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

APOLOGIES: Cllr. Kings.

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.

71/22: Internal finance check:

Cllr. Pethurst confirmed that the internal finance check had been completed and everything was in order.

72/22: Authorisation of payments made after the November meeting:

A list of payments totalling £18,118.99 made after the November meeting, is filed with these minutes.

73/22: Transfers of monies between accounts:

The Clerk confirmed none had been made this month.

74/22: Invoices for Payment:

A list of payments to be made in December had been circulated for approval, a copy of which is filed with these minutes. The Committee were surprised at the amount of dog waste bags being used and agreed to monitor the situation. Cllr. Pethurst proposed the payments be approved as presented, this was seconded by Cllr. Hatcher and agreed.

These included:

Policy and Resources                          £6,179.50

Properties & Burial Grounds              £3,200.17

Environmental Management               £   745.38

Total         £10,125.05

Two members are required to log in to the account and authorise the payments following adoption of the minutes on Thursday evening.

75/22: Internal Audit Report:

The report had been circulated to the Committee. Three issues had been raised.

Issue 1 – unminuted transfer between bank accounts. A transfer of £125,000 from the Lloyds No2 current account to the Unity Trust account had been made on 12th July following the July meeting and was not recorded in either the July or August minutes.

Issue 2 – It had been suggested that the financial regulations should be updated to reflect best practice guidance that only the parish debit card holder can use the card. The Clerk had advised the auditor this would be amended next May when the financial regulations are normally reviewed.

Issue 3- Cyber Security Insurance. The Council does not currently have any cyber insurance. It will be reviewed again when the insurance is reviewed next year.

76/22: Zoom Subscription:

The current annual subscription runs out in January 2023 and will be renewed automatically unless cancelled. Cllr. Pethurst proposed that we allow the subscription to be renewed automatically at an annual cost of £120. This was seconded by Cllr. Gilbert and agreed.

77/22: Budget for King Charles III Coronation:

Several suggestions had come in from residents. Some Sissinghurst residents were keen to have some benches on walking routes between Cranbrook and Sissinghurst. It was hoped an article in The Cake would bring forward some suggestions.

78/22: Budget & Update on Five Year Plans development:

A draft budget had been circulated to the Committee. The main increase was staff costs. The cost code for grants to voluntary organisations had been moved over from Community Development and a new cost code for the Remembrance Service had been created allowing the council to pay invoices direct in future, as opposed to the present practice of allocating a grant to the Royal British Legion.

The point was made by a member of the public at the last Full Council meeting that with inflation running at around 10% any savings or monies earmarked would be worth less in a year’s time.

Members also felt that 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 keeping the precept element of the Council Tax the same as last year. There is a slight increase in the tax base so we can increase the precept by £5,197 without any increase to residents. If we use some of the cash reserves we have, we can absorb the increases necessary without impacting the precept.

The recommendation to Full Council next month, would be that the cost of the precept is not increased for residents. Cllr. Pethurst proposed the budget for Policy and Resources be accepted as presented, this was seconded by Cllr. Fletcher 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.

79/22: Fixed rate energy contracts from Utility Aid:

The Clerk advised that we had been provided with some quotes from Utility Aid for the electricity contracts that expire on 31st March 2023, which had been circulated to the Committee. The contracts affected were for the Parish Office, Golford Chapel, Vestry Hall, EV points and the public toilets. It had been noted that the EV points in Goudhurst had been withdrawn from service until they become cost neutral, which confirms we are not the only parish council to be experiencing problems in having to subsidise their use. There was some doubt raised regarding the varying rates for supplies at different locations, under the same contract, this would need to be clarified. The Clerk also explained that each quote supplied is only valid to 4pm on the day of receipt so the rates offered can vary on a daily basis. The rates were more attractive on the 24-month contract as opposed to a 12-month plan. It was agreed to delegate to Cllr. Pethurst and the Clerk to secure the best terms available, assuming the rates are fixed per unit, regardless of the amount consumed.

80/22: Community Centres/Medical Centre:

CllrGilbert advised he would give his report to Full Council on Thursday evening.

81/22: Review of Aims and Objectives of Policy & Resources:

It was agreed to defer this item to the next meeting of this Committee.

82/22: Staffing:

A meeting with all the Clerks and Cllrs. Fletcher and Pethurst, to discuss roles going forward, had taken place. The Clerk’s health had not been the best this year, so she was keen to take a step back from some of the responsibility. It had been agreed that from the 1st January, Clare Bezuidenhout would become the named Clerk and Lori Ham would remain as the Responsible Finance Officer. To reflect the extra responsibility Mrs Bezuidenhout’s salary would increase by one spinal point to 26 and Mrs Ham’s would reduce by one spinal point to 31. Lynn Thirkell’s duties would remain the same.

All Clerks salaries would increase by one spinal point from 1st April as per the conditions of their contracts. Also from 1st April 2023, the NJC had agreed that all employees covered by the National Agreement, regardless of their current leave entitlement or length of service, will receive a permanent increase of one day to their annual leave entitlement. The caretaker’s salaries would increase to £10.42 per hour to reflect the change in the minimum living wage from 1st April 2023.

83/22: Grant Applications:

a) Cranbrook Museum and History C.I.O

A request for £500 had been received to help the organisation improve awareness of the Museum through local advertising and publicity. It was proposed by Cllr. Hatcher, seconded by Cllr. Bunyan and agreed to award the grant in full.

b) Cranbrook Literature Festival

A request for £1000 had been received to help with the cost of the Cranbrook Literature Festival. The purpose is to raise funds to encourage literacy and literature in schools and to promote reading and writing to the community. The Committee had asked for some additional information from the applicant, which included details of other sponsorship pledged. It was proposed by Cllr. Bunyan, seconded by Cllr. Pethurst and agreed to award the grant in full.

c) Home Start:

We had received correspondence from Home-Start South West Kent, asking if it would be appropriate for them to apply for a grant. The service exists to provide emotional and practical support to parents who have young children and are struggling to cope for various reasons. This year they have supported one family in Cranbrook and Sissinghurst. Members agreed they would be happy to consider an application from the Charity, however it may not necessarily be successful, so they should also explore alternative sources of funding.

84/22: Items for Information:

Cllr. Gilbert reminded members of the webinar on Developing a Fund Raising Strategy being held on Monday 12trh December at 7.30pm and encouraged everyone to attend if they could.

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