|PART 1 - PUBLIC
|RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 29 November 2012 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Update on any action identified in the last Minutes.
The following action was identified from the last Minutes:
- Minute Number: PPP 12/036 - Council Tax Reduction Scheme
The Chairman was pleased to report that the Borough Council had been successful in its representations about the provisional local government finance settlement. This meant that some additional money would be available for parishes as part of the council tax support arrangements and final details would be announced shortly.
Chief Inspector Kirby, Borough Commander for Tonbridge and Malling, provided an overview of the achievements made in performance and the neighbourhood policing agenda. Members were advised of a 1.1% reduction in all crime in Tonbridge and Malling and that the perception of anti-social behaviour at 0.5% was the second lowest in the force. However, it was reported that rowdy or nuisance gathering in public and neighbour disputes were areas to be focused on. In response to Members' concerns regarding this type of anti social behaviour, it was hoped to address these via joint working with Registered Providers of social housing in conjunction with the Community Safety Partnership and the Borough Council.
Leybourne Parish Council, Snodland Town Council and Borough Council Members queried whether it was accurate to record drug paraphernalia under the category of anti social behaviour, how these figures were collated and whether information was available on the police website.
Chief Inspector Kirby acknowledged the point but reassured Members that composite elements of anti social behaviour information was identified and any areas of significant concern highlighted to local PCSOs and parishes.
It was also explained that data was worked out from the number of reports received via the main control centre, although it could not be guaranteed that all incidents were reported. However, Chief Inspector Kirby advised of an improved reaction from Kent Police when incidents of anti social behaviour were reported and residents should be encouraged to contact local officers as soon as possible. Chief Inspector Kirby subsequently confirmed that the national police website discussed in his presentation did provide details of anti-social behaviour incidents that had occurred in a locality specified by the searcher.
Chief Inspector Kirby addressed concerns raised by parish councils at the reduction in frequency of attendance of Local Community Police teams at parish council meetings. The Panel was advised that Police Community Support Officers were expected to visit parish councils weekly to advise what issues needed to be addressed. It was intended that these meetings should be more frequent and informal than attending the parish council meetings. Parishes were asked to raise specific concerns with their local Inspectors who would address them. The Panel welcomed this new face to face approach of meeting with parish councils.
Particular reference was made to the new system of providing crime figures which enabled parish councils to see what crimes happened just outside parish boundaries and empowered parish councils to take what data interested them. It was also reported that, although data was about six weeks behind, combined with e-watch it provided parish councils with autonomy and control of their own information and collation.
Finally, Chief Inspector Kirby was pleased to announce that following the budget setting process the Police and Crime Commissioner intended to recruit additional resource for the County. It was anticipated that there would be 5 to 6 new PSCOs and 3 new PCs for Tonbridge and Malling. It was hoped these would be in post by the summer. Information regarding the allocation of these additional resources would be circulated once known.
In response to a question raised by a Borough Councillor it was confirmed that PCSOs were encouraged to use alternative methods of transport where police vehicles were not available and this sometimes included public transport. However, different options where appropriate would be considered and raised with officers.
East Malling and Larkfield Parish Council made reference to the Redeeming Our Communities initiative set up by the Christian Fellowship. Kings Hill Parish Council offered to share information on the initiative, recently received by them, and this would be circulated with the Minutes.
Criteria for the introduction of cold calling zones
Reference was made to a written response provided by Neighbourhood Watch who were unable to attend the meeting. Hard copies of the statement were tabled and would be circulated with the Minutes when published.
It was noted that representatives from Neighbourhood Watch had been invited to attend the Parish Partnership Panel on 13 June 2013 to provide more detail in person.
Parish Caretaker Scheme
This item was WITHDRAWN from the agenda as Councillor Rivers, Chairman of Wittersham Parish Council, was unable to attend this meeting.
The Panel agreed that, if convenient Councillor Rivers, be invited to attend the Parish Partnership Panel on 13 June 2013.
The formation of a Tonbridge and Malling Locality Board
The Chairman and Leader of the Borough Council set out plans for the formation of a Tonbridge and Malling Locality Board and how to build on the relationship between parishes and the Borough Council. This was intended as a positive approach to developing a future framework.
A key consideration was how to link a Locality Board to the existing arrangements, including the Parish Partnership Panel, and whether there was an opportunity for parish councils to elect one or two representatives.
It was also the intention of the Leader to invite the Kent Association of Local Councils to join the Local Strategic Partnership.
Although the formation of a Joint Standards Committe was making good progress the Chairman was interested in the thoughts of parish councils on further ways of closer working. With this in mind Parish Council chairmen were invited to a reception on Tuesday 19 March 2013 to discuss ideas for improving communication and engagement.
Further thoughts regarding the formation of a Tonbridge and Malling Locality Board would be presented at the next meeting of the Parish Partnership Panel, together with a broader consideration of ideas brought forward from the discussions of 19 March 2013.
Members of the Panel welcomed this approach and in particular the role that parish councils could play. The Panel was aware that many different models of Locality Board existed throughout the County and considered it useful to obtain further details of existing arrangements and what would be appropriate for Tonbridge and Malling. It was confirmed that the Chair would be a district/borough leader and not a County Member.
Wrotham Parish Council suggested that 2 parish representatives and 1 nominated substitute, in case of non availability, be considered for the Locality Board membership to retain flexibility of communication.
Finally, joint working between the Borough Council and all parishes was recognised as a positive way forward and all parishes were encouraged to attend the reception in a genuine spirit of engagement and building relationships.
Kent County Council Services Update
The Kent County Council Community Engagement Manager reported that the Member grant streams for 2012/13 were now complete, with over 60 projects supported in the Borough.
Kent County Council had agreed budget proposals for 2013/14 and there had been significant public feedback to the draft plan. There was no increase in Council Tax for 2013/14, despite a £13m expected grant settlement shortfall. The County Council also remained committed to corporate aims.
It was also reported that the Education Appeals Panel were now recruiting and were looking to widen the demographic of the panel pool. Applicants had to be 18 years and over and the deadline was the end of March 2013.
Other news highlighted included fault reporting for potholes and the launch of the minerals consultation.
East Malling and Larkfield Parish Council queried why the Gallagher quarry was not included on the list of those being consulted on, particularly as it was a controversial site. The Director of Planning, Transport and Leisure advised that the Borough Council would be responding to the consultation via the Planning and Transportation Advisory Board and it was expected that this quarry would be mentioned.
Finally, serious discussion followed on Kent County Council's Streetlighting Strategy, the implications for parish councils, whether there would be a full consultation and opportunity to comment on the proposals once they were announced. The Director of Planning, Transport and Leisure advised that this issue would be revisited at the next meeting of the Joint Transportation Board on 18 March, where it was hoped more details would be available. In addition, Kent County Council had arranged a briefing for Borough Councillors on Monday 4 March 2013.
The Community Engagement Manager was asked to clarify the consultation process regarding streetlighting, including the timetable for responses and what the proposals being consulted on would be. This information would be shared out of the meeting once known.
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Services Update
An update on recent events and other key points relevant to Tonbridge and Malling was provided by the Director of Finance and Transformation and the Director of Planning, Transport and Leisure. The headline messages included:
- Budget 2013/14
It was reported that the Council had agreed a 1.9 percent increase in its share of the council tax. This was an increase of £3.36 per year or less than 30p a month for a Band D property. The decision to make this increase was based on the objective of protecting the services the Borough Council provided for as long as possible, despite the continuing impact of further reductions in grant funding from Government.
The Panel was reminded that the Borough Council continued to face a significant financial challenge and latest projections suggested that further savings of £2.8 million would be needed, with £900K to be found by April 2014.
The Director of Finance and Transformation reiterated that, following a successful submission made by the Borough Council in respect of the provisional local government finance settlement, the allocations for the council tax support scheme had increased. This extra money would be distributed to parish councils as appropriate.
- Welfare Reform:
Members were reminded that, under the national welfare reform agenda, consultation regarding the forthcoming cessation of council tax benefit and the introduction of local schemes for council tax support
had taken place during summer 2012. Residents had been advised recently of any changes affecting their benefit payments and Financial Services had seen a significant increase in telephone calls from worried residents as a result.
The implications of the introduction of the size criteria rules (known in the press as the 'bedroom' tax were outlined and the significant implications for some households was recognised. It was noted that approximately 800 households in the Borough could be affected and certain communities would suffer more than others.
The introduction of the benefit cap had been delayed but was expected to be in place by 30 September 2013. Members were reminded that Universal Credit for new claimants was due to start on 1 October 2013 and would be administered by the DWP. There would also be a transitional period for existing claimants of housing benefit to move over to Universal Credit.
- Social Housing Reform:
There were also changes being made to Social Housing Policy with affordable rents replacing social rent. It was noted that tenants might be paying more rent whilst receiving less housing benefit.
The Housing Allocations Policy was currently being redrafted and registered housing providers would be consulted. The Chairman asked that Housing Services be invited to the next meeting of the Parish Partnership Panel to give a detailed presentation on Social Housing Policy Reform, given the serious concerns raised by Members.
The Chief Executive made particular reference to the need to support the most vulnerable residents and there would be significant impact on local authorities and the voluntary sector. The significant challenges faced by many organisations to offer assistance at times when funding was continuing to be cut was recognised.
- Leisure Services Provision:
As part of a review into leisure provision, new management arrangements had been identified as a way of sustaining quality services. Borough Council Members had agreed to establish a not for profit Leisure Trust to maintain facilities. Work on a management agreement to ensure excellent services were still provided was underway. It was reported that different funding options for charitable trusts could be beneficial.
- Tonbridge Town Centre Regeneration:
The Borough Council had recently announced regeneration plans, working with Sainsbury's, to revitalise the centre of Tonbridge. The proposals were designed to improve trade for the town's retailers, provide a multi-screen cinema and new shops, create jobs and provide a major uplift in the town for the benefit of local residents. A new leisure and community centre would also be provided.
It was hoped that a planning application would be submitted by the summer, with the final development completed by 2016.
Details of the recent press release would be circulated to the parish councils for information.