Southern Rural Committee Minutes

Date:
Thursday, 9th June, 2016
Time:
7.30pm
Place:
Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor D.J. Barnard (Chairman), Councillor Cathryn Henry (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Steve Deakin - Davies, Councillor Jane Gray, Councillor Steve Hemingway, Councillor Mrs C.P.A. Strong and Councillor Terry Tyler.
In attendance:
Stuart Izzard (Communities Manager), Ashley Hawkins (Communities Officer) and Hilary Dineen (Committee and Member Services Officer).
Also Present:
At the commencement of the meeting 10 members of the public.
Item Description/Decision
PART I
4 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors John Bishop, Faye Frost and Harry Spencer - Smith.
5 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 3 March 2016 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be 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 be signed by the Chairman
7 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
There were no notifications of other business.
8 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
(1) The Chairman welcomed all to the first meeting of the Civic Year, particularly those giving a presentation;

(2) The Chairman reminded everyone that, in accordance with Council policy, the meeting was being audio recorded;

(3) The Chairman welcomed new Members, Councillors Steve Deakin - Davis and Terry Tyler, to the meeting.

(4) Members were 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.
9 PUBLIC PARICIPATION - JOHN CLEMENTS CENTRE
Mr Jim Park, John Clements Centre, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the grant application as follows:

• The John Clements Centre was in the process of installing a new audio visual system;
• Fundraising for this project had already started;
• £4,500 had already been invested in part of the project;
• The next stage was to install a 2 meter screen in the main hall and consider outside speakers to link in with the speakers within the building;
• The John Clements Centre had given grants to other organisations including £300 to Rugby Minis, £300 to Tennis Minis and £600 to the Cricket Club;
• If grant funding was not agreed, grants like those mentioned above may have to cease.

Members queried whether the proposed screen was large enough and commented that the proposed screen seemed expensive.

Mr Park advised that they had to purchase a commercial screen, which was more expensive as shops would not give a guarantee to commercial organisations. In respect of the size of screen the proposed size would be sufficient for the main hall.

In response to questions regarding finances of the Centre, Mr Park advised that, in the last year, turnover was £85,000, the profit was £18,600 and a 10 percent per annum growth rate had been estimated. The retention fee of £8,100 relating to the construction of the Centre would be paid from the profit made, which ultimately would result in the Centre being debt free. The balance of the profit would be placed in reserves, which they aimed to build up to £40,000.

He advised that, although it was entirely reasonable to spend reserves on the purchase of the screen, if money was spent on this, other expenditure would have to be reduced.

The Chairman thanked Mr Park for his presentation.
10 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - HERTS YOUNG CARERS
Ms Jo Ward, Herts Young Carers, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the grant application as follows:

• The group was staffed by volunteers;
• 24 young carers, aged between 8 and 16 years, met on a fortnightly basis;
• Activities included sports, games, art, cookery and computers;
• The group catered for young people who were in a caring role;
• Referrals were made by Carers in Herts, school support workers and self referral;
• Funding was required to help with the cost of taxi fares to get the young people to and from the group sessions, which amounted to approximately £270 per person per year;
• Of the 24 young people currently attending the group 10 came from Hitchin, 5 from Letchworth and 2 from Southern Rural.

In response to questions from Members, Ms Ward advised that funding had also been received from Stevenage Borough Council, Hitchin Youth Trust, the Scouts and the group had been nominated for Waitrose Green Token funding.

Members made some suggestions regarding other organisations that may be of help and or offer grant funding.

The Chairman thanked Ms Ward for her presentation.
11 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - CITIZENS ADVICE NORTH HERTS
Ms Rianoch Aitken, Citizens Advice North Herts, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the grant application as follows:

Ms Aitken advised that they had been in the current premises for 6 years and during that time had the rent and client numbers had increased.

They were due to move to larger premises where they would have more room for the volunteers and more interview rooms, which would enable them to assist more clients.

Citizens Advice now provided debt advice and budgeting support on a 1-1 basis and had attracted funding to work with people to save money on energy costs by switching suppliers.

During 2015/16 they supported 5,400 people of which 660 were from the Southern Rural area, many of these were seen more than once.

People from the Southern Rural area mainly used the telephone advice service and the support given had resulted in £97,000 in financial outcomes. The key issues supported for those living in this area included completion of DLA and Attendance Allowance forms, debts issues such as rent arrears and charge card debt and private rent and neighbourhood issues.

Ms Aitken informed Members that Citizens Advice North Herts was extremely grateful for the support given by the Council and were working hard to raise funds from other sources.

They recognised that NHDC had, by necessity cut budgets, but would be grateful for any support that could be given to help with the cost of moving to new premises.

Members noted that a lot of time was spent supporting clients to complete various benefit forms and queried whether they had lobbied the Government to make the forms earlier.

Ms Aitken informed Members that Citizen Advice had been lobbying for a long time and spent a lot of time campaigning to improve systems, particularly where delays affected people. They had been successful in changing medical assessments.

The Chairman thanked Ms Aitken for her presentation.
12 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - OFFLEY RECREATION CENTRE
Mr David Sample had given his apologies that he would be unable to attend the meeting.
13 PUBLIC PARTICPATION - WHITWELL PLAYERS
Mr Barney Wells and Mr Alex Cunningham, Whitwell Players, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation regarding the grant application as follows:

• Whitwell Players was an amateur dramatics group;
• Three productions were put on each year which were each seen by 400 - 500 people;
• They supported other organisations with their events;
• Funding was required to help with the , once in 40 year, expense of upgrading the electrics and stage lighting system in the main hall which was now over 40 years old. The upgraded equipment , which would be made available for use by other organisations;
• The Group did not own the hall but did use the electrics and lighting most often;
• The total cost of the project was £6,000, some of which would be funded from reserves, they would also make grant applications to BIFFA and London Luton Airport;
• Financially the Group was sound and able to support other organisations to put on events.

Members queried who would own the equipment once installed and whether the Group could charge other to use it. They also asked about phasing of works and whether LED lighting would be more efficient and suitable.

Mr Cunningham advised that the equipment would become part of the hall, but would remain a Whitwell Players asset. The project could be phased, but it was preferable to get all of the work completed at the same time. LED lighting would be preferable, but this was expensive and hey had to be realistic regarding the budget and potential available funds.

Mr Wells informed Members that they would be reluctant to charge other groups to use the equipment.

The Chairman thanked Mr Wells and Mr Cunningham for their presentation.
14 COMMUNITY UPDATE AND GRANT APPLICATIONS
The Communities Manager presented the report of the Head of Policy and Community Services entitled Community Update and Grant Applications and drew attention to the following:

BUDGETS
The Communities Manager reminded Members that the Area Committee Budget had reduced by 55 percent with the base budget for 2016/17 being £15,600.

He informed Members that three amounts, allocated to organisations from the 2015/16 budget were no longer required and asked Members to consider using these funds for grant awards during 2016/17.

Members agreed that the following sums be used to fund grant applications presented during 2016/17:
(i) £200 - Unallocated 2015/16 Discretionary Budget;
(ii) £500 - Wymondley Bus Stops;
(iii) £1,173 - Kimpton Tennis Club.

WARD BUDGETS
The Chairman noted that Ward Budgets had been a feature of previous years’ budgets and the 2016/17 budget sheets did not include Ward Budgets. He asked Members to consider whether they wished this practise to continue and, if so, at what level.

Members debated that many organisations did not apply for grant funding and that Members needed to be more proactive in advising groups. Ward Budgets enabled Members to support local groups and ensured that available funding was spent across the whole of the Southern Rural Area. As the base budget had been reduced, it was accepted that the amount of each Ward Budget would also have to be reduced.

They agreed that Ward budgets should continue and that this should be reduced to £500 per Member for 2016/17.

GRANTS REVIEW
Members initially discussed the value of the small Ward Budgets to the Southern Rural Area. At the start of this discussion it was noted that the report presented to Overview and Scrutiny Committee regarding Grants Review and Grants Policy would set a minimum grant limit, which may prevent the use of this type of funding. Members therefore decided that, prior to discussing the Southern Rural budgets, Community Update and grant applications, they should consider the implications of the report considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 7 June 2016, which is due to be considered by Cabinet on 14 June 2016.

Members noted, that particularly in rural areas, very small amounts of grant funding can enable a village group to continue and/or grow and that these small groups were invaluable to village and rural communities.

They were concerned that a minimum spend may seriously impact on village and rural groups and youth groups such as Scout and Guides. There should be no minimum spend, if only for a portion of the grant budget.

Members agreed that small groups, which often only needed a few pounds, were the very groups that should be supported, particularly in rural areas, where they made a big difference.

They acknowledged that Officer Time in processing grants had an impact on costs, but felt that the rigorous checks required for larger amounts of funding should not be necessary for small amounts, as Members knew the groups well and could answer any questions about them. They also noted that there had previously been a simple system in place for processing grants, which was less Officer intensive and therefore less costly.

They considered that the County Councillor Locality Budgets had no limits set on it and seemed easy to administer.

Members asked the Chairman to present the views of the Committee to Cabinet at their meeting on 14 June and prepared a statement for Cabinet to consider.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the activities and schemes with which the Communities Manager has been involved with, as set out in the report, be noted;

(2) That the budgetary expenditure, balances and carry forwards within the Area Committee Development Budget spreadsheet, as attached at Appendix 1 to the report, be noted;

(3) That Ward Budgets in the amount of £500 per Member from the base budget be agreed for the Civic Year 2016/17;

(4) That the following amounts, no longer required by the organisations named in the 2015/16 budget, be used to fund grant applications presented to this committee during 2016/17:
(i) £200 - Unallocated 2015/16 Discretionary Budget;
(ii) £500 - Wymondley Bus Stops;
(iii) £1,173 - Kimpton Tennis Club.

RECOMMENDED TO CABINET: That Cabinet consider the following, unanimously agreed, statement from the Southern Rural Committee when considering the report entitled Review of NHDC Grants and Grant Policy:

“The Southern Rural Committee, having re-established Ward Budgets, would hope that Cabinet endorse these funds being used to fund small organisations with no minimum spend imposed.

Cabinet are urged to investigate a suitable, cost effective system of administering grants, perhaps asking if the County Council system could be used. The Southern Rural Committee would like to remind Cabinet that a few years ago NHDC had a simple and effective system for administering grants, which we are assured, could be re-activated, if Cabinet were so minded.

The Southern Rural Committee would like to draw attention to the Baldock and District Committee meeting held on 6 June 2016 where many of the grants awarded were below the proposed minimum spend. Baldock and District Committee also operate on a Ward budget system only and would also benefit from the suggested simplified grants system.”

REASON FOR DECISION:

(1) To ensure that the views of the Southern Rural Committee regarding grant funding are presented to Cabinet;

(2) To ensure that the Southern Rural Committee is kept informed of the work of the Communities Manager and to inform Members of the financial resources and current budgetary position.
15 GRANT APPLICATION - JOHN CLEMENTS SPORTS AND SOCIAL CENTRE
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £1,500 be awarded from the budgets listed below to the John Clements Centre towards the costs of fixed audio/visual equipment at the Centre.
(i) £1,173 to be taken from the 2015/16 John Clements Sports and Social Budget;
(ii) £327 to be taken from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
16 GRANT APPLICATION - HERTS YOUNG CARERS
The Communities Manager advised Members that both Hitchin and Letchworth Committees had awarded grant funding to Herts Young Carers.

RESOLVED: That grant funding of £500 be awarded from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget to Herts Young Carers towards the operating costs of providing fortnightly club sessions.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
17 GRANT APPLICATION - CITIZENS ADVICE NORTH HERTS
The Communities Manager advised Members that both Letchworth and Baldock and District Committees had awarded grant funding to Citizens Advice North Herts.

RESOLVED: That grant funding of £1,500 be awarded from the budgets listed below to Citizens Advice North Herts towards the costs associated with moving to new office premises
(i) £1,000 to be taken from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget;
(ii) £500 to be taken from the 2015/16 Budget (Formerly allocated to Wymondley Bus Stops project).

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
18 GRANT APPLICATION - OFFLEY RECREATION CENTRE
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £600 be awarded to Offley Recreation Centre from the 2015/16 Discretionary Budget towards the cost of refurbishment of the lounge area of the Centre.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
19 GRANT APPLICATION - WHITWELL PLAYERS
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £1,500 be awarded to Whitwell Players from the budgets listed below towards the cost of replacements electrical equipment.
(i) £200 to be taken from the unallocated 2015/16 Discretionary Budget;
(ii) £1,173 to be taken from the 2015/16 Budget (formerly allocated to Kimpton Tennis Club);
(iii) £127 to be taken from the 2016/17 Discretionary Budget.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
20 WARD GRANT APPLICATION - OFFLEY PARISH COUNCIL
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £100 be awarded to Offley Parish Council from the 2015/16 Hitchwood, Offa and Hoo Ward Budget towards the cost of a bench seat to be located at Mangrove Green.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
21 WARD GRANT APPLICATION - PIRTON SPORTS AND SOCIAL CLUB
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £400 be awarded to Pirton Sports and Social Club from the 2015/16 Hitchwood, Offa and Hoo Ward Budget towards the cost of replacing the cooker and extractor hood at the Club.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
22 WARD GRANT APPLICATION - OFFLEY PARISH COUNCIL
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £200 be awarded to Offley Parish Council from the 2015/16 Hitchwood, Offa and Hoo Ward Budget towards the cost of signage within the Parish.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
23 WARD GRANT APPLICATION - BREACHWOOD GREEN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £100 be awarded to Breachwood Green Historical Society from the 2015/16 Hitchwood, Offa and Hoo Ward Budget towards operational costs

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
24 GRANT APPLICATION - BREACHWOOD GREEN TIMES
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £100 be awarded to Breachwood Green Times from the 2015/16 Hitchwood, Offa and Hoo Ward Budget towards the cost of producing the village newsletter.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
25 WARD GRANT APPLICATION - THE DACRE ROOMS
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £200 be awarded to The Dacre Rooms from the 2015/16 Kimpton Ward Budget towards the cost of ongoing enhancements to the building.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
26 WARD GRANT APPLICATION - KIMPTON PARISH COUNCIL
RESOLVED: That grant funding of £200 be awarded to Kimpton Parish Council from the 2015/16 Kimpton Ward Budget towards the cost of purchasing additional litter picker.

REASON FOR DECISION: To improve services provided by local organisations and groups which are accessed by the community.
27 WARD AND OUTSIDE ORGANISATIONS - MEMBERS’ REPORTS
No Ward or Outside Organisation matters were discussed.
Published on Thursday, 14th July, 2016
9.40p.m