Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Main Hall - Puriton Village Hall, Riverton Road, Puriton, TA7 8BP. View directions
Contact: LCN Team Email: email@example.com
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillor Suria Aujla, Jane Knowles (SASP) and Jim Murray (clerk to East Brent).
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 )
No Declarations of Interest were made.
To approve the notes from the previous meeting held on 31 October 2023.
The notes from the meeting held on 31 October 2023 were agreed with no amendments needed.
Actions from the Previous Meeting
To discuss matters arising from the notes not covered in later agenda items.
No actions needed, update on Young People working group on agenda.
Note that the date of next meeting has changed to 5 March 2024 but venue to confirmed and will be notified when the agenda is issued.
Update on Somerset Council`s current financial position Q & A
Councillor Theo Butt-Philip attended the meeting and gave an update on the Council`s position and budget situation. He explained that the Council were facing a number of budget cuts or the ending of funding for a number of discretionary services due to increased costs, especially for adult and children`s social care. The budget proposals had been published and there was a timetable of meetings to discuss the proposed budgets and where things could be cut or reduced.
During question time, Members made the following comments:
Request for street lighting costs – not known by Cllr Butt-Philip but didn`t think it was affected by the proposed cuts.
Devolution & Parish/Town Councils:
Need for the parish and town councils to increase budgets if they want certain work undertaken or to take over buildings/duties but need to know now as they were also setting their budgets – it was confirmed that discussions were taking place with other councils to establish what was most important for them and what could be taken on or how Somerset Council could assist them to take on services/buildings.
Lesley Millard from Burnham-on-Sea felt that there was a real opportunity for all the parish and town councils to work together and support the smaller rural parishes to solve some of the problems and tasks involved i.e. highways.
There were also questions about Discretionary Rate Reliefs, liability for councils to undertake work traditionally undertaken by County and also proposals to take on responsibility for buildings/property and land by the Parishes. A comment was made that a lot of parishes were staffed by unpaid volunteers who had no experience in running a business; it was suggested that SALC could give advice and also that the Town Councils had more experience and that the parishes in the LCN needed to work together.
Councillor Grimes also stated that parish/town clerks would need to work extra hours and that cost would need to be included in the parish precept, this would incur problems for the smaller parishes in particular.
It was confirmed that the councils concerns and comments had been noted, with the assurance that services will not be withdrawn without notice and that the budget proposals would be discussed and nothing agreed until the budget set meeting at Full Council on 20 February 2024.
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 put forward from the Public.
What can we do / want to do locally regarding asset and service devolution?
a. What are the opportunities and risks?
b. What information do we have and what do we need?
c. How can we work together to achieve agreed actions?
Rob Semple gave a presentation on a Highway Steward scheme that was currently being trialled on Exmoor. The highway steward would be employed by Somerset Council (employee of Kier) and would undertake minor works; these works would be decided by the parishes and local priorities.
An option proposed was that this could be a joint venture with adjoining parishes and even adjoining LCNs so that the steward would focus their work within specific areas, with the frequency and duties being agreed so that the steward`s time would be used to the advantage of the parishes.
During discussion, members asked about the use of different agencies and the coordination of the costs and maintenance, along with the equipment and resources needed. It was confirmed that the operative would provide their own equipment and would remain as an employee of Kier who would therefore be responsible for insurance, their holiday and pay and that the parishes would need to just agree the duties and shared costs to reflect the work to be undertaken.
It was requested that Town and Parish Councils express their interest via this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Update Young People`s Working Group
The LCN were updated by Doreen Smith from Connect Somerset on the work of the Young People`s working group. They had held their first meeting in December where it was agreed that needed to including Housing Associations and that Barnardos had requested to join the group.
It was also agreed that there was a need to consult with other youth groups and the Somerset Rural Youth Project. The Police will be providing Anti-social behaviour statistics and a further meeting will be taking place next week.
The group requested feedback from LCN members:
· What provision do Parishes already have?
· What would they like in the future?
Dates and topics for future meetings
Thursday 14 March 2024 6.30pm Woolavington Village Hall.
Avon and Somerset Police (Sedgemoor area) are trying to revamp attending/setting up local hubs as previously did and are requesting whether the group have any suggestions for venues but they must have access to wifi. Community and Council drop-in, with the next one at East Brent on 9 February 2024 for the Friday Hub Café.
Topics for the Future proposed:
Ø Strategic plan for LCN
Ø Devolution and budget update
Ø Highway Stewards – see if someone can attend from the Exmoor trial?
Ø Tourism in the area