WEXHAM COURT PARISH COUNCIL
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE:
Councillors Robert Aldridge (working), Patrick Donachy (at another meeting), and Raja Fayyaz (attended Parish Hall).
29. APPROVAL OF APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
RESOLVED: That apologies for absence offered in respect of this meeting be approved.
30. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Councillors Malik and Sohal declared an interest in relation to their roles as Borough Councillors, and Councillor Sohal declared an interest in relation to Item 11 of the agenda as a member of his family had an allotment.
31. CONSIDERATION OF DISPENSATION APPLICATIONS RELATING TO THE CODE OF CONDUCT
No applications were submitted.
32. MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 13TH MAY 2014
The Minutes of the Meeting of 11th March 2014 were approved as a correct record.
SBC had confirmed that they could issue parking permits for Norway Drive, but only on a whole street basis. However, this didn’t mean that all residents had to obtain a permit if they didn’t need to.
The Vice-Chairman alleged that the Clerk and her family had been unlawfully using their allotment free of charge for seven years and the Clerk had abused her position. The Clerk stated that this was a lie and that voluntary maintenance of the plot had been approved by Council and accordingly her family had never been invoiced by the RFO. It was further alleged that rent free tenancy of the plot had not been passed by Council because it had not been minuted. It had been agreed that following a recent review by the Council the tenancy would be charged in future. It was noted that this was previously discussed in a Part II item as it related to an allotment tenancy.
33. MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING HELD ON 23RD MAY 2014
The Minutes of the Special Meeting of 23rd May 2014 were approved as a correct record.
34. MINUTES OF THE FINANCE & GENERAL PURPOSE COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON 9TH JUNE 2014
The RFO had distributed the minutes by email and read aloud the contents for approval.
Clarification of the lift installation arrangements was requested and provided. A Member concluded that the installation of the lift had opened a can of worms.
The Minutes of the F&GP Committee Meeting of 9th June 2014 were approved as a correct record.
The Annual Return was considered, in accordance with the legal requirements and timescales set by the auditor. The Finance Clerk read out the Annual Governance Statement for the Council’s response to each question therein.
The Chairman indicated that she had a query about Question 2, but did not clarify. Another Member questioned whether the Council had safeguarded public resources in relation to the surrender of the land under the agreement for lease. The Clerk enquired whether the Council required her to sign this document and pointed out that she could not lie on a formal legal document. A discussion ensued about the decision to rescind the agreement for lease, but the Clerk advised that the Annual Return was a separate issue and expressed her concerns that she could be held to account for signing the document. The Clerk requested sight of the report to the auditor that she had been assured would be provided with this year’s Annual Return, but no report was made available. The Clerk was informed that she had an obligation to sign the document since the Council had already debated the land and made a decision. The Clerk reiterated that she was not debating that matter, and that she could not sign a document that is not answered correctly.
The RFO stated that she had discussed this with the internal auditor and Item 9 had been adjusted by £50K because the Council had sold something that was part of its assets. The internal auditor had also suggested that a covering letter be provided explaining that £50K had been received as compensation for rescinding the lease. A Member asked why the Clerk was criticising something which had been approved by a majority of councillors. The Clerk responded that she was not criticising anything; she was simply saying that she was required to sign this legal document and it had to be answered correctly in order for her to do that and comply with the Law. She therefore advised that the answer to Question 2 was ‘No’ because the Council had failed to safeguard public resources as stated in the document.
A Member pointed out that the agreement for lease had been signed, although the actual lease had never been fulfilled.
The RFO was asked to produce the covering letter but it was not made available. The RFO stated that by refusing to sign the Clerk was suggesting that the Council had done something fraudulent. The Clerk reiterated that the answer to Question 2 should be ‘No’, and that she would have to seek advice. The Chairman advised that the Clerk’s job was not to give her opinion but was to take the minutes and carry out the will of the Council. The Clerk offered to sign the document if the Chairman would provide a headed letter stating that the Council had instructed her to sign and would indemnify her from any resulting liability, but this was declined. Members continued to discuss the decision relating to the land, but the Clerk advised that this was history and the current agenda item was about the Annual Return which the Clerk could only sign it if she considered it legal and proper.
It was suggested it could be minuted that the Clerk had been instructed to sign the Annual Return, but the Clerk pointed out that minutes are frequently altered by the Council prior to approval. The RFO read out the question again and a ‘Yes’ answer was entered in the response box. It was alleged that the Clerk was refusing to sign the document, but she stated that she had never refused to sign it and would be happy to sign as long as it was answered correctly. The RFO suggested that the Council obtain legal advice and the Clerk reiterated that she would seek advice regarding the signing of the document. The Clerk stated she would not be accused of breaking the Law, to which the Vice-Chairman responded by stating that she had been breaking the Law by having an allotment for seven years. At this point he agreed that the Council should answer the question ‘No’ because it couldn’t safeguard its funds for so long. A Member suggested a Special Meeting to approve the minutes and stated that the Clerk always tries to be awkward. The Clerk stated again that she would have to seek advice.
The RFO continued reading out the Annual Return questions. In relation to Question 4 a Member enquired whether the Council was required to send out a newsletter every year. The Clerk confirmed that the Annual Report was a requirement. The RFO advised that the Annual Accounts are put on the notice board and electors can request a copy.
In relation to Question 5 the Clerk advised that no risk assessments had been carried out, and the RFO confirmed that the Council did need to do a risk assessment. It was alleged that the Clerk had not advised the Council that risk assessments were required, but she had indeed done so and it had been minuted some time ago. The Clerk was asked to produce the relevant minutes. Despite the Officers’ advice, a ‘Yes’ answer was entered in the response box by the RFO and she continued to the next question.
In relation to Question 8 the RFO advised that she had made a couple of accruals in the accounts to allow for some expenses that hadn’t been covered. These had been reviewed by the internal auditor.
The Clerk was accused of being biased and giving her personal opinion. She pointed out that she doesn’t write the Law of the Land but just follows it. She had spent thirteen years studying the Local Government Act, and yet when she offered advice the Council did not believe her. The Chairman stated that the Clerk was paid ‘over the top’ and the Council was not asking for her advice.
The Clerk again stated that she would sign the Annual Return once she had sought the necessary advice.
A Member suggested that a letter should be submitted stating that the Council was dissatisfied with the behaviour of the Clerk and that she was hindering the Council and accusing it of fraud. The Clerk was accused of giving conflicting advice, to which the Clerk responded that the Council never gets conflicting advice from her as it is always the same. The Clerk was also accused of failing to provide evidence that the agreement for lease had been signed. A copy of the minutes approving the content and signing of all the leases and the agreement for lease was produced, as had been requested by the Chairman.
A motion of no faith in the Clerk was proposed and agreed by the majority Members on the grounds that she was accusing the Council without evidence and that by not signing the Annual Return was putting the Council in disrepute. The Clerk responded that she had not accused the Council of anything. A Member pointed out that it didn’t matter whether a vote of no confidence was recorded against the Clerk as votes of no confidence were recorded against Members, not Clerks.
It was agreed that this staff matter should not be further discussed in public and that the Council and Clerk would seek advice. The Vice-Chairman further accused the Clerk of refusing to attend a meeting with the Chairman last year. The Clerk strongly refuted this since she had never been invited to such a meeting, and asked why he was telling lies. At this point the Chairman moved on to the next agenda item.
RESOLVED: That the recommendations of the F&GP Committee and the Annual Accounts for year ending March 2014 be approved, and that the Annual Return be submitted to the auditor once the Clerk had obtained the required formal advice.
RESOLVED: That the authorised signatories in the current Mandate for NatWest Account No. 10223657 be changed by removing former Councillor David Davies together with Councillors Robert Aldridge, Carl Egan, and Shabana Zeib, and by adding Councillors Trevor Allen and Sandra Malik, and the current Mandate will continue as amended.
35. PUBLIC QUESTION TIME
A member of the public enquired about the potential nuisance/hazards that could be caused by heavy vehicles travelling to and from the approved mineral extraction site. The planning conditions would be checked by Borough Councillor Dar, who would email the resident with his findings.
36. POLICE LIAISON
There were no police officers in attendance.
37. INFORMATION REPORTS - MEMBERS & BOROUGH COUNCILLORS
The following items were reported/discussed:
· A further meeting had recently taken place in relation to hospital parking issues, but this had only been attended by junior officers.
· It was noted that WCPC no longer received fortnightly planning lists despite being a statutory consultee. Members would make further enquiries with a view to obtaining the lists.
· A Members’ attendance record was required from the Clerk for completion of an annual report/newsletter, and the relevant period would be confirmed.
· The benches outside Kola Court had now been installed and the elderly residents had passed on their thanks.
· A plan had been prepared by SBC for the verge works that were to be part-funded and the sum of £20K had been agreed. This would include a combination of road widening and grasscrete, the details of which would be further discussed.
· It had now been confirmed that SBC would cut back the overgrown trees bordering the allotment site.
· The Wexham Lea Ward Councillors were congratulated on their re-election.
· Enquiries were being made regarding parking arrangements outside the home of a disabled resident.
· Incidents of rubbish/furniture being dumped were ongoing and were being reported.
· Green waste bins had been requested for use at the Parish Hall.
· Some derelict garages at the Edmunds Way site were being removed and a height restriction bar had been requested at the entrance.
· Use of the hall and grounds for organised weekly sports activities in association with the Sports Council was discussed and would be further considered at a later date.
38. FINANCIAL REPORT
No Financial Statement was submitted at this meeting due to the year-end arrangements taking priority. The RFO advised that the annual insurance premium of £3,607.81 was due. This was within budget and was therefore approved.
RESOLVED: That authority be given for cheques to be signed to a maximum of 25.
39. RISK ASSESSMENT AND ASBESTOS CHECKS
This item was passed to the Health & Safety Working Group for further discussion.
There was now only one vacant plot remaining at the allotment site. The plot was in poor condition and it was suggested that a period of free rent could be offered to attract a tenant. It was noted that a plan of the site would be useful and the number of poles per plot was discussed.
41. COMMUNITY HUB
A Working Group was appointed to further discuss this matter consisting of Councillors Allen, Egan, Gahir, Raja, Sohal and Zeib. The group would meet at the Parish Hall on Wednesday, 25th June at 7pm.
42. SANTANDER BANK ACCOUNT
This matter had already been discussed at the F&GP Committee meeting.
43. BOWLS CLUB
The RFO provided an update regarding the Bowls Club rent and this was discussed. The possibility of legal action and/or eviction was considered. The RFO advised caution before entering into the legal process.
The Clerk was accused of not declaring an interest in relation to the club sub-lease. It was pointed out that the Clerk had no involvement in club affairs and Officers were not required to declare interests. It was alleged by the Chairman that the signing of the sub-lease by Henry Egan as Chairman of the club, Dave Davies as Chairman of the Council, and Dianne Egan as Clerk was “dodgy”. It was also suggested that the sub-lease should be renegotiated as the club does not serve the community and deprives the Parish of income. The RFO would arrange a meeting with the club, from which the Clerk would be excluded.
44. APPROVAL OF HMG LOAN APPLICATION
A preliminary discussion had taken place at a recent Finance & General Purpose Committee meeting, where a loan of £100,000 had been proposed to be repaid over 5-10 years, and the approval of Full Council was sought to submit an application to NALC and the Secretary of State. The RFO, Clerk, and a Member clarified the requirements in accordance with the official guidance that had been distributed to the Members/Officers. The RFO advised that in order to obtain an overdraft or temporary loan no approval was required. The Clerk disputed this and stated that a temporary loan could only be obtained pending the approval, and that a formal report must be submitted to Council, and the public must be fully consulted about both the project and the loan. The RFO advised that the public only had to be informed. It was suggested that the Clerk could include something on the website, for which it was alleged that she would claim three hours overtime. It was agreed that an information sheet would be supplied to the Clerk for uploading to the website, and would be distributed to residents.
RESOLVED: That a loan application be submitted by the RFO to NALC and the Secretary of State.
45. REPORT OF THE CLERK
The Clerk reported that she had contacted two Police Officers, by both telephone and email, regarding the vandalism of the tennis court fencing but no response had been received.
Permission had been requested by SBC to carry out a land survey in the Parish amenity field consisting of three bore holes and a pit measuring 3x2x1.5 metres. This was discussed and approved. The Clerk advised that gravel extraction from the field had taken place some decades ago, but it had to be stopped due to subsidence of the nearby houses at the top of the hill.
The meeting closed at 10.15pm.
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