PRESENT: Cllr. Pethurst (in the Chair), Cllrs. Bunyan, Gilbert and Hatcher

APOLOGIES: Cllr. Fairweather & Fletcher

Declaration of Interests, Dispensations and Predetermination:

Members are required to declare any interests, dispensations or predetermination on items on this agenda in accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct. Members are reminded that changes to the Register of Interests should be notified to the Clerk.

Cllr. Pethurst declared an interest in item 82/23a, Grant Application – Cranbrook Museum & Local History CIO

 71/23: Internal finance check:

Cllr. Pethurst confirmed that the internal finance check had been completed and everything was in order, all paperwork had been signed and initialled.

 72/23: Authorisation of payments made after the November meeting:

A list of payments totalling £19,009.81 made after the November meeting, is filed with these minutes.

 73/23: Transfers of monies between accounts, including savings accounts to maximise interest revenue:

Cllr. Pethurst reported that as per the decision at the meeting in November, we have now given notice to withdraw £500,000 from the Lloyds 32 Day Notice Account, which will be reinvested in the HSBC Money Market as it provides a much higher interest rate.

The process prompted an amendment to the number of signatories required to transfer funds from Lloyds 32 Day Notice Account. Changes have also been made to allow the RFO to set up payments.

74/23: Invoices for Payment:

A list of payments to be made in December had been circulated, a copy of which is filed with these minutes. Cllr. Pethurst proposed the payments be approved as presented, this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.

These included:

Policy and Resources                          £15,652.78

Properties & Burial Grounds             £  5,531.34

Environmental Management             £  1,687.13

General Funding                                  £  2,699.70

Total          £25,570.95

The Clerk advised that Cllr. Gilbert had also authorised expenditure totally £140.00 to purchase and erect a length of chestnut fencing at Sissinghurst Cemetery closing a gap in the vegetation which was being used by dog walkers as a short cut. An invoice totalling £320.00, which includes this expenditure and a new oak latching post, can be seen in the draft payment list.

Two members are required to log in to the account and authorise the payments. The Clerk asked if this could be completed after the meeting Thursday evening and before 3pm on Friday, thus avoiding any delay in our creditors receiving payment.

75/23: Budget and Five-Year Plan:

A working budget sheet for Policy & Resources had been circulated to the Committee. Draft figures had been suggested following a budget meeting with Cllr. Pethurst as chair of the Committee, the Clerk and the R.F.O. Following a full discussion on the draft figures, Cllr. Pethurst proposed the budget for Policy and Resources be accepted as presented, this was seconded by Cllr. Hatcher and agreed. A copy is filed with these minutes. It was also agreed there would be no budget for contingencies this year, any unforeseen expenditure would be met from cash reserves.

a) Overall Council budget for 2024/25

Members felt that as residents will be hit by the increase from KCC, TWBC, Kent Police and Kent Fire and Rescue so we should do what we can to lessen the impact by increasing the precept element of the Council Tax by just 1p per year on a Band D property. The increase in the tax base allows for an overall increase of the precept by £8,559 to £386,712 without any increase being passed onto residents.

This recommendation would be put forward to Full Council next month, when discussing approval of the precept demand. Cllr. Pethurst proposed the budget for Policy and Resources be accepted as presented, this was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed. A copy is filed with these minutes.

b) Transfer of unused NDP budget funds

Following discussion, the committee agreed to earmark the funds for costs that may arise relating to the NDP, such as planning appeals, projects identified in the NDP and review of the Plan.

76/23: Option of a three-year contract with Scribe Accounting:

The Clerk advised that Scribe were intending to increase their charges for the accounting software and support by 20%. However, we could take advantage of a long-term agreement for three years, which would result in reducing the increase to 8%. Cllr. Pethurst proposed the offer of the three-year agreement be accepted, this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed. Cllr. Pethurst gave his thanks to the RFO for negotiating the 3-year agreement.

77/23: KCC Internal Audit Report:

A copy of the audit had been circulated to the Committee. No issues were raised.

78/23: Policies:

a) Data Protection Policy
The Clerk advised that the policy had been brought in line with the SLCC recommended data protection policy. Cllr. Pethurst proposed the updated policy be accepted, this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed.

b) Data Retention Policy
The Clerk advised that the only changes had been formatting and that the review was purely routine. Pethurst proposed the policy be accepted, this was seconded by Cllr. Hatcher and agreed.

79/23: Community Centres/Medical Centre:

Cllr. Gilbert advised that Cllr. Fletcher would give a more detailed update at Full Council. He summarised that the GPs had not provided specifications to date. An architect had, free of charge, produced several design options for conversion of the 6th Form Centre to a medical centre. Cllr. Pethurst raised concerns about the promised funding form KCC Libraries towards a community centre, in light of KCCs financial position.

 80/23: Fernham Homes Planning Application to relocate the external door of Sissinghurst Public Toilets
Due to Cllr. Fletchers’ absence it was agreed to request he update on the situation at Full Council

81/23: Staffing:

a) The Clerk and Deputy Clerk’s salaries would increase by one spinal point to SCP 28 as per the conditions of their contracts. The RFO is at the top of the appropriate scale so will remain the same. All may be subject to a cost-of-living rise, but it’s unlikely that will be decided any time soon. The Caretakers salaries will increase to £11.44 ph. to ensure compliance with the National Living Wage.

b) Confidential Item:

Minutes recorded separately

82/23: Grant Applications:

a) Cranbrook Museum & Local History CIO

An application had been received requesting £750 towards a local advertising and publicity campaign, the total cost of the project being £1500. Cllr. Hatcher proposed awarding the £750 requested, this was seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and approved.

b) Heart of Kent Hospice:

An application had been received from Heart of Kent Hospice who provides specialist palliative care for adults with a terminal or life limiting illness, including those living with Dementia and frailty. They are asking for a donation of £1000. There have been 14 Cranbrook & Sissinghurst parishioners helped by the charity in the last 5 years. The councillors discussed the application thoroughly and concluded that the application does not meet the councils grant policy.

83/23: Items for Information:

Cllr. Gilbert advised that the Christmas Lunch organised by Men’s Shed is taking place again on Christmas Day in Vestry Hall. All are welcome, not just Men. They have received very generous donations towards the event from local businesses. An article will be written for the Spring addition of The Cake which will include a thanks to the donors.

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