Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Britton's Ash Community Hall, Bridgwater Road, Bathpool, Taunton, TA2 8FT
Contact: LCN Team Email: email@example.com
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from the following individuals:
· Cllr Norman Cavill
· Cllr Tom Deakin
· Cllr Lee Baker
· Cllr Bill Revans
· Cllr Alan Bradford
· Andrew Williams – Clerk to Creech St Michael 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 new Declarations of Interest raised at this time.
To approve the notes from the previous meeting.
The notes were approved as a true and accurate record on the meeting held on the 2nd of October 2023.
Update on Actions from the Previous Meeting
To discuss matters arising from the notes not covered in later agenda items.
There were no updates on actions from the previous meeting.
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.
Public Questions were raised at the item that was discussed, rather than this item.
Update on Somerset Council Financial Situation
This item was presented by Cllr Liz Leyshon (Lead Member for Resources and Performance), on behalf of the Leader of Somerset Council, Cllr Bill Revans.
· Cllr Leyshon explained the background information as to how the current financial circumstances had impacted on Somerset Council. She then discussed details of last year’s budget and how that has fed on into this financial year, describing what has been a ‘catch up year’ to make up for the impact of inflation on services/funding.
· With the positive that the minimum living wage had risen, Somerset Council had then been hit over the course in the last few year, by soaring costs of Adult Social Care across the county as a result of the abandoned Fair Cost of Care exercise.
· The Councillor then discussed the implementations put in place since the declaration of Somerset Council’s financial emergency, particularly focusing on the creation of the 3 ‘Spending Boards’, that have the final say on all spending going out of the authority above a certain limit. Then raising that the threats would come from attempting to set the program of reserves for next year, and that would push us closer to the option of having to declare a Section 114.
· The further impacts on the Council were then discussed with it likely to be slimmed down, with fewer officers and offices to conduct its business.
· Cllr Leyshon then discussed the recent letter sent out by the Leader of the Council, reassuring Parishes that they were not be forced to take on assets that they could not support, but meanwhile stressing the importance of working together to find a solution to allow for the delivery of essential services.
A discussion followed about the issues raised:
· Whether a crucial area such as Highways would be devolved or stay with Somerset Council, to which the Lead Member confirmed that due to its importance it would stay as a responsibility of the Unitary Authority.
· This prompted a discussion of the creation and trial of ‘Highways Steward’ posts, that would operate in and around several Parishes, identifying and fixing any issues, and carrying out general maintenance on Highways across their attributed area.
· The job description for this role will be available as soon as possible so that they can gauge interest from Parishes
· How good was the response to the Leader of Council’s letter had been from the Parish Councils? The response was mixed, many big town councils are keen on taking on different services/facilities, but a few smaller Parish have raised concerns about their capabilities and whether they were being pressed to take on than they could handle.
· Officers/Councillors then debated the idea of Parishes putting some of their Parish Precept income into a ‘Village Improvement Fund’.
· A further discussion was held on the question of who held the responsibility for the staff providing services Parishes may take on. The response was that it was dependent on how the services were provided under the pre-Unitary authority, as there are several different ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
Updates from Flood Resilience Meeting (20th October)
This item was presented by attending Parish Councillor Alan Hall, who is Vice-Chair for West Monkton Parish Council.
During the discussion, the following points were raised:
The action was then taken that Local Community Networks (LCNs) should write a coordinated letter to all Members of Parliament (MPs) that have a flood-effected area of their constituency within the Hestercombe LCN boundary in order to try and request support in tackling the issue.
Amendment: It was noted that there had been a significant reduction in the EA maintenance budget for the Wessex Region, including Somerset.
The rivers still needed dredging and the banks maintained. The river channels are narrowing and trees growing in the banks.
Natural flood management would have very little impact on flooding events on the moors.
Action and Next Steps for Youth Provision
· The Chair made an opening statement, asking the about whether they felt there was enough Youth provision in their areas, and informing them that there are 12 schools within the boundary of the Hestercombe LCN.
· The representative from SPARK Somerset spoke on the importance in such an area that people are brought together, helping secure vital funding and connecting different organisations and professionals within the LCN.
· There was a need identified for more knowledge and awareness of the work that SPARK Somerset are doing.
· Representatives from the Parishes of Creech St Michale and North Petherton raised their interests in how to involve their communities.
· There was a consensus across the attending group regarding issues with provision for Youth Support across the LCN area, particularly with indoor/outdoor venues to hold these sessions in. it was suggested that the LCN good look into seeing what facilities are available in an area and sharing that information.
· It was suggested that the way to proceed was to gain the direct opinions of young people, either in person or via a survey.
· The LCN were asked in liaison with SPARK Somerset to help Parishes understand what funding is available to help improve facilities, and where it can be found.
Dates and Topics of Future Meetings
The date of the next meeting of the Hestercombe LCN is the 21st of February 2024.