Minutes of the meeting of the Finance and Town Centre Committee held on Tuesday 26 November at 6pm at Neston Community and Youth Centre.
Present:Cllrs Barker (Chair), Cummins, Marlow, Shipman, Spacey and Wilkie (substitute for Cllr Loch). Mrs A Kunaj (Town Clerk) and Mrs K Pierce (Town Centre Manager)
In attendance: Cllrs Andrews, Carter, Derraugh and Hughes (from item 119), Mrs M Suckley (Admin Officer) and two members of the public, Dr Ward and Mrs Barrie.
PART 1: Items considered in the presence of the press and public
116 Apologies for absence: were received from Cllrs Jilani and Loch and were accepted.
117 Questions to the Committee:
Mrs Suckley spoke on the following agenda items;
Item 129a – Mrs Suckley asked the Committee to be mindful that, before any decision is made, there has been no consultation with existing staff and stated that an employer can only make changes to job descriptions if there is mutual agreement between parties.
Item 131 – Mrs Suckley stated that the main ‘job purpose’ of the Admin Officer (AO) is ‘to provide administrative support to the Town Clerk’ and that it was crucial that both AO and the Clerk were housed in the same office as the workflow between is constant. And asked how will this work if AO is two floors below the Clerk? Has any work flow analysis been undertaken before this proposal has been presented to F&TC?
Mrs Suckley highlighted that the front reception room was considered the most lettable room in the building, and asked why are the Council using it when the annual rental cost of this room alone is over £6k? Why not let it and turn this into a profit?
The TCM’s job description states that it is to manage the day to day running of the Town Hall and manage any seconded staff. Should the Market and Estates Officer and new Administrative Assistant not be housed with the TCM. Why will these staff members not being housed in the Town Hall? Will it be written into the job descriptions of the Market and Estates Officer and the new Administrative Assistant that they are both on temporary contracts and, at any point in the next 3years, the Council can give notice to withdraw from the Management Agreement and their employment will cease? Mrs Suckley said that she felt that it was only fair that potential new employees know this as they may have given up permanent jobs to take these positions.
Cllr Barker advised that he would send a formal response to Mrs Suckley addressing the issues that have been raised.
Dr Ward asked if professional advice on the proposed management agreement for the asset transfer had been taken. He suggested that the back of the Town Hall could be opened up onto the market square, and advised that there were many ‘negative signs’ at the back of the Town Hall and requested that they were investigated. Dr Ward requested that the Town Council be relocated into the old Council Chamber at the Town Hall and he wished members the best of luck with their proposals.
Dr Ward was assured that legal advice had been sought. Dr Ward also thanked the group responsible for all their hard work with the negotiations with CWaC involving the asset transfer and appreciated how difficult it must have been and wished members the best of luck with their proposals
Mrs Suckley left the meeting.
118 Declarations of Interest: None.
119 The minutes of the Finance and Town Centre Committee meeting held on 22.10.13 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chair.
Cllr Cummins raised a number of points arising from the last meeting.
Item 98.1 TCM Activity Report, had the set objectives referred to in the report been circulated? It was confirmed that the objectives had not been circulated and were embedded in the Neston Town Centre Action Plan.
Item 99.2 Management Agreement, a record of the meeting 31.10.13 had not been produced.
Item 102 Section 106, a record of the meeting would be made available by the CWaC officer in due course.
Item 108.2 Lone Worker Policy. The TCM has investigated the safety issues regarding the front door; the TCM’s report is not complete or ready for circulation. The TCM wished to look at other safety issues alongside the policy.
Item 113 Trading for Councils. A written report is not available.
120 Clerk’s report: None.
121 Interim Internal Audit
Members noted that the Council have in previous years requested an interim internal audit. The Committee agreed that they did not wish to request an interim internal audit this year. A full internal audit report will be conducted following the financial year end.
122.1 The Committee resolved to approve the Expenditure of £16,119.03 net.
122.2 The Committee noted the income of £66.11.
a) The Committee considered the F&TC budget comparisons to 12.11.13 and raised no concerns.
b) F&TC budget: The Committee considered the draft proposal for the budget requirements for the F&TC Committee and the appropriateness of each of the budget lines, bearing in mind the Full Council approval at the Council meeting 05.11.13 ‘for each Committee to take account of the priorities adopted as the Council’s strategic priorities when formulating their budget proposals’. And noted that the following F&TC Committee Earmarked Reserves are held; Parking Signs £2k, Footfall Counter £2,250, Feasibility Grant £6,019 and Feasibility Study £30K (Total £40,269). The Committee confirmed that they were satisfied with the draft budget and agreed to submit to the Proper Officer an estimate of the expenditure of £159,280 for the financial year 2014/15.
c) Draft Precept and Clerk’s report: The Committee received the draft precept and Clerk’s report and considered if this met with council’s requirements for the financial year 2013/14. The Committee recommends that Neston Town Council submit a precept request to CWaC of £199,415 to cover the estimated budget requirements for the financial year 2014/15. This will be tabled at the Full Council meeting in January, the budget meeting. The Clerk was thanked for the work that she had undertaken in compiling the reports and draft budgets.
Note: A budget heading 4130 Town Centre Initiatives with a proposed budget of £8k for 2014/15 had been added in preparation for the proposal in item 126.3 d) – see below
124.1 The Committee resolved to approve acceptance of the offer of a discount CWaC of £307.76.to the NTC insurance premium with Zurich due in January.
124.2 The Committee resolved to accept the offer of a discount of approximately £393.73 per year by extending the agreement with Zurich insurance until 2017.
125 Lone Worker Policy
The Committee noted that further consideration of the draft SLCC model Lone Worker Policy was deferred as the TCM’s report had not been completed.
126 Town Centre Manager’s Activity reports
126.1 Activity Report: The Committee received the Town Centre Manager’s Activity report.
It was confirmed that the ‘Locality Bid’, a TSI grant application referred to in the report, is being prepared by the TCM in order for discussions to take place with the TCM advisory group.
The report indicated that a meeting with Cllr Barker and Shipman to discuss asset transfer proposed staffing and accommodation arrangements was scheduled. The TCM confirmed that the meeting had taken place and that the group had looked at the options together. The TCM had not expressed at the meeting if she had agreed or not with the proposals.
126.2 Action of Market Towns Training Feedback: The Committee noted the report. A request for the links to the website so that Cllrs can view the presentation will be sent by the TCM to all Committee members.
126.3 Neston Town Centre Action Plan: The Committee received the Neston Town Centre Action Plan report. Concerns were raised about the due diligence taken before the adoption of this plan as it is a significant plan with considerable long term impacts for Neston town centre. The Committee was satisfied that this adoption was within the terms of reference, currently item 11.
The Committee resolved to approve the following Neston Town Centre Action Plan recommendations (a – d) that;
- The Action Plan be adopted as a strategy for revitalisation of the town centre
- It is acknowledged that the plan will evolve to embrace further opportunities for revitalisation as these are presented.
- The priorities recommended by the Town Centre Advisory Group be taken forward by the Town Centre Manager.
- A Town Centre Initiatives budget of £8,000 be set up.
- The Committee considered that the proposal that ‘authorisation for expenditure in accordance with priorities agreed by the committee be delegated to the Chair of the Committee, the Town Centre Manager and the Town Clerk’.
An amendment to the proposal was made and seconded for the amount of £8k to be specified within the proposal ‘for the expenditure of £8k in accordance with …’ The amendment was carried. The Committee resolved to approve the substantive motion.
127 Asset Transfer Town Hall, Market & Market Square
Management Agreement with CWaC
127.1 Members were advised that, at the meeting held with CWaC officers and the negotiation team on 31.10.13, amendments to the management agreement were discussed. A letter received from the Council’s solicitor, who is advising on the management agreement, is to be circulated to all Councillors by the TCM.
127.2 The Committee received the following supplementary reports;
- Draft Management Agreement,
- Interim proposal report; and
- Asset transfer schedule ‘to do’ list.It was confirmed that for year zero, CWaC would provide any necessary staffing to manage the assets and this interim period would be at a nil cost to the Town Council. New NTC staff would not be required until 01.04.14. A saving would be made up until 01.04.14 by the relocation of the Council offices to the Town Hall.The TCM will ask for assistance and the involvement of others in completing the asset transfer schedule ‘to do’ list.A request was made for the ‘asset transfer interim proposals’ report to be circulated and considered for approval at the next Full Council meeting 10.12.13.
Cllr Andrews left the meeting.
127.3 The Committee received the Asset Transfer Proposal Report and agreed the following that;
- In relation to the management of town centre public assets, its prime interest has been acquiring the management rights to the market and the market square, and that in order to reach agreement with CWaC it has been necessary also to acquire these rights for the town hall.
- It is satisfied that the outcome of negotiations with CWaC represents the best possible terms available to the Town Council in achieving its objective.
- The Committee recommends that Neston Town Council accepts the negotiated Management Agreement and associated Schedules in order for the Council to assume management responsibilities for the assets from 1 April 2014.e) The Committee recommends that Neston Town Council accepts the negotiated interim arrangements to ensure the smooth acquisition of management responsibilities on 1 April 2014.
- The Committee recognises that issues raised by the council’s solicitors may require the Asset Transfer Negotiating Group to seek amendment to the agreement with CWaC and authorises them to do so and to report recommendations to the council prior to the council acting on paragraph c above. This item was withdrawn.Members acknowledged that amendments to the management agreement were still to be formalised and that the written assurances and the final draft, as amended, would be submitted in its entirety to the Clerk by 03.12.14 in order to submit this to Full Council for approval on 10.12.14.
128 Trading for Councils
A proposal was made and seconded for the Working Group investigating the feasibility of the Council opening up an arms-length trading company to seek legal guidance. The proposal was carried. Members confirmed that one of the reasons for opening up an arms-length trading company was to form part of the strategy for increasing the grant funding availability. Members would like to have access to the working group report to summarise the advantages and disadvantages of the proposals.
129 Town Councillor Item (Cllr Barker)
Staffing Needs Review: Members received the following proposals: –
a) For a review of the Council’s total staffing needs in the light of acquiring management of town centre assets and responsibility for public allotments and any other probable extension of the council’s activities and to make appropriate recommendations to the Council. A proposal was made and seconded for removal of the word ‘total’ from this proposal. The proposal was carried.
Members considered if the assets could be managed using the existing staff. It was explained that the Town Hall and Market are currently managed by two CWaC members of staff. Two very different job descriptions had been drafted for consideration by the Committee. It was unclear how they could substitute for each other. It was suggested that the current Admin Officer (AO) could stand in for one of the positions if required. The Town Clerk expressed that she could not manage the Council’s workload without the assistance of the AO.
Cllrs Derraugh & Hughes left the meeting
Members agreed that it would be necessary to employ an Admin Assistant for the running of the Town Hall. The F&TC Chairman and the Asset Transfer Negotiation Group are to schedule a meeting with the Town Clerk to discuss and formulate proposals regarding the required staffing arrangements. Following this, the proposals will be discussed with existing staff members with further discussions to take place at the next Committee meeting.
In order to conclude the transactions listed on the agenda, the Committee resolved to suspend the following standing order ‘meetings shall not exceed a period of 2 hours.’
- To consider the draft job description for an Administrative Assistant. – This item was withdrawn.
130 Motion to Rescind (Cllrs Barker, Shipman, Spacey, Loch, Wilkie and Burkey)
Council accommodation: The Committee received a request bearing the names of six Councillors; Barker, Shipman, Spacey, Loch, Wilkie and Burkey to rescind via special motion, minute 70.1 of the Finance and Town Centre Committee meeting 17.09.13 as per standing orders. The Committee resolved to approve the special motion.
In order to discuss item 131, Committee resolved to suspend Council’s standing orders relating to ‘rescission of previous resolutions’.
131 Town Councillor Item (Cllr Barker)
Town Hall Accommodation: The Committee agreed to accept items 1-9 as a working document for further review by the working group:
- The council bases its operations at the Town Hall from 1 November, or as soon thereafter as the Town Clerk is satisfied that accommodation is fit for its purpose. (as agreed previously)
- That notice is given to NCYC of the Council’s intentions and that any agreements are terminated in accordance with 1 above (as previously agreed)
- The old housing office (room 5 on the plan) be utilised by the Town Clerk.
- The front reception room (room 6 on the plan) be used as a front of house office for the Town Council. The existing Administration Officer and the proposed new Administrative Assistant be accommodated here. It is anticipated that both assistants would cover the wide variety of administrative functions required to be undertaken by the Town Council when required. This room might also accommodate an ancillary commercial function. Burton & Neston History Society have expressed an interest in establishing a heritage information centre here. It is anticipated that volunteer staffing would also be willing to give assistance to visiting members of the public.
- The club room (3 on the plan) and/ or rear club room (2 on the plan) be used for Town Council meetings and the Town Council would have priority but not exclusive use of these rooms.
Cllr Spacey left the meeting.
- The main hall would be used for Full Council meetings and the Town Council would have priority use of the hall when required. This will restrict lettings on Tuesday evenings.
- The club room and rear club rooms would be available to be rented out. Initial discussions have been had with CAN about their possible relocation to the Town Hall as well as Viva Care Choices, for the relocation of the service caring for those with disabilities, to the Town Hall. These discussions will continue.
- If required the market office (room 1 on the plan) could be utilised as storage/administration for the Town Council. If not required it would be available to rent on the open market.
- The Market and Estates officer would be relocated from the Town Hall to the Town Centre Managers office.
Members noted the decision taken prior to the staffing review, under item 131, 9, and agreed that this could be reviewed at a later date should it not work out.
Mrs Barrie (MoP) left the meeting.
132 Asset Transfer Town Council Allotments
Members noted that the legal deeds for the transfer of the allotments will be executed on behalf of the Council and authorised by resolution of the Council in accordance with Council’s standing orders, at the next Council meeting.
132.2 Allotments Operation
Members noted that so far firm commitments from volunteers to manage the smooth running of the allotments have not been found. The Mayor had made enquiries.
132.3 Marshlands Road Allotment: A report of a broken fence was received at the Council office. The Clerk has instructed CWaC to repair the fence.
Cllr Shipman left the meeting.
133 Section 106
Members noted that the next s106 meeting has been scheduled for December.
134 Network Rail
Members noted the response received from CWaC and the costs that will be incurred to complete the works. However the Clerk was informed that the works will not be funded by Neston Town Council.
135 Neston Recreation Centre, s106 boundary
Members noted that CWaC have acknowledged and are pleased for NTC to be included in the project as a non-funding stakeholder, but currently do not have defined plans to share. A meeting is to be scheduled with the Education Funding Agency (EFA) to discuss this. The Clerk was instructed to write and request that the Town Council be included in the planning stage before the plans are finalised.
136 Any other items which the Chairman determines are urgent for discussion or next agenda item. Next agenda – Markets and Estates officer job description.
Dr Ward (MoP) left the meeting
137 Exclusion of the Press and Public
The Committee resolved that under the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 (as extended by s.100 of the Local Government Act 1972), the public and accredited representatives of newspapers be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 by virtue of the paragraph specified against the item.
Part 2: Items considered in the absence of the press and public
138 Administration Officer
The Committee noted that a review of the Admin Officer’s working hours due in November has been completed by the Mayor. The Mayor provided an oral report. Council were satisfied that the hours set met the needs of the Council and the AO was happy to agree to these hours.
Cllr Shipman returned to the meeting.
139 Date of next meeting: The date and time of the next meeting was confirmed as
14 January 2014.
Meeting closed at 8.45pm.