Agenda and minutes

Venue: Wembdon Village Hall, Homberg Way, Wembdon TA6 7BY

Contact: LCN Team Email:  Email:

No. Item


Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.


Cllr Lin Hook (Chilton Trinity PC) substituted by Cllr Peter Felton, Debbie McIlroy (Enmore PC), Cllr Chris Morgan (Stogursey PC) substituted by Cllr Sue Goss, Ian Porter (Quantock Landscapes), Luke Jackson (Connect Somerset), Anne Shilton (Spark).


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 )


None were declared.


Notes from the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 153 KB

To approve the notes from the previous meeting.


Cllr Sue Goss queried a paragraph on Page 7 – Stogursey. It was asked that this was reworded as it implied that Cllr Chris Morgan had suggested that the parishes reinstate the Parish Lengthsman scheme and share the cost.


Stogursey PC already employed a Lengthsman and were very happy with the service. Cllr Morgan was suggesting that other parishes may wish to consider this as an option themselves.


Subject to this amendment, there were no other queries and the minutes were approved as a true record.


An update on Somerset Council's current financial position pdf icon PDF 237 KB

An urgent item that has been brought forward due to the parishes currently setting their precepts for the forthcoming financial year.


Councillor Theo Butt Philip, the Lead Member for Transformation and Resources took questions about the Council’s current financial position. This followed a letter being sent to the parishes from the Leader Cllr Bill Revans, addressing the subject of asset and service devolution. Questions from the floor were raised as follows:-


Q. Cllr Paul King (Wembdon PC) – How is the process of devolution going to work? Does this mean that any staff will TUPE across with an asset and then the parish will take on the maintenance responsibility? Some of the parishes are very small and do not currently employ any staff beyond a clerk for a few hours a week. What happens if the parish decides NOT to take on the responsibility of assets and services?

A. It will depend on demand for the asset/service and will be tailored to suit the work and parish needs. Services are provided in different ways across the County, so this will need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, if the parish does not take on the work required, then this service is likely to be cut.


Loretta Whetlor (SALC) asked what had happened to Finance following Function? The most valuable assets such as car parks will not be devolved as they provide income streams to Somerset Council. Unfortunately, it will mean that the parishes will be taking on assets without the wherewithal to finance them other than through the precept. There was a wide disparity between the size of parishes and thus the precept base, so some parishes would be at a huge financial disadvantage.


Q. Cllr Sue Goss (Stogursey PC) - Some of the services listed in the letter are Statutory. What happens to them if the parishes don’t take them on? If the parish sets a precept to include these services, but Somerset Council also has a responsibility, aren’t the Council Taxpayers paying twice?

A. Somerset Council will have to change the method of delivery to accommodate the available budget. Some services may be cut and non-statutory assets such as public conveniences could be closed.


Q. Is declaring a Section 114, (Bankruptcy) actually a bad thing? If this happens then surely central government has to act to put things right, especially if more and more Councils are in the same position. The current approach of asking parishes to take on more responsibility and bear the costs is not solving the problem but kicking it further down the road.

A. If a Section 114 is issued then Government Inspectors will come in to assess how the Council can get to the position of a balanced budget. They will have to deliver the statutory services such as adult social care, children’s services and waste collection but this will not be tailored to the needs of individual communities. It will also not solve the problem. The services still need to be delivered but instead of managing it ourselves, it will be in the hands of an independent assessor.


Q.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


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.


No questions or comments were received in advance of the meeting.



Update on Actions from the Previous Meeting

To discuss matters arising from the notes not covered in later agenda items.


These were picked up in later agenda items.


Highways - Working group

To set up a Highways working group – proposals for volunteers.


Highways concerns were highlighted as the main topic for exploration at the inaugural LCN meeting. It was now envisioned that a working group would be set up to investigate how the Somerset Council Highway service could be improved and delivered.


Spaxton PC had demonstrated an area of good practice with their sign cleaning and signpost asset mapping in their parish. They were happy to share their learning with other parishes in the LCN area. This was one theme that could be explored through a Highways sub-group.


Concern was expressed about where the volunteers to serve on the working group would come from. Cllr Anne Reed (Wembdon PC) stated that it was difficult enough to recruit parish councillors, without adding to their existing workload.


Despite a long discussion about the amount of highways work that needed progressing, nobody came forward to volunteer. It was asked that some idea of the workload and time commitment were clarified, so that volunteers understood what they were signing up for. Some Councillors wanted to take the matter back to their respective parishes to see if this was something that they wanted to pursue.


The Chair expressed his disappointment that the subgroup was unable to proceed. He asked that when the LCN met in the New Year, this matter was revisited, and volunteers were found to take the work forward.


Cllr Simon Stretton also advised that Spaxton PC had recently had the batteries stolen from their Speed Indicator Devices (SID)s in the village. These had to be replaced at a cost of £130 to the parish. He had been made aware that preventative locks could be fitted to the device to ensure that the batteries were not taken. (The locks could be purchased online and cost £65 each). He had the details if other parishes wished to follow up with him.


Environmental Concerns

A particular emphasis on Flooding Preparedness.


The Chair highlighted that the emptying of septic tanks did not fall under the nitrate planning restrictions, as they did not outfall into the main sewer.


Flooding Preparedness

Spaxton PC were currently mapping flooding incidents in their parish, so that they could identify mitigation and draw up a comprehensive flood plan. A request was made for officers to provide some examples of good practice and sign-post to existing flood plans which could be adapted and shared. It would be good if this work could be extended beyond the borders of Spaxton PC and encompass near neighbours who may be impacted by the work that Spaxton undertakes.


It was also stated that farmers and riparian owners would have to be held accountable for their use of land management techniques and stream/ditch maintenance.


Priorities for the forthcoming year


It was considered difficult to set priorities for the coming year due to Somerset Council’s financial situation. The Chair echoed the earlier comments and stated he found the position very disappointing.


Cllr Simon Stretton (Spaxton PC) asked for the following action point to be recorded:


“Could the Somerset Councillors present take back the concerns of the Dowsborough LCN, on the current budget uncertainties. Please feedback to us, the actions and timescales that Somerset Council will commit to, in order to assist us (the parishes) with our precept setting in the coming months.”


The LCN Development Lead, Kate Hellard agreed to take this back and follow up with Cllr Theo Butt Philip.


It was also requested that Planning Officers were asked to attend to inform the LCN at a strategic level on the Local Plan, and planning enforcement. It was important that communities had a voice when it came to planning the infrastructure such as health centres, transport links and community hubs. (It was generally agreed that the LCN was not the place to talk about individual applications, where the responsibility lay with the respective parish as a recognised consultee).



Communications, developing methodologies and identifying good practice


A new dedicated email address has been set up for the Dowsborough LCN. Queries can be sent to


Loretta Whetlor advised that Somerset Association of Local Councils (SALC) would be holding their Annual General Meeting at the Edgar Hall, Somerton on the 2 December at 10am. Cllr Bill Revans would be in attendance. Any parishes wishing to attend were advised to contact Sam Winter at SALC.



Suggested agenda items for the next meeting including start times


A revised start time of 6.30pm was suggested, to allow more time for discussion. This was put to the vote and rejected.  Most attendees said that 7pm was more realistic to allow commuting to the various venues around the Dowsborough LCN.


Cllr Peter Major (Wembdon PC) asked if planning development and enforcement could be considered as a future agenda item. This was echoed by Sue Goss (Stogursey PC).


Cllr John Vassalli (Durleigh PC) - There was a particular concern around the large-scale development at Cokerhurst Farm, Wembdon which would involve a traffic regulation order for the A39 and a reduced speed limit of 20mph whilst the work was ongoing. There were concerns that there would be rat-running along Skimmerton Lane to avoid the main road, and perhaps it would be a good idea to enforce one-way traffic whilst the site works were happening? It was requested that an invitation was extended to Mike Smith (Cavanna Homes) so that he could provide an update on the development work. (To be extended to attend the Highways Subgroup once formed).



Dates for future meetings


Wednesday 31 January, 2024 at 7pm. (Venue to be confirmed)

Monday 18 March, 2024 at 7pm. (Venue to be confirmed).