August 2023 Minutes EOM (24th)
THE MINUTE REFERENCES FOR THIS MEETING ARE INCORRECT. ALL MINUTES SHOULD HAVE BEEN REFERENCED 23/24 NOT 22/23
Bardney Group Parish Council
DRAFT Minutes from the Full Council Meeting
Bardney Village Hall Thursday 24th August 2023 at 7pm
Cllr Ian Fleetwood (Chairman)
Cllr John Papworth (Vice-Chairman)
Cllr Frank Bates
Cllr Michael McIlroy
Cllr Mary Corbould
Cllr Barry Newlove
Cllr Ken Hutchinson
Cllr Barry Percival
Cllr Ruth Lane
Cllr Lou Reeves
Cllr Brian Lintin
Cllr Samantha Wright
Cllr Robin Darby
Cllr Lynne Newlove
Members of the Public
Nineteen members of the public were present
Meeting commenced at 7pm
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting. The Chairman informed the meeting of the recent passing of Majorie Cash, a former Councillor and well-respected lady who had also served the community exceedingly well over many years either delivering post or with her involvement at the local Co-op. A minute’s silence was observed.
The public forum was invited to commence:
A summary of matters raised by members of the public and responses are listed below:
1. Has the LALC report been sent to the Monitoring Officer and Auditors, and if so, what comments have been received back? The Chairman stated that the report had been sent but it was early days with regard to any replies.
2. A further question was asked that if all the recommendations were going to be adopted in the report how much would the precept need to be increased by? The Chairman stated that any figures were an unknown amount and that the next year’s budget would be calculated in the normal fashion in the Autumn. The Chairman stated that the Council do need to move forward from the current position.
3. Another member of the public asked whether there was a Committee formed to create this year’s St. Oswald’s Festival? The Chairman responded by saying that within the Office computers or the paper filing system there were no agendas or minutes since the last event last year.
4. A further point was made with regards to the costs involved in the Festival and who would have met any shortfall? The Chairman confirmed that if any costs had not been covered by sponsorship, then the expectation was the Parish Council would need to pay the bills.
5. A question was then raised why does the village need two parks? The Chairman stated that there is currently a Playing Field and also St. Oswald’s Park - this issue would be for the Council to make a judgement at a future meeting.
6. Another question was raised regarding how many of the new Councillors had actually done a Councillors course? The Chairman replied that the LALC training programme was currently on-going with some Councillors already trained and others booked onto future events. Various Councillors did put their hands up to illustrate they had undergone training. The Chairman stated that he had confidence in the current Council.
7. A further question was raised with regard to how many Councillors had been trained in Cemetery management? The Chairman stated that he had accepted the responsibility of that role, and that he had the course notes for the LALC training and also was able to refer issues to a Clerk in another Parish if needed. He also confirmed that to date there had been complete satisfaction.
8. A further question was raised with regard to if volunteers were trained in the use of chemical management in the Cemetery? The Chairman replied that the volunteers were the same volunteers who had worked there before using the same chemicals when carrying out maintenance with the previous Council. There is an information sheet which had now been placed on file regarding the chemical ‘Wet & Forget’, and that to date, the chemical has not harmed any grave, headstone, memorial, animal or person over the years that they have been used in the village.
9. Another point was raised that the war memorial should only be cleaned by the Services and nobody else? The Chairman stated that if the member of the public had an issue, he should contact the Council.
10. Another point was raised with regard to the previous Council and audit. It was noted the previous Chairman was not present but the question was raised why did none of the previous Councillors not try to stop the large spending of money which had eroded the Council’s balances? One Councillor expressed an opinion that they could not hear the question or understand the issue. The issue was re-expressed by the member of the public – they stated that the AGAR report had stated that there had been an issue around 4 to 5 years ago and that the Council were not doing things right. Nobody on the Council at that time appeared to be challenging issues or had the power to do anything. A sum of £30,000 was pointed out as a major reduction in balances. The Councillor responded by saying that they did not recall missing money of this value and that they did not know what the money relates to but nothing had been fiddled out. The Chairman did agree that the balances of the Council had gone down substantially over the last 4 years. A suggestion of fraud was made and that the previous Chairman was not present. The Chairman stated that in the last 4 years St Oswald’s Park had been developed and that the Office portacabin with related ancillaries had been introduced which might account for a good portion of the money. The member of the public expressed concern that these items had not been voted on, or clearly described in previous meetings or minutes. Another member of the public, who identified themselves as the previous Vice-Chairman of the Council stated that there had been a view to reduce reserves in the previous Council and that all expenditure including St. Oswald’s was agreed by the Council.
11. Another question was raised with regard to moving the Parish Office from the portacabin into the Village Hall with a contract by a Councillor and that the Chairman had stated ‘don’t worry its all in hand’. Now the decision has been made there isn’t going to be a contract. The member of the public had taken advice and stated that it was a very fool hardy thing to do and has that change in policy been agreed by the Council? A Councillor stated that the question had not been asked by a Councillor but by a member of the public, and that the individual was a member of the public and was not a Councillor. The Chairman stated that with regard to the movement from the portacabin to the Village Hall papers had gone between various Committees and that there is a paper trail to show the transition. The member of the public asked has the Council agreed not to have a contract. The Chairman clarified that there has never been a contract agreed and that the Parish Council are renting space from the Village Hall in the same format as any other hirer of the Village Hall and that there is a current hire agreement and will also be the future hire agreement of the Council.
12. Another question was raised as to why Anglian Water were going to cut off Abbey Road traffic to carry out work? The Chairman stated that utility companies have the power to close off roads at very little notice and with virtually no notification under emergency powers to carry out work and repairs.
Main meeting commenced at 7.17pm
126-22/23 Apologies for Absence
To receive and accept apologies where valid reasons for absence have been given to the Clerk prior to the meeting in accordance with Local Gov. Act 1972, Sch 12, para 40.
Apologies for absence were received and accepted from Cllr Darby and Cllr Lynne Newlove.
127-22/23 Declarations of Interests
There were no declarations of interest recorded for the meeting.
128-22/23 Approval of Full Council Minutes 10 th August 2023
To approve as a correct record the notes of the Full Council meeting held on 10th August 2023 and to authorise the Chairman to sign the official minutes.
The notes were PROPOSED by Cllr Percival, SECONDED by Cllr Lane and RESOLVED to approve as the minutes from the 10th July, which had a UNANIMOUS vote.
129-22/23 Approval of Full Council Closed Session Minutes 10 th August 2023
To approve as a correct record the notes Closed Session of the Full Council meeting held on 10th August 2023 and to authorise the Chairman to sign the official minutes.
The notes were PROPOSED by Cllr Lane, SECONDED by Cllr Lintin and RESOLVED to approve as the minutes from the 10th July, with a clear majority.
130-22/23 Chairman’s Report
The Chairman explained that there were 2 items of emergency business that needed to be dealt with which required cheques to be signed within the meeting.
The first cheque was with regard to paying a very kind lady who had planted all of the planters in all villages at very short notice to a very high-quality involving perennials, compost, water retaining gel, dwarf daffodils and had made an excellent job for the total sum of £147. This was PROPOSED by Cllr Lane and SECONDED by Cllr Wright with a clear majority.
The second cheque was to register the ride-on mower registration to DVLA which will allow a registration number and V5 document to be applied for. The mower has currently been taken out of service until it is suitably insured, and will need registration to allow it to be used on roads and footways. This was PROPOSED by Cllr Lane, SECONDED by Cllr Hutchinson with a clear majority.
131-22/23 Clerk’s Report
The Chairman stated that the Acting Clerk was on holiday this evening, and that he had pledged to the public that this evening’s meeting to examine the report would be within two weeks of the last meeting. The availability of the Hall had also been a consideration. There was no Clerk’s report.
To consider and agree courses of action for the following:
132-22/23 To receive and approve the Governance Report provided by LALC with necessary resolutions
The Chairman introduced the report as a historical report based on last 4 years of Parish Council. The Council agreed to its production at a previous meeting on 16 th June 2023.
The report is highly critical of the Parish Council and it has proven the doubts which the public had been making in recent years.
When I became Chairman, I had no idea of the standards of the council and I am clearly very disappointed with what I have discovered since being at the Council.
I apologise on behalf of the Parish Council to the electorate about inadequacies of the the last Council and the monies that have been spent without approval. Findings of the report have shown that the report records the way in which the Council was operated in some aspects of the last four years – it does not tackle all issues and much is still being revealed in other areas of the Council.
This situation was not made any easier because there was a very limited handover of 2 pieces of information, one being a list of historic phone numbers which was out of date and the other being a list of twelve dates and events that would happen within the next year.
Month Event Jobs
August St Oswald's Feast July Check insurance of the trailer
November Remembrance Day July Liaise with Church as to what is happening
August Send road closure paperwork to LCC Highways
September Order wreaths from Gill Hodgson RBL - four large and one small
Oct/Nov 14 days before road closure the signs need to be put out
The previous chairman has been slow and reluctant to engage in any handover. Any communication has been with me asking about issues and no information has been volunteered without delay. This has not been useful and has made the job more difficult which reflects in more work having to be carried out. This work obviously comes at a cost in either resource or money and both of these reflect upon services delivered to the people who we as Councillors should be duty bound to the people who elect us.
As the new Chairman and all other Councillors at this level of government we are all volunteers and do not receive any financial benefit to be Councillors. We do this for the love of our local community and are striving to make it a better place to live.
LALC came to review the Governance on Friday 7 th July 2023. They spent a good amount of time with us and did research prior to their arrival.
There have been many problems but I will mention just 3 – I’m sure the Committee will either expand further on these or other issues:
1/ The Portacabin is not fit for purpose and to quote the last Chairman was ‘an experiment’. LALC did not regard the building as fit for purpose which is a view I share. The Council have received complaints from staff with heating as an example. The cost involved was substantial - a new portacabin, two generators, the sewage system and installation of all services. The mobile phone barely worked on voice calls and when anybody rang the Council the internet was disconnected because the mobile phone was used as a hot spot. There was no disabled access so it wasn’t compliant for use as a public building.
2/ St Oswald’s Feast was proven not to have a paper trial since the previous event and this was agreed by LALC and very disappointingly had to be cancelled from a Council perspective. There were no agendas and minutes were non-existent making it unlawful to use public funds.
3/ The new lawnmower purchased in February at a cost of £5100 excluding VAT was found to be not in the asset register until very recently. This has meant that it has not been insured and was a complete liability to the Council – if it had harmed an individual through spreading debris the council would have been liable, or if there had been an accident and the operator had been harmed it would also have been as critical – we have a duty of care to our employees. This situation is currently being resolved and grass cutting will start again when it is clearly covered.
Comments were made by the assessor during the day so work started immediately to improve the Council, and I was grateful that another Councillor assisted me providing information to the assessor. Some of this work includes Policies are being reviewed, forms are being updated to show the correct postal address and Minutes are being read to establish history of procedures because it is not known how many Policies the Council has, which Policies are the latest version and indeed if they have been proposed, seconded and resolved to be accepted as the current version. I am grateful to Cllr Percival for his work.
Accounting software has been installed rather than trying to reconcile Excel spreadsheets, which is being run on a free three-month trial. After this period, it will be on a chargeable basis of about £8 per month.
The Pavilion is an excellent facility for a hot desking basis. The move was made about three weeks ago, and in addition the Council have held two meetings in there today which has saved having to hire a meeting room. The hire charge is £300 per month including all services, and there is disabled access if required.
The new office in village hall has started to be constructed.
Work will continue with regard to the LALC recommendations, a good example being that we still need to replace website with a compliant one accessible on all computer platforms.
Today we have held a Personnel & Review Committee meeting with regard to recruiting a new Clerk/RFO. There will be interviews next week.
With regard to the debate, we need to keep this debate at a reasonably high level and not get into any very personal vendettas. The Committee needs to be impersonal and not speak in terms of any individual by name but if comments are made it must be regarding a position or role. The Council strive to fulfil all resolutions made this evening and I again reiterate that I apologise on behalf of the Council regarding the historical findings of the report.
It is the right thing to do to bring in an external person to review the Governance of this Council.
A Councillor asked how we are going to move forward now and what is going to happen now the Council has received the report? Could this become a Police issue because it is damning and needs accountability.
The Chairman replied it is entirely up to the Council what it would like to do. External organisations would need some evidence to justify their involvement. Auditors have a copy of the report.
Another Councillor stated that they did not think the Council can ignore the contents and that the paper trail is not good, and that they did not think the Council had any choice about taking things forward to external organisations. If the Council do not resolve issues within the report, do they not become complicit?
The Chairman stated that the Council need to go through each and every recommendation statement by statement to make sure that issues are addressed. He alluded to legal costs from last Autumn, and that he had asked the previous Chairman with regard to those costs and how the judgement was made, he had reviewed the minutes and there was no clarity with regard to how the decision had been proposed and seconded, ratified or resolved. There are absences within statements from last year and there is not an audit trail within the Council. A reverse audit had been conducted and the solicitors had been helpful but it had not been available from within this Council’s systems. The previous Chairman had stated that the payment had been made against BGPC Abusive, Habitual and/or Vexatious Complaints Policy, but the Council does not have a such a policy – the Council has a Complaints Policy. The Chairman said that he did not have an audit trail with regard to how the position has been arrived at and there are a lot of emails missing from within the system. The Chairman said that if it is legal, it would be a good idea to ‘undelete’ the emails by going back to the email provider to produce an information trail to allow the Council to understand why decisions have been taken – this may involve several email accounts.
A Councillor asked if there were any specialists within LALC who could offer this service? If the Council had that information, it may be that if required it could become a Police matter which might be supported with any comments from the Auditors.
The Chairman confirmed that the account balances had gone down drastically over recent years which LALC had commented that the reserves in their view were insufficient for a Parish Council with allotment and cemetery responsibilities. There will be a need to try to establish a higher level and ensure that the insurances of the Council were adequate.
The Chairman continued to state that the website does need a full reconfiguration. This may cost in the region of £200 or so. There is not a large reserve within the Council which would fund any large battles or issues.
Another Councillor stated that it allegedly looked like incompetence. The Chairman stated that because of the large changeover in Councillors and staff in may the apportion of blame becomes more difficult and that the Council does need to move on from this situation but if required the Police need to be involved. He continued by saying what would be the benefit to the local community and that any if funds were used to pursue the issue would that money be spent wisely? The new direction of the Council will mean that the new accommodation would be more ecologically friendly and that the rent would effectively be recycling money into the local community by the Village Hall. It would need to be proved that money had been spent illegally and ‘wrongly’ and this would need external views to establish this scenario. The Auditors are aware.
The Councillor then went on to state that another Council in a similar position had agreed to ‘wipe the slate clean’ because there would be no winners out of the situation.
The Chairman stated that any decision to do anything must be for the benefit of the electorate. The report is very disappointing and there are very few good words within the eleven pages. LALC came to do an impartial review.
Another Councillor stated that the Councillors had been voted on by the people who they were now working on their behalf. The Council needs to move forward and that since the new Council had been formed it was clear that things had previously not been done correctly. It was important that some members of the public cease their ridicule and that the Council are allowed to resolve the many issues historically outstanding which would show the accountability of the Council.
The Chairman stated that all Councillors had been allowed to ask any issues that they might have during the previous Council meeting on 16 th June. These issues are recorded on page eleven of the report, Appendix 1, and the Chairman thanked the Councillors for this input which had been presented to LALC on the Council’s behalf. The Council are attempting to find answers to those points and a lot of this work is ongoing. There is an immense amount of time and effort being placed in trying to resolve the position and move forwards. The Council and Chairman will try to be as open and transparent about any issues presented to them.
The Chairman asked what would the Council like to resolve to do? There needs to be an outcome and the Council needs to move forward. Does the Council wish to go back to LALC and ask for assistance which would obviously have additional costs? Does the Council wish to bring in external help? Does the Council ‘undelete’ emails? Should the website be refreshed? Or would the Council like to do all of these items?
A Councillor stated that we have got to address the issues in the report. There needs to be time for external bodies to respond prior to getting any assistance from either LALC or the Police depending upon any findings made.
The Chairman agreed that any action would need to be evidence based, and that he and other Councillors had been researching minutes to see what actions of the Council had been proposed, seconded, resolved or ratified clearly. This work is ongoing, and currently there are minutes going back to 2002 on the computer. All Policies need to be ensured that they are correct and compliant with current legislation, and currently many of the Policies have not been reviewed in many years.
Cllr Lane PROPOSED that the current ongoing work should be supported and that, as information become available, it is addressed. The website needs to be updated in this proposal, but this needs to be brought back to the next meeting with some costings. It was also stated that emails should be ‘undeleted’ if possible, which might create a better information trail. Cllr Lane agreed to the amendment to her proposal. This was SECONDED by Cllr Reeves, and it was put to the vote which was clearly RESOLVED with one abstention.
133-22/23 To receive any update on AGAR/External Audit
The external audit public inspection period completed on August 15th. This needed to be extended because the correct information had not been put on the noticeboards as required so this was changed after advice was taken. The information had been made available by the Acting Clerk, who had been notified by the previous Clerk that it needed to be displayed. The correct information was then displayed for the six-week period including the first ten days of July. This had also been picked up by LALC. The external auditor has acknowledged this and also requested that the Council state if the comments they have received directly should also be taken into consideration. This was PROPOSED by Cllr Fleetwood and SECONDED by Cllr Wright and this was RESOLVED unanimous.
134-22/23 To note the date of the next Council Meeting
There may be a need for another Extra-Ordinary Meeting to agree employment issues, otherwise it will be Tuesday 19 th September 2023.
Meeting closed at 8:06pm.