|PART 1 - PUBLIC
|RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 17 May 2012 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Update on any action identified in the last Minutes.
|There were no actions identified that could not be addressed under the agenda.
Parish Partnership Panel - Agenda Planning
In opening the meeting, Councillor N Heslop introduced himself as the new Leader of the Borough Council and Chairman of the Parish Partnership Panel and paid tribute to Councillor M Worrall, former Leader and Chairman, who had passed away earlier in the year. The Borough Council's commitment to bringing local and parish items further up the meeting agenda was reiterated and Members were urged to respond by the deadlines given.
When planning agendas it was explained that local authorities had a statutory and legal obligation to publish these five clear working days before the date of the meeting. In broader terms a deadline for submission of items well in advance of the meeting was given to enable any external speakers to be invited, clarification of items sought and any reports prepared. It was also noted that comments had been received on the length and balance of past agendas. If items were only submitted on the statutory deadlines for publication there would not be the opportunity to address the issues set out above.
However, the Borough Council understood that some issues might arise closer to the meeting date and, subject to these being notified prior to the statutory publication dates, every effort would be made to accommodate these on the final agenda. Parish councils and the Kent Association of Local Councils (KALC) would be provided with a forward planner' of meeting and deadline dates for information.
The Chairman suggested that a programme of visits by portfolio holders to attend parish council meetings be arranged to encourage full participation and effective community engagement.
Finally, reference was made to areas of concern raised by KALC after the formal publication of the agenda. A paper tabled at the meeting set out written responses from relevant Services within the Borough Council and these were noted by the Panel. The Vice-Chairman of the organisation expressed gratitude for the full answers provided and for the way in which the late items had been addressed.
Parish councils asked that Planning Services continue to explore options for addressing website indexing and breaking down the documents directory. The Chairman of KALC offered to ask other borough and district councils in the County to canvass their parishes' opinion on better ways of organising documents to see if a consistent Kent wide approach was possible. The Cabinet Member for Innovation and Service Delivery acknowledged that there was no immediate or easy solution but offered to revisit this issue with Officers and the Cabinet Member for Planning and Transportation.
Borough Green Parish Council had some outstanding concerns regarding the new Standards regime and these would be clarified with the Chief Solicitor after the meeting. It was also noted that Borough Green Parish Council had signed up to the Tonbridge and Malling Standards regime, subject to a point of clarification from the Chief Solicitor.
Chief Inspector Kirby, Borough Commander for Tonbridge and Malling, reported on a new way of policing in the County and that Kent Police was part way through a four year savings programme. Members were reassured that whilst all areas of cost would be explored to see where savings could be made, front line policing would be protected and the provision of a first class service to communities would continue.
It was reported that where any buildings were under-used, or required significant investment to bring them up to standard, Kent Police would examine whether it was a legitimate use of public funds to continue to maintain them. A recent review of front counters had shown that public contact with the police had drastically changed, with 94% using telephone or electronic means, the cost of maintaining some buildings was very high for the small number of visitors and that some buildings were no longer suitable for operational use.
Particular reference was made to the proposed closures of offices at East Malling and West Malling. It was explained that these buildings did not have the right facilities to be used as an operational base and that maintenance costs were disproportionately high given the level of use. Chief Inspector Kirby emphasised that closing these front counters did not affect the commitment of Kent Police to neighbourhood policing which would continue in East and West Malling. Alternative ways of providing access to police services were being explored and Chief Inspector Kirby advised of ongoing discussions with the Borough Council to potentially co-locate these within the Community Safety Unit based at Kings Hill.
The Panel was reassured that Kent Police, the Borough Council and local Members were keen to find a local solution to retaining local police services. In addition, Kent Police were keen to hear ideas on ways in which they could work together better with parish councils and provide greater visibility in the community.
Finally, a brief overview of the achievements made in performance and in the neighbourhood policing agenda was provided. Members were advised of a 10.4% reduction in all crime in Tonbridge and Malling for the period April - July 2012.
The Chairman thanked Chief Inspector Kirby for his contribution to the meeting and questions were invited.
Snodland Town Council was not convinced that the new policing model worked in terms of local perception and expressed disappointment at the lack of a local police contact and visibility. There had been no local police presence at any of the events held during the summer and no attendance at parish council meetings. In addition, concern was expressed at the lack of advertising for police surgeries, other than on-line, the speed of response and the apparent lack of neighbourhood policing.
Chief Inspector Kirby accepted that not all residents were IT literate and advised that work was continuing on other ways of advertising police services for older and vulnerable people. In addition, it appeared that communication needed to be improved and residents' concerns addressed.
After listening to the concerns voiced by several parish councils regarding neighbourhood policing, promotion of surgeries and lack of police visibility, Chief Inspector Kirby offered to discuss specific issues in more detail outside the meeting.
West Malling Parish Council advised of residents' concerns regarding the proposed closure of the police office in West Malling and expressed disappointment at the lack of consultation regarding changes to local services. These concerns were shared by East Malling Parish Council who also expressed frustration at the lack of police visibility at recent community events and road closures. However, the Parish Council was grateful to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council for trying to provide a new location at Kings Hill. Chief Inspector Kirby reassured Members that these closures did not represent a withdrawal of service just a different operating and delivery model.
The Panel also had concerns regarding the lack of promotion for calling 101 to report non urgent crime. Ditton Parish Council offered to display posters on 101 if these could be provided by Kent Police. Chief Inspector Kirby agreed to send posters to parish councils for them to distribute as appropriate. In addition, it was suggested that parish councils could advertise a range of police information, including local surgery dates, in their parish magazines. The Borough Council offered to promote Kent Police services, particularly surgery information, on their website.
Kent County Councillor for Malling North thanked Kent Police for their work in the community and was impressed with what had been seen of the changes to the policing model. Hildenborough Parish Council also expressed satisfaction with the level of neighbourhood policing.
The Chairman thanked Chief Inspector Kirby for his contribution to the meeting and questions were invited.
Action on Rural Crime
Members received a presentation from Police Constable Laidlaw which set out actions being taken to address wildlife, rural and environmental crime. Wildlife crime covered many areas of the law from disturbing wild birds and bats to the more organised crimes of badger baiting and the international trade in endangered species. These types of crime took place in rural communities and incidents could be reported on 101 or 999 or via the RSPCA. Kent Police worked in partnership with other key agencies to tackle wildlife, rural and environmental crime.
Reference was also made to heritage crime and the impact of nuisance vehicles, such as motorcycles, and anti-social behaviour on areas of significant interest was explained. It was noted that many landowners had ancient monuments and archaeological areas within or near their property which were susceptible to damage or robbery. Suspected theft or criminal damage to a scheduled ancient monument or archaeological site could be reported to Kent Police on 101 or 999.
The Borough Council commended the work undertaken at the Valley of Vision as it was of immense importance to preserve the heritage of the area. Protection was vital for the generations to come.
In response to Ditton Parish Council it was explained that when a call was received, either via 101 or 999, the control room would undertake a risk assessment of the incident to evaluate the type of response that was necessary.
The Chairman thanked Police Constable Laidlaw for his contribution to the meeting and his informative presentation.
NHS Health Network
The Patient Experience Manager of NHS Kent and Medway (Natasha Wright) provided a presentation on the West Kent NHS Health Network. It was explained that the Health Network was a way to ensure inclusion of patients, carers, the public, communities of interest and geography, health and wellbeing boards and local authorities. Membership was open to local people and organisations who wished to receive regular information about developments to local NHS services and who wanted to become more involved in helping shape future services.
The presentation also set out the significant changes in the NHS, explained the closure of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) as the lead commissioning organisations of health services and the introduction of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
Parish councils were encouraged to sign up to involvement with the Health Network as it provided an opportunity to share views on local health care services. An overview of patient participation events was provided.
Particular reference was made to a current joint consultation into mental health services and Members were invited to comment before the deadline of 26 October 2012. It was reported that not everyone in Kent and Medway had access to an equally good hospital service and the proposals set out in the consultation aimed to improve patients' experience of mental health crisis care.
Documents could be viewed at:
The next opportunity to attend an event to discuss the proposals in detail was at 1400-1700 hours on Tuesday 18 September 2012 at the Maidstone Community Centre, Maidstone, ME14 1HH
The Chairman thanked Ms Wright for her contribution to the meeting and copies of the presentation would be circulated with the Minutes and available to view on the website.
Council Tax Reduction Scheme
The changes to Council Tax benefit were summarised by the Revenue and Benefits Manager and the detail of the Council Tax reduction scheme set out.
From April 2013 Council Tax Benefit was to be abolished and replaced with local reduction schemes'. Local authorities were expected to publish draft schemes and consult on them, with local schemes being adopted by 31 January 2013 or face the default scheme. If a local authority did not adopt a scheme the default scheme would operate in its area, which would impose a heavy financial burden on the authority. Local schemes must have regard to vulnerable groups, provide encouragement to work and counter the risk of homelessness. It was noted that pensioner households were fully protected and could not receive less than they currently received.
Particular reference was made to an anticipated 10% funding cut from Government which equated to a potential financial loss in the region of £800,000, the burden of which would fall to the major precepting authorities.
The Borough Council was consulting all current benefit claimants, except pensioners, a selection of council tax payers not claiming benefit and all owners of empty domestic properties and second homes. In addition, local organisations such as Citizens Advice and social landlords, county councillors, parish councils and local Members of Parliament were being consulted on the draft scheme. The consultation ran until 5 October 2012 and there had been a relatively low response rate so far. All Members of the Panel were asked to encourage residents to respond to the consultation questionnaire. A final decision about the design of the scheme would be made by 21 November 2012.
The Director of Finance set out the effect on parish councils of the proposed changes as had been mapped out in the Government's initial proposals. As a result from April 2013, council tax support would be treated as a discount for the calculation of the council tax base in line with other discounts, such as single person discount. Therefore, the council tax base would inevitably reduce. Different areas of the borough, i.e. different parished areas, would be affected differently as some had more benefit claimants than others.
However, following parish councils' concerns over uncertainty of funding, Government had published a new consultation paper at the end of August setting out new recommendations (Localising Support for Council Tax - Council tax base and funding for local precepting authorities: Consultation - published on 28 August).
It was now proposed that parishes' tax bases would not be reduced because of council tax support discounts. This was good news for parish councils but would have implications for the Borough Council and other precepting authorities. Responses to this latest consultation paper were invited by 9 October 2012.
Borough Green Parish Council queried if there would be penalties against second home owners. The Director of Finance advised that within the Borough Council's own consultation, one option being put forward was to remove discounts and benefits from second home owners to enable more funds to be available.
In response to Wrotham Parish Council the Chairman confirmed that two consultations were ongoing as follows: -
- The Borough Council consultation on the draft Local Scheme, including proposals for second home owners, which ended on 5 October 2012
- The Government consultation regarding impact on parish councils which ended on 9 October 2012
It was emphasised that the Borough Council consultation did not take into account the recent Government proposals which were produced too late for the Local Scheme consultation.
West Malling Parish Council suggested that parishes needed to answer consultation questions based on differential effect and impact and asked if data, which had been as illustrations in the powerpoint presentation, could be provided to assist with this consideration. The Director of Finance agreed to provide data to those parish councils that requested it but indicated that it was important to remember that this changed daily.
It was noted that the Borough Council would decide upon its Local Scheme having regard to the responses received through its own consultation on 21 November. Further details of the Local Scheme and consultation responses would be shared at the next meeting of the Parish Partnership Panel on 29 November 2012. It was hoped that further information would also be available from Government at this time in respect of the local precepting authority issue.
Kent County Council Services Update
The Kent County Council Community Engagement Officer reported that Tonbridge and Malling County Councillors welcomed applications for projects under the Small Community Capital Grant & Local Scheme Grants. The deadline for applications was Friday 26 October 2012.
Particular reference was made to the launch of an eight week consultation on the County Council's budget proposals for 2013/14. In the document Framing our Budget' the County Council outlined how it planned to freeze council tax while still delivering excellent services. The consultation ended on Thursday 1 November 2012 and comments were invited. A copy of the document and more information was available on:
www.kent.gov.uk or via James Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org
East Malling Parish Council queried the cost of producing a 30 page consultation document given the budget constraints. The County Councillors at the meeting noted the concerns raised and these would be reported back to County officers.
Following the recent service review and public consultation on waste centre management, operational changes would be implemented from 1 October 2012. The Panel sought clarity on the disposal of asbestos and queried whether it was appropriate for residents given the health and safety issues. It was indicated that Kent County Council felt that low level non commercial removal of asbestos was acceptable. In addition, the County Council had entered into an agreement with retailers, such as Wickes and Travis Perkins, to accept asbestos for onward disposal.
Other points of interest included the following initiatives:
- Kent Jobs for Young People: an apprenticeship scheme looking for participants.
- Kent Lane Rental Scheme: currently out for consultation and ended on Monday 17 September 2012.
- You Decide Public Event: £10,000 available for organisations operating in the Malling Central area to have their proposals voted on by local residents. This event would be held on Saturday 6 October at the Malling School. Deadline for applications was 28 September.
Snodland Town Council and West Malling Parish Council asked whether a new road surface was being trialled by Kent Highway Services and expressed concerns at the quality of the material being used. Kent Highway Services would be invited to address these issues at a future meeting of the Joint Transportation Board.
The Kent County Council Services Update presentation and report would be circulated with the Minutes and available to view on the website.
Kent Highways Parish Portal
In response to an initial enquiry by Kings Hill Parish Council, the Community Engagement Officer from Kent County Council referred to a written statement prepared by Kent Highway Services. This response was tabled at the meeting and would be available on the website in due course.
However, in summary the parish portal was an online service developed by Highways and Transportation for Parishes to access details about faults that had been logged in the area. Full details and instructions on how to use the system were sent to parish clerks last year. There were no current plans to extend the functionality of the system, although work was underway to improve the online reporting tool.
A parish seminar was planned for Monday 8 October 2012 and invitations would be sent to parish councils in the next week or so. This would provide an opportunity to express any concerns and make suggestions for improvements.
Kings Hill Parish Council raised concerns regarding classification issues, querying why Kings Hill was labelled as West Malling, and with jobs being completed. It was requested that these concerns be escalated to a higher level within Kent Highway Services. This request was noted by the Kent County Council Community Engagement Manager.
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Update
The Central Services Director provided an update on recent events and referred to a number of key points of interest. The headline messages included:
The publication of a new Corporate Performance Plan which was available on the website.
A website redesign which aimed to increase functionality for use with planning issues and looking online at listed buildings.
A range of Olympic and Jubilee events over the summer funding by the Community Enhancement Fund.
The Olympic Torch Relay through Borough Green, which had been very successful and the 'splinter' Torch event held at very short notice at Tonbridge Castle.
Further information would be issued in due course regarding the web developments.