Minutes of the Finance Committee held in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Abergavenny on Monday 6 January 2014 at 6pm.

Present: Cllr D Edwards (Chairman)

Cllrs Mrs S Woodhouse, M Hickman, Mrs M Powell, Ms S Dodd, P Wadsworth and R Harris.

In attendance: The Town Clerk and Mr M Skilton and Ms R Coulthard for the first item.

1. There were no apologies for absence.

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

3. The Chairman welcomed Mr Skilton and Ms Coulthard who had attended to discuss the Jazz Festival planned for the last weekend in August.

Mr Skilton gave details of a wide-ranging programme of jazz events at several venues for adults and children. The objectives included attracting more local people to jazz, and there would be street jazz as well as at specific venues and also some Master Classes. There were events at The Melville Theatre, The Borough Theatre, the Castle and other venues to be confirmed. Overall, the programme was substantially bigger than last year`s event and funding support was being sought from a variety of sources. Members commended the work going into developing the programme and wished it well. In response to a question about how much the Festival might be seeking from this Council, Mr Skilton indicated that bids to support different parts of the programme might be made which could be several thousand pounds. He was advised to submit a formal bid for support on the Council`s proforma as soon as possible.

The Chairman thanked Mr Skilton and Ms Coulthard for attending and they let the meeting at this point.

4. Internal Auditor`s e-mail.

An e-mail from the new Internal Auditor expressing concerns about an accounting practice and offering advice about alternatives was considered. It was agreed to seek advice from One Voice Wales on this before making a final decision.

5. The following grant applications were considered:

a) Shopmobility.

A request for 1000 for the coming year from Shopmobility was considered. It was noted that last year no request had been made and 1000 had been paid the previous year. Members agreed to recommend that 1000 be put in the budget to provide the grant.

b) Cycling Festival. (Cllr Wadsworth declared an interest in this application.)

A bid was received from Mr Owen towards the cost of the Cycling Festival in June of this year. He bid was for 5000 which was the same as that paid last year. Given that this year`s event would be a bigger event members were supportive of the bid and agreed to recommend that it be included in the budget.

6. Budget.

The report and information provided by the Clerk were considered in some detail. The Chairman went through the budget sheets page by page and various questions were answered. Adjustments were made to include the Shopmobility and additional Cycling Festival sums, and it was noted that provision had been made to refurbish the mural. It was agreed to recommend that the refurbishment of the mural be confirmed by Council on Wednesday to ensure that the Artist had it committed in her diary.

It was noted that the National Eisteddfod was coming to Abergavenny in 2016, and the Town Council would need to be ready to make a contribution to that. 10,000 was included in this year`s budget to start a fund for that purpose, with the intention of repeating it for the next two years.

 The other elements of the budget were recommended for agreement by Council, but it was noted that we still face major uncertainties with the County Council position.

There was a discussion on whether or ot to raise the Town Council`s precept to make provision for the support of existing local services run by the County. It is recognised that there are some unallocated reserves in the budget, but that this would be absorbed quite quickly if an agreement was reached with the County Council. An increase of 10 per annum on the Town Council tax on a Band D property would raise 47,700 which would seem to be a prudent level to aim for at this stage if local services are to be given some protection. No increase had been made in the Town Council tax over the last two years.

Members were concerned that local services are not lost, but also that the information available at present was not as reliable as needed to enable the Council to commit to supporting them. There was considerable discussion about this issue, and it was agreed that the likely way forward, if we can determine with some confidence what funding would be needed, was to agree to offer funding support for the coming year to protect services and to make that conditional upon the County agreeing to set up a working group with this Council to ascertain how to go forward for the following year and thereafter. This would involve detailed figures being produced for work schedules and costs so that real service costs can be established. No commitment for following years would be made until this work had been completed, with a target of getting it done by June or July of this year.

It was agreed to recommend that the final budget and precept be agreed at the February Council Meeting.

The meeting ended at 6:55pm

Summary of recommendations:

1. Grant forms be sent to Mr Skilton.

2. 1000 be put in the budget for Shopmobility.

3. 5000 be put in the budget for the Cycling Festival.

4. 8000 be committed for the refurbishment of the mural.

5. 10,000 be committed towards a fund to support the National Eisteddfod.

6. The Auditor`s e-mail be checked with One Voice Wales before action is taken.

7. The draft budget (attached), including the adjustments identified above, be approved, but the setting of a precept be deferred until the February Council after further discussions with County Officers.

8. That an additional 47700 be added to the precept to provide a sum to cover support for County services once details have been established.

9. That a proposal be made to the County Council to establish a working group to get accurate service costs by June/July before any commitment is made to support services in future years.