Parish Council Report
1st April 2016 - 31st March 2017
1st April 2016 - 31st March 2017
he Parish Council conducts much of its business through a committee system. The work over the last twelve months (and the ‘ongoing’ work) of the council and its ‘main’ committees is outlined below:-
Planning & Development Committee (Present membership - John Francis (Chairman), Brian Comer (Vice-Chairman), Ted Howlett, John Shaw, Trevor Wainwright and Chris Wells) continues to make observations and, where appropriate, objections to local planning applications, and to question decisions made. It has been consulted on 67 GYBC planning applications between 1.4.16 and 18.1.17 - this figure compares with 53 for the same period last year, and 62 the year before - it has objected to a number of these applications, and some of the objections have been taken into account by the Borough Council in determining the application, while others have not. It has also raised issues about ‘revised drawings’ applications, and has supported one neighbour complaint, where what appeared to be substantial changes had been made to the original drawings, such that, although the neighbours had not objected to the original proposals, they would have strongly objected to the revised plans, but were not given the opportunity to do so.
The committee has continued to make representations regarding the applications to build large numbers of new dwellings in South Bradwell, including the detrimental effects that they have had on some neighbouring areas, such as the Clay Lane bridleway. Further to concerns expressed, by Bradwell County and Borough Councillors as well as the Parish Council, about proposals for foul and waste water discharges from the new properties to be routed via Bradwell, and also an unresolved issue of ‘foul water flooding’ which has affected some properties in Bradwell during periods of heavy rainfall for nearly fifty years, Anglian Water has promised a £3 million upgrade to its Morton Crescent and Stepshort Road pumping stations, to ‘reduce the risk of flooding, and at the same time enable sustainable growth in the local area’.
The committee has been invited to make submissions in respect of the ‘emerging’ Borough Wide Local Plan, and has requested that the open space area around the war memorial on Church Walk retains its original status as ‘public amenity space’. The Borough Council has evidently made an alternative proposal for much of this land to be made available for housing development. The Borough Council planning staff are in the process of assessing all of the submissions received with a view to producing a draft Local Plan for consultation in early summer 2017.
Amenities & Highways Committee (Present membership - Brian Comer (Chairman), Trevor Wainwright (Vice-Chairman), Ted Howlett, Eddie Macdonald, John Shaw, Roger Squires and Chris Wells) - the council receives an annual ‘concurrent functions grant’ of £16,410 from Gt Yarmouth Borough Council, which it uses to maintain Green Lane Playing Field, the Leo Coles Pavilion changing room facilities, Gipsies Green and eight bus shelters; a portion of this grant is also passed on to St Nicholas Parish Church PCC, for maintenance of the burial ground.
Two local football teams, El Sol and Gt Yarmouth Town Hall, play their home games at the Green Lane Playing Field. The goal posts have been replaced - thanks to Borough Councillor Sue Hacon for helping to fund this purchase via a £500 grant from her ward budget. The committee has received, with grateful thanks, a seat for the playing field donated by Mr B Jarvis in memory of his late wife. Two new seats have also been installed next to the short path which leads to the war memorial on Church Walk. The post which supports the village sign has had to be renewed. Some improvements have been made to the Beccles Road Allotment site path. Thanks to Borough Councillor Andy Grant for a £450 grant from his ward budget towards these two projects. An application has been made to improve the surface of the footpath that leads from Lords Lane to the Churchyard, which is regularly used by many schoolchildren and parents, via a ‘match funding’ proposal from Norfolk County Council, which would cost the Parish and the County £9,236.27 each, £18,472.54 total.
The committee was extremely disappointed to receive notification from the Borough Council that its request for ‘Dog on Lead Requirement Orders’ for the Green Lane Playing Field site, and the Generation Wood’ area next to Mill Lane Recreation Ground, have been declined. Further to ongoing complaints from many parishioners about ‘dogs running free’, it had been discussing these proposed measures with Borough Council staff, who initially appeared supportive of them, for over five years. The Borough Council’s own proposals for a ‘Dog Ban Order’ for the Green Lane Playing Field fenced play appliance area and ‘multi-use games area’, and similar ‘fenced’ play areas elsewhere, on the basis of safety and hygiene for users of those sites, are likely to be implemented. However, the committee has also queried whether Borough Council proposals for ‘Dog on Lead Requirement Orders’ for some of its own play equipment sites in Gt Yarmouth and Gorleston will also be applied to a number of similar sites in Bradwell.
An Act of Remembrance was again carried out at the Memorial on Remembrance Sunday 2016. The committee will shortly purchase a ‘PA’ system for this and other future events - thanks to Borough Councillor Alan Grey for helping to fund this purchase via a £500 grant from his ward budget. Another successful ‘additional rubbish collection day’ was held in April 2016, and another will be held on March 25, 2017. The parish allotments continue to be popular, and some new tenants have taken on a plot this year, although not as many as in previous years, and consequently there are a number of vacant plots - the committee extends its thanks to the six members of the allotments advisory committee (3 from each site), whose help in allocating plots to new tenants, and with the general running of the sites, has once again proved to be invaluable. The Cley Road site has again won ‘Gt Yarmouth & Gorleston in Bloom’ awards - the certificates were presented to the October Parish Council meeting.
Finance & General Purposes Committee (Present membership - Eddie Macdonald (Chairman), Ted Howlett (Vice-Chairman), John Francis, John Shaw and Chris Wells) holds the purse strings, and keeps a close check on the Council’s finances. The Council’s draft accounts for the 2016/17 financial year will be presented at the Annual Parish Meeting. The 2016/17 ‘precept’ amount of £51,000 will not be increased in 2017/18. The committee has once again made a grant of £1,000 to support the work of Bradwell Community Library, and has made grants of £100 each to British Red Cross (re local activities), East Anglian Children’s Hospice, and the Bradwell Scout Group, the latter in recognition of its work in maintaining the flower beds next to the war memorial.
The committee annually reviews the council’s insurance policy and risk assessment policy, and ensures that other ‘internal controls’ are carried out regularly, such as internal finance checks, and building and ‘health and safety’ checks. A new insurance policy with Came & Company was taken out in June 2016. There is one sub-committees - ‘Public Relations and Publicity’, which oversees production of the ‘Bradwellian’ publication and provision of the website - until 2016 there was also a ‘Crime Review Assessment Group’, which has had to be disbanded, and crime reports now go directly to Parish Council meetings. The committee responded in May 2016 to a survey from the Norfolk Police & Crime Commissioner asking about the crime and policing issues of most concern to the community, and referred to a decline in local Police and PCSO numbers and a lack of ‘visible’ policing. Another ‘thank you’ evening for ‘Bradwellian’ deliverers and Allotment Advisory Committee members was arranged in July 2016.
The Parish Council (Chairman Chris Wells, Vice-Chairman Ted Howlett, see page 6 for membership) meets to oversee the work of its committees; hear reports from and raise issues with County and Borough Councillors and the Local Police; receive reports from its representatives on outside bodies.
A ‘new’ council took office in May 2016 - only eight out of the fifteen ‘seats’ were filled by election, although others have been filled by co-option to membership since. A large number of crime incidents were reported to the October meeting, which was attended by Inspector N Cheshire, and particular attention was drawn to a disturbance on 27.9.16 on Green Lane Playing Field, where a gas canister was set on fire and exploded, causing damage, close to a member of the council who had gone out to investigate the disturbance - this incident was eventually given a ‘crime number’ after this and further representations were made. Representatives of the Police and ‘Make it Happen’ group attended the December meeting, further to concerns about a lack of meeting places for young people.
The council meets approximately ‘bi-monthly’. There is an opportunity shortly after the start of each meeting for ‘public participation’, and a similar opportunity exists within all the ‘main’ committee meetings. Another council committee meet occasionally - ‘Staffing & Standards’, which oversees staff appointments, terms and conditions of service and reviews, and the ‘code of conduct’ for members. There is also an ‘Allotments Advisory Committee’ of allotment holders.
The Parish Council Accounting/Governance Statements 2016/17 are not yet ready, as they have not yet been through the audit process. The Statements for last year are shown below.
Parish Council Accounting/Governance Statements 2015/16
Bradwell Parish Council has always been very open to its parishioners about the amount of money that it receives and spends. In fact, in common with all other parish and town councils throughout the country, it is obliged by law to take a number of actions regarding what is quaintly known as ‘the exercise of electors’ rights’ in such matters.
The council’s ‘financial year’ runs from 1st April to the 31st March each year. Its annual accounts, and accounting/governance statements, must all be approved by a local independent ‘internal auditor’, and then formally approved at a meeting of the council held within three months of the end of the financial year. (‘Governance statements’ are a series of assurances that the council has formally given, to confirm that, as far as it is aware, it has discharged all of its relevant duties, and complied with all relevant laws, in the way that it has carried out its business within the financial year in question.)
The statements are then submitted to an external auditor, which is the Audit Commission or an accounting company working on its behalf - and at that point a statutory requirement for the council to provide local electors and other ‘interested parties’ with the opportunity to inspect the Annual Return and supporting documentation comes into effect. You may have seen the notices within our noticeboards which tell you how to contact us to take this opportunity, and which also outline ‘a summary of your rights’. In actual fact, the Audit Commission was abolished on 31st March last year, and we wait to see what arrangements will be made when our current external audit contract with a company called Mazars LLP expires in 2017.
By law, any interested person may ask to see the council’s accounts, and any person entitled and registered to vote in local council elections has the right to ask the appointed external auditor questions about the council’s accounts, or to challenge an item of account contained within them. Such submissions must be made within a designated timetable, so that the auditor can take them into account before ‘signing off’ the council’s accounts as appropriate. Once the auditor has ‘signed off’ the accounts, copies of the accounting and governance statements, including any comments made by the auditor, must be displayed on the noticeboards for a period of time.
The council’s figures for balances, income and expenditure (in whole pounds) for year ending 31st March 2016, with those for year ending 31st March 2015 also shown in brackets for comparison purposes, which have been approved by the external auditor, are as follows:-
Balance brought forward 79,992 (74,068)
Annual precept 43,240 (41,449)
Total other receipts 31,843 (31,885)
Staff costs 35,465 (34,936)
Total other costs 43,663 (32,474)
Balances brought forward 75,977 (79,992)
For year ending 31.3.16, the council applied for, and received, the same ‘precept’ income as it received the previous year - £49,000. As last year, the reason that the two figures shown above for ‘annual precept’ are lower than £49,000 is due to a new accounting requirement. The October 2015 edition of ‘Bradwellian’ gave a detailed explanation about this, and the article has been replicated on POSTED LINK - go to ‘Bradwell precept’, under ‘quick links’ heading.
The above figures show that the council’s ‘total other costs’ are substantially higher than they were last year. This is because three ‘one-off’ projects were funded, largely from underspends accrued during the previous year - £6,584 for a partial path resurfacing on the ‘track land’ between Beccles Road and Gipsies Green, £3,397 for a CCTV upgrade, and £1,746 additional budget for Golden Jubilee Pavilion and Annexe maintenance, to enable urgent substantial repairs to be made to the main building. Bradwell Bowling Club made a significant contribution towards the latter project. Borough Council ‘ward budget’ monies to the value of £3,094 were received, which were spent on two benches for the war memorial area, and two trees for Gipsies Green.
The statement also shows figures for ‘total cash and short term investments’, ‘total fixed and long term assets’, and ‘total borrowings’. The ‘fixed and long term assets’ figure, shown as being £929,735 on 31.3.16, is a total of designated values of various council assets, based mostly on insurance valuations. The council has recently been advised that such asset valuations should no longer be ‘inflation increased’ each year. Some assets are given ‘nominal’ values, to indicate the council’s intention to hold them as community assets, rather than as ‘investments’.