Minutes of the Finance Committee Meeting held on Wednesday 7 January 2015 at 6pm in the Council Chamber, Town Hall Abergavenny.

Present: Cllr Mrs S Woodhouse (Chair)

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

In attendance: Cllrs J Prosser, D Edwards, N Tatam, P Woodley and S Horrell.

Ms Kellie Beirne and Mr R Hoggins (Monmouthshire CC) and the Town Clerk

1. Apologies were received from Cllrs Miss M Toombs and Mrs M Harris.

2. Declarations of interest were received from Cllr Dodd and Cllr Hickman regarding Keep Abergavenny Tidy grant request.

3. The following grant requests were considered:

a) Shopmobility had requested that a grant of 1000 be paid this year to replenish their balances which had been affected by additional costs this year. Provision had been made in this year`s budget for this and they were not asking for any support next year. This was recommended for approval.

b) Keep Abergavenny Tidy had requested that a grant of 50 be made to cover their insurance premium. This has been paid for the last several years, and it was recommended for approval.

4. The Chair welcomed Ms Kellie Beirne and Mr Roger Hoggins to the meeting. They had agreed to come to talk about the impact of service budget cuts at County level and the issues that could affect local services. The Chair had provided them with a list of questions to answer to assist the progress of the meeting.

Ms Beirne opened by saying that the two officers present represented nearly all of the so-called discretionary services carried out by the County, and over the next three or four years, if things continue as at present, there would be virtually no budget left to cover these services. In the current year the County had made provision for 100,000 to be saved by transferring costs to Town and Community Councils, and so far not all of that had been achieved. It was acknowledged that Abergavenny had made a good contribution but not all community councils felt that they should contribute. For the coming year arrangements had been made with Chepstow, Caldicot and Monmouth Town Councils which would save about 70,000 of next year`s 100,000.

Cllr Harris commented that it was not fair that all of this should fall on Town Councils and that adjoining communities in Bryn y Cwm should make a contribution.

It was agreed that we need to look at new ways of working. The Whole Place Plan is central to this and in Caldicot the Town Team is considering taking on some service commitments which could then be carried out without the constraint of local government obligations.

County were presently looking at the possibility of using the Town Hall more effectively to include a wider range of services including Library and One Stop Shop, Theatre and possibly other information or advice services.

A number of comments were made by those present as follows:

– we could manage with less public toilets but we need those that we have to be high quality, possibly with pay on entry.

– support was given for better use of the Town Hall.

– we need to keep the parks (County are looking at a local group to maintain Linda Vista Gardens)

– the Town Council does not need to be located in the Town Hall if moving out would facilitate better provision of services.

– local councils will have to look to the long term and that may well mean taking on assets and looking after them as well as exploiting them further.

– any reserves used to support services will need to be replenished, which means additional costs to local people on the precept.

– County are unlikely to give up income streams, although if sufficient service costs are transferred at the same time it could happen.

– there needs to be a dialogue with the public.

– we are in the same position as we were last year, without a clear understanding of what will happen.

– we will need to find a way of protecting valued services for the coming year but we also need to look further ahead. A workshop with Ms Beirne facilitating it would be a good way forward.

– the Town Council would not necessarily have to take on direct responsibility for carrying out local services that could be done by an arms-length company via the Town Team which could benefit from a less restricted regime.

– the One Stop Shop/Library service in Abergavenny will not start as quickly as some others due to the need to determine its location and to carry out works to accommodate it. Some savings may be possible at an early stage but the full range will be delayed until the following financial year.

– if local communities are not inclined to join in, there may be a need to look at whether they justify being separate communities.

– the street sweeping arrangements in place were not as we anticipated when we agreed to pay 25.000 towards them this year. This illustrates the fact that there was insufficient dialogue with County Officers and if the service was delivered locally this might not have happened.

– the future library provision cannot be specified as it would have been before times became hard. The choice may be for a lesser service or no library at all.

It was agreed that a workshop session would be arranged at a date in mid-February to look at how things should progress in future years.

(Cllr Hickman and Cllr Wadsworth left the meeting during these discussions)

The Chair thanked Ms Beirne and Mr Hoggins for attending and they left at this point.

5. The Monthly Budget Report was not available as Bank Statements had not been received in time to balance the account.

6. The Budget report prepared for this meeting would be submitted o a Special Meeting of the Council on 4 February, by which time County will have made decisions on their budgets and we will be in a position to decide what to precept for next year.

7. The NJC Pay Award notification was received and it was recommended that the increases be paid to the Clerk and Town Clerk`s Assistant.

8. It was recommended that the Communications Allowance due to the two new councillors should be paid at the full amount of 100 for this year.

There being no further business, the meeting ended at 7:45pm

Summary of recommendations:

1. A grant of 1000 be paid to Shopmobility.

2. A grant of 450 be paid to Keep Abergavenny Tidy.

3. A workshop to determine a way forward would be held in mid February

4. A special Meeting of the Council would replace the Finance Meeting on 4 February to decide on next year`s budget.

5. The NJC Pay Award should be paid to the Town Clerk and Town Clerk`s Assistant.

6 The Communications Allowance of 100 should be paid to the two new councillors.