Minutes of the Finance Committee of the Council held on Wednesday 5 February 2014 at 6pm in the Mayor`s Parlour, Town Hall, Abergavenny.

Present: Cllr D Edwards (Chairman)

Cllrs Mrs S Woodhouse, Ms S Dodd, Mrs M Powell, M Hickman, P Wadsworth

In attendance: The Town Clerk and Mr W Lewis and two staff from the TIC and Cllr C Woodhouse.

1. Apologies for absence were received from Cllr R Harris.

2. Declarations of interest were received from Cllr Hickman as a member of BBNP, and Cllr Mrs Woodhouse with a link to the church and the Tithe Barn.

3. Future Direction of the Council.

The report of the Town Clerk was considered to assist the decision on the future direction of the Council. Members were asked whether in principle they agreed that services currently provided by the County Council which might be jeopardised as part of the County Council expenditure reduction programme should be considered to be taken on by the Town Council. This is considered in the context of the Public Services Commission report which talks about merging County Councils and also town and community councils.

Any  agreement with the County would need to take on a revenue earning service as well as revenue spending services so that the additional expenditure falling on Abergavenny Council Tax payers is minimised in the process.

Members agreed to recommend to Council that we pursue talks with the County  to achieve this objective within the next six months.

4. Consideration of support for County Services in the coming budget year.

Three service areas were identified as needing support, Tourist Information Centre, Museum and Street Sweeping.

Mr W Lewis the manager of the Brecon Beacons Tourism Service was present to assist with an understanding of the figures. He was not clear that the most recent staff cost figures provided by Monmouthshire CC were accurate as he felt they had omitted on-costs.

There was discussion on the possibility of moving the IC to the Tithe Barn and the implications of doing so. It was also noted that the Cabinet Member for this service at MCC had expressed the view that the service should be run by the Town Council in future.

It was noted that the TIC generates significant income in a year and clarification is needed to establish where that will go next year.

It was agreed that it is very important to support the TIC service in Abergavenny and a commitment should be made to do so, but the final amount will now have to be decided at Council next week.

It was also agreed to recommend up to 10,000 to support the Museums Service.

With regard to the Street Sweeping Service it was acknowledged that one of the mechanical sweepers could not be supported for town use, but that instead of paying for a litter picker at 11,000 per annum, that should be transferred to be taken on by Keep Abergavenny Tidy and instead of 11000 the Council should be recommended to contribute 25000 to retain two street sweepers in the town.

5. Budget for 2014/15.

The Clerk referred members to the report that was with the agenda and had been discussed at the last Council Meeting. He noted that a provisional sum of 47709 had been added to the previous year`s precept to provide cover for taking on County Services. It was now up to members to decide whether that should stand or not.

Firstly it was agreed to set aside funds from the Council`s Reserves to cover the contribution to the National Eisteddfod, rather than add them to the budget.

Members noted that they have recommended that 10000 be committed for Museums, an additional 14000 for street sweeping and a figure was needed to cover Tourist Services. It was suggested that as the Council had a significant reserve fund, it would be sufficient to set aside a further 10000 towards TIC costs.

This means adding 34000 to the Council`s spend for the coming year, which will require a precept of 242207 and will equate to a Band D Council Tax of 50.77 per annum, or less than 1 per week for a Band D Household.

It was agreed to recommend this to Council for adoption.

(The revised Budget statement is attached to these minutes.) (Cllr Wadsworth let the meeting at this point)

6. Members then considered the grant applications before them.

a) Black Mountain Jazz.

It was agreed that this is a very worthwhile event and that the organiser was seeking to enhance it considerably from last year. After discussion it was agreed to recommend that a contribution of 2500 be made to the event.

b) It was agreed to recommend that a contribution of 850 be made to the May Toy Fair.

c) Abergavenny and District Tourism Association.

A request for 3000 was received as in previous years to go towards the costs of the production of the booklet. This was recommended for agreement.

d) Friends of Castle Meadows.

Members agreed that this was a worthwhile project and shouldf be supported but it was noted that they have also made other funding bids. It was agreed to recommend that support be given, but that the outcome of their other bids should be received before agreeing a sum to be granted.

7. VAT Payments

Members considered advice from the Council`s Auditor and the options open to them. It was agreed that it is not possible in the future to reclaim VAT on items ordered by another organisation and paid for by this Council as grant funding.

The Meeting ended at 7:15pm

Summary of recommendations:

a) That the Council open talks with the County about transfer or support of local services in the future.

b) That 34000 be added to the budget to support County Services in the coming year.

c) That a precept of 242207 be levied for 2014/2015.

d) That provision for the National Eisteddfod be taken from reserves.

e) A grant of 2500 be made to Black Mountain Jazz.

f) A grant of 850 be made to the Annual Toy Fair.

g) A grant of 3000 be made to the Abergavenny and District Tourism Association.

h) A grant be agreed in principle to the Friends of Castle Meadows but the figure be determined once their other grant applications had been resolved.

I) Vat be not reclaimed on goods ordered by others from grants paid by the Council.