Town Council Meeting 13 January 2016 – Minutes

PONTELAND TOWN COUNCIL

MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE COUNCIL HELD IN THE TOWN COUNCIL OFFICES, PONTELAND ON 13 JANUARY 2016
Present: Councillor C Rawlings (in the Chair)

Councillors Mrs J Butcher, Mrs C Caisley, R Dodd, Mrs C Greenwell,
Mrs S Johnson, R G Ramsay, A Shanley, Mrs E Thompson and A Varley.

Minute’s silence
Prior to the commencement of the meeting the Town Council stood for a minute’s silence in memory of Mr William Douglas Young Cuthbertson (known as Bill). Mr Cuthbertson had been a Councillor for both Castle Morpeth Borough Council and the then Ponteland Parish Council. He had also served as Mayor on the Borough Council and Chairman of the Parish Council.

Public Question
A question had been received from Mr R Bell regarding a request to reinstate a late night bus service. Mr Bell had submitted a letter outlining his request together with a petition signed by a number of people in support of the reinstatement.

The letter referred to the extension of hours for the existing X78 bus service on a Saturday night only.
The Mayor thanked Mr Bell for his letter and petition.

He stated that the Town Council would be considering a report this evening relating to the possible reinstatement of the 74 bus service for one evening a week.
It would therefore not be possible to respond to his request for the extension of the X78 service this evening.

The Mayor did assure Mr Bell that the Town Council would consider his request and would inform him of the outcome.

Mr Bell thanked the Town Council for considering the matter and he did point out that he and other users would be more than happy to have the 74 bus service reinstated on a Saturday night if possible rather than extend the X78 service.

Presentation by Assistant Chief Fire Officer McCarty
Assistant Chief Fire Officer McCarty was in attendance to give a presentation regarding the current Fire and Rescue Service consultation – “Working towards 2020” and in particular how this would affect Ponteland.
Paul Gowland, Station Manager at Ponteland Fire Station was also in attendance.

The service was expected to make cuts of £500,000 in 2016-17 and the various changes being proposed were outlined in the consultation letter dated 7 December 2015. The proposed change for Ponteland involved the introduction of a smaller fire appliance however this would not affect the service provided in any way and if anything it would improve the manoeuvrability of the vehicle in rural locations. It would also be cheaper to run.

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Presentation by Assistant Chief Fire Officer McCarty (Continued)
The Assistant Chief Fire Officer also informed the Council of the problems the Fire Service faced in the recruitment and retention of retained fire fighters at the Ponteland station and any assistance that the Town Council could provide would be greatly appreciated.

The use of Pont News & Views for recruitment purposes was suggested as this went to every house in the civil parish area.

In response to a query the Council were informed that the level of service and safety to residents would not change with the introduction of the smaller vehicle.
The service could actually improve in view of a closer working relationship with the Tyne & Wear Rescue Service.

Reference was made to a national campaign regarding co-operation between services and whether this would happen in Ponteland.

The Assistant Chief Fire Officer stated that there was currently a national pilot of this kind taking place and Northumberland were taking part in that.

The officers were informed that a response to the consultation would be discussed later in the meeting but from the presentation received there did not appear to be any disadvantages for Ponteland therefore it was likely that a positive response would be submitted.
The officers were thanked for their attendance.

163. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors P Cowey and Mrs L Noble.

164. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no declarations of interest

165. MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL MEETING HELD 9 DECEMBER 2015

The Minutes of the Council Meeting held on 9 December 2015 were confirmed and signed by the Mayor.

166. MATTERS ARISING

(i) Letter of thanks from Dalton Village Hall
A letter of thanks had been received from Dalton Village Hall in respect of the grant awarded at the last meeting towards annual running and maintenance costs.

167. PLANNING

(i) Planning Committee
Minutes of meetings held on 1 and 15 December 2015 were circulated for information.

The Chairman of the Planning Committee updated Councillors regarding the YOLO premises on Bell Villas.
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167. PLANNING (Continued)

Councillor Mrs Thompson stated that there were currently two applications pending consideration. The first was to seek to discharge the planning application granted under appeal, the second one sought to retrospectively gain approval for the outdoor seating area at the front of the premises.

As a result of objections being received by NCC it appeared that a site visit would be held at the premises in the following week involving interested members of the public, the Civic Society etc.

The Mayor reported that he had recently attended a Town and Parish Council Liaison Group and NCC were seeking feedback from parish and town councils on the new planning protocols. The Mayor had stated at the meeting that there was concern locally at the number of retrospective applications and these caused annoyance. He also asked if resource would be increased on enforcement of planning breaches and was advised that it is being considered.

RESOLVED – The information be received.

(ii) Report on recent planning applications
There was nothing to report.

168. GRANTS
(i) Great North Air Ambulance
A grant application had been received from The Great North Air Ambulance towards the cost of medical supplies and general running costs for the charity.
The service had attended four incidents in Ponteland in the last 12 months.

RESOLVED – A grant of £200 be approved.

169. PROJECTS REPORT

A report relating to the above had been circulated.

RESOLVED – The report be noted.

170. PONTELAND TOWN COUNCIL RESERVES
The Council was reminded that as part of the audit for 2014-15 the external auditors had pointed out that the Town Council should review its level of reserves during the budget and precept process rather than at year-end.

A report was circulated which set out the current level of reserves held by the Town Council for general purposes and for asset replacement.

Councillors were further reminded that they had agreed in May 2015 to work towards having a minimum of 6 months operating expenses in their general reserves (calculated at £151,000). The Council was still short of that target by just under £44,000.
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170. PONTELAND TOWN COUNCIL RESERVES (Continued)

At the end of this financial year, a report would be presented to the Council listing any necessary transfers and unexpended amounts and it would be recommended that any available funds that weren’t already earmarked for other purposes should be transferred to the General Reserves in an attempt to work towards the 6 months operating figure.

Councillors were informed that at present all the Cemetery funds were kept in the normal operating accounts. A suggestion was made that the Cemetery reserve funds should be transferred to the Reserves account and that only enough to cover the Cemetery operational expenses should be kept in the operating account.
A suggestion was made that a separate account for the Cemetery should be maintained and it was agreed that this would be examined.

Councillors were reminded of the decision to set aside £100 per annum to fund tree replacements after a tree had been felled. This would not necessarily be in the same location.
It was intended to establish the tree fund in April 2016 prior to transferring any non-earmarked funds to general reserves.

Councillor Dodd offered to assist with the implementation of this policy.

RESOLVED –
(i) It was agreed that there were no surplus funds available from within reserves that could offset the precept figure for 2016-17.
(ii) It was agreed to examine the situation at the end of the financial year when there may be non-earmarked funds that could be transferred to the general reserve.
(iii) It was agreed that the Cemetery reserves should be held within the reserves account and that only sufficient sums should be retained in the operational account to meet day to day running costs. The possibility
of opening a separate account for the Cemetery reserve would also be examined.
(iv) It was agreed to transfer appropriate funds to the tree reserve fund in April
2016. The offer of assistance from Councillor Dodd in relation to the
implementation of the policy was noted.

171. BUDGET AND PRECEPT 2016-17

A report relating to the Budget and Precept for 2016-17 had been circulated.
The proposed budget for 2016-17 was submitted and required formal approval. It was pointed out that the amount of the precept required had to be submitted to NCC by 1 February 2016.

The draft budget as presented allowed a sum of £8,639 available for projects (wish list) items and these would be determined at a later date. Members were asked to submit their items to the Clerk by the end of January 2016.

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171. BUDGET AND PRECEPT 2016-17 (Continued)

It was proposed to increase the allotment rents by £1 a year across the three tiers of fees.

The Cemetery Committee had not yet decided on a level of increase and a meeting would be held in the next few weeks to determine the percentage increase.

RESOLVED –
(i) The Council approve the budget for 2016-17 as circulated and formally agree to levy a precept request of £380,587 on the County Council.

(ii) Approve an increase of £1 on all allotment fees which would mean rentals would be £34, £39 and £44 for 2016-17.

(iii) Await the recommendations of the Cemetery Committee in relation
to any increase in fees for 2016-17.

172. SUBSIDY FOR CONTINUANCE OF BUS SERVICE 74

A report by Councillor Ramsay in relation to the above was submitted for consideration.

The Council had been previously informed that NCC had had to withdraw the subsidy for the late night service on the 74 bus from Matfen to Newcastle via Ponteland and return. Following discussion at the Bus Users meeting and with County Councillor Mrs Jones it was agreed to investigate whether this Council and also Stamfordham and Matfen parish councils would be prepared to subsidise the service.

The County Council had issued a tender for the evening service and the total subsidy required for the service was £95.63 per evening or £4972.76 per annum.

Preliminary discussions with the other two local councils indicated that a total sum of £1000 had been agreed in principle.

The Town Council would therefore need to meet the residual amount of £3972.76 and a portion of that sum would be payable in this year. This would be funded from contingencies for this current year and from the wish list provision and/or contingencies in 2016-17.

It was stated that if this proposal was to be adopted then it should be on the basis that this would be for one year only with no obligation to continue the service. Any renewal of the subsidy would have to demonstrate increased usage.

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172. SUBSIDY FOR CONTINUANCE OF BUS SERVICE 74 (Continued)

RESOLVED – The Council agree to provide the subsidy in respect of this one night a week (Saturday) late bus service together with a contribution from Matfen and Stamfordham Parish Councils on the understanding that this would be reviewed at the end of the year with no guarantee of continuing the service.

173. FLOOD RESILIENCE PLAN

A copy of a Community Flood Plan that had been produced by Councillor Adam Shanley had been circulated to Councillors.
Councillor Shanley was thanked for all of the work that had gone into producing the plan which had included meetings with Lynne Dunleavy and the Environment Agency.

There was discussion on how to take this forward. The plan itself was on the Council’s website and some of the information was very relevant for particular areas in Ponteland.

It was also important to have an action plan for local volunteers and flood wardens so they knew exactly what they were meant to do in the event of a flood.

It was pointed out that the write up on Merton Hall needed to be amended that could only be opened on the instruction of the emergency services.

An informal group had met on several occasions to discuss the way forward and it was suggested that a further meeting should be held to discuss the information produced and to draw up an action plan etc to move forward with this.
Councillor Shanley agreed to call a meeting of the group with Lynne Dunleavy that any member of the Council could attend.

RESOLVED – A meeting of the Flood Resilience group be arranged by Councillor Shanley to discuss the information produced and to agree how to move forward with this project.

174. CONSULTATION RE DEVOLUTION AGREEMENT FOR THE
NORTH EAST

It was reported that the current consultation relating to a devolution agreement for the North East ended on 15 January and it was suggested that the Town Council should submit a response.

The Mayor had attended two meetings on this subject and was in favour of the proposal and he had completed the survey from his own personal point of view. This had been circulated to the Council for consideration.

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174. CONSULTATION RE DEVOLUTION AGREEMENT FOR THE
NORTH EAST (Continued)

The benefits to the region included having more devolved powers in relation to planning, transport, training and trade. It had been stated that the region would receive £30million per annum from Central Government providing the 7 Local Authorities agreed to elect a Mayor for the North East.

RESOLVED – The majority of Councillors agreed that the submission as presented be forwarded to NCC by the deadline date.

Note – Councillor Mrs Caisley abstained from the vote on this item.

175. NORTHUMBERLAND FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE
CONSULTATION “WORKING TOWARDS 2020”

Following on from the presentation by the Fire Service at the commencement of the meeting it was agreed to send a positive response to this consultation by 15 February.

RESOLVED – The Mayor and the Clerk be asked to formulate a response to be sent to the Fire Service by 15 February 2016.

176. 20 MPH SPEED LIMITS

Consideration of this matter had been deferred from the last meeting.
Councillor Mrs Thompson stated that she had asked about the timetable for the introduction of 20mph speed limits around schools from NCC however she had not received a reply as yet.
The Clerk agreed to try and find out this information and report back to the Council.

RESOLVED – Any information received on the introduction of 20mph around schools in the County would be forwarded to the Council for information.

177. PONTELAND LIBRARY

A report by Councillor Cowey had been circulated to Councillors.
The report was seeking support for the Ponteland Community Trust in their endeavours to have a Community hub facility on the site of the library in Ponteland.

The Council was reminded of the three lines of enquiry (one of which was in item 178 below) that were currently being followed in relation to the library.

The meeting felt that more information was required from the PCT and other lines of enquiry. This matter would be discussed at the February meeting and it was agreed to defer the matter until then.

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177. PONTELAND LIBRARY (continued)

RESOLVED – Consideration of this report be deferred to the February meeting when the issue of the Ponteland library would be discussed.

178. NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY COUNCIL REPORT

Councillor Mrs Jones reported that the NCC budget meeting would be held in February.
She reported that she and County Councillors Dodd and Mrs Armstrong had met with officers from NCC regarding the library situation and a response was awaited.

She also mentioned that it was proposed to move the library at Morpeth to another location.
She referred to the difficulties of finding the appropriate person to contact at NCC and it was hoped that an updated ‘Who’s Who’ would be produced shortly.

Councillor Mrs Jones also mentioned the recent review of public toilets carried out by NCC. She had visited several premises within Ponteland to see if they would join the ‘You are welcome to use our loo’ campaign that NCC were promoting. Several premises had agreed to become involved and a list would be produced for publication on the website etc. It was felt that this would complement the facilities already available on Thornhill Road which were managed by the Town Council and it was agreed that a list of these premises would be displayed on the Town Council website and also on the public toilets.

Councillor Dodd reported on ongoing issues with the car park at the back of Merton Way.
He reported that it had been agreed to have an independent external audit of the costs involved with the proposed move of County Hall to Ashington carried out.
He stated that the Central Area Committee would be held on Thursday 14 January at Morpeth Town Hall and flooding issues was one of the items being discussed.
He also mentioned that a meeting would be held with officers at NCC regarding location of Polling Stations and he asked for another representative of the Town Council to attend and this was met favourably.

179. MAYOR’S REPORT

(i) Mayor’s Diary
The Mayor had submitted details of his diary engagements for December 2015 and also forthcoming engagements in January.
(ii) Ponteland Town Council Christmas event – 23 December 2015
The Mayor thanked those who had attended the above event.
Everyone agreed that this was a good location for the event.

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179. MAYOR’S REPORT (Continued)

(iii) Wheelbarrow Race – 1.1.16
The Mayor and several Councillors had attended the above event which had
been well organised and attended as usual.

180. REPORTS BY TOWN COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES ON LOCAL ORGANISATIONS
(i) Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group
There had no agreed minutes of the Steering Group available to circulate with the agenda.
It was reported that the Group would be circulating a Housing Needs Survey with the next edition of Pont News & Views

181. ACCOUNTS/ BANK RECONCILIATION/ BUDGET REPORT/

The Accounts Committee approved payments totalling £27,624.63 and the transfer of this sum from the Council’s Deposit Account. The Bank reconciliation for December 2015 was also approved together with a budget report for the same period.

RESOLVED – The reports be approved.

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CHAIRMAN

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DATE

DATE OF NEXT MEETING – WEDNESDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2016 AT 6.45 P.M. AT THE TOWN COUNCIL OFFICES