Minutes of the Finance Committee held on Wednesday 4 November 2015 at 6:30pm in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Abergavenny.

Present: Cllr Mrs S Woodhouse (Chair)

Cllrs C Woodhouse, Mrs M Powell, J L Prosser, M Hickman, Ms S Dodd, S Horrell, N Tatam, R Harris.

In attendance: The Town Clerk

1. Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Miss M Toombs, D Edwards and Mrs M Harris.

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

3. Cllr Hickman queried why we were not holding the Finance Committee Meetings at 6pm as stated on the Annual Calendar of Meetings. the Clerk apologised and explained that as it had varied during the year due to occasional meetings after the Finance Committee. It was agreed that in future it would be convened at 6pm.

4. Grant applications

a) Linda Vista Gardens. Members considered the request from Linda Vista Gardens for a grant to pay for various repair works to paths etc needed in the Gardens. It was decided to recommend that we agree to support this in principle but to ask them to seek two quotes from outside contractors before agreeing to an exact figure. It was also noted that a line of conifers alongside the storage building were in danger of falling on the roof of that building and would need to be removed as soon as possible.

b) Shelter Cymru. At members` request an e-mail had been sent to Shelter to ascertain how many clients there were in our area. That information had been provided for the NP7 postal area, which includes areas outside the town boundary. It was agreed to note the information.

5. Draft Budget.

The Clerk`s report and attached papers were considered in detail.  The preliminary draft budget for 2016/17 was discussed first. The Clerk had suggested several minor reductions in the budget based on usage from previous years, and members suggested some additional changes. The draft budget following those changes being included is attached to these minutes.

There was then a discussion on the rest of the report. Various options for funding the budget next year were discussed. It was suggested that the Council needs to retain most if not all of its present reserves, although the third instalment of the Eisteddfod money would be taken from there. The additional levy of 23228 this year had not been used so far and would be added to the reserves. If that is continued into next year it provides a further sum which is not attributed so far to any purpose. It would also be possible to increase the Council`s precept by a similar sum in the coming year which would go a long way to covering any additional services devolving from the County.

The suggested list of County Services to be supported was then considered.

Street Sweeping.

At present there are two manual street sweepers, one of which is funded by this council, but whose time is spent half on sweeping and half on litter picking. The Council had already said it did not wish to fund the litter picking, and if that is removed then it was suggested that the Council funds 1.5 Street Sweepers at a cost of 37,500 an increase of 12,500 on this year. Service would then remain the same for street sweeping.

Toilets.

So far it was not clear what MCC will commit to doing with toilets if we do not support them any further than now. Cllr Prosser had asked Mr Hoggins for his firm proposals. There was some discussion about this, including whether White Horse Lane Toilets can be made available at least during the Eisteddfod if the County is minded to close them. It was agreed to acknowledge that we have reserves available when we know what are the County`s definite intentions. At present we will reserve our position.

Museum Opening

The proposal that Museum opening hours be reduced was noted. It was agreed that at this stage no commitment be made but if there is to be a contribution we should seek opening during lunch-time even if that means closing on a whole day or more each week. County Members were asked to ensure that consistency of treatment is given to our Museum in relation to the others.

Bailey Park.

The Clerk reported that the figures provided by the County would essentially cover one employee but not all of the machinery costs or additional works for repairs, tree surgery etc. It was also noted that the income from the various users of the park was very low and should be reviewed urgently. At present there is a substantial subsidy of such users which could not be maintained when services are under threat. It was agreed that further work on considering the park as a cost centre should be carried out. It was agreed to set aside a sum that might be used to support the Friends Group.

Support for the Hub.

As the Hub is not yet operating in Abergavenny it was not considered reasonable to try to agree on a sum to support it. Once again, if it is located in the Town Hall, it would be preferable to treat it as part of the cost centre that the building represents.

6. Dog Bin, Park Crescent

It was agreed to recommend that we fund the emptying of a dog bin on Park Crescent if the people requesting it pay for the bin.

7. The Finance Report for October was not available as the Auditor had some of the information needed to produce the report.

8. The Audit Programme for 2015/16 was agreed as provided by the Internal Auditor.

There being no other business the meeting ended at 8:10pm.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Meetings of Finance Committee will be held at 6pm in future.

2. That the bid by Linda Vista Gardens be agreed in principle but two further quotes be sought before agreeing the works to proceed.

3. The information from Shelter be noted.

4. That the Council continues to protect its reserves for the time being.

5. Alterations made so far to the draft budget be agreed subject to further changes as we progress.

6. Street sweeping support be increased by 12500 for the coming year.

7. We await detailed proposals from the County for toilet provision.

8.No commitment be made to Museums at present.

9. Further work be done on a Cost Centre for Bailey Park and the County be asked to review its charges.

10. No support be provided for The Hub until it is clear  how it will be operating.

11. Emptying of a new dog bin in Park Crescent be agreed when it is provided.

12 The Audit Programme for the 2015/16 year be agreed.