Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: West Somerset House Council Chamber, Williton
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Cllr Mike Rigby (Somerset Council), Cllr Maggie Forkes (West Bagborough PC), Kali Martin (Somerset Council Highways) and PCSO Supervisor Katherine Williams.
Cllrs Christine Lawrence, Hugh Davies, Marcus Kravis and Andy Hadley all tendered apologies but joined the meeting virtually.
The Chair welcomed Cllr Dixie Darch, Lead Member for the Environment and Climate Change to the meeting. She was joined by Mickey Green, Executive Director for Climate and Place.
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
To approve the notes from the previous meeting.
A slight amendment was requested to wording relating to West Quantoxhead PC, but subject to this the minutes were unanimously agreed by those present.
Update on Actions from the Previous Meeting
To discuss matters arising from the notes not covered in later agenda items.
Update on the No28 Bus Service – Sam Murrell advised the meeting that the Bus Advisory Board had met the previous day (Tuesday 6 February). The agenda can be viewed on the Somerset Council website here. An item for discussion was the proposed timetable changes from 15 April 2024.
It was proposed to reduce the No28 service to a frequency of every 45 minutes, and to incorporate Cotford St Luke on some journeys (as the No25 service will be withdrawn). Concern was expressed from the room about the reduction in service to Bishops Lydeard and Cotford St Luke as they were both “growing villages”. This would put pressure on the No28 at the Taunton end of the route.
In addition it was planned to introduce a x28 direct fast service for the summer months. This would run directly from Taunton to Butlins and would be specifically to cater for holiday makers.
The Exmoor Coaster Bus service would be re-introduced to cover the tourist season. (31 March – 28 September).
The meeting is available to view on Youtube. The relevant part of the discussion starts at 1:03:19.
Cllr Richard Wilkins (Lead member for Transport & Digital) advised that he was disappointed that the service would be facing reductions. Meetings were being planned with the operator to discuss options going forward.
Update on Somerset Council's Financial Position
· General Update
· Service and Asset Devolution
o To include Williton Recycling Centre Closure
Emma Plummer, Interim LCN Link Officer explained the current timeline and shared a presentation. This can be viewed here.
Asset and Service Devolution
A question was raised about who would be responsible for paying the legal fees for asset transfers? A £600k budget has been proposed to finance the Somerset Council asset devolution process, and this would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Cllr Loretta Whetlor also advised that SALC were looking at ways to assist Parishes and Towns in the transfer process. SALC was considering setting up a legal company to consolidate/assist with the legal fees.
It was asked what was happening to Somerset Council’s Commercial Investment Portfolio? Surely this would release capital money that could then be used to finance Somerset Council services? It was explained that capital money would be ring-fenced and could not be used to fund revenue budgets unless dispensation was received from central government. It was basically selling off “the family silver” and could only be used once.
Closure of the Williton Recycling Centre.
The meeting was attended by Cllr Dixie Darch and Executive Director Mickey Green. They had also been present at the Extraordinary Meeting, which was held by Williton PC on 30 January, to discuss the potential closure of the Williton Recycling Centre. (Minutes of this meeting can be viewed here).
Cllr Dixie Darch advised that following the Executive meeting that day, part of the budget proposals to close 5 household recycling centres (including Williton) was being re-assessed. Somerset Council were in consultation with the contractor to look at how savings could be made on the existing contract and reduce costs. There were £960K savings required, and the service was being thoroughly examined right across the board. If a decision was made to proceed with the closures, then a county wide consultation would take place.
There was a lot of debate in the room about this issue, some of which was a repeat of the public meeting.
General points made included:-
Cllr Dixie Darch spoke passionately about the decisions ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
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.
Cllr Peter Payne (Williton PC) addressed the meeting and read out a statement regarding the proposed closure of the Williton Recycling Site.
This statement can be viewed here. Williton PC had collaborated with other parishes within the LCN area who were in collective agreement that they needed to lobby Somerset Council.
Cllr Mandy Chilcott advised that it would be good for Williton PC to send in their public question on behalf of the LCN to the next Somerset Council Full Council meeting. This was taking place on the 20 February 2024 and would be to agree the budget for the 2024/25 financial year. Cllr Chilcott advised that public speakers from West Somerset rarely came forward, but it was a powerful way to highlight local concerns and issues.
Cllr Peter Payne (Williton PC) was made aware of the submission deadlines.
Cllr Rosemary Woods asked how the public could participate in the Public Question Time at meetings, and this was responded to by Cllr Mandy Chilcott. Public Questions can be emailed into Somerset Council Democratic Services, at least 3 days before the meeting date, and will receive a written response from the Executive Portfolio Holder. Sometimes at the discretion of the Chair, late speakers were allowed to present comments, statements and questions, providing there was sufficient space on the agenda.
Update on the Highway Steward Scheme and Highways Working Subgroup - Terms of Reference
Details on the Highway Steward scheme were presented to the meeting. The slide-pack is available to view here.
The annual cost of the Highway Steward including transport is £50k and this could be shared across 2 LCN areas. (This would lessen the cost impact on individual parishes).
In addition it was also proposed that a Highway Working group be established to progress the concerns of the Minehead and Watchet LCN parishes. This would be held between the main LCN meetings and would be made up of parish representatives and staff from the Somerset Council Highways Team.
This did not incur a cost to the parishes beyond their time and would be a good opportunity to progress local issues directly with the Highways staff. This meeting would be held during the day at West Somerset House. (The Terms of Reference to be circulated and volunteers invited to participate). A show of hands was made in the room, and interested parties were asked to leave their details with the clerk (Sam Murrell).
Questions from the floor included:-
At the end of the meeting, 9 participants indicated that they would like to be part of an inaugural Highways subgroup meeting. A meeting date has been set for Friday 22 March 2024, to take place at West Somerset House. Meeting invitations and an agenda will be circulated in the preceding week.
Priorities for action in 2024 - items for future meetings
West Somerset Community Land Trust - Maureen Smith
Dates and Agendas for the next meeting
Future draft meeting dates for the Minehead and Watchet LCN proposed as follows:-
These to be held at the West Somerset House Council Chamber.
Also the inaugural meeting of the Highway Subgroup to be held on
Friday 22 March at 10am in the West Somerset House Council Chamber.
Meeting invites will be extended to those who expressed an interest and left their details with the clerk.