WEXHAM COURT PARISH COUNCIL
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE:
Councillors Robert Aldridge (working), Pauline Cordery (working),
Bryan Corps (unwell).
Borough Councillor Latif Khan.
67. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Councillor MacIsaac declared his position as a Wexham School Governor.
68. MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 11TH NOVEMBER 2008
The Minutes of the Meeting of 11th November 2008 were approved as a correct record. There were no matters arising.
69. MINUTES OF THE FINANCE & GENERAL PURPOSE COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON 27TH NOVEMBER 2008
The Budget and Precept figures for 2009/10 were discussed and an amendment was made to include the sum of £10K from the building fund for renovation of the Parish Hall toilets. It was noted that Members who had elderly relatives in Wexham would need to declare an interest in regard to the budget item included for senior citizens. The Council would decide how these funds were to be utilised at a later date. The Minutes of the F&GP Meeting of 27th November 2008, together with the Budget and Precept, were subsequently approved and the Finance Clerk was thanked for her work in preparing the budget.
70. POLICE AND COMMUNITY WARDEN LIAISON
The Policing Team were unable to attend this meeting. Community Wardens Sadie Broadbridge and Irene King were introduced and invited to address the Council. They explained that a team of four Wardens cover the area between Central Slough and Colnbrook and this keeps them all very busy. Sadie was currently covering the Wexham and Central areas and it was confirmed that she would be spending an appropriate amount of time dealing with local matters. The Chairman offered assistance on behalf of the Parish Council, including arranging regular estate walkabouts. Email addresses had been exchanged and the Wardens were asked to exchange feedback via the Clerk on any issues around the estate.
71. INFORMATION RELATING TO HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPANCY
The Chairman introduced Manju Dhar, who explained that she manages the private sector housing section at Slough Borough Council. The Borough Councilís aim was to bring housing up the required standard and a team was dealing with aid and adaptation services. The team would ensure that all privately rented properties were in compliance with the regulations (i.e. general state of repair, energy efficiency, and checking that there are adequate facilities for the number of people sharing a house), and this would include the licensing of properties in multiple occupancy. The standards for 3-storey and also 2-storey houses in multiple occupancy (HMOís) were currently being reviewed and Fordham Research had been commissioned to carry out a survey. Various data would be collected, including the estimated cost of bringing the homes up to the required standard, and it was estimated that this would go out to public consultation in April/May 2009.
Due to staff shortages there was currently a huge backlog of 2-storey assessments. There were 900 2-storey HMOís identified, 70 of which were in Wexham and 63 of these had already been risk assessed. Only properties of three storeys or more were currently required to be licensed. A team of three people had also dealt with 400 enquiries so far, relating to reported problems with landlords. The Borough Council was trying to recruit new members to the team.
The discussion was opened to the Members and various questions were put to Ms Dhar. She was asked whether the inspectors would liaise with other departments when carrying out assessments of properties and advised that the team does have links with environmental health and planning. Members commented that one particular landlord had been causing repeated problems. However, due to the requirement to give notice of inspections, it was difficult to prove and enforce regulations relating to overcrowding and lack of adequate facilities since tenants could be quickly moved to other properties. The inspection team was trying to obtain a policy agreement with Planning to enable it to tackle cases where large numbers of tenants were known to be sharing a house. It was confirmed that no prosecutions had taken place under the Housing Act so far, although one landlord had been fined £4K during the previous month. The Chairman commented that £4K was insignificant in light of the vast amount such landlords were earning from their multiple tenants.
Information about the location of HMOís was obtained from various sources including the Planning Department, Fire Services, etc. Ms Dhar was advised that there were clearly many more HMOís in Wexham than the 70 that had been identified by SBC. Members were therefore asked to compile a list of known multiple occupancy properties in their respective areas so that the information could be forwarded. Concerns about the noise and environmental impact of such shared properties were also raised and this information could be passed on to the team. Upon completion of the survey, the report would include information on the standard of houses in Slough together with disability requirements, energy efficiency, overcrowding issues, etc.
A member of the public residing next to an HMO (which currently had fifteen tenants in the house and shed) raised her concerns about recent problems including sewage and vermin issues, and lack of health and safety measures during building works. Despite having reported several problems to SBC no action had been taken. She stressed that she had no problem with the tenantsí behaviour, but felt sorry for them having to live in such poor conditions. Ms Dhar confirmed that her team were trying to deal with such issues and she would report this case to the Planning Department.
The Chairman explained to Ms Dhar that a pattern had been emerging in Wexham for some time and that many end of terrace properties were being bought and extended for the sole purpose of multiple occupancy.
Ms Dhar was thanked for attending and was asked to keep the Parish Council informed of any progress by her team.
72. INFORMATION REPORTS - MEMBERS & BOROUGH COUNCILLORS
Councillor MacIsaac reported the following:
∑ Rubbish and noise issues were being dealt with at 101 Quinbrookes.
∑ He would be accompanying Borough Councillor Swindlehurst on an estate walkabout on the 18th December.
∑ The Borough Council would need to make various cuts in services due to a shortfall in the 2009/10 budget. It had been suggested that it may be possible to share some services with other Councils, i.e. human resources, payroll, legal services. However, it had been noted that a key Councillor had an interest in one of the service companies and this would be closely monitored.
Councillor Donachy enquired about the delayed replacement of the missing dog bins. The Clerk was continuing to chase this up.
Councillor Haines clarified that the forthcoming reports relating to HMOís had been instigated by the BILLD Group prior to Labour regaining control. He also pointed out that the current Administration were making decisions outside of the scrutiny process, which had been politicised and was thus being controlled by the Labour Group. Half a million pounds of the budget had been allocated for the Labour Groupís manifesto commitments and this had contributed to the budget falling short.
Councillor Vyas felt that it was important to get a Parish Plan underway and Councillor Haines agreed that this would give us additional weight as a Local Authority and would enable us to better protect our estate. Paul Stimpson had already offered to assist us in preparing the Parish Plan and BALC could also be contacted. Councillors Davies, Haines, Vyas and MacIsaac offered to form a Working Group in the New Year to deal with this.
The Chairman had been very busy in recent weeks, and he had also needed to devote much of his time dealing with the health problems of a close family member. He was continuing to try and deal with the issue of parking on verges, particularly at school times, and was often subjected to verbal abuse by irresponsible drivers. He had recently attended a meeting at St Ethelbertís School to discuss the problem, but they were not very helpful. He suggested that more Councillors needed to get involved, backed up by the local Police, if there was to be any hope of resolving this problem. In addition to the school-run parking issues, there were ongoing problems with the new access road outside numbers 58-68 Norway Drive. People were continuing to drive over the grassed area and a response from Highways was awaited in relation to this.
Discussions with Wexham School were ongoing in relation to hiring their facilities for local youth activities, but progress was slow.
73. FINANCIAL REPORT
The 2007/08 financial year had now been completed and the accounts were returned OK by the auditor. Further interest had been received for the Alliance & Leicester savings account, and an appropriate transfer to the current account had been arranged to keep it ticking over pending receipt of the next Precept payment.
The Finance Clerk submitted the Financial Statement for the 1st to 31st October and invited questions from Members.
RESOLVED: That the Finance Statement for October 2008 be approved, and authority be given for twenty-five cheques to be signed.
74. REPORT OF THE CLERK AND PLANNING MATTERS
The Clerk had previously circulated updates to Members regarding recent planning applications and various items were discussed. The result of an objection to a large development at Farm Crescent was still awaited, but a similar development at Bell Close had been refused.
A letter had been received from SBC requesting attendance at our January meeting to discuss their budget. As the Parish Council was in recess in January, the Clerk asked whether Members would like to attend a Special Meeting for this purpose. It was agreed that the Clerk would enquire with SBC whether they could attend the February meeting and would update Members by email.
The Clerk reminded all Members that the Fundraising Event would be taking place on Friday and all raffle ticket stubs would need to be returned to her beforehand. Donations of prizes had been received from Tefal, Black & Decker, Sainsburys, and Sara Lee.
75. CONSIDERATION OF FUNDING REQUEST FROM THE YA-RAH ASSOCIATION
The Chairman clarified the proposal to fund the purchase of equipment for youth activities organised by Ya-Rah. Karate classes would be commencing in the New Year and dance and boxing classes would be arranged as soon as possible. The total funding request for all activities was £7K and the Chairman asked the Council to consider what proportion of that total should be granted. Receipts would be required for our records and all equipment purchased would remain the property of the Parish Council. Copies of documents relating to insurance and personal injury would be required, together with proof of the credentials of instructors. Furthermore, the Council needed an assurance that all attendees at the activities would be fully supervised. A review of the arrangements would take place after six months to ensure that needs were being met from both sides. The Clerk would prepare a letter to Ya‑Rah detailing the Councilís requirements.
A response was still awaited from Wexham School re the use of their MUGA court and cricket pitch. Councillor Haines pointed out that the school had made a commitment to offer free use of their facilities when they applied for Sports College status. The Ya-Rah Association were currently being given free use of the facilities on Sundays.
A Member raised his concerns that the current Ya-Rah Committee was not multi‑cultural and therefore asked that additional committee members be put in place to resolve this, thereby ensuring that no bias is perceived by the members of the public who would be funding the activities out of the Parish funds. The Chairman commented that he previously had similar concerns but that, having watched some of the activities that had taken place so far, he was most impressed and was confident that there was a good mix of youths attending the events. Yasir Museud also reassured the Members that the main purpose of Ya-Rah is to prevent antisocial behaviour for the benefit of the whole community, and that anybody is welcome to come on board and join the committee. The Association was also working closely with the local Police and the NAG.
It was proposed and seconded that the full £7K be granted and that use of the Parish Hall for the karate, dance, and boxing classes be approved at the Concessionary Rate, a cheque to be raised for purchase of the relevant equipment prior to each activity commencing. The karate and dance classes were approved unanimously, and the boxing classes were approved with one abstention due to a Memberís reservations about the inherently violent nature of boxing.
RESOLVED: That the sum of £7K be approved for the purchase of equipment relating to youth activities as outlined in the proposal breakdown from Ya-Rah dated 26th October Ď08, subject to the written requirements of the Parish Council being met.
76. CONSIDERATION OF PROPOSED HIRE OF SCHOOL FACILITIES
This item was deferred pending further information being received.
77. PUBLIC QUESTION TIME
None of the members of the public had any further items to raise.
Part I of the Meeting closed at 9.30pm and it was Resolved that, in view of the confidential nature of the business about to be transacted, it was advisable in the public interest that the Press and Public be temporarily excluded, and they were instructed to withdraw.
78. ANNUAL CHRISTMAS GIFT TO STAFF
Following discussion of this item, in the absence of the Council's employees, it was resolved that the Clerk arrange for vouchers to the value of £50 to be given to all staff for Christmas 2008.
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