Royston and District Committee Minutes

Date:
Wednesday, 1st June, 2016
Time:
7.30pm
Place:
Room 11, Royston Town Hall, Melbourn Street, Royston
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Fiona Hill (Chairman), Councillor Bill Davidson (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Tony Hunter and Councillor Gerald Morris.
In attendance:
Ashley Hawkins - Community Officer
Susanne Gow - Committee and Member Services Officer
Also Present:
11 members of the public, including the speakers under Public Participation
Cllr F J Smith, Leader of Royston Town Council.
Item Description/Decision
PART I
4 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence had been received from Councillors Peter Burt, Jean Green and Ben Lewis.
5 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 2 March 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and signed by the Chairman.
6 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 May 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and signed by the Chairman.
7 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
There was no other business raised for this Committee Meeting.
8 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
1) The Chairman commenced by reminding those present of the sad passing of Les Baker. He had been a colleague and friend to many in Royston and had done a huge amount for the town. He was a Royston Town Councillor at the time that he passed away and a previous District Councillor. He would be sadly missed by many people in Royston and North Hertfordshire. She invited everybody present to stand for one minute’s silence to remember and pay their respects to Les Baker, which they did.

2) The Chairman then welcomed those present to the first meeting of the Civic Year 2016/2017. She thanked them for their support throughout the year and during the process of her re-election. A welcome was offered to Cllr F J Smith, Leader of Royston Town Council and also the speakers who had attended to address the Committee in support of the grants submitted by their organisations. Finally, the Chairman welcomed all Members of the Committee and NHDC officers;

3) She announced that she had arranged for the sound at this particular meeting to be recorded;

4) She read out the following statement: “Members are reminded that any declarations of interest in respect of any business set out in the Agenda should be declared as either a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest or Declarable Interest and are required to notify the Chairman of the nature of any interest declared, at the commencement of the relevant item on the Agenda. Members declaring a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest must withdraw from the meeting for the duration of the item. Members declaring a Declarable Interest which requires they leave the room under Paragraph 7.4 of the Code of Conduct, can speak on the item, but must leave the room before the debate and vote.”

5) It was emphasised that Members should clearly state their reason for declaring an interest and the nature of that interest, whether they will remain in the room, speak and vote and not just declare an interest per se.
9 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
a) Rionach Aiken of Citizens Advice North Hertfordshire (CANH) congratulated those Members of the Committee who had been recently elected and thanked the Chairman and Committee for considering the grant application from CANH. She declared that they were hugely grateful for the support that had been provided by North Hertfordshire District core funding, court worker funding and premises provision, without which they would not be able to provide the services required. She explained that the application presented was for one-off costs which would give the organisation a solid foundation and a base to grow. The original application had been submitted to NHDC in December 2015, before significant budget cuts were announced, including the funds available to area committees. She declared that she was aware that budgets were now significantly tighter, and that any support that could be offered was very much appreciated.

Rionach Aiken clarified that the option of moving into Gernon Road had been pursued and twin-tracked with exploring options with the Heritage Foundation. There were obvious financial and partnership benefits that would outweigh any concerns around ‘independence. She had met with David Charlton (Senior Estates Surveyor) several times since Autumn 2014 and had arranged a number of meetings with Andy Cavanagh (Head of Financial Services) from January 2015. These meetings were cancelled, as the Council had to prioritise their own needs. This continued throughout 2015 and by the time NHDC was able to offer anything tangible, the lease with the Heritage Foundation had already been signed. Rionach Aiken explained that the reason for moving their headquarters (HQ) was a creative response to challenging circumstances; the current base in Leys Avenue, Letchworth had always been too small, despite the organisation having been there for six years; client demand was rising - up 30% over the past few years and 20% in the last year; the rent increase facing them was 40% and the 3-year lease ended on 20 June 2016 while the number of volunteers was growing, i.e. a 40% increase in less than a year.

The impact of the current situation on the service offered was to limit appointment slots due to lack of interview rooms and many residents who needed support with disability benefits, financial capability or energy advice had to travel for appointments or wait up to two weeks for a local appointment. Approximately 40% of clients, most of whom were in employment, had experienced hardship as a result of fluctuating income. For those on low income this affected their benefits as well as their ability to manage their money and pay their bills. A Money Matters programme had been developed with volunteers, offering one-to-one support and group sessions on managing personal budgets to residents, clients and frontline workers. The energy advice project produced by CANH saved local residents around £300 per year and there was great demand for appointments from the community work done by CANH but they lacked space to deliver many appointments in Letchworth, the area of greatest need. Many group sessions were delivered in community settings.

The organisation’s aims and ambitions were to introduce a flexible model of advice-giving to reduce waiting times, improve outcomes for clients and maximize the volunteer resource. A range of self-help information resources had been created (both online and paper-based), to empower capable clients to help themselves so that the organisation could focus on those who required intensive support. This was seen as a model of good practice, but with additional space it would be possible to: introduce information assistants, an information area and digital resources (via tablets) to enable clients themselves to access information; extend the drop-in hours from weekday mornings to full days; and to see clients for full advice appointments immediately, rather than requiring them to come back within a week or two.

The Royston and District Committee was informed that in 2014/2015 over 1,000 calls had been answered and in 2015/2016 1,440 calls had been taken. However, demand for telephone advice was high and only 45% of callers were able to access a service. The CANH’s aim was to respond to 2,000 calls per year by creating a dedicated Adviceline Room, doubling the telephone lines from three to six and training more telephone volunteers. This would enable the disabled, the employed, carers, the rural and housebound to access advice. In the future, it was intended to integrate web chat with their Adviceline provision in order to expand the channels available to clients and make the best use of volunteers.

Rionach Aiken stated that there were multiple benefits for Royston, as: demand was increasing, i.e. individual client numbers for 2015 were 5,400 - up 900 on the 2014/2015 levels; client contacts were up from 10,000 to 11,600 in less than a year; volunteer numbers had increased by 40% with good recruitment and retention. In addition, Royston clients were up 11% - 600 estimated individual local residents helped with 1,250 different issues through over 1,500 client contacts in 2015/2016. This had not included the 7,000 visits by 6,000 individuals to the CANH website. Benefits in 2015 included £220,000 in financial outcomes - £107,000 for Royston Meridian residents, £72,000 for Royston Palace, £40,000 for Royston Heath and £1,000 for Ermine Ward. Overall benefits in Royston were in line with the District average at 34% (of the top five issues) and a higher demand for Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance, often required by the elderly and disabled. Issues with Working and Child Tax Credit were higher than average at 19% of the top 10 benefit issues compared to 14% across the District. Debt issues in Royston were lower than average at 21% of the top five issues compared with 24% across North Hertfordshire. Where there were debt issues in the area, credit, store and charge card debts were over twice the District average of 9% at 21%. Relationship and family issues were higher than average at 18%, compared to 14% across the District. Housing issues with private rented sector housing at 53% were almost double North Hertfordshire levels of 27% of the top five issues and threatened homelessness was significantly lower at 15% in the Royston area, compared to the District average of 35%.

Regarding timescales, due to legal issues in early 2016 building work had started in March having been delayed by three weeks due to various issues with a 100-year-old building, although the budget had not been affected. The Committee was assured that everything was still on track for a completion date of 24 June 2016. Moving costs had gone up as it was now necessary to move from Letchworth to Hitchin and then back to Letchworth, with the cost of dilapidations higher than expected. A confirmed sum of £140,000 had been raised out of the £172,000 now required, with £32,000 still required plus the cost of any additional equipment.

Rionach Aiken thanked the Committee for their attention and declared that any support offered would be much appreciated. The Chairman invited the Committee to voice any queries or comments they may have on this grant application. A Member asked how many days per week the CANH was in Royston and was told 2 days, as the main CANH sites were in Letchworth and Hitchin. One Member commented that the amount contributed to CANH from all five Area Committees totalled £20,000. The Chairman thanked Rionach Aiken for her presentation and her hard work for the people of Royston and explained that the grant application would be considered later on in the Meeting.

b) Di Charles of Corvus Cornix Basketball Club explained that the organisation was set up in 1970 for boys and girls under the age of 17 and the 80 players came from the whole of North Hertfordshire. The amount requested was to help with the costs for running a series of training sessions and competitive matches to be held at Royston Leisure Centre on four Sunday afternoons in October, November, February and March. She reminded Members that basketball is a growing sport in Royston and is played indoors.

The Chairman stated that this grant application ticked the boxes for public health, youth sporting activities etc. She thanked Di Charles for her presentation and her hard work for the people of Royston and stated that the grant application would be considered later in the Committee Meeting.

c) Carl Filby representing Creative Royston (formerly Royston Arts Festival) addressed the Royston and District Committee. He said that he knew that the Members were familiar with the Royston Arts Festival and reminded them that the 2015 Arts Festival had also included the Annual Report and the Annual General Meeting (AGM). 4,000 people had visited the Festival, but exhibitions alone did not create the atmosphere. He revealed that applications to the Arts Council for funding were not worth the great effort put in, due to the lack of Arts Council funding available. This year’s Festival would run from 23 to 25 September and funding was required to assist with the production and distribution of 18,500 Festival programmes which would be delivered to all households in Royston and the surrounding villages. Creative Royston themselves were contributing £3,300 to the cost from their own reserves. The Festival workshops had been moved from Royston schools to Royston Town Centre. Carl Filby invited the Royston and District Committee to ask any questions they may have. In response to queries, he confirmed that the programme was currently in production and that flyers for the event would be available in the usual shops and retail outlets and also at the Royston Open Secrets event. The Chairman thanked Carl Filby for his presentation and his hard work for the people of Royston and stated that the grant application would be considered later in the Meeting.

d) Brian Whittaker of the Rotary Club of Royston (RCR) thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee. He explained that his role in the RCR was that of Youth Activities Chairman and as Members were aware, the RCR organised and ran two major youth challenges each year for young people, firstly the Design and Technology Challenge, which was run with limited tools and equipment and whose aim was to develop team building skills as well as suitable performances. Schools were not charged for entering a team. The second event run annually by RCR was Youth Makes Music, which showcased Royston’s young musical talent with some impressive performances. A small ticket charge was made to parents and families to cover the hire of venues, to pay for transport etc. A Member commented that the organisation was very well known and respected and the Chairman thanked Brian Whittaker for his presentation and his hard work for the people of Royston, adding that the grant application relating to this presentation would be considered later in the Meeting.

e) Denise Graham of the Royston Volunteer Centre (RVC) informed the Royston and District Committee that enquiries had seen an increase of 35% and therefore a contribution to running costs was necessary. She declared that volunteers were the lifeblood of delivering front line services and that they wanted to help in identified roles that had been advertised and promoted. They needed to be valued and gave their time free, but still had to be managed and trained. Denise Graham was delighted to announce that the prestigious White Rose Volunteer Centre Accreditation had been awarded to the Royston Volunteer Centre.

Member discussion raised the question of whether volunteer centres formed a national network, and they were informed that they did, but that all volunteer centres were separate. In 2015 a total of 700 volunteers were placed.

The Chairman thanked Denise Graham for her presentation and her hard work for the people of Royston and informed her that she gave the volunteers the confidence to find work. This was endorsed by the other organisations present at this Royston and District Committee Meeting.

f) Paul Brown, Treasurer of the Royston and District Town Twinning Association addressed the Committee and explained that the organisation was seeking funding support from them to assist with transport costs and venue hire costs for their impending visit from the German twin town of Gro▀almerode. He explained the function of the Association - visits and trips to each other, alternating for each twin town: La Loupe in France, Gro▀almerode in Germany and Villanueva de la Ca˝ada in Spain. There are 75 members of the R&DTTA in Royston and 46 visitors from La Loupe in France had visited Royston in 2015, while 29 members of the R&DTTA had visited La Loupe in the same year. The Royston Town Band and a sports club had also carried out exchanges and schools and young people had exchanged with France and Spain. Costs were normally borne by the hosts - visits cost in the region of £1,000 a time, for which fundraising was carried out and grant applications made.

The Chairman thanked Mr. Brown for his presentation to the Committee and his hard work for the people of Royston. A Member enquired whether they had received any grants from Royston Town Council (RTC). He was informed that RTC had not offered monetary assistance but helped in other ways, and this was explained by the Leader of Royston Town Council at the Chairman’s request. Another Member made an enquiry regarding visits made to and from Royston and the twin towns and Paul Brown promised him an official rota of the visits planned.

RESOLVED:

1) That Rionach Aiken of Citizens Advice Bureau North Herts be thanked for her presentation to the Royston and District Committee and that the grant application relating to Citizens Advice Bureau North Herts be considered later on the Agenda (see Minute 20 below);

2) That Di Charles representing Corvus Cornix Basketball Club be thanked for her presentation to the Royston and District Committee and that the grant application relating to the Corvus Cornix Basketball Club be considered later on the Agenda (see Minute 13 below);

3) That Carl Filby of Creative Royston be thanked for his presentation to the Royston and District Committee and that the grant application relating to the Royston Arts Festival be considered later on the Agenda (see Minute 15 below);

4) That Brian Whittaker of the Rotary Club of Royston be thanked for his presentation to the Royston and District Committee and that the grant application relating to the Rotary Club of Royston be considered later on the Agenda (see Minute 17 below);

5) That Denise Graham of the Royston and District Volunteer Centre be thanked for her presentation to the Royston and District Committee and that the grant application relating to the Royston and District Volunteer Centre be considered later on the Agenda (see Minute 16 below);

6) That Paul Brown of the Royston and District Town Twinning Association be thanked for his presentation to the Royston and District Committee and that the grant application relating to the Royston and District Town Twinning Association be considered later on the Agenda (see Minute 18 below).
10 INFORMATION NOTE: NHDC POLICY IN REGARD TO THE FUNDING OF TOWN CENTRE PARTNERSHIPS/BID COMPANIES
The Royston and District Committee had been provided with an Information Note by the Head of Policy and Community Services, reminding all Area Committees of the Council’s budget policy position with regard to Town Centre Partnerships and their relation to Business Improvement District (BID) companies and the support provided by North Hertfordshire District Council.

A short discussion ensued, concluding that the Council was supportive, organizing ballot chases, collecting money and paying a levy (including officer time). However, this did not affect Royston, because of its own BID company, the Royston First BID Company Limited.

The Committee agreed to note the Information Note.

RESOLVED: That Liz Green be thanked for her work for the residents of Royston and that her Information Note be noted.
11 HIGHWAYS ISSUES
The Chairman informed the Committee that a letter had been sent to Sir Oliver Heald QC MP, asking him to again raise the matter in Parliament of ensuring that utility companies make reparation to roads and footpaths once their major work has been completed. He had agreed to do this and an early reply from Sir Oliver was expected.

The subject of the Fish Hill area and the A10 road closure in the next Financial Year was raised and the Committee was informed that jet patching would be carried out immediately, followed by a permanent repair in the next Financial Year.
12 GRANT APPLICATIONS AND COMMUNITY UPDATE

REPORT OF THE HEAD OF POLICY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES

The Community Officer introduced the report of the Head of Policy and Community Services, updating the Committee on the activities with which he had been involved since the last meeting of the Royston and District Committee on 7 March 2016.

The CO drew the attention of Members to the cessation of funding under previous MoU agreements. As a result all these organisations would have to apply for grant applications out of the drastically reduced (currently by 50%) Area Committee budgets.

The Committee was informed at para 7.3 of the report that the current level of unallocated funds in the Royston Development Budget was £10,700 and there was also £3,018 available in pre-allocated funds brought forward from the 2015/2026 financial year.

Highways Matters
As set out in the report, this heading would be included in the Community Update report to promote Committee discussion and enable feedback on any of the p0roposed or listed schemes.

Grant Funding
The following projects were noted by the Committee as they are in the process, but not yet ready for, consideration:

• Funding support to assist with costs for putting on a Royston Hill Climb Cycle Event in 2016;

• Funding support to assist with costs for putting on the Barkway 10k Run in 2016;

• Funding support to Barkway Parish Council to assist with extension and kitchen refurbishment works at Barkway Village Hall. The Authority is setting up a new capital funding scheme for community facilities, which may be available for such purposes;

• Funding support to Royston Town Youth FC to assist with equipment costs and publicity costs for a new Youth Team for 4-6-year-olds;

• As mentioned at the last Committee Meeting in March 2016, funding support to Nuthampstead Shooting Ground to assist with a project to establish a training and coaching classroom facility at the venue;

• Funding support to assist Friends of Therfield First School to create an external covered communal area to host village/community events and extra-curricular activities;

• Funding support to assist Reed First School in the development of a village library/community learning hub facility.

RESOLVED:

1) That the activities and schemes with which the Community Officer (CO) has been involved, be noted;

2) That the actions he has taken to promote greater community capacity and well-being be endorsed and that he be thanked for his work on behalf of the people of Royston and the surrounding area;

3) That the budgetary expenditure, balances and carry forwards within the Area Committee Development Budget spreadsheet, be noted.

REASONS FOR DECISIONS:

1) To ensure that the Committee is kept informed of the work of the Community Officer;

2) To inform Members of the financial resources available to the Committee. The report draws attention to the current budgetary situation, assists in the effective financial management of the Area Committee’s budget and ensures actions are performed within the Authority’s Financial Regulations and the guidance in the Grants Policy;

3) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and priorities of the Council.
13 GRANT APPLICATION - CORVUS CORNIX BASKETBALL CLUB
RESOLVED: That the sum of £200 be granted to Corvus Cornix Basketball Club to assist with the costs for running a series of training sessions and competitive matches for the Club starting in September at Royston Leisure Centre.

REASON FOR DECISION:

1) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and strategic priorities of the Council;

2) The allocation of funds will improve the services provided by local organisations and groups that are available and accessed by members of the community.
14 GRANT APPLICATION - THERFIELD VILLAGE PRE-SCHOOL
RESOLVED: That the sum of £300 be awarded to Therfield Village Pre-School to assist with costs for drafting feasibility drawings for new premises for preschool and community sports within the village.

REASON FOR DECISION:

1) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and strategic priorities of the Council;

2) The allocation of funds will improve the services provided by local organisations and groups that are available and accessed by members of the community.
15 GRANT APPLICATION - ROYSTON ARTS FESTIVAL
RESOLVED: That the sum of £1,000 be granted to Royston Arts Festival (Creative Royston) to assist with publicity costs and distribution costs for the 2016 Festival programme.

REASON FOR DECISION:

1) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and strategic priorities of the Council;

2) The allocation of funds will improve the services provided by local organisations and groups that are available and accessed by members of the community.
16 GRANT APPLICATION - ROYSTON AND DISTRICT VOLUNTEER CENTRE
The Chairman declared an interest as she has provided funds for this group from her Hertfordshire County Council Locality Budget, as has Cllr Hunter, who is also the Executive Member for Community Engagement and Rural Affairs; Cllr Davidson declared an interest as his wife, Royston Town Cllr Lindsay Davidson is Chairman of their Management Committee. As three Members of the Committee were absent, this left only Cllr Morris to both chair the item and vote, so the Committee was not quorate. As the grant application was agreed in principle, it would have to go to the Head of Policy and Community Services for approval under Delegated Authority.

RESOLVED: That the sum of £1,500 be granted to the Royston Volunteer Centre (RVC) in principle, subject to the delegated authority as explained above. The funds were sought to assist with the running costs for providing the Volunteer Centre service in 2016.

REASON FOR DECISION:

1) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and strategic priorities of the Council;

2) The allocation of funds will improve the services provided by local organisations and groups that are available and accessed by members of the community.
17 GRANT APPLICATION - ROTARY CLUB OF ROYSTON
The Chairman declared an interest in this item as she has contributed from her Herts County Council Locality Budget last year and has agreed to donate again this year, as has Cllr Hunter. Due to the absence of three Members of the Committee, this left Cllrs Davidson and Morris to vote so the Committee was inquorate. Although the grant application was agreed in principle, it would have to go to the Head of Policy and Community Services for approval under Delegated Authority.

RESOLVED: That the sum of £1,000 be granted to the Rotary Club of Royston to assist with room hire costs, together with the costs for equipment, transport and first aid for their three annual events, namely the Royston Kite Festival, the Technology Tournament and the Youth Makes Music event.

REASON FOR DECISION:

1) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and strategic priorities of the Council;

2) The allocation of funds will improve the services provided by local organisations and groups that are available and accessed by members of the community.
18 GRANT APPLICATION - ROYSTON AND DISTRICT TOWN TWINNING ASSOCIATION
The Chairman declared an interest as a member of the R&DTTA. Although there were three Councillors absent, the remaining three (omitting the Chairman) were quorate and were able to vote on this grant application.

RESOLVED: That the sum of £250 be granted to Royston and District Town Twinning Association to assist with transport and venue costs for the imminent visit from their German twinned town, Gro▀almerode.

REASON FOR DECISION:

1) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and strategic priorities of the Council;

2) The allocation of funds will improve the services provided by local organisations and groups that are available and accessed by members of the community.
19 GRANT APPLICATION - ROYSTON COMMUNITY TRANSPORT
RESOLVED: That the sum of £1,300 be granted to Royston Community Transport to assist with the cost of running the group for 2016. This was to cover staffing, office administration and vehicle running costs and was less than the £1,500 applied for on the original grant application.

REASON FOR DECISION:

1) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and strategic priorities of the Council;

2) The allocation of funds will improve the services provided by local organisations and groups that are available and accessed by members of the community.
20 GRANT APPLICATION - NORTH HERTS CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU
The Chairman declared an interest as she had agreed to contribute to the North Herts CAB from her Herts County Council Locality Budget. The other three Members of the Royston and District Committee present discussed and voted on this grant application.

RESOLVED: That the sum of £1,500 be granted to the North Herts Citizens Advice Bureau as a contribution to the fit-out of a new head office in Letchworth, following a move to new premises.

REASON FOR DECISION:

1) The awarding of financial assistance to voluntary organisations and the use of discretionary spending allows the Committee to further the aims and strategic priorities of the Council;

2) The allocation of funds will improve the services provided by local organisations and groups that are available and accessed by members of the community.
21 OUTSIDE ORGANISATIONS - MEMBERS’ REPORTS
Brief reports were given by Members as follows:

• Royston Community Transport - the Chairman asked Royston Town Cllr F J Smith, who is Chairman of the RCT, to give an update on the organisation and he declared that work continues to expand and the facility is very well used. Cllr Hunter expressed the Committee’s thanks to RCT for their work investigating the need for a commuter bus, but Cllr Smith revealed that those expressing a need for this facility were too spread out and the numbers were not large enough to make it viable. It was announced that the AGM of the Royston Community Transport would be held at 3.15pm in The Barn on Wednesday 15 June 2016.

• Royston Day Centre - it was announced that the AGM had been held during the week commencing 23 May 2016. The Day Centre was running well with a good manager, although it was short of volunteers.

• Coombes City Centre - matters were still in discussion regarding the lease with North Hertfordshire District Council.

• Royston First Ltd - this was running well.

Published on Wednesday, 29th June, 2016
9.26p.m