Neston Town Council - Full Council Meeting December 2014
|Author: Rob Ward||Published: 17th December 2014 10:16|
This is an informal report of the latest Full Council meeting, submitted by contributor Rob Ward. Formal minutes will appear in due course on the Neston Town Council website.
Neston Town Hall - photo by Rob Clive.
I hadn't been to a Town Council meeting for some time. I was pleased to find that I was not on my own - seven other members of the public came to the Town Hall.
Fifteen of the 17 councillors were present: Malcom Cox, Dave Carter, Phil Lloyd, James Wilkie, Ceri Lloyd, Mike Shipman, Wayne Sharkey, Janet Griffiths (Mayor), Pat Kynaston (with her broken arm in a sling), Tom Marlow, Kay Loch, Trish Derraugh, Pat Hughes, Tony Cummins, and Peter Eccleston. Alison Kunaj as Town Clerk sat by the Mayor: Ewan McHenry from Cheshire West & Chester Council sat with the councillors. Martin Barker and Abdul Jilani sent apologies.
Members of the public are allowed up to three minutes to ask questions. Phil Baker commended the Neston Neighbourhood Plan, of which all councillors had a copy. (Phil let me have a quick look at his copy: it looked very smart, but I wasn't able to keep it.)
Councillors queued up to praise the Plan as a readable document, based on evidence, and giving a true impression of the area. James Wilkie thanked the many skilled volunteers who had given hundreds of hours to the Plan. There had been costs, however, and the Council received £6,000 from Locality, up to £20,000 from Plus Dane for consultants, and up to £20,000 from CWaC (of which £10,000 had already been paid) from the Front Runner fund. The Council agreed to the Plan going for public consultation from 23 January for six weeks. This would be advertised in local papers and web sites, and sent to stake-holders, and there will probably be drop-in sessions where members of the public can discuss the Plan. If necessary there will be a special Council meeting to consider the responses. The Council voted unanimously to thank those who had prepared the Plan.
The Plan includes a list of local assets, which could not be disposed of without a six-month period during which the community would have the chance to raise funds to purchase. James Wilkie proposed that the list of assets should include the NatWest bank.
Nat West Bank
Paul Smith, landlord of the Brewers Arms, urged the Council to protest at the proposed closure of the NatWest bank, against which he had organised a petition.
Since several members of the public had come to hear about the NatWest bank, item 100.4 was discussed first. (That's not as bad as it sounds: they started at 87!) Malcolm Cox, in place of Martin Barker, said the bank was more than 100 years old, and had promised to be the last in Neston to close. Malcolm himself was a customer, as were many members of the Chamber of Trade. He understood that NatWest own the building, a prominent landmark, and that footfall was higher than in Heswall. He also pointed out that NatWest is a state-owned bank. Councillors voted unanimously to write to Andrew Miller MP, and to CWaC, as well as to NatWest.
In my three-minute slot, I thanked the councillors for what they did, and asked whether at Christmas 2015 we might celebrate five years since the opening of the multi-storey car park and the Market Square by having signs at The Cross saying Free Parking and Market Today. I then wished them a Happy Christmas and New Year.
The next item sounds a bit technical, but I think it could make all the difference to those of us who take an interest in our Council, but find it difficult. Mike Shipman proposed that all papers for Council and committee meetings should be posted on the Council's website in advance. At present these are sent to councillors, but members of the public have to go to the Council office (Monday to Friday 9 - 1) and ask to see them. Trish Derraugh was worried that this might cause the staff more work, but Dave Carter and Mike Shipman thought it would be less onerous than sending out numerous email messages. James Wilkie said it would save having to keep paper copies of documents. The proposal was carried, only the Mayor, a self-confessed Luddite, abstaining.
Because I had not seen the papers sent to councillors, many items went over my head, but what follows is my best attempt to make sense of some of them.
Road Closure Notices
Ewan McHenry responded to complaints from the Council meeting on 11 November about road closures. He said that CWaC had followed normal procedures, but they agreed that more people should have been given notice: some diversions had been wrong, and bus companies had not been told. Janet Griffiths asked that in future the Council should be consulted on proposed closures, so that they could suggest the least disruptive diversions. Mike Shipman suggested that work on Parkgate Road, expected in February, should be done in phases so that Earle Drive could be used as a diversion. He asked that Aboutmyarea website should be treated like local papers, and given notice of closures. Ewan McHenry said that websites could create a link to CWaC website, where notices were posted.(*See Editor's Note below).
Parkgate Speed Limit
Ewan McHenry also reported on a consultation on a possible 20 mph speed limit in Parkgate Parade: of 170 responses, 71% supported a speed limit. David Carter asked how the consultation had been carried out: letters had gone to every property that would be affected. Copies had also been given out at the meeting Parkgate Vision chaired by Brenda Dowding on 28 October at Neston Cricket Club. There was disagreement about putting priority signs at the two narrow sections of the Parade: some councillors had seen people driving faster when these were installed.
Council and Committee Matters
Mike Shipman, Chair of Finance and General Purposes, proposed that each committee should review what they had done to achieve the Council's objectives, and to consider the costs and the time used by staff. James Wilkie emphasised that this was not intended to be checking up on staff. Ceri Lloyd said the Human Resources committee was looking at the work allocation of staff, comparing what other councils do, and hoping to improve the management.
Council discussed terms of reference for working groups. These include members of the public, who were asked in Neston Matters to volunteer. It was agreed that they should be asked to declare any interest in matters being discussed, and should be told what was expected of them, which seemed to be what is happening already.
Under Finance, the Council approved expenditure and noted income. There was discussion of the need for monthly bank statements, which the bank declined to produce for accounts that had no transactions, which seemed reasonable.
Ceri Lloyd proposed annual training days for councillors and staff, one on standing orders (delivered by Mike Shipman and the Town Clerk) and one on finance (delivered by Ceri Lloyd and the Town Clerk). Wayne Sharkey asked that the training should be in evenings, for those who work, and Tony Cummins asked that standing orders should not be interpreted too strictly. It was agreed that the training should be given before the May elections.
Ceri Lloyd also proposed thanks to the organisers of the Lights 'n' Lanterns on 5 December. It was agreed that this had been an excellent event, and it was good to let people know that the Council had helped to fund it.
Ceri Lloyd spoke in place of Martin Barker about a proposed study into parking at Parkgate. Ewan McHenry pointed out that at public meetings in Parkgate, parking was always a prime concern, and, before spending money on improvements, it would be wise to find out why few people use the car parks at Station Road and the old baths. The study would cost £1500 from CWaC and £1500 from the Council's Earmarked Reserve Parkgate Marsh fund. Wayne Sharkey was concerned that this would limit efforts to combat mosquitoes, but was assured it would not.
Under the heading Assets List, Trish Derraugh asked why the Council's notice boards were still listed as worth £6,000, as they are now several years old. The Town Clerk explained that she was not allowed to depreciate items: they either held their original value, or were written off completely.
There was no Part 2, so I was not sent out. Indeed, the Mayor invited me to join councillors for a glass of wine and one of her home-made mince pies, both of which were delicious!
*Editor's Note: It is disingenuous of Mr McHenry to suggest that websites such as AMA provide a link to CWaC's relevant website page regarding road closures, as a solution to the poor communication of such notices to the general public. As you might imagine, there are numerous road closures or roadworks notices in place throughout the Borough at any given time. The suggestion that we merely provide a link to their general page puts the onus back on the resident, business owner or visitor to randomly check the page and search all the current ones, just in case there might be a road closure that may affect them.
We have requested (to CWaC Highways Department), on numerous occasions, that relevant (CH64 postcode) notices that are already delivered to local councillors also be sent to AMA as a matter of course, so that we can publish them immediately and at no cost to CWaC, for the benefit of the community. Quite why this has proved so difficult is still unclear, particularly as in some circumstances the Council pays newspapers that do not even deliver to most addresses in the area, to carry the notices.
There is now a partial solution in place - Neston & District Chamber of Trade (of which I am currently the Secretary), now receives the relevant notices after the Chamber's complaint following the poorly advertised and signposted closure of Bridge Street in Neston in October. As long as I remain a member of the Chamber, I will receive the notices and can publish them for readers of AboutMyArea.
My thanks to Neston Town Council, and Councillor Mike Shipman in particular, for supporting us in attempting to achieve what should have been a pretty straightforward outcome.