WEXHAM COURT PARISH COUNCIL
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE:
Councillors Peter Gerstmann (abroad), Keith Nunn (studying),
and Shabana Zeib (unwell).
Due to Councillor Zeib’s continued absence the Chairman invited Members to nominate a Vice-Chairman for this meeting. It was agreed that Councillor Davies would temporarily fill the role.
89. APPROVAL OF APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
RESOLVED: That apologies for absence offered in respect of this meeting be approved.
90. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Councillor Davies declared an interest in relation to his full membership of Wexham Bowls Club.
91. MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 13TH DECEMBER 2011
The Minutes of the Meeting of 13th December 2011 were approved as a correct record.
Under matters arising the Clerk reported that the Wexham Bowls Club would like to accept the Council’s contribution towards the replacement joint boundary fencing. However the Club was only able to raise sufficient funds for the actual cost of their contribution, and not the additional VAT. The advice of the Finance Clerk was sought in relation to this. It was agreed that as the fencing was situated on Parish Council Land it would remain our property in the long term and it was therefore proper for the order to be placed by WCPC.
RESOLVED: That the order for replacement boundary fencing on the east side of the Parish Hall be submitted by the Parish Council.
92. POLICE AND COMMUNITY WARDEN LIAISON
PCSO Barnaby Skinner reported that bollards had recently been installed at the Wexham Post Office roundabout to improve the parking issues in that area. He asked whether this had caused any obvious increase in hospital vehicles parking on the estate. The Chairman and Councillor Davies commented that the roundabout area was much better, although it was felt that this had some impact on Norway Drive. Complaints were also being received in relation to parking on the Wexham Road service road.
Councillor Sohal advised that the unapproved car park opposite the hospital would be closing in May/June following enforcement procedures by the County Council. Councillor Gahir suggested that the Parish Council should object to the closure of this car park since it would result in a further 300 vehicles parking on nearby roads. He also felt that more people should be encouraged to use public transport and SBC should be trying to resolve the issues that had been created by the cutbacks in bus services.
Councillor Davies stated that the parked traffic was now spreading further south along the Wexham Road verge, causing the verges and the road to become very muddy and dangerous. He reminded Members that the Clerk had sent out an email asking all Councillors to write to the County Council protesting against the car park closure, and he had done so. He felt that multiple objections from Councillors as elected officials may carry more weight in persuading the County Council to cease the enforcement action.
PCSO Skinner continued his report by advising that antisocial behaviour in Wexham Court had improved. A new burglary operation would be taking place during the next four weeks to increase a Police presence in key areas. Problems relating to drugs and vandalism was becoming an increasing issue in the Rochfords Community Centre area.
Members of the public were invited to address the Police Officer and concerns were raised about increasing problems at The Cherries including the missing CCTV at The Cherries and Knolton Way Parade; litter generated by the takeaway shops and thrown from vehicles; dogs in the play area and youths drinking; and speeding cars and motorcycles. Councillor Davies stated that he and Councillor Aldridge had frequently tried to deal with these problems but had found that gathering groups of youths could become violent and abusive and approaching them was a risk. Additional Police patrols were therefore needed to resolve these problems. PCSO Skinner had raised his concerns with Richard Kulaga in relation to the CCTV issue and, as far as he knew, Richard had removed the system following closure of the launderette which housed it.
Members of the public were advised to report every incident to the new 101 Police number so that problems are recorded.
New Community Warden Team Leader Richard Palacio introduced himself and advised that his team had been patrolling the area. He commented that he had received some emails from the Clerk objecting to the team re-shuffle and the loss of Dave Lee from Wexham. Councillor Davies stressed that the Clerk had written on behalf of the Parish Council. Wexham Court Estate had previously enjoyed a good Policing Team presence and an excellent working relationship with our original Warden Chris Spencer, but the current lack of visibility of these due to constant re‑shuffles of the teams had resulted in increasing problems. More recently, a good working relationship with Dave Lee had also been formed and it was considered counter-productive to move him from Wexham.
Mr Palacio advised that a more visible Community Warden presence was required in key areas and the placement of team membes had been reviewed to achieve a better balance. Wexham would now be served by a combination of three Wardens – Michelle Hewitt, Linda Corcoran and Ron Dohil – and he considered that we would see the benefits of this arrangement during the coming weeks. Councillor Donachy enquired whether we could have Dave Lee back if this proved not to be the case, but Mr Palacio declined to respond to that question. He was also asked for an assurance that the new officers would be contactable, and confirmed that he would expect a good response from any member of his team.
Councillor Malik commented that Community Wardens were rarely seen around the town but Mr Palacio assured her that visibility was greater in problem areas which attracted the most complaints. The number to call was 01753 875255.
The Clerk requested full contact details for all the Wexham Wardens to distribute to Members.
Community Warden Michelle Hewitt reported that recent actions by the Wardens included graffiti in Sheehy Way that had been cleaned up; dog bins that had been reported to be full had now been emptied; and dog barking issues were being dealt with.
The Chairman thanked the Police and Community Wardens for attending.
93. SBC PRESENTATION ON 2012/13 BUDGET
SBC’s Acting Head of Finance, Emma Foy, was introduced and presented a report relating to the 2012/13 budget consultation. She advised that SBC was required to find £21 million of savings by March 2015, of which £11-12 million had already been achieved. The priority was to protect frontline services such as adult care, education, etc. Restructuring, voluntary redundancy, and general efficiency measures had effected some of the savings. Less office space was now needed and remaining staff were being moved from the closing Town Hall to St Martin’s Place.
In March 2012 a sum of £135 million would have to be borrowed to pay the Government for the social housing in the Borough. This new Government initiative would mean that Councils are permitted to keep all rents received from housing in future, but it was nevertheless a huge sum to have to pay.
This year’s budget would include a pot of £2 million to be made available to the Ward Councillors. This would be community investment money for use in their own wards. Members suggested that this could be used for verge protection measures, and also for installation of the alleyway barriers that had recently been requested.
A balanced budget had now been set up to 2015/16. Eurozone issues could reduce Central Government funding so the budget could not be predicted beyond that.
Ms Foy provided some handouts containing further information, and stated that she would be happy to attend a future meeting should the Parish Council request it. She was thanked for her informative and interesting report.
94. INFORMATION REPORTS - MEMBERS & BOROUGH COUNCILLORS
Councillor Dar reported that some of the trees planted alongside the boundary with Wexham Lodge had died and the planting scheme would be looked at again in the Spring.
In relation to enquiries made about 9 The Frithe, a building regulations application had been submitted and approved, stating that no changes had been made to the inside structure. Councillor Davies and the Clerk were shocked by this and stated that the inside of the property had actually been gutted. In addition the whole garden had been concreted and SBC needed to deal with this breach of regulations. Photographs had been sent to SBC and Councillor Davies would forward these to the Ward Councillors. Councillor Dar advised that a Certificate of Completion had already been issued on the 2nd February and he was told that people are living in the property. Councillor Sohal suggested that the Parish Council write to the planning officer direct, but the Clerk pointed out that this matter had been passed to the Ward Councillors to deal with.
Councillor Dar had also followed up the enquiry regarding use of the garage site in The Frithe by the temple. There was nothing in writing to confirm this. Councillor Davies advised that James Swindlehurst had confirmed that the temple could use the site during a walkabout.
Councillor Sohal reported that an estate walkabout of SBC Members & Officers would be taking place on 27th March, 9:30-10:30. He asked Parish Members to raise any queries with him in advance so that he could arrange for the relevant Officers to attend. The results of the parking restrictions consultation at Upton Lea and The Frithe had not yet been finalised. The final report of the Boundaries Commission was due in May. Following the closure of the Town Hall the formal opening of the new Mayor’s parlour would be taking place on Friday at 12:30.
Councillor Vyas reported that Megan was now back from leave and the consultation relating to funding for play facilities in Wexham would be taking place soon.
Councillor Hussain reported that a serious accident had occurred at the new Shaggy Calf Lane roundabout because drivers were not seeing the new road markings. The Chairman suggested that the centre of the roundabout could be raised to make it more prominent.
Councillor Malik advised that she had noticed the houses at the far end of Norway Drive were very untidy. She was asked to report this to Richard Palacio so that it could be dealt with by Environmental Health.
Councillor Gahir had attended a recent meeting arranged by Wexham Parish Council. He was advised that the Wexham Park NHS Trust were contributing funds to the bus company for the hospital bus service and this money was raised from car parking income. He had also visited the Probation Team at the allotment site in January, and confirmed that the derelict property at 192 Knolton Way had been boarded up again. The Clerk thanked Councillor Gahir for liaising with the Probation Team, and reminded Councillor Hussain that he and Councillor Zeib had also committed to doing so when the team visits on the second Thursday of each month.
Councillor Davies reported an incident with youths on the tennis courts in December. He had also been dealing with youths causing issues in The Cherries, and various car parking issues.
The Chairman reported that he had carried out regular estate inspections on foot or bicycle but no problems had recently come to light. He had spent some time at the allotment site following the last Probation Team visit. Some of the waste from the clearance project had been stacked and burned and he recorded his thanks to Chris and Henry Egan, Shirley Moore, Dave Davies and the Clerk for their help with this. A lady whose garden adjoins the plot expressed her appreciation that the untidy overgrowth was being cleared.
95. FINANCIAL REPORT
The Finance Clerk submitted the Financial Statements for the 1st to 30th November and 1st to 31st December and invited questions from Members.
Attendance at the BALC finance training event had proved very interesting and had raised several items for discussion at the next F&GP meeting. NALC would also be introducing a guide to internet banking and the Finance Clerk would advise Members accordingly once this was available.
An update was provided in relation to refuse collection costs and it was decided to maintain the contract with SITA who had offered a competitive quote.
RESOLVED: That the Finance Statements for November & December 2011 be approved, and authority be given for twenty-five cheques to be signed.
96. REPORT OF THE CLERK AND PLANNING MATTERS
The Clerk had circulated updates to Members regarding recent planning applications and objections had been submitted in relation to 13 The Cherries and 2 The Link.
Members were advised that the annual Wexham Community Fair, organised by St. Mary’s Church, would be taking place on 5th May 1-3pm. The Parish Council had been invited to attend the event or run a stall, thus improving visibility in the community.
The new front fencing had now been completed, and the flooring renovation would be commencing next Wednesday. The Clerk also reported that the large old cedar tree that stood on the new piece of Parish Land had been brought down by the recent high winds. She had included a page on the website showing photos of the tree before and after the event.
Members were asked to assist an elderly resident in Knolton Way who had overhanging trees from a neighbouring garden cutting out the light to her home. The Clerk had written to the Housing Officer to try and get this dealt with, but had been advised that SBC could do nothing because the offending address was private. Mrs Smith had a right to cut off any growth overhanging her garden, but was unable to do so herself. The Chairman and Councillor Vyas offered to visit Mrs Smith to assess what could be done.
97. CONSIDERATION OF PURCHASE OF CHAINSAW
The Chairman proposed the purchase of a chainsaw for use by Councillors when assisting residents with overgrowth in their gardens and also for use at the allotment site. However, this was not considered advisable due to the Health & Safety risks involved and the additional insurance that would be required for Members to use it.
98. ATTENDANCE AT NALC CONFERENCE 2012
The Clerk had been advised that the Annual NALC Conference would consist of a single day in London again. Councillors Davies and Vyas had attended last year’s conference and considered that one day was insufficient since it did not provide time for the valuable social interaction with other Parish Councils that had previously been enjoyed at the weekend events. Councillor Donachy indicated that he would still consider attending since he had never done so. The Clerk would circulate details to all Members and would make the necessary reservations if required.
99. UPDATE RE AGREEMENT FOR LEASE AND AWAITED CLEARANCE OF PARISH LAND
The Clerk reported that our solicitor had requested an update and further instructions. The options to be considered were as follows:
a) Continue trying to progress the clearance and Lease completion, bearing in mind the associated legal costs involved,
b) Cease actively pursuing the Borough Council on the grounds that the public already has access to the land for nature-watching/dog-walking and there is currently no expense to the Parish in managing the land.
It was suggested and agreed that the Clerk should continue to send emails to SBC on a regular basis requesting an update. This would provide a paper-trail as evidence that we were continuing to follow up the Lease completion, whilst not actively pursuing the matter and incurring minimal costs.
Councillor Sohal had been advised by the SBC Legal Department that they had plans for the land and the Agreement for Lease had not been signed. Councillor Davies and the Clerk responded strongly to this suggestion, stating that it had indeed been agreed and signed following a very long period of negotiations and was therefore a legally binding deed. Councillor Davies stated, “if SBC think they can get away with that then they will have a fight on their hands”! The Clerk would contact the solicitor to seek her further advice, and obtain a copy of the signed document for the Members to view.
100. CONSIDERATION OF FUNDING FOR GRASSCRETE AT DORNELS
The Clerk advised that budgetary funding would be available from April 2012 to arrange the grasscrete installation at Dornels. However, the general view was that SBC should contribute to verge protection measures rather than all the money coming out of the Parish purse. There were several other areas on the estate that would also benefit from grasscrete, and more signs also needed to be installed to prevent verge parking, but the Dornels project would eat up most of the budget if the Parish Council footed the full cost of £8,926.
Councillor Gahir suggested that the new £2 million SBC budget being made available to Ward Councillors could be used for verge protection. It was noted that the £2 million would be shared between the 14 wards, but this would nevertheless provide a substantial amount of money for local use. Councillor Davies also advised that James Swindlehurst had previously confirmed that part-funding would be made available, and Councillor Vyas would continue to follow up this possibility. Councillor Malik also offered to discuss the matter with Councillor Swindlehurst.
The Ward Councillors were asked to provide a list of proposed spending once the Community Investment budget was made available to them.
101. REVIEW OF NEWSLETTER COMMITTEE MEMBERS/PREPARATION OF 2012 ANNUAL REPORT
The Clerk advised that more Members were needed to join the Newsletter Working Group to assist Councillors Davies & Donachy and the Clerk. The Chairman and Councillor Gahir volunteered. Preparations for the next Annual Report would be underway soon and the Clerk would arrange a date for an initial meeting of the Working Group to discuss the content.
RESOLVED: That Councillors Egan and Gahir join the Newsletter Working Group.
102. PUBLIC QUESTION TIME
There were no public questions.
Part I of the Meeting closed at 10.00 p.m. and it was Resolved that, in view of the 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.
A Part II meeting took place to address concerns about the lack of communication by some Members, and also to discuss the need for an active Vice-Chairman to offer the necessary support since Councillor Zeib had not been in attendance at several meetings.
RESOLVED: That Councillor Sandra Malik be elected Vice-Chairman for the remainder of the Municipal Year.
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