Minutes: Annual Parish Assembly 2017

      Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held at The Rising Sun on 3rd April 2017

 Present: Councillors Mike Coleman  (Chairman), Cllr. Chris Leaper (Vice Chair) Cllr. Nick Church

District Councillors: Sue Chandler and Mike Conolly and Trevor Bartlett,

Pat Coleman (Clerk).  14 Members of the public.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Apologies received Cllr. Jeffrie

INTRODUCTION BY THE CHAIRMAN

Cllr. Coleman welcomed everyone to the meeting.

 KENT COUNTY COUNCILLOR’S REPORT:-

 Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen

This is my 20th Annual Report, in it I cover a number of areas; Education, Finance and Street Lighting.

Finance and Street Lighting

Kent County Council continues to face unprecedented financial challenges.

  • a reduction of grants from central government means that we are required to make £76m of savings this year.  We have been given no extra funds to cover the rising costs, such as demography and inflation.
  • the greatest pressures for 17/18 are in Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and rising costs for SEN Transport.
  • KCC members approved a 3.99% increase in council tax (1.99% for general services and £2% for the National Social Care Levy). This will raise an additional £24m of funding.
  • A significant proportion of savings will come from efficiencies. This includes savings through better procurement from both the private and voluntary sector and staff reductions.

How much will my council tax bill be going up?

Once again this year the government is allowing Local Authorities to raise Council Tax by up to 2%. However, 2% and over will trigger an expensive referendum. In addition, a social care levy of 6% over the next 3 years is also permitted.  The 6% can be taken in variations as long as no more than 3% is charged in one year.  You may also be aware that in last year’s Spending Review the Government expected that councils would increase council tax in line with inflation and the social care levy in their spending assumptions which led to “flat cash” between 15/16 and 19/20.

KCC will charge a Council Tax of 1.99% plus a Social Care Levy of 2% for 17/18 which will raise around an extra £24m of revenue.

The following table sets out what this means to the amount charged to Kent residents for KCC services (KCC generally represents around 70% of a household’s total council tax bill).

2016/2017       2017-18           2017-18

(Excl Social Care Levy)          (Incl Social Care Levy)

Band A            £755.70           £770.76           £785.88

Band B            £881.65           £899.22           £916.86

Band C            £1,007.60        £1,027.68        £1,047.84

Band D            £1,133.55        £1,156.14        £1,178.82

Band E            £1,385.45        £1,413.06        £1,440.78

Band F             £1,637.35        £1,669.98        £1,702.74

Band G            £1,889.25        £1,926.90        £1,964.70

Band H            £2,267.10        £2,312.28        £2,357.64

Most houses fall into the Band C bracket and the following table shows how the annual amount is split.

Band C Council Tax Service Split      £          %

Adults & Older People’s Services      £424.71           40.53%

Children’s Services     £174.11           16.62%

Community Services  £18.14 1.73%

Highways        £32.64 3.12%

Public Health   £0.00   0.00%

School & High Needs Education Budgets      £0.00   0.00%

Schools’ Services       £3.87   0.37%

Transport Services     £74.07 7.07%

Waste Management   £79.18 7.56%

Other Direct Services to the Public    £23.31 2.22%

Financing Items          £134.40           12.83%

Management Support & Overheads  £83.41 7.96%

Unidentified Savings   £0.00   0.00%

Total    £1,047.84

NB KCC accounts for the largest share of council tax (about 70%) but the total council tax bill includes district/borough councils, Kent Police, Kent Fire and Rescue Service and town/parish council who all set their own rate

Don’t you have to hold a referendum if the rise is 2% or more?

No, that restriction only applies to the Council Tax element and not the Social Care Levy.  The government accepts that councils with social care responsibilities need to raise more funds to address rising spending pressures in social care. These pressures are particularly acute for 2017/18 with nearly £28m of additional spending demands in adult social care.  However as the additional 2% raises approximately £12m we still need to find significant savings to fund the remainder (not to mention offset the loss of Revenue Support Grant which included funding for social care services).

Have we received the Collection Fund balances from all districts?

The Collection Fund is the additional amount of Council Tax collected during the current year over and above the estimated KCC share of the base included in the approved budget.  Both the estimated base and collection fund balances are calculated on our behalf by district councils.  We have received approximately £8m more than we were expecting.  £1.9m will be used to fund additional spending pressures which have arisen since the draft budget was published early in January, we are reducing the highest risk draw down from reserves by £2m, and £4m to general reserves for a rainy day.

Where will you make savings?

We are making more of our services available online which both saves money and allows people to contact us 24/7.  We are making savings through better procurement from both the private and voluntary sector.  Around 300 jobs will be cut (we have already taken out over 2,300 over the last five years).  We have invested £40m in LED streetlights which not only reduce energy and maintenance bills but also provide a more controlled light.  We expect to recover our investment within 7-8 years.

What about the Young Persons Travel Pass (successor to the Freedom Pass)?

Apart from London, Kent is the only area in England with a bus pass for children 11 – 16 years old (in school years 7 – 11).  Each pass (depending on usage) costs KCC around £600 (but we have to reimburse bus companies the normal fare for journeys travelled) but is sold to parents for just £270.    (The charge to parents is reviewed each year and will change in line with bus fares).

The Young Person’s Travel Pass allows free use of scheduled bus routes in Kent from the start of the school year in September to 31 July, from 06 00 – 19 00 Monday to Friday.  Around 25,000 children hold a Young Persons Travel Pass.

The Young Persons Travel Pass is a discretionary service i.e. it is an optional service as opposed to concessionary bus passes for older people which is statutory.

The government says your spending power is the same and you say you have had a reduction.

The government actually acknowledges there will be a dip in funding in 2017-18, before it starts to rise in 2018-19 and fully recovers in 2019-20.  The government’s “spending power” is actually a measure of the amount of funding KCC is likely to receive from the main sources i.e. the central government settlement (which is declining), the annual inflationary uplift in local share of business rates, New Homes Bonus, new improved Better Care Fund (once introduced) and estimated council tax yields including increases in the base (number of properties paying council tax), inflationary increases up the referendum threshold and the 2% social care precept.  It takes no account of rising spending demands, thus in real terms the spending power is reducing.  This is called “flat cash”.  Flat-cash means there is no overall additional funding for rising costs or demand pressures, therefore these have to be compensated by savings and spending reductions.

What is the Revenue Support Grant?

Revenue Support Grant is a central government grant given to local authorities to top up local funding sources and can be used to finance revenue expenditure on any service. The amount of Revenue Support Grant to be provided to authorities is established through the local government finance settlement.

This grant is being phased out ahead of the proposed 100% business rate retention by 2020, with the roll-out to pilot areas in 2017/18.  The following table shows the reduction in RSG up to 2020.  The new 100% business rate retention (we currently retain 50%) will come with new responsibilities and is not a replacement for the loss of RSG.  We will continue to campaign for a fairer redistribution of the existing retention (we have long contended this distribution favours London and metropolitan authorities at the expense of counties) and for a close match between the new functions.

Revenue Support Grant

2016/2017       £111.4m

2017/2018       £66.5m

2018/2019       £37.6m

2019/2020       £9.5m

How much money do we have in our reserves?

As at 31 March 2016, our Statement of Accounts shows usable revenue reserves of £202.2m (£165m earmarked, £37.2m general).

The 2016/17 budget assumed the net use of reserves of £10.5m to balance the budget which, together with the planned use of reserves, would reduce the balance at 31 March 2017 to £169.5m (£132.3m earmarked, £37.2m general).

The draft 2017/18 proposals (as revised in the County Council report) assume a further net draw-down of reserves of £9.3m which, together with the planned use of reserves, would further reduce earmarked reserves to £113.9m in 2017-18.  The proposals also include an additional £4m contribution to general reserves, increasing these to c£41.1m in 2017-18.  The anticipated combined balance in reserves in 2017-18 is £155m.

Why do we need to use our reserves?

We must publish our budget in early January to allow time for councillors to scrutinise and debate it.  We must set our budget by mid-February to give time for the district/borough councils to send out council tax bills in time for the new financial year.  With so little time available we will be using some of our reserves to bridge our budget gap.  These are our earmarked reserves set aside for specific eventualities e.g. payment of PFI school building contracts, replacement of vehicles and equipment, variations in council tax collection due to economic conditions, etc.  We can only use these reserves to support on-going activity once and thus the £9.25m planned to support the 2017-18 budget will need to be replaced at a later date if the activity the reserves support is to carry on.  At some point in the future the reserves will have to be replenished, although at this stage this is not factored into our budget plans.  Using the reserves only postpones the need to make long term savings.

KCC holds a low level of reserves relative to its size compared with our peer group authorities.

What about the money that was with the Icelandic Banks?

KCC had £50m on deposit in various Icelandic Banks and has now recovered this in full plus around £1.5m in interest payments.  KCC is the only council that made a full recovery as other councils sold their rights at less than 100% of value.  KCC had always said that the Icelandic Banks had good assets and that we would work for full recovery.  This has paid off handsomely.

What is happening about street lighting?

The costs of LED lighting have now made it cost effective to switch all KCC’s street lighting to LED which will save energy & maintenance costs, carbon tax and allow more controllable dimming of lights at night and non-peak times.  The switchover has begun and will cover the whole of Kent within two years.  It is estimated that the capital investment will be repaid through the energy and other savings over 7 to 8 year period.  I believe the quality of the light is also much better as it lights the road and pavement rather than the sky!

What about broadband?

KCC has just completed a programme to bring access to broadband to 95% of households in Kent.  If you go to www.kent.gov.uk and search for ‘broadband’ you can use your postcode or phone number to check what broadband services are available in your area.

I get nothing for my council tax (rural areas – no streetlights, pavements etc.)

You get around 300 services for your council tax many of which you only need in an emergency or would only miss if they disappeared.  Your rubbish is recycled or buried/incinerated, children are educated, the elderly and disabled cared for, children protected from harm, a library service either in a building, a mobile or on-line, roads maintained and kept open in bad weather, births, deaths and marriages are registered, coroners courts run, children are fostered or adopted, footpaths kept open and much, much more.  Council tax is not like your weekly shopping bill.  It is a contribution to the local community or, as someone said in one of our resident’s budget workshops, “the price we all pay for living in local civilised society”.

What about my local member grant?

It was agreed at the County Council meeting on 9 February that the Combined Members’ Grant fund will be increased from £20,000 to £22,000 per councillor in 2017/18.  KCC will get some saving from the boundary changes as there are only 81 seats following the May elections.

Education

GCSE

At Key Stage 4 in 2016 there is also an overall positive and improved picture. Provisional results show that Secondary schools in Kent performed well against the new and old headline GCSE performance measures and compared to national averages for state funded schools. Compared with 2015 on the old measures there have been clear improvements in attainment.

In the new Progress 8 measure, which is used to establish the floor standard, progress is judged across eight subjects, including English (double-weighted), mathematics (double-weighted), three English Baccalaureate qualifications and three other qualifications which can include English Baccalaureate subjects and other high value academic, arts and vocational qualifications from the DfE approved list.

Kent state funded schools achieved a Progress 8 score of -0.04 in 2016, which is slightly below the national average of -0.03. DfE provisional figures show that 59 of Kent’s 98 Secondary schools met or achieved above the national average for this measure and of these 31 are Grammar schools.

On the Progress 8 measure, Kent is ranked sixth amongst its statistical neighbours for this measure and 80th out of 151 local authorities nationally.

On the previous measure (the percentage of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSE grades A*-C including English and mathematics) Kent state funded schools achieved 59% in 2016, which is an improvement on last year’s figure of 57% and above the 2016 national average of 57%.

On this old measure, Kent is ranked fifth amongst its statistical neighbours and 54th out of 151 local authorities nationally.

In the new headline Basics measure in 2016, the proportion of pupils in Kent schools achieving grades A*-C in English and mathematics is 63.5% which is 0.7% above the national average and 3.7% above last year’s result of 59.8%. Kent is ranked sixth amongst its statistical neighbours for this measure and 66th out of 151 local authorities nationally.

Improvements have also been made in GCSE A*-C passes for English. The Kent schools success rate in 2016 is 76.0%, compared to 70.4% last year, which is 1.3% above the national average of 74.7%. In mathematics, there is a small increase: this year to 68.0%, compared to 66.6% last year, which is in line with the national average of 68.5%.

Performance in the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) measure has also improved. This year it is 29.5%, rising from 26.5% last year, and 4.9% above the 2016 national figure. Kent is ranked first amongst its statistical neighbours and as 33rd out of 151 local authorities nationally.

Kent Schools

The quality of education in Kent schools has improved year on year since 2011, which is reflected in Ofsted Inspection judgements. The percentage of good and outstanding schools in Kent was 55% in 2011. Overall, the latest Ofsted data (as at December 2016) for Kent shows that 90% of schools are rated good or outstanding. This includes 20.8% of schools judged to be outstanding and 69.2% judged to be good. In Kent, there are now 373 good and 112 outstanding schools, 51 schools requiring improvement (including 38 Primary schools and 12 Secondary schools) and 3 schools in a category, out of a total of 539 schools that have a current inspection result. There are now 23 more good and better schools than at the same time the previous year. We expect this positive trend to continue towards our targets of at least 95% of Primary and 93% of Secondary schools judged to be good or outstanding by 2018.

 

DISTRICT COUNCILLORS’ REPORT

Because of the Kent County Council Elections next month councillors are in the purdah period which means our communications in forums such as this must be confined purely to statements of fact.

In some respects 2016/17 was a fairly ordinary year for DDC.  There were no main local elections – all the big stuff was on the national stage – the bins were emptied most of the time, the streets were cleaned most of the time, council tax was collected, benefits were paid out and we came in on Budget, in fact with a small surplus.  The 2017/18 Budget is virtually balanced and shows only a very small deficit, with a satisfactory level of reserves, although there is much concern about the volatility of business rates and we have had to put in a significant contingency figure to cover valuation appeals.

The regeneration programme has gone ahead.  The DTIZ, or St James development in Dover Town Centre is now at the construction stage, with the hotel and cinema likely to be the first to open.  80% of the retail units are let.  The new Leisure Centre, to be sited at Whitfield where it can serve the District as a whole, is at planning stage.  The main construction company is in place and the choice of operating company will be made in the next few weeks.  We have applied for a Lottery grant for the refurbishment of Dover Town Hall, or Maison Dieu, and the programme to rejuvenate Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens is well advanced.  The regeneration of the Western Heights is stalled because of legal action.  In addition Dover Harbour Board are going ahead with the redevelopment of the Western Docks and we are working with them on the master plan for the waterfront area.  Much work has been done in Sandwich to ease the traffic problems there and this project has seen excellent co-operation between DDC, KCC, Sandwich Town Council and our MP.  We have recently announced that we will be carrying out a review of our Local Plan, which is now several years old.  The cherry on the cake has been the recent announcement by the R&A that the Open Golf Championship will return to Sandwich in 2020.

So there is plenty of good news.

However it takes only a cursory glance at our Medium Term Financial Plan, which is published alongside our annual Budget, to see that there are storm clouds ahead in the financial arena.  Unless something is done we will see a major deficit in 2018/19, with even greater problems in the years following.  As a council we have squeezed the lemon in cost cutting over several years now and there is little scope for further cost savings without damaging front line services.  This is why we have taken the decision to invest in residential and commercial property – a course of action that a number of councils have embarked upon recently in order to increase income.  If successful this will help, but not solve the problem entirely.

Our medium term financial problems are not unique to DDC.  They are shared by many other councils, and certainly by our neighbours in East Kent.  That is why the proposal was developed for a merger of Dover, Canterbury, Shepway and Thanet into a combined authority.  Full unitary status was not on the table at this point.  A financial and economic case was prepared by consultants arranged through the Local Government Association and this demonstrated that significant savings could be achieved.  On March 22nd all four councils voted simultaneously on whether to take these proposals out to consultation and engagement.  Shepway voted against this, so now we have to digest that decision and reflect on what possibilities remain open to us.

In the meantime your councillors will continue with the day job; advising and speaking on planning issues (with some favourable results recently); chasing up missed collections and defective lights and generally acting as a bridge and two-way communications vehicle between the council and individual communities.

Trevor Bartlett

Sue Chandler

Mike Conolly

 

POLICE REPORT

No Report

 

FRIENDS OF STOURMOUTH CHURCH REPORT

Report given by John Whitehead.

It gives me great pleasure to present a really successful year of activities.

In May a Car Treasure Hunt organised by Karen & Peter Mullaney was well supported and gave all participants plenty of challenges.  It was followed by lunch at The Rising Sun.

A Tea Party in June was organised on The Church Path to celebrate the Queens 90th Birthday. Late in  June there was a further Tea Party which was held in the Church, proceeds of which went to the Conservation Trust.

The Quiz night in August was again exceptionally well organised by Janet Atkinson and with all the raffle prizes given this raises good funds.

In September we held our Annual Heritage Open Days – Mr Derek Hougham-Griggs is our resident Art Exhibition expert who is always on hand.  There was memorabilia from World War I & 2, also the Churchwardens book was on display. Also held in September was our Harvest Festival with a wonderful display of flowers, fruit and vegetables.  The produce was given to Age Concern in Sandwich.

In December our very popular Christmas Carols lived up to full expectations and was attended by 180 people. Thanet Festival Choir was the star attraction. This was followed by mince pies, punch and not forgetting Father Christmas with his presents for the children.

Much excitement has been generated by the granting of permission for a house and the relocation of F.H. Browne’s Workshop adjacent to the church.  Steve Bailey was born in our village the custodian of 600 church organs in the South East and he will be using All Saints for some of his activities which will generate more funds for the church.  I might add his house will make a good overflow for the Carol Concert .

On a serious note the Friends Group thank the PC for all their support.  The new burial ground which the PC through the precept maintain is an absolute picture.  I personally would like to thank all of our committee for giving me their support.  A future programme of events is already planned and will shortly be circulated with a subs reminder for members.

Lastly our thanks to the Churches Conservation Trust, under much pressure for funds from Central Government. Coupled with the District Council for doing all the maintenance in the Old Burial Ground.  Villagers of Stourmouth are so lucky to have such support for our Heritage on our doorstep.

 

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT

Welcome

Once again, your parish councillors and the Clerk have had a busy year serving our community.

ROADS

We have requested the cutting back of various overgrown trees/hedges.

We continue to report potholes and other necessary repairs

The replacement advisory lorry sign at the Grove Road was installed but sadly, we still have lorry drivers who choose to ignore it

The issue of the speed of traffic is ongoing.

FOOTPATHS

We have reported blocked, overgrown vegetation, broken posts.

We have pursued, without success to date, the provision of a continuous footpath from Preston-Stourmouth.

The dog bins have proved to be useful but there have been some issues with collections.

CHURCHYARD MAINTENANCE

We have continued to support the mowing of the churchyard and maintenance of the surrounding hedges.

The Clerk has assisted in bringing to a resolution the felling of a tree in the old churchyard.

FRIENDS OF STOURMOUTH CHURCH

We have continued to support this organisation.

BUS SHELTERS

A paved area has been provided on opposite side to the Rising Sun to create a suitable waiting area.

The kind donation by Chris and Carol of the area around the Rising Sun bus shelter has allowed to make some improvements.  The wall has been repaired with paving and planters provided in the area around the noticeboard and bus shelter.  The plan is to have plants and possibly a bench in the area.

Smoking signs have been placed in both shelters to remind people not to smoke in them and hopefully stop the proliferation of dog-ends.

TELEPHONE KIOSK

We have purchased the telephone at West Stourmouth and it has now been stripped of the phone equipment.  We have also been provided with a paint kit to restore it to its rightful colours.  The light remains and we will be providing a defibrillator.

SNOW WARDEN

Thanks to David Jeffrie who has volunteered to be the snow warden for School Lane.

LAPTOP and PRINTER

Under the transparency code we have been given a grant and purchased computer equipment.  The Council now has a dedicated lap-top and printer.

FINANCE

Cllr Church chairs our Finance Committee and it has met several times to deal with matters such as the precept.

The Council has decided not to increase the precept this year.

We have money set aside for one defibrillator and most of the cost of the second.  The plan is to purchase both and use some of our reserve.

Our financial plans will allow us to undertake some village improvements, maintain our assets whilst still keeping a reserve for unforeseen items.

As an employer the Clerk has had to be offered a pension under the new Workplace Pension rules.

PLANNING

Lake Cottage –

The Anchorage – an extension is going ahead.

Wilberon – the introduction of a caravan on the site was raised and it has now been removed.

Stourmouth House – no issues with the minor proposal.

The Wilderness – The Council had no issues with these ambitious plans.

Windridge – an extension is going ahead.

Rookston Court – The owners had been seeking a removal of the agricultural condition to which the council was opposed.  This was refused but we understand there may be some sort of appeal.  Despite there being offers to purchase the situation remains the same.

Sherry’s farmhouse– an extension is going ahead.

FUTURE PLANS

FINGERPOSTS on both village sign posts.

DEFRIBRILLATORS for both East and West Stourmouth.

TELEPHONE KIOSK – refurbishment and installation of a defibrillator.

UNMETERED POWER SUPPLY – in the bus shelter to enable the installation of a defibrillator.

DISABLED FRIENDLY FOOTPATH – Church Walk.

PUBLIC AREA – a piece of land for use by the community when walking.

BENCHES – providing benches at strategic locations.

THANKS

District Councillors – for their consistent attendance at our meetings, keeping us up to date and their consistent support on various issues.

Councillors – for their work over the year.

Sheila Bligh and Dorothy James- for tidying the bus shelters

Bill Bligh – for his work on various improvements

Mick the Orchard man – for his donation of materials.

Keith – for delivering our leaflets

Vicky and Nick Church for being our Dog Poo monitors.

Chris and Carol – for providing us with a venue for meetings

The Public – finally for those who come to our meetings and take an interest in the Parish Council and our community.

CLLR. JEFFRIE’S ANNUAL REPORT

No Report

 CLLR. KIRKCALDIE’S ANNUAL REPORT

No Report

 CLLR. LEAPER’S ANNUAL REPORT

No Report

 CLLR. CHURCH

Cllr Church gave a very detailed report and explained to the meeting the decision of the Finance Committee in not raising this year’s precept and outlining our financial status.

PUBLIC DISCUSSION

The emptying of Dog Poo bins was yet raised and it was agreed that we write to DDC stating that this a really big issue.

It was also mentioned that we have not had any representation from our local PCSO who apparently has now left.  It was suggested that we write to the Police Commissioner and say how disappointed we are that we have not had a visit to any of our meetings for a year.

Next year our Annual Parish Meeting will be held in April.

 

The Meeting concluded at 8:40pm