussed: -
· Drug crime and more specifically County Lines and what is being done to tackle it across all areas of policing i.e. Operations Scorpion and Remedy.
· More localised data (broken down into ‘beats’) data can be obtained on request from your local neighbourhood policing team.
· One member, speaking on behalf of Langport Town Council, took the opportunity to express their gratitude and appreciation to the neighbourhood policing team for helping to resolve some issues in Langport, and advised that all members of the Local Community Network engage with their local neighbourhood policing team.
· The decline of the restorative justice approach and increasing use of other methods such as community resolutions and youth offending teams.
The Chair thanked Ian Cromey-Hawke for a very detailed and interesting presentation.
Update from working groups
To receive any updates from the LCN Levels and Moors working groups:-
1. Active Travel
2. Health and Wellbeing
The Chair welcomed Cllr Gerard Tucker of Aller Parish Council and lead for the Active Travel working group to give a presentation to the LCN (slides 25-37). Cllr Tucker advised that some great work had already begun on improving footpaths (Monks Clyse Sluce) and that the work so far had been funded with contributions from parish councils and other external funding providers. Cllr Tucker felt that the only frustration he had experienced so far had been some difficulty in contacting the Somerset Council Rights of Way Officer, and in response the LCN Development Lead advised that she would look to facilitate this. Cllr Tucker invited any member who would like to be involved in the Active Travel working group to attend a meeting at 7pm on the 30th November in Langport Town Hall.
The Chair then welcomed Cllr Mike Stanton of Somerset Council to give an update (on behalf of the Cllr David Fothergill who was absent) on the progress of the Health and Wellbeing working group. Cllr Stanton advised that the first meeting had taken place and that it had been attended by 8 people, where a very good discussion had taken place. Cllr Stanton introduced Somerset Council Localities Officer, Adrian Moore who informed the LCN that they would be invited to complete a Health and Wellbeing questionnaire in due course, which would be used to identify issues and scope the aims and objectives of the Health and Wellbeing working group.
The Chair thanked those members for their updates and encouraged all members of the LCN to work collaboratively in its mission to improve Active Travel and Health and Wellbeing in the LCN Levels and Moors area.
Action and next steps for working groups
To agree actions and next steps for the LCN Levels and Moors working groups: -
1. Active Travel
2. Health and Wellbeing
The LCN Development Lead asked members to agree that the following actions and next steps for the LCN Levels and Moors are as follows: -
1. The LCN Team would circulate Somerset Council’s infographics regarding the ‘Financial Emergency’ with all members of the LCN, for information.
2. All members of the LCN would work with the police to obtain localised data regarding crime as required.
3. The LCN Development Lead would facilitate a conversation between Cllr Gerard Tucker and the Somerset Council Rights of Way Officer regarding the Active Travel working group.
4. All members of the LCN would continue to work collaboratively in its aims and objectives.
5. The LCN Development Lead and the Chair would discuss scheduling an extra LCN meeting, before January 2024, to look at the Somerset Council ‘Financial Emergency’ in more detail.
The Chair concluded that the actions as detailed above were agreed upon by all members of the LCN Levels and Moors.
Dates of future meetings
To discuss provisional dates for future meetings from January 2024 onwards.
The LCN Development Lead advised that the provisional future meeting dates are: -
· Monday 15th January 2024 (Venue to be confirmed)
· Monday 4th March 2024 (Venue to be confirmed)
After some discussion and debate members agreed that the above dates were to be confirmed, but that in future it would be helpful if the meetings were held on different days of the week, in rotation, to ensure that the same parish council meetings did not clash with the LCN meetings every time.
The LCN team have worked hard to avoid diary clashes but please contact them on LCN@somerset.gov.uk if there are any issues. The team would also like information on alternative suitable venues within the Levels and Moors area.
For any other queries regarding the LCN Levels and Moors, please email LevelsandmoorsLCN@somerset.gov.uk