Mere Town Council
Town Clerk – Mrs. L. C. Wood
Minutes of the Annual Budget Meeting held on Monday, 14th December 2020 at 6.00 p.m. at Duchy Manor, Springfield Road, Mere.
Present: Councillors: C. Hazzard (Chairman), A. Colman, P. Coward, R. Hill, G. Jeans, J. Jordan, E. Mitchell & Mrs. L. Traves.
The Chairman of the Town Council, Cllr. Clive Hazzard Chaired the Meeting
Public Session – No members of public present
Apologies for absence – None received
Declarations of Interest
- Cllr. Hazzard declared an interest in Floral Enhancements & Rental for Town Council workshop compound
The Chairman stated that at the last meeting, Cllr. Mrs. Traves asked that we try and make this meeting quick and concise. Therefore, I hope that you have all carefully studied all the figures and notes that were provided prior to this meeting. As the Clerk has helpfully pointed out, the draft figures show an increase of 5.36% but if we can lose £3000 then we would get this down to 3.49%. However, I have been through some of the figures myself and have managed to get it down to 3.2% and so I am proposing that I go through those amendments with you and that we just spend our time discussing those and any other issues that you may particularly want to discuss:
Cllr. Jeans said that years ago, when he first joined the Town Council (then Mere Parish Council) they used to make a contribution towards street lighting. He pointed out that there are currently 3 street lights out in Salisbury Street all in a row which is extremely dangerous. There is also a gentleman that now has a new LED street light outside his bedroom window which is causing him a great deal of distress and I would like to get that modified but I cannot persuade Wiltshire Council to do this. I would therefore like to put an argument forward to say that we might think about finding some money to help with street lights as I think that Wiltshire Council are likely to say, at some point “if we want it, we’ve got to pay for it”. Cllr. Jordan said that there was recently a problem in Castle Street near his house and it was reported on the Wiltshire App and the problem was rectified satisfactorily within a fortnight. Cllr. Hill said he thought the Town Council would need to be very careful about considering putting funding towards street lighting and both Cllrs. P. Coward and Mitchell agreed.
The Clerk provided the following notes for councillors to consider prior to the budget meeting:
DRAFT FIGURES ATTACHED: The provisional tax base for 2021/22 has gone up from 1190.64 to 1208.76 which means that if we had the same precept as last year, it would make a difference of -£1.99 per Band D house or -1.50%. On the draft figures I have prepared for you, as attached, the precept would be £168983.97 which would be an increase of 5.36%. If it is any help, if we reduced this precept by £3000 there would be an increase of 3.49%
PUBLICATION – Please note that we will be required to provide a breakdown of expected expenditure and income to Wiltshire Council for them to publish as our precept is likely to be over £140,000
LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE SETTLEMENT – I have not heard any further news about plans to extend council tax referendums to local councils in line with the three-year deal that was announced in January 2018. I expect the government has had other things to deal with! But it may be worth bearing in mind that we could only have a year before we are likely to be capped.
SECTION 106 FUNDING – The S.106 agreement for the Woodlands Road Development states that the following sums will be provided:
- £48,264.00 of the Off Site Facilities contribution (Index Linked from date agreement signed on 19.3.2015) prior to the Occupation of the 20th Dwelling on Phase 1 of the Development
- £61,352.00 of the Off Site Facilities Contribution (Index Linked from date agreement signed on 19.3.2015) prior to the occupation of the 20th dwelling on the Phase 2 Development
- £68,501.00 of Open Space Contribution (Index Linked from date agreement signed on 19.3.15) prior to the occupation of 20th dwelling on the Phase 1 Development
- £87,077.00 of Open Space Contribution (Index Linked from date agreement signed on 19.3.15) prior to the occupation of 20th dwelling on the Phase 2 Development
Off Site Facilities Contribution means a financial contribution towards the provision of youth and adult open space & leisure facilities in the area to serve the development
Open Space Contribution means a financial contribution towards the provision, maintenance and improvement of Open Space in the parish of Mere (Open Space means public open space, including play areas and amenity land in the parish of Mere.
The money has to be spent within 10 y ears of receipt. After the expiry of a period of 10 years any contribution which remains unexpended for the purpose for which it was paid to the Council shall, unless committed by a binding contract between the Council and a third party, be repaid to the paying party upon request.
We were originally expecting the first phase of this funding in May/June 2019 but that didn’t happen and I have subsequently been wondering what the situation is with sales. However, last week I received an updated electoral register and notice that 21 dwellings are listed as being occupied within the electoral register and so I will be writing to Wiltshire Council to ask for this funding a.s.a.p.
Towards the end of the Summer, I applied to Wiltshire Council for a Discretionary Covid-19 Business Grant on the basis that the Town Council had an overspend on its budget allocation on Health & Safety due to COVID-19 requirements and also on the basis that we would have a shortfall of sporting and sponsorship income throughout the year. I am pleased to report that we received a grant of £8000 from Wiltshire Council.
NOTES ON DRAFT BUDGET SPREADSHEET
Advertising – no comments
Audit Costs –Limited Assurance Regime & our external auditors are PFK Littlejohn LLP. At present time audit fee depends on level of income/expenditure and whether or not there are any questions raised to the external auditor by members of the public etc. We managed to stay just under the £200k last year and incurred audit fee of £400 but we are already over £200k we will have to have an intermediate review rather than a basic limited assurance review. Obviously this requires more work to prepare more documents for submission to the auditors but will also incur a higher fee (£600 for income bracket £200k – £300k) We did actually have an intermediate review this year but as this was requested by the external auditors and not imposed because of our income/expenditure then we were still only charged £400 for the year. Suggest we budget £800 as they will impose hefty extra fees if there are lots of enquiries or questions from MOPs. Committee agreed.
Bank charges – no comment
Election Costs – I had been led to believe that the Town Council would need to share the costs of the May 2017 election but no invoice has been received from Wiltshire Council. However, if we have to have a by-election during the course of the year it could cost as much as £3500. Three years ago, members agreed to reduce our reserves from £3500 to £500 and since then we have added £1000 to the reserves. We have elections in 2021 – Wiltshire Council have not yet made a decision on whether they are willing to share election costs. Suggest we budget a further £1000. Committee agreed.
Hire of Rooms – no comment
Insurance – In 2019 we entered into a 3-year undertaking to stay with Came & Co. Therefore, we would need to remain with them until June 2022. The insurance claim on the Chapel break-in has been dealt with and the file is closed. Also, I imagine that insurance may increase next year due to the fact that we have made a claim. Suggest we keep budget at £4000 though. Committee agreed.
Legal Services – We have reserves of £3750. We have agreed to pay for extension of youth club lease and this requires legal fees + fees for surveyor to value the building. Fees could be £2k in total. We still need to pay legal expenses for renewal of leases for car parks and public toilets (we had received a quotation of £750 for this) but we have a problem here with the solicitor that we had been using. If we are able to resurrect this I would suggest that we use Wellers Hedley – they will be more expensive but they will give us specialist Town Council advice.
We also have to pay for renewal of croquet club lease for which we have received a quote of £500 and so that brings our reserves down to £1500. Our office lease expires next year and that will require legal expenses. I suggest we budget £1000 to bring reserves back up. Committee agreed.
Office equipment/services/stationery – We are having to pay more for internet security and anti-malware software etc. This heading also covers things like printer cartridges, all stationery, servicing computers and software updates. Revise reserves to £200 and increase budget to £750. Committee agreed.
Petty Cash – no comment
Office rentals/rates – We pay £50 a year in rent but we are responsible for rates. Last year’s rates cost £1422.15. Last year we added a further £1800 to budget to allow for potential rate increase if Town Council were to take on admin area of the old Children’s Centre. I don’t see any point in keeping that in reserve but I think it would be wise to budget for it in case it happens next year. Committee agreed.
South West Councils – £428
WALC – £864.33
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust- £36.00
CPRE – £36.00
Zoom – £119.90
SLCC – £234
Telephone/broadband expenses – No comment
Staff & Councillor training – No comment.
Travel Expenses – No comment
Data Protection Registration – No comment
Materials & repairs – The Wellhead car park work was carried out last year and some of the residents made a contribution towards this work. However, I would suggest that the Town Council should budget funds to build reserves so that this work can be carried out again in the future. Also, we have identified need for a further water trough at Southbrook – the supply can be piped from the other trough above ground level. Grounds staff say that this would involve 120m of pipework + fittings + trough + time.
NB – Could members please go out to Southbrook allotments after heavy rainfall periods – I went out there during Lockdown 2 and was astonished that 7 allotments were completely underwater (8 – 9 inches) – it looked like a paddy field. Is drainage an option? Reduce reserves to £235 to allow for new trough at Southbrook at end of financial year if reserves still available. Budget £350 to build reserves for further work – either drainage for Southbrook or car park repairs for Wellhead- in future. Committee agreed.
Pest Control – no comment
Rentals – we agreed a £20 rental increase with the Duchy of Cornwall. Our annual rental is £590
Water rates – water is turned off during the winter and used during spring/summer months only. Usage and therefore cost is largely dependent on weather conditions.
ANDY YOUNG PAVILION
Equipment & Furniture – Three years ago we reduced reserves by £2000 to £450 although it was agreed that reserves would be replenished at the next budget meeting. Since then we have replenished at £200 pa and now have £850. Suggest we add a further £200. Committee agreed.
Fencing & Security – Suggest we add £500 to make provision for external lighting and/or CCTV. I can only suggest that we have bollards with solar panels (I think they have these at Visit Hillbrush) or high solar street lighting & cameras. Obviously, we would not really want to spend much money on this until we know what is happening about the school car park extension proposals and whether or not they might include external lighting. Committee agreed.
Footpaths & Car Park – We have £1920 in reserve and our ultimate aim is to tarmac the car park although this will cost a tremendous amount of money. We don’t know what the intentions are regarding school expansion etc. Suggest budget further £500 to add to reserves. I am slightly concerned about this though, because it is a h & S hazard and we are responsible. Committee agreed.
Gas – no comment
Maintenance/Repairs – Over the last couple of years we have had fairly large maintenance/repair bills for the AYP. Sewage pump repairs, boiler repairs, new boiler and this year we had the interior re-decorated. The building was built in 2005 and is now 15 years old and we need to look after it or it will start to deteriorate. Exterior could do with some attention – also could do with repairing vandalism damage. Suggest we budget £1500 to start building decent reserves. Committee agreed.
Cleaning Equipment/Materials – No comment
Water & Sewerage – No comment
Consumables – No comment
Fire Alarm Maintenance – We have just entered into a contract to maintain the fire alarm at £180 p.a.
BAND HUT – The Town Council has agreed to build up reserves so that when the roof needs replacing, we have enough money to do the work. We have £1500 in reserve now. Suggest we budget a further £750. Committee agreed.
BOWLING GREEN – No budget allocation. Green is leased to Bowls Club.
Chapels – Chapels are in a state of dilapidation/structural movement is a possible issue. The broken windows to the south chapel have been repaired and are looking extremely smart. Total cost is £11564.14 + VAT. Our insurance claim is covering £9038.14 of the cost and the Town Council has agreed to pay the remainder because some of the windows were damaged prior to the break-in. Therefore, I have revised the reserves accordingly and this will leave us £2500 in reserve. Question – do we want to put bars on the inside of the large window at the front and the one at the rear (like we have on the side windows). Although we don’t have a large array of tools in the chapel, we do have a ride-on mower in there and bars might be a deterrent to anyone thinking about breaking the windows. The Grounds Staff have suggested that the doors might need replacing/refurbishing for both chapels as they are looking a bit tatty. I suggest we should amend reserves to £2500 and budget a further £1000 to start building up a building repair fund for the two chapels. Committee agreed.
Clock Tower – the Town Council spent nearly £16k refurbishing the Clock Tower during 15/16 financial year which diminished reserves. Reserves should be built back up again and now stand at £3400. However, we do have a leaking roof and the grounds staff suggest that this needs looking at. They also suggest that the front doors could do with a bit of refurbishment/repainting work. I have also had two requests (one last year and one this year) for a night silencer to be put on the clock and we had a quotation for this at £1500 last year. Suggest budget a further £1000 or £2500 if you think the night silencer should be added. Committee agreed to budget a further £1000.
Clock Tower Island – Reserves now stand at £1090. Budget another £200 to add to reserves again? Committee agreed.
Jubilee Garden Walls & path – We have been building reserves so that we can get the walls repointed and get the walkway re-tarmaced – reserves currently stand at £6125. Initial estimates for the wall repairs were in the region of £1000 and we have just considered quotations for the walkway at an average price of £4500. Therefore, it would seem that we have sufficient funds for the current project.
Pennybank Lane Walls – Three years ago it was noted that part of the brick wall on the eastern side of Pennybank Lane had been removed and replaced by a fence. Upon investigation it turned out that Mr. James Chalke had bought the property and had removed the wall believing it to be his. Mr. Chalke said he would be happy for the Town Council to rebuild the wall and we collected and stored all the bricks last year so we could rebuild the wall if we wanted to. We have reserves of £2800. Suggest budget a further £200. Committee agreed. Members agreed that rebuilding the wall at some point should be a subject for future Full Council discussion.
War Memorial – The War Memorial was completely refurbished/cleaned in 2018 at a cost of £6300 (we did get a grant to help with the cost). We have reserves of £1000 – suggest we budget a further £500 to add to reserves. Committee agreed.
Huntsgatge Play Area Walls & railings – We would like to do some work to the railings to make them sturdier. Suggest we add £300 to build reserves. Committee agreed.
Horticultural Shed – We have reserves of £785. The wooden part of the shed could do with a lick of paint/preservative. Suggest we add £300 to build reserves. Committee agreed.
Office – we have £800 in reserves. We added windows some years ago. Suggest we budget a further £200 to build reserves for any major projects we may want to do here. Committee agreed.
Telephone Kiosk, The Square – we have £100 in reserve. The telephone kiosk was all painted in 2018. Not aware of any need for refurbishment/repair. Suggest we add £50 to reserves. Committee agreed.
Vehicle & trailer – We purchased the Mitsubishi in 2015 for £5850. I have no reason to believe it is on its last legs but money should be budgeted for replacement in due course. We purchased the RTV + small trailer last year at a cost of £16k. We used up all our reserves last year. Suggest we need to start building reserves to replace the Mitsubishi in the future. Recommended budget of £3000. Committee agreed.
Litter bins – we have recently moved the dog poo bin from Waterside and moved it to Clements Lane (we already had a litter bin in Waterside). The problem with providing new litter bins is that they have to be emptied which is more work on our grounds staff and the waste has to be removed which is more cost on our waste removal contract. We have been asked, however, to provide a litter bin for the Edgebrridge/Walnut Road area and with the new development at Woodlands Road – this is likely to be more of a demand. Suggest retain reserves of £640 and budget a further £200. Committee agreed.
Grounds machinery & equipment – We used up all our reserves last year. It should be noted that if the ride-on mower and tractor need replacing then it would cost a huge amount of money. We need to start building reserves again quite rapidly. Suggest budget £5000. Committee agreed.
Office equipment – The Town Clerk’s computer replaced in 2016/17 financial year and Clerks Assistants computer purchased in 2013/14 financial year. Equipment which was necessary to implement zoom meetings but unanticipated was purchased this year. This was justified as Clerk applied for a business support grant and received it. Laptop, television and equipment for Zoom meetings was purchased this year. Suggest we keep reserves of £1000 and budget a further £200 for replacement equipment as and when necessary. Committee agreed.
Seats & benches – the Town Council’s policy is to have these donated. We have had none donated this year although I am exploring the notion of installing one in memory of John Hancock in Woodlands Road.
Xmas Lights – We have £600 in reserve for new/replacement lights. We have just had to replace one string this year at a cost of £133.20. Suggest no budget. Committee agreed.
Play Equipment for Castle Hill Play Area – The multi-play unit was purchased in 2014, using Policy R2 funds and the swings had been refurbished a few years prior. However, the low level wooden trailway is now quite old and some of it has had to be removed this year. Two years ago members agreed that funds should be budgeted in order to consider replacement in the future. It could be possible to use off-site S.106 funds for this. Suggest budget £500 to add to reserves of £2250. Committee agreed.
Skatepark – it would be lovely to extend the skatepark and do a Phase 2 because it is very popular. Could possibly get funding for this but not sure time would allow for administrating this project in the near future. Suggest budget £700. Committee removed budget allocation.
Outdoor Gym Equipment – Our intentions were to build an outdoor gym area inside the old swimming pool site and indeed, we filled in the old swimming pool at a cost of £3880. We have some R2 money reserved for this project and I had proceeded to get quotations and drawings so that I could submit grant applications for the project. However, the whole project has now been scuppered because Mere School want to use the area for a new walkway to get safer access to the school. Very disappointed about this and I feel that if this project goes ahead, we should ask for compensation from Wiltshire Council for the £3880 that we spent in filling in the swimming pool. This would make a big difference to our budget/precept figures. Is the project abandoned? We may lose the R2 funding!
Public Access Defibrillator –Last year it was agreed that we should start building reserves to replace the two defibrillators we have at some time in the future. Reserves now stand at £250. Budget a further £250. Committee agreed.
Storage containers for grounds equipment/staff – Last year we amended our reserves to £5000 and then budgeted a further £2000 for storage containers to make a new compound for the grounds staff at Townsend. The storage containers ended up costing £8000. Therefore, we used up all the budget although I am not aware that we need more containers. However, we do need to consider making some kind of storage for a fuel tank on the site. Suggest we budget a further £1000. Committee agreed.
Speed Indicator Device – I am not aware of the need to purchase a new SID at the present time.
Snow Blade – no comment. Committee recommended to remove reserves of £250.
Bunded Fuel Tank – we need to purchase a bunded fuel tank to keep on the Townsend Nursery site. Not really sure on cost. Will it need to sit on a concrete pad? It will need to be in some kind of secure facility. What about rental of space? Committee agreed to budget £1000 and raise this as a future agenda item for Full Council.
Nail Gun – this is on the groundsman’s wish list
PTO driven chipper – this is on the groundsman’s wish list. Recommend budget £1500. Committee agreed.
Machinery & tool replacements within insurance claim – most replacement have now been purchased although there are three or four items still to purchase (cost approx. £750). Revise reserves to £750. Committee agreed.
Castle Street Car Park – Rates – no comment
Salisbury Street Car Park – Rates – the rates for the Salisbury Street Car Park include rates for the Public Toilets (I presume) – the rate bill says car park & premises. I believe that the bill to stop business rates on public toilets has now been passed through parliament and so we shouldn’t have to pay rates on the public toilets. However, it is difficult for me to know how much of the rates bill related to the toilets and how much to the car park so I can’t say how much of a reduction we might see (if any!).
Maintenance – Last year we had some pointing work done to the walls around the Castle Street Car Park at a cost of £700. However, A. McCann says that there is more work required which he reckons would cost about £500. This was very difficult to predict as with any stone wall project, the damage is not apparent until you start taking back the pointing and taking out stones etc. Anthony also said that the wall around the Band Hut needs attention but it is not immediately dangerous. Could do capping just to stop the water getting in which would cost approx… £200 or could repair whole lot which would cost £400-500. We have reserves of £3700 and suggest we budget a further £500 to add to reserves. Committee agreed.
Flags – we purchased two flags this year at a cost of £328. Suggest we retain reserves of £270 and budget a further £500. Committee agreed.
Flag Pole – Over the years we have been building up reserves for repairs necessary to the flag pole. We are aware that the wire to haul the flag up the pole has broken and that we need to find someone to put a new wire on. Suggest budget a further £200 to add to reserves of £1215. Committee agreed.
Grass seeds & weed control – no comment
Maintenance of floodlight – no comment
Rentals – no comment
Signs/information boards – no comment
Gates/fences & footpaths – the grounds staff have re-set the steps at the back of Castle Hill this winter. Concerned about the amount of repair work that needs to be done to the fencing. On Castle Hill & Long Hill. Grounds Staff have identified this as possible in-house job. Materials alone would be £500 minimum and hire of machinery would help. However, our grazing license says that Goat Farmer is responsible for fencing repairs.?!? Committee did not make comment on this and so it will be raised as a future agenda item for Full Council discussion.
Tree management – no comment
Castle Hill Environment Plan/HLS Scheme – There are no reserves remaining. Margaret Fennelly from Natural England is applying for us to have a year’s extension to our HLS Scheme. I don’t know yet what implications this will have on funding. Suggest retain reserves of £120. Committee agreed.
Refund of grave purchase fees – No comment
Rates – I have been concerned about a potential rate increase on the cemetery as indications from the valuation suggested that they would increase significantly. Suggest we budget £1000 to cover sudden increase. Committee agreed.
Walls, railings & footpaths – The work carried out by the Youth Offenders Team on the railings a couple of years ago never got completed. The grounds staff carried out some refurbishment work on the main footpath three years ago at a cost of £850 and I am aware that they would like to extend this work further out to other footpaths within the old cemetery – time permitting. but we did not think it was justified. Funds should be budgeted to allow for this in the next 5 years or so though. Also, the grounds staff are concerned about the gate on the north-eastern corner by Barnes Place. The gates don’t meet because the pillars have moved due to large oak tree roots. We don’t know what to suggest. Clive and I also had an enquiry about replacing the wooden fence on the eastern boundary. We now have reserves of £1580 and I suggest we budget a further £500 to allow for more work to the paths. Committee agreed. Discuss gates at future Full Council meeting.
Water Rates – No comment
Signs & Security – The solar light could do with refurbishing and we need an HD padlock for double gates. Retain reserves of £265 and budget a further £235. Committee agreed.
Tree Management – Suggest we get rid of the dead yew trees. Should be sufficient in reserves for this. Committee agreed.
Ground & Weed Management – Grounds staff would like to remove some of the spoil I would suggest that if we don’t get a large rate increase, then we use any surplus to remove some of the spoil. Committee agreed.
Materials/Repairs – Retain reserves of £520 and budget a further £400. Committee agreed.
Fencing, gates & hedging – We need to think about layout, gates, access and water for the next phase of the new cemetery. Are we going to move the fence and keep the hedge. Are we going to plant a new hedge? Grounds staff say that we need a new set of wooden gates at the top? Will we need another water tap and if not, how will people get to the water tap? There are a couple of piles of soil that the staff want to get rid of – one in the car park and one at top of new extension bit. Get a digger and dumper and take it down to the bottom of the field and level it up. Grounds staff asked if the grave diggers shouldn’t be taking away the muck? What do other cemeteries do about this problem? These issues to be discussed by Full Council at a future meeting. In the meantime committee agreed to budget £1400.
New gates & drive –The Town Council has aspirations of installing a driveway and new gates into the new cemetery in line with the driveway and gates to the old cemetery but it admits that this would be an expensive project and probably not within reach given the current financial climate. However, it was agreed to retain reserves of £1000 and make no further budget. No budget again? Committee agreed.
Water – No comment
Planting scheme – No comment
Litter bin – Could do with a litter bin in the new cemetery. Put a dustbin in there. No budget. Committee agreed.
Lych Gate – Members have historically said that this was unviable financially. However, they have requested that the heading remain in case the situation changes.
Drainage & paths – It has been agreed to start rebuilding reserves for the next phase of necessary drainage & path works. As far as I am aware, all the strip that we are currently on is now drained? Therefore, we have another 4 full rows which will give us 44 burials. (April 2018-March 2019 – 4, April 2019 – March 2020 – 9, April 20 – Nov. 20 – 15). The last lot of drainage work we did was in 2012 and it came to just under £10k. We have £5k in reserve now. I suggest we budget another £5k for the next lot of drainage work and get this project started next year. Committee agreed. Cllr Jordan wanted to discuss the new cemetery and the amount of money that was being budgeted for drainage and footpaths and the urgency of starting work on the next phase of the cemetery extension given the fact that the Clerk had identified only 44 grave spaces remaining. The Clerk explained that one of the reasons why the Town Council had recently used up a lot of grave spaces is because people are purchasing them in advance – this has been exacerbated by the fact that the local Funeral Directors have been promoting burial plans and also because family members have been buying plots so that they can be buried near their loved ones. Cllr. Hill said that with respect to the drainage, he did not think it worked at all and that it was virtually impossible to drain the heavy clay ground effectively. He felt that this was a complete waste of money. He explained that the number of plots per row had been reduced from 13 to 11 recently but wondered if it would be better to revert to single graves rather than double graves from now on. He also wondered whether or not the Town Council should amend its regulations and stop the burial or purchase of graves for non-parishioners. It was agreed that this should be raised as an agenda item for the Full Council to consider at a future date.
Signage – I would like to install a smart noticeboard on the wide bit of grass between the two cemeteries. I would like to put the cemetery rules and regulations on the notice board and our contact details. Cost – approx. £500. Committee agreed.
Burial Books – no comment
CHAIRMAN’S EXPENSES – No comment
CHAIRMAN’S PENDANT – No Comment
Electricity – Please remember that the office electricity supply (which provides heating as well as lighting/computer comes from the changing rooms supply as well as the MUGA lights) so this is not all football club usage. Suggest we retain reserves of £580 and budget a further £800. Committee agreed.
Fire Alarm Maintenance – Would like to say that we have a bit of a concern about fire safety as there is now no alternative fire escape route and the only way out of the changing rooms is through the corridor and the great big boiler with a naked gas flame is right next to the end of the corridor by the main door!
Gas – Three years ago the gas used in the changing rooms cost us £705. Obviously, there has been no usage of the changing rooms so far this year yet, although I know that they are keen to re-start in January (whether or not they will be able to use the changing rooms is down to Govt. guidance). I suggest we reduce reserves to £500 and budget £500 again for next year. Committee agreed.
Maintenance/Repair – Three years ago we removed £1000 from reserves leaving only £710. It would be nice to get the changing rooms decorated in the near future as ceilings are all flaking and peeling. Suggest we keep £900 in reserve and budget a further £500 to add to reserves to allow for maintenance/repairs and if enough left over towards end of next financial year, we get some decoration done. Committee agreed.
Water & sewerage – as Gas above. I have noticed a reduction in water costs. Suggest we reduce reserves and budget £250. Committee agreed.
Boiler Maintenance & water testing – We need to get an annual check and water test done on the big boiler that supplies the changing rooms. Unfortunately, we are having difficulty finding contractors to do this. Suggest we retain reserves. Committee agreed.
Community Resilience Group – We did spend some money on buying Hi-Vis vests for our volunteers and someone donated some hand gel for them too. However, I put this expenditure down as COVID H&S expenses. Do not see a need for expenditure and if it did arise we can take it from our grants & donations allocation. Committee agreed.
Croquet & Boules Club – The new lease is in the process of being prepared?!?. I have retained reserves of £500 & suggest we budget a further £500 as I am slightly worried about the future of the club and am concerned that the Town Council is going to be left with an area of land that needs maintenance. We have temporarily rectified a problem they had with their gate this autumn. However, there are issues with a large beach tree to the left of the gate and incidentally, this is not on our tree register. The committee recommended that the reserves of £500 be retained but that NO budget should be made.
DEFIBRILLATORS (Maintenance) – We spend an average of £300 a year on new parts and maintenance for the 2 defibrillators in the town. Suggest we retain reserves of £150 and budget a further £300 for next year. Committee agreed.
DUCHY MANOR GROUNDS
Maintenance – We are responsible for the land down to the river at the bottom of the grounds, beyond the fence. A few years ago we got contractors in to come and do some maintenance work and tree thinning, scrub clearance. Suggest it probably ought to be done again although it could possibly be done ‘in-house’. Grounds staff would also like to do some more clearance of the wooded area. Also, would like to give ultimatum to football club to get rid of floodlights. Get school gates painted. Fence between Duchy Grounds and Burton Path needs some attention. Please consider options. High chain link fence would be ideal. Fence along eastern boundary also needs some attention. Obviously not going to get all this done in one year but suggest we start building funds and try and get some of these jobs done. Therefore budget £500 to add to reserves of £1760. Committee agreed.
Rates – No comment
Rentals – No comment
Security/Safety – No comment
Signs – Would like to get a Mere Town Council sign. I know this has been previously approved in any case. Would suggest largish sign on two posts.
Tree Management – No comment
EVENTS – Events for this year did not go ahead as planned. We have got things in place for Operation London Bridge. Unlikely to have any major events before April. Next major event is Queens Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Suggest we budget £300 for any unforeseen events & if we don’t have any, it can go towards Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Committee agreed.
FINGERPOST SIGNS – We were successful in receiving a grant for £400 towards the refurbishment of one fingerpost sign last year and we are in the process of applying for a grant to refurbish another fingerpost sign this year. However, the grants never quite cover costs so I suggest we budget £200 to cover extra costs. Committee agreed.
FLORAL ENHANCEMENTS – Grounds staff suggest using our Mere stone to raise the height of the flower bed at the bus-stop outside Balcony Cottages so that it is not so back-breaking to work on. They would also like a water pump for bowser. Suggest we increase reserves to £2600 to get this work done. Would need to get permission from Highways and might need to apply for planning permission though? Committee agreed to increase reserves but made no recommendation on raising height of flower bed which will need to be discussed by Full Council at future meeting.
Footpath Group – this is the Footpath Group’s money
Seed money to tarmac Burton Footpath – We have £1700 in reserve to act as seed money to tarmac Burton Path. Retain reserves.
Green Dog Code – No comment
Small Tools & Equipment – No comment
Branded Work Clothing – No comment
Fuel & Oil – No comment
Hedge cutting – if and when we buy another tractor we would be stupid not to buy one that couldn’t accommodate a hedge cutter and if we could buy a hedgecutter attachment we could do away with having contractors in. Whilst this would not save us much money because contractors are not expensive, it would mean that we could keep the hedges tidier all year round rather than just a once a year cut and this would keep the general public a lot happier!
Hedge planting/gates/fences – Castle Hill Play Area needs a new gate (Mole Valley)
Play equipment repairs (in house) – No comment
Seats & benches (repairs & maintenance) – the benches in Jubilee Gardens are looking a bit tired.
Signs – no comment
Weed Control – no comment
Vehicle road tax & insurance – I have moved this heading from admin to grounds expenses as it is directly related to grounds.
CCTV and/or Wildlife Cameras – We have suffered vandalism in the past and we occasionally get “hot spots” which move – sometimes it is the pavilion. Sometimes it is Salisbury Street Car Park. Sometimes it is the Cemetery. We also have little problems like someone repeatedly allowing a dog into the new cemetery, or someone deliberately leaving the gate open on Castle Hill to let the goats out so we wondered if some kind of more mobile CCTV might prove to be useful. I am not sure how this would work with GDPR though. Have budgeted £500 so that we could consider this.
GROUNDS MACHINERY – This section is for maintenance, service & repair costs only. Any new machinery or replacement machinery comes under capital purchase.
GROUNDS SUNDRIES – No comment
HEALTH & SAFETY
COVID-19 – Suggest we retain reserves of £200 and budget a further £400 for next year. Committee agreed.
Fire Safety – We need a new fire extinguisher for RTV.
First Aid – No comment
Pest Control – No comment
Play Equipment Inspection – No comment
PPE – No comment
Tree Inspection – We paid £2000 for a professional tree inspection in 2017/18 financial year and we ought to have this done every 5 years, although, in theory, it shouldn’t cost us as much as the first one did because the first one entailed all the plotting & mapping, tagging & numbering etc. The next inspection report will be due in 2021/22. Suggest we retain reserves of £1000 and budget a further £200 to get this work done in 21/22. Committee agreed. (James has been on a visual tree inspection course and so is able to supplement the 5-yearly professional tree inspection and provide interim reports.)
Signs/barriers – No comment
Fixed Wire Testing – We are having one building done at a time because it is too costly to have them all done at the same time. We had Youth Club done this year. Suggest we have Andy Young Pavilion or Clock Tower done next year? Retain reserves of £800 and budget a further £200. Committee agreed.
Legionella Risk Assessment – we have had this done this year. Company called Aquamark have provided us with some training and a Water Management Logbook which I now need to find some time to read through and work out what we have to do!
HUNTSGATE (WALNUT ROAD) PLAY AREA – Last year, reserves were reduced to £1000 on the understanding that S.106 funding could be used for refurbishment of Walnut Road Play Area. I have a number of quotations for the refurbishment works – coming in at an average of £50k, although these will all be out of date now. With reference to the Clerks notes on the S.106 funding at the front of these minutes, members felt fairly confident that funding would be forthcoming during the 2021/22 financial year, if not before and therefore recommended that reserves should be removed altogether.
KINGSMERE/LONGHILL OPEN SPACE – Some of you may remember that when the Kingsmere estate was built and the open space was transferred to us, we were given a sum of money (as part of a S.106 agreement) to help us look after the land. This money has now been used up and so it will now be necessary to think about allocating funds and setting budgets for this land:
Tree Works – Retain reserves of £470 and budget a further £200. Committee agreed.
Fencing & Hedge cutting – Retain reserves of £800 and budget a further £400. Committee agreed.
Water Supply – No comment
Maintenance – There is a need for some fencing repairs as the youngsters have caused considerable damage climbing the fence to get in during lockdown. We may be able to put some panels up ourselves using reserves we have of £1585. Committee agreed.
Floodlights – You will recall that we installed 1 LED light to replace one of the floodlights three years ago and this had been pretty successful and the Council had agreed to continue this programme as and when the floodlights stop working. We also had to carry out some fencing replacement after a tree branch fell on the fence and we had to replace some of the floodlight electrical boxes because they were rusting out. Retain reserves of £750 to carry out repairs as and when necessary.
I am not aware that the Neighbourhood Plan needs funding from the Town Council.
Payroll – discussed and Minuted under ‘CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS’ at the end of this report.
Website – The Town Council’s website was renewed & reworked this year to comply with the new website accessibility requirements. It still needs some input from me but we shouldn’t require much in the way of funding. Retain reserves of £150 and budget £300 again. Committee agreed.
Update on lease – It would appear that all lease work is on hold at Wiltshire Council as officers have been seconded onto other jobs. The last stumbling block related to the proposal for EV charging points and the loss of 5 car parking spaces in each car park.
Security – We budgeted money to provide CCTV in the car park on the public toilets last year but not had time to deal with this. I did get a quote from Partnership Security which came in at £945 for works & £70 for service contract. However, I think it may be better to do this when the toilets have been refurbished?!? Do you want to keep reserves of £1000. Members recommended that the reserves should be removed as there may be an alternative solution. Furthermore, vandalism had not been a problem since the toilets had been locked at night.
Refurbishment Costs – Three years ago we agreed to budget £11,771 in order to allow for refurbishment costs as identified by local builders and also to replace the Wallgate wash units. We have been adding funds to these reserves each year to allow for inflation. Clive and I have been talking about the idea of having self-locking toilets (like Shaftesbury) that lock at night. We are coping reasonably well with one toilet although there were queues in the summer weeks when everyone was descending on the west country and I have not received one complaint about the toilets being locked in the evening. Also, there has been much less hassle from a maintenance/cleaning/vandalism point of view. I would therefore like to suggest that we re-think our refurbishment plans and do something a bit more radical. i.e. convert toilets into two accessible multi-gender toilets and a caretakers room and reduce size of building footprint to allow for extra EV car parking/charging points. Therefore, retain reserves of £13370 and budget a further £1000. Members felt that this was an excellent idea and agreed that this should be discussed in greater detail by the Full Council.
Drainage Costs – Drainage works have been identified. We have been adding funds to allow for inflation. Suggest we keep reserves and add a further £500. I feel that this work should be carried out in conjunction with the refurbishment or redesigning work and I have been reluctant to carry out any of this work without the lease in place – do you agree? Committee agreed.
RECREATION GROUND – the Recreation Ground generally is looking a bit tatty and could do with smartening up a bit. Needs new sign as you come in the gates and new regulation sign as well. Gates could do with painting. Car Park area could do with sorting (see below).
Play Equipment – We have been adding funds to build up reserves for replacement play equipment. The multi-purpose unit with slide is now extremely old and has required a number of repairs in recent years and the roundabout is not working. We now have reserves of £3000 which would not be sufficient to replace any equipment. However, I think it possible that we could use some of the S.106 off-site funds towards replacing equipment in the Recreation Ground so you may not want to budget extra. Recommended to retain reserves of £3000 and budget £400. Committee agreed.
Signs – need new signs. Suggest we retain reserves of £165 and budget a further £250. Committee agreed.
Tennis Courts – We agreed, a few years ago, that we would continue setting aside some money to build up reserves for refurbishment of tennis courts in future. We now have £1600 so I suggest we budget the same as last year (£400). Members recommended that NO budget be made.
Litter bins – we do need to replace a litter bin in the Recreation Ground. Suggest budget £500
Trees – Would like to retain reserves in order to get extra tree work done to crown lift the TPO trees on eastern boundary – both sides – so that farmer can get underneath with tractor etc. Recommend retain reserves of £1465. Committee agreed.
Skate Park – . The skatepark is very popular and is wearing well although there are some minor small cracks appearing in the concrete. My grounds staff think it may be possible for them to tackle this. Also the bin needs replacing as it is broken. Ideally we should get some kind of HD vandal proof bin. Suggest we retain reserves of £400. Committee agreed.
Car Park Repairs – suggest we get a load of road planings and see if we can level car park area a bit. Add £250 to reserves of £1600. Committee agreed.
Youth Club – I have amended the reserves to £6000 which is the sum that we have promised the Seeds4Success to be put towards their project. This is the wording I put in my report which has now subsequently been approved by the Town Council: ‘Mere Town Council will consider, at its Annual Budget Meeting each year, the budgeting and allocation of grants or donations to Seeds4Success to go towards this project until the building has been completed and thereafter, will consider, upon request, grants or donations to Seeds4Success to be used towards repair/maintenance costs of the building that may be necessary or required.’ I have therefore included a budget of £4000. Committee agreed.
This is money which has been awarded to the Rivers Group as a grant.
The limit of expenditure for S.137 during 2019/20 is £8.32 per elector (8.32 X 2473 = £20,575.36)
Last year the S.137 grants and donations were set at the same level as the previous year and I have set them the same again. Committee agreed.
Area Board Support Gants – we have agreed to give £50 to the Healthy Mere Walking group to support their Area Board Grant Application. We have agreed to give £500 to Mere Foodbank as a one-off grant so I thought, since we haven’t received any other Area Board Support Grant Applications, then this money could come from this allocation. Suggest we keep reserves and budget £550 to build up reserves to £1000 again. Committee agreed.
CATG projects – Suggest we budget £750. Committee agreed.
Commercial Waste Collection – Wiltshire Council have contracted out this service and we now have a direct contract with Hills Waste. However, we are repeatedly being charged for excess weight. It is not a case that the rubbish won’t go in the bin but a case that the weight of the rubbish is too much. We are working with Hills Waste and Biffa to get quotations and try and work out the most economical way of dealing with the problems but at the moment, it would appear to be cheaper to pay the excess weight charges than to have another bin and I think that even if we have another bin, we will still get excess weight charges. We will also then have a problem as to where to store the bins. I have therefore increased the reserves and suggest we increase budget to £2400 for next year. Committee agreed.
Dog waste bags – We are getting through these rather rapidly although I am sure the provision is appreciated, not least by our own staff. Increase reserves to £225 and budget a further £400. Committee agreed.
WHITE ROAD GARDENS
The reserves set aside for the White Road Gardens Play Area was a commuted sum from the developers to provide play equipment in the play area for the site. However, after consultation with residents once the development was built, it was clear that a play area was not desired in that location and it was felt that the Recreation Ground play area was within close proximity. The Clerk pointed out that the commuted sum had been reduced over the years on maintenance & grass cutting of the play area at White Road. The balance at present is £6225 I have had one resident of White Road Gardens approach me to say that they would like some play equipment for young children on the site?
Night Silencer for Mere Town Clock – I have now had two requests (one from ‘The George’ & one from a resident of The Square), to have chimes silenced at nights. We used to have a night silencer system but I guess this got removed when we had the automatic timing mechanism. Anyhow, we have had a quotation from Cumbria Clocks at £1315. I feel that in the current financial climate, this is not a feasible option but have added £200 to build up reserves. Committee agreed.
Noticeboard for Town Centre – no comment.
Rental for Storage Containers – Cllr. Hazzard had declared a pecuniary interest in this matter and left the room whilst it was discussed. As reported last year, following the break-in to the workshop in the south chapel at the Cemetery and the need to purchase storage and workshop containers as a compound for the grounds staff and equipment, Cllr. Hazzard had made an offer to the Town Council that these could remain on his land at Townsend Nurseries until March 2020 free of charge. However, he was not in a position to be able to offer this site rent free on a permanent basis and would therefore need to make a charge of £25 per container per week thereafter. At last year’s budget meeting it had been agreed to budget enough funding to allow for 6 months rental but that steps should be taken to seek alternative land to site these containers. The Clerk had not been able to think of any alternative land that would be secure enough and provide the relevant utilities (water & electricity) and councillors had not provided any alternative solutions in the meantime. Therefore the Clerk was recommending that the reserves should be amended to £3600 and a further budget of £3600 be added. Committee agreed.
Install EV charging point for car park – Last year I reported that “we have had a request, from the Doctors Surgery, to install an EV charging point for car park and also, I think that this would be a positive Environmental move for the Town Council. I have made some enquiries and it would appear that the key issue with all these EV charging points is the electricity supply and it seems that most EV charger suppliers would insist on having a feasibility study done into how we can get the electricity in, where would be the best situation for the EV chargers and how many we would need now and in the future. The cost of the feasibility study is £250 and it seems that all the companies are going down this route now
Anyhow, as a rough guide the cost of a surface charger is £1750 and the average cost of installation is £1500 but obviously this is all dependent on how much groundwork is required etc. The charger would be a 7kw fast charger that is capable of charging two vehicles at the same time. There is government grants available called ‘On Street Grant’ but it is understood, from other town councils, that it is a difficult process (what a surprise!)”. Since then, we had an email from John Price at Wiltshire Council to say that they wanted to take some of the car parking spaces out of our lease so that they could install EV charging points for vehicles. The Town Council was a little upset and unhappy about the fact that they wanted to take away 5 car parking spaces from each car park and I asked John Price for some clarification on this and also an update on what was happening about this. 8 months later, I still haven’t heard anything, despite having sent out a reminder email more recently. Suggest we retain reserves of £250 and budget a further £250. Committee agreed.
Succession – recommend retain reserves of £2000 and budget a further £2000. Committee agreed.
ADMINISTRATION – the income that we have received this year relates to the insurance claim for the chapel windows and replacement tools following the break-in to the South Chapel in November 2019.
Allotments – If we want to apply an allotment rental increase we need to give 1 year’s notice. We sent out a letter to all allotment holders in March 2020 giving them a year’s notice that we would be applying a 10% increase to all allotment rents w.e.f. March 2021.
Cemetery (Burial fees & charges) – We usually increase cemetery fees by 3% each year. Do you want to do the same again? Cemetery income has exceeded our expectations this year. This is largely because non-residents have purchased a number of plots due to Funeral Directors promoting funeral plans etc. Committee agreed that fees should be increased by 3% again.
Croquet & Boules Club Rent – we agreed to waive most of their rental payments this year. I am assuming we will receive rental again next year.
Sports Clubs fees – I have made the assumption that we will not be receiving any sports club income this year. I suggest we write to all the sports clubs to say that we understand that it has been a difficult year and we have therefore decided not to make any charges. However, we are expecting full and timely payment of charges for the 2021/22 year. I am also assuming that we will be making the 3% increase across the board. Committee agreed.
Sponsorship/pledges for Car Parks – I would like to write to all the businesses to say that the Town Council understands that they have all had a verry difficult year this year and in order to support them we will waive the sponsorship fees for 2020/21 but that we have carried out our annual budget forecasts in the confidence that, in return, they will support us with their sponsorship for the 2021/22 financial year. Committee agreed.
CIL & Policy R2 – This was the information I provided last year: ‘I have sent off a request to Wiltshire Council for an update on CIL receipts for MTC. Their spreadsheet only shows CIL receipt of £1833.15 for the Old Ship Hotel. I have queried why there is nothing shown for: house in Mill Lane/Edgebridge, house in Pettridge Lane, conversion of Methodist Church and also conversion of Lloyds Bank. Still awaiting response!!’ I am still awaiting a response. It seems to me that the CIL situation has been a complete waste of time as the developers are just getting out of paying it and we are not receiving it! Committee agreed.
Sale of Assets – We have some timber for sale. Also can we sell the Kubota hand mower that we were given with the RTV – it is too heavy for the boys and it has never been used. RRP is £999. We might get £500 for it? Committee agreed.
MEMBERS OF THE BUDGET COMMITTEE WERE HAPPY TO RECOMMEND A PRECEPT OF £164,984.48 WHICH WOULD REPRESENT AN INCREASE OF 2.87% OR £3.81 ON A BAND D COUNCIL TAX.
Meeting closed at 7.28 pm