Agenda and draft minutes
Contact: LCN Team Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Tom Howe of Wincanton TC, Di Hammet of Cucklington PM and Ken Flood of Sparkford PC.
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 made by the Somerset Councillors present at the meeting.
To approve the notes from the previous meeting.
The notes of the previous meeting held on 4 October 2023 were approved as a correct record by those present.
An update on Somerset Council's current 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 (now approx. £87 million) 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. He confirmed the Leader of the Council had recently written to all town and parish councils and that future details would be coming forward over the next weeks and months regarding how this may be taken forward and how parishes may be able to work together to provide some of these services. 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:
· How will parish councils especially smaller ones or parish meetings going to provide or deliver these services and when will we get more information in order to set our budgets?
Acknowledged the challenges the town and parish councils face but as yet were unable to provide a further detailed list. More details would be sent out as soon as possible including what services the parishes have already taken an interest on and costing surrounding these services. He anticipated the role of the LCN being a forum going forward to help parishes work together.
Ask that parishes look at the services that are most important and contact the devolution team at email@example.com to let them know what services they are interested in taking on. It was noted some parishes already allocate a special projects fund which enables them to manage funds if things are needed quite quickly. Appreciate some things are easy to put into place and others are not.
· This financial situation hasn’t happened overnight and will LCN’s carry on as they are as they are only a discretionary service?
Explained process of a ‘deep dive’ into the finance situation which had begun back in the summer regarding in particular the adult services and timings involved.
Colleagues across the county services are looking to create some ‘how to’ guides for example: rights of way checklists and explained the highway steward scheme as an example.
· Parishes in ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
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 public questions.
Discussion regarding Highways and Transport Issues
Gary Warren, Somerset Council Service Manager –Traffic Engineering gave a brief overview of the service. He explained they were a front-line operation dealing with all traffic and safety engineering issues throughout the county, for example parking, speeding, HGV issues and responsible for the sign and line assets on the highway.
He reiterated it was a challenging time for all with a limited budget but highlighted what he considered a statutory service which was essentially anything that assist the moving public and the safety of the network.
John Nicholson, Somerset Council Assistant Highway Service Manager also gave a brief overview and responsibilities of the service. This included highway drainage, verges including cutting and visibility splay, resurfacing of roads and officer support and assessment reacting to issues raised with online reporting.
In response to a comment made he confirmed the verge cutting alongside the A roads and most of the B roads would still be carried out under planned maintenance. The hedges are generally the adjacent landowner’s responsibility.
They also provided the following contact email and asked that parishes contact them with any issues or questions they may have firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Hellard (Service Manager LCN) explained that a Transport and Highways working group is to be set up to further explore any specific issues. She used the current drainage and flooding issues and the Highways Steward scheme as examples and felt it was an opportunity to discuss and address these issues further with representatives of the South East LCN.
Judi Morrison expressed her thanks to the excellent service provided to the town and parish councils and highlighted the pilot LCN in West who have the opportunity in the pilot to offer a highway steward. It was suggested a parish representative from West be invited to the South East LCN to share their experience.
ACTIONS: Volunteers who wish to be on the Transport and Highways working group for the South East LCN - any expression of interest be sent to the following email address:
Update on working groups
Terena Isaacs provided an update on the footpaths working group including:
· She had sourced footpath maps for all parishes in the South East LCN and would circulate these out in due course.
· A further meeting will be arranged for Jan/Feb 2024 and invited all parishes to attend to increase participation. Please contact email@example.com
Ewan Jones provided an update on the flooding working group that had met in November. He said it had been widely attended with excellent discussions taken place with officers and representatives from parishes, especially those effected by the recent flooding. Discussions involved emergency flooding, community flood schemes, emptying of gullies and working with landowners to ensure ditches are drained /cleared. He explained a bid submitted regarding the DEFRA natural flood management scheme. He also confirmed an Emergency Plan workshop is to be held on Monday 8th January in the Market House at Castle Cary 10.30 – 12.00 and invited parishes to attend.
Councillor Henry Hobhouse also wished it noted that a meeting has been arranged for all parishes on the Cam valley on the 31st January 2024 at 7pm Queen Camel to help support a River Cam Flood system and Flood Defence plan to help and support parishes in the future.
Planning for future meetings
Kate Hellard acknowledged the need to further look at children and young people and health and wellbeing in our communities. She felt there was opportunity in the new year to look at what other impacts and needs there are on the residents and how we can work together in the future.
Judi Morrison asked that focus be on the adult social care and solutions to tackle loneliness. During discussion it was agreed that a lot of good work had taken place in previous pilots around this and agreed there was a lot to build on and that these key points be readdressed.
In response to comments made it was suggested that working groups were the way forward to help support parishes in the devolution of services either individually or collectively and with the LCN helping to facilitate and bring all these groups together to deliver tangible actions.
Dates of future meetings
The next meeting of the South East Somerset LCN is schedule for 22nd Feb 2024 at 6.30pm at 6.30pm at Charlton Musgrove Village Hall.