Minutes of the Special Finance Committee held on Wednesday 3 December 2014 at 6pm in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Abergavenny.

Present: Cllr Mrs S Woodhouse (Chair)

Cllrs Mrs M Harris, R Harris, C Woodhouse, Mrs M Powell, P Wadsworth, P Jordan, N Tatam, P Woodley, S Horrell.

In attendance: The Town Clerk

1. Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs J L Prosser, D Edwards, Ms S Dodd, Miss M Toombs, and M Hickman.

2. Declarations of interest would be made as and when necessary.

3. There were no grant applications for consideration..

4. Report on Future Service Strategy.

Members discussed the report prepared by the Clerk on the options available to the Council in facing the County Council`s service changes this year and in the future. The report pointed out that this year will not see the end of service cuts, as several more years are forecast. It would be worth looking at how this council should respond to try to “future-proof” the services considered to be essential to the well-being of the town and its residents. Options available vary from simply doing nothing to taking on a raft of services including some revenue-generating services.

It was pointed out that the County are seeking to get £100,000 of support from local councils this year, and we already contribute significantly to that. We should not throw money at a problem we do not understand, so should wait for the County to tell us which services will be cut. Several members felt that we are in the dark and until information is available we should not react.

It was established that we have some £60,000 in reserve which could be allocated on a one-off basis.

The Clerk explained the options in the report. It is likely that the County will not decide until quite late in the budget-making process which areas are at risk so it may be too late at that stage for us to decide what to do. Equally, if we decide to rescue a service area next year we might find that in the following year we are faced with supporting a more valuable service to the detriment of the service we had already decided to support.

The other extreme is to try to future-proof services in Abergavenny by agreeing a package with the County which takes in revenue earning services as well as revenue cost services so that the net additional cost on the council tax payers of Aberavenny is manageable.

It was agreed that the clerk would write to other Town Councils in Monmouthshire to find out their position, and he should also seek further talks with  County officers to see if a more definite scenario could be established.

It was also suggested there should be a provisional increase in the precept which would bring in an additional £5 per annum from a Band D council tax payer, although this would be reviewed before setting the final budget.

It was agreed that the setting of the precept should be delayed as long as possible to get the best information available before setting the precept.

The possible role of the Town Team in this process was briefly discussed. It was noted that if the Council decided to take over service areas it might be possible to delegate the work to the Town Team through a legally constituted company. There was some concern that the Town Team might be a transitory body which may not last and that would create complications in the future.

It was agreed to nominate Cllr Stephen Horrell to join the Town Team as their second representative. The Town Clerk would continue to act as Secretary and provide notes of the meetings.

Reference was made to the annual provision being made towards the Eisteddfod over the next three years and that this would come from reserves. There was a view that such a provision should appear as an additional item in the budget rather than be hidden in reserves, but that point of view was not considered to be helpful.

The proposal to recommend a provisional £5 increase in the Band D Council Tax was carried. It was also agreed that we should delay telling County what our precept is until the day after our February Council Meeting.

Cllr Tatam objected to this as the Council was not developing a strategy to deal with the situation.

5. Budget considerations for 2015/16

It was agreed that we need a balance sheet from the TIC to inform our approach for the next year. The Clerk would ask for one.

It was suggested that we should consider rolling over any unused Civic Functions budget so that there coukl be some accumulation for when the Eisteddfod is in town.

Cllr C Woodhouse asked if Mr Matthews or the responsible Cabinet Members could be asked to come to a meeting before we set our Precept to allow this Council to have the best understanding of the financial situation.

There being no further business the meeting ended at 8:05pm