|PART 1 - PUBLIC
|RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 13 June 2013 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.
Chief Inspector Kirby, Borough Commander for Tonbridge and Malling, reported on the introduction of Police Contact Points. These were a fleet of marked vehicles intended to boost rural policing, improve visual community engagement and make it easier for residents to access the services they needed.
The vehicles would be used Wednesday to Sunday to provide contact points at three locations per day. Details of the routes and timings were available on the Kent Police website and would be tweeted by PSCOs via twitter accounts daily. Each visit would last one hour before moving to the next contact point area.
Members were advised that Police Contact Points would offer local engagement, visibility, advice and signposting. Current locations, based on anticipated need, were set out and it was reiterated that these were additional to existing police surgeries and all other existing methods of contacting Kent Police. However, locations were subject to review based on the numbers of people attending and feedback from communities. It was anticipated that the review would take place in October and input from parishes was invited and welcomed.
Wrotham Parish Council referred to cross boundary arrangements for police contact points. Although they were happy to liaise/share with neighbouring communities they were disappointed that Wrotham had not been selected as a location for a contact point and hoped this would be reconsidered during the review.
In response to questions raised by Members, Chief Inspector Kirby advised that costs regarding police contact points were minimal and based around PCSOs' regular shifts; reassured Members that confidentiality would be retained with measures to prevent members of the public overhearing conversations in place; promotion to residents without access to the internet involved posters, advertising in parish council magazines and word of mouth and reassured that crime prevention advice/signposting would be undertaken at these contact points.
Kings Hill Parish Council commented on the poor publicity of the initiative and advised that they had provided the Police and Crime Commissioner with a list of appropriate contacts and website links relevant to the local community. The other parish councils were encouraged to adopt the same approach. To assist with promotion of the initiative, the Chief Executive indicated that an article signposting to the Kent Police website and relevant publications could be placed in Here and Now.
In response to concerns raised by Leybourne Parish Council, it was confirmed that PCSOs could and should be recording all crimes.
Chief Inspector Kirby was asked to clarify locations, times and days of the contact points before this information was circulated with the minutes. In addition, the Chairman asked that an update on this initiative be provided at the next meeting of the Parish Partnership Panel following the October review.
Finally, the Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration (Councillor Balcombe) on behalf of Aylesford Parish Council thanked Kent Police, local Borough Councillors and officers for the quick action, advice and assistance in dealing with an unauthorised incursion onto Podkin Meadow in Aylesford over the recent weekend.
[NB: Subsequent to the meeting and in response to a query raised by the representative from Hadlow, Chief Inspector Kirby advised that the three hour gap identified regarding the timings of the mobile contact point was the same for all of the dates and venues. In summary, it catered for a one hour refreshment break for staff, in addition to the travelling and set up times that were factored in during the earlier slots. The remaining hour was the engagement 'slot' itself.]
Future funding of Section 136 payments for parishes
|It was suggested and agreed that this issue, raised by the Kent Association of Local Councils, be addressed under the Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Services Update which would provide a detailed budget position.
The cost of parish elections
In response to a question raised by the Kent Association of Local Councils, the joint report of the Chief Executive and the Director of Finance and Transformation provided an explanation of the costs for parish elections. The report set out the possible variations and why there had been noticeable increases in some areas.
The Panel noted that neither Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council nor the Returning Officer made a profit from elections. Members also commented that the change in way people could now vote had created greater costs.
Leybourne Parish Council referred to several bye-elections held in Leybourne during the last year and queried whether 10 signatures was an appropriate mechanism on which to call a bye-election. For this reason Leybourne Parish Council had put a motion to the Kent Association of Local Councils suggesting that 10% of the local population should be the bye-election trigger. The Chairman of the Kent Association of Local Councils advised that the motion had been received and noted and would be passed to the National Association of Local Councils to address in due course.
Parish Caretaker Scheme
The Chairman advised that a Working Group would be established to review the practicalities of creating a Parish Caretaker Scheme, with borough, county and parish representation. The Cabinet Member for Finance, Innovation and Property (Councillor Coffin) had been invited to chair the Group.
The Kent Association of Local Councils, in response to an invitation to nominate parish councils to participate, advised that two parish members had been identified and it was hoped that the third could be confirmed as soon as possible. It was hoped to provide a balanced approach to the parish membership.
Tonbridge and Malling Local Plan
The Director of Planning, Housing and Environmental Health reported that an event to explain the Local Plan process; how and when parish councils could get involved; advise of engagement techniques and provide examples of good practice had been arranged for Thursday 26 September 2013.
All parish councils had been invited to the event but at the present time there had only been six responses. The remaining parishes were encouraged to respond to the invitation and attend the event.
It was also explained that following the event, the Borough Council would be planning meetings with individual parishes to hear their aspirations and concerns.
In response to Kings Hill Parish Council, it was confirmed that any materials relevant to the Local Plan event would be made available to those parishes who could not attend. In addition, consideration would be given to holding an additional event.
The Chairman of the Kent Association of Local Councils offered the use of their facilities for any future events to assist the Borough Council.
Finally, the Chairman encouraged parishes to identify items for business for future Parish Partnership Panel meetings and reiterated that their input was welcomed.
Kent County Council Services Update
The Kent County Council Community Engagement Manager reported significant improvements in Children's social care; advised of the launch of a new Dementia Friendly Communities project and reminded that the deadline for Member Grant funding, for the Local Schemes Grant and Small Community Capital Grant, was Monday 28 October.
Particular reference and attention was given to the County's consultation on proposals for the future of Children's Centres in Kent. This included reducing the number of Centres, linking Centres to reduce management and administrative costs and reducing hours. The consultation ended on 4 October 2013.
Within Tonbridge and Malling it was proposed to close Centres at Hadlow/East Peckham and Larkfield.
The Community Engagement Manager emphasised that although Centres might close, services could still be accessed in other ways and at different Centres. Members were assured that considerable research in communities had been undertaken in an attempt to understand the services and facilities used. In addition, many user groups had been actively engaged with not only to raise awareness of the consultation but the facilities on offer.
Members for Hadlow and East Malling expressed regret at the proposals and queried whether residents would access other available services, particularly in areas where transport links were poor. Concern was also expressed that the withdrawal of these services affected the most vulnerable in the community.
The Chairman confirmed that the Borough Council would submit a response to the consultation and welcomed comments from Members. However, it was important for parish councils to submit their own responses to the consultation as well.
The County Councillor for Malling North commented on the excellent GCSE results in Kent, which were a 4% improvement on last year and were 5% above the national average.
Finally, the Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling referred to the Getting on Board initiative, which promoted better understanding of how democracy worked aimed at people with learning disabilities. The Mayor had been invited to talk about the role of parish, borough and county councils. The next session would look at the role and process of elections.
Local Business Support Initiatives
Members received the report of the Chief Executive which set out a short summary of the new services established to support local businesses. Parish councils were encouraged to publicise these.
It was reported that the Borough Council was keen to engage with local chambers of commerce and other trade associations to explore any issues affecting those centres. The Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration had met with businesses in Snodland and appreciated their frankness and enthusiasm and looked forward to working with them in the future. It was noted that meetings with Borough Green and Martin Square were currently being planned.
The Chairman referred to the report of the Chief Executive 'Unlocking the Potential - Kent and Medway Growth Strategy', tabled at the meeting, which set out the process by which future growth funding was to be distributed via the Local Enterprise Partnerships. It also reported on how West Kent was being invited to influence local decisions on infrastructure and business growth priorities.
Parishes were encouraged to look at the list of infrastructure and business growth priorities for 2013-2031 attached to the report.
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Services Update
The Director of Finance and Transformation was invited to give an update on the Borough Council's financial position and the considerable funding uncertainties being faced following the 2013 Spending Review. It was reported that the 'headline' impact of the Review was that local government would suffer a further 10% cut in Government grant in 2015/16 on top of the 33% it had already faced. In reality, however, the detailed allocations at individual authority level suggested that for the Borough Council, the cut was actually 15% and not the 'headline' 10%. This was a significant reduction in funding, which together with a council tax 'referendum threshold' set at 2% for a further two years (2014/15 and 2015/16) affected the Borough Council's budget modelling.
Reference was also made to curent Government consultations, the outcomes of which also affected the overall financial strategy; in particular, the 'top slicing' of New Homes Bonus (NHB) allocations following Government's announcement that, nationally, £400m of NHB would be allocated directed to Local Enterprise Partnerships. The Director of Finance and Transformation explained that if the £400m was collected by imposing an equal top slice on every council, this would mean that 35% on the NHB allocation would be lost. This particular 'model' was one of the redistribution models put forward in the government's consultation paper; but until the outcome of the consultation was known, it was difficult to assess the absolute impact on the Borough Council's overall finances.
Members were advised that an early reassessment of the Medium Term Financial Strategy indicated that the first savings tranche would need to increase by £200,000 to £1.1m and that this additional pressure should be tackled immediately. This meant that £1.1m of savings now needed to be 'in place' by 1 April 2014.
Whilst this added greater pressure, the Director of Finance and Transformation and the Chief Executive remained confident that, with the measures that the Borough Council had put in place, the first savings tranche was achievable. Members were reminded that the savings tranches for future years remained (currently totalling another £1.9m) and it continued to be imperative to identify efficiency and saving opportunities.
The Borough Council recognised that parish councils were facing similar financial challenges and the Chairman announced proposals to modify the formula for awarding Section 136 payments for 2014/15. Members were reminded that the methodology agreed in 2008 stated that the 'budget for the Scheme of Financial Arrangements with Parish Councils will increase or decrease by the same percentage as the increase/decrease in the Borough Council's Local Government Finance Settlement in the previous financial year'. Were this methodology to be followed again, the budget for the Scheme of Financial Arrangements (s136) would decrease by 10.6%.
In recognition of the financial challenges faced by parish councils, it was proposed that the borough council's 'grant baseline' for the purposes of this calculation be expanded to include both the Local Government Finance Settlement and the New Homes Bonus funding. Adjusting the forumla in this way meant that rather than suffering a decrease of 10.6%, the overall s136 budget would decrease by less than 1%.
It was hoped that this change in methodology would help alleviate some of the budget pressures faced by parishes. Members' approval to this proposal would be sought at the Finance, Innovation and Property Advisory Board on 2 October and Cabinet on 9 October.
The Kent Association of Local Councils welcomed and appreciated the supportive proposal set out and accepted that the Borough Council could not guarantee the reduction for future years.