CLERK’S BRIEFING NOTES TO AID CONSIDERATION OF 2008-9 BUDGET

1.       2007 & 2008 ANNUAL DIRECTORIES AND BUSINESSES SECTION OF WEBSITE.  For the last two years, the printing of the Annual Report by Fastprint & Design has been met largely from advertising with the small balance subsidised by the Parish Council.

 

2006 for 750 copies of 36 pages

2007 for 800 copies of 36 pages

 

£

£

Income excl VAT

34 businesses    448

34 businesses    481

Less Expenditure excl VAT

-490

-522

SPC subsidy

42

41

 

For 2007, business advertisers were invited to pay at least £15/advert including VAT.  This entitled them not only to an entry in the printed Directory but also to a listing in the Business Section of the Sedlescombe.org.uk website.  The advertisers paid as follows:

1 x £30, 2 x £25, 4 x £20, Remainder at £15

In 2007, 24 of the 34 businesses advertising in the Directory were Sedlescombe-based, the remainder coming from Westfield, Battle and Beckley although we did not seek advertisements in those parishes.  There was some demand for larger adverts to be available and one advertiser complained that the Doctors were allowed to have a double-size advert when he was not.  NB – the Doctors do not pay for their advert.   The 2007 system produced five pages of six business adverts to a page and one page of four adverts plus a double-sized Doctors’ advert.  There were ten pages of organisations, societies and miscellaneous information.  The front and back cover were in colour while the inside pages were black and white.

In 2007, as the Directory was published during the run up to the Parish Council Elections, pen-pictures of councillors were omitted leaving simply the names and telephone numbers.  (NB Inclusion of councillors’ details is a requirement of Quality Status.)

For the last two years, a few businesses have asked to advertise on the business section of the website during the last quarter of the year.  This has been allowed free of charge for three months but is removed from the website if the business does not subsequently pay for advertising in the printed Directory.

Councillors to make decisions on the following questions

a.       What size adverts should be on offer?

b.       How much business advertisers should be charged?

c.       Should the cost cover free inclusion on the website?

d.      Should free inclusion in the website for the last quarter of the year be allowed as detailed above?

e.      Should non-Sedlescombe advertisers be allowed to place their adverts in the Directory at the same rate as Sedlescombe advertisers?

f.        Should the Doctors be charged for their entry?

g.       Should the colour/black & white split be as in the past?

h.      Should councillors’ pen-pictures be included in the 2008 Annual Report/Directory?

i.         Should any changes be made to the 2008 Annual Report/Directory?

2.       SALC/NALC SUBSCRIPTIONS.  At meetings in September of the Executive Committees and the East and West Sussex Associations, recommendations were made to the Join Liaison Committee (JLC) that a formula of 22p/elector should be adopted for the SALC element of the 2008-9 local council subscription.   An additional 4.93p/elector was approved at the NALC AGM on 12/09/07 for the NALC element making a total of 26.93p/elector, approved at the 01/10/07 JLC meeting.

This represents an increase from last year’s 21p/elector + the NALC element.  Last year, some local councils, including Sedlescombe, obtained an interim reduction in subscriptions but these will not be available for the 2008-9 year.

Increasing the subscription from 21 to 22p/elector will result in income of £101,000 for SALC which is said to be the absolute minimum needed to be raised and will also be dependent on income from training and balances.  Comparison with a dozen other county associations is favourable although seven of these receive significant funding from County or District Councils.  SALC receives nothing from its County or District Councils.  A substantial amount is, however, expected from the two Local Area Agreements if the Quality Council target is reached in March 2009 (ie just in the 2008-9 year).

The idea of Quality Councils receiving a subscription discount has not been supported by either the East or West Sussex County Associations.  RALC has the subject on its agenda of 10/10/07 where SPC representatives are Cllrs Glew and Wheatley.  SPC has given the go ahead for a proposal in favour of the Quality Council discount to be submitted to the SALC AGM on 09/11/07 and Rye Town Council is willing to be the seconder.  However, no action has been taken to date by SPC because of the apparent overall lack of support for the idea. 

Last year, the Sedlescombe electorate was set at 1,119 and, therefore, at the same rate, the SALC subscription for 2008-9 will be £246.18 and the NALC element with be £55.17, a total of £301.35.

a.       Should the Council still put the proposal for quality councils to receive a SALC/NALC sub discount to the November AGM of SALC despite there seeming to be little support generally for the idea?

b.      Should the Finance Committee recommend the Council to pay the increased subscription rate for 2008/9?

3.       COMPUTER AND SOFTWARE.  It is now approaching 1½ years since the last review of the Council’s computer equipment and it is pleasing to note that the hardware and software acquired as a result are both working extremely well.  The review resulted in replacement of the 5-year-old computer and purchase of a monitor, Windows Vista upgrade and Microsoft Office being approved in 2006/7. 

The only item outstanding from that review is the Dell Laptop Computer, provided originally by Rother District Council, which was recommended for replacement in 2007/8.  Although still a reliable piece of equipment, it has for some time struggled with the load being placed upon it.  This was noted in the April 2006 Review and things have got worse since.  One casualty has been to deter its use at Council meetings, one of its prime purposes.  Because of my concern to minimise the administrative burden on Council Taxpayers, a new laptop has been privately purchased. As the Dell and printer (brand new, unused) are no longer required by me, it would be helpful if its disposal could be decided by the Council at the earliest opportunity.  It could be offered to parish councillors to borrow on a short-term or longer-term basis or, maybe, disposed of altogether. 

What should be done with the Dell Laptop and Printer?

Laptop aside, it is the current situation with the Council’s Adobe software that has triggered this report and suggestion for amendment of the 2007/8 computer budget figure.  It is now 2½ years since Adobe’s Creative Suite CS was purchased.  Its £695 cost was met from a grant from the Quality Parishes Investment Fund and not from the Council Tax.  The Creative Suite CS comprised:  Adobe Photoshop CS;  Adobe Illustrator CS;  Adobe inDesign CS;  Adobe GoLive CS;  Adobe Acrobat 6 Professional.  These products have been used for a variety of tasks but, in particular GoLive, Acrobat and Photoshop are essential in building and maintaining the Council’s website.   Unfortunately, the above-mentioned Adobe products will not be updated in the future and, therefore, need replacing.  An additional benefit is that the new version could cope with many of the new technologies such as video, mobile computing and high definition as they increasingly become the norm.

The website has been built and is maintained at no expense to the Council Taxpayer.  Checking the cost of web design shows that typically it can cost £160 for 1 page, £5,300 for 40 pages and £15,000 for 200 pages!   Currently, there are 372 pages on the Sedlescombe.org.uk site.  Personal digital camera and video equipment, including a geo-tagging facility, plus various other items of computer equipment are also used for Council work.

In addition, all the Council’s computer equipment is maintained free of charge and it is valuable to have the resilience provided by the ability to switch work immediately to the home computer should be Council’s computer fail.  The home computer already has the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Master Collection installed. 

The above information is provided to put the cost of the proposed additional software into context.  The recommendation is to purchase the full version of the Adobe Master Collection from the USA at an estimated cost of £1,065 excluding VAT but including international delivery. 

US prices are usually about just over half of those available in the UK where the cost of the same software is listed at £1,969 excluding VAT.

Should the 2007/8 revised budget be adjusted to £1500 to take account of the necessity for purchasing a Creative Suite 3 Master Collection from the USA at the approximate cost of £1,065?

4.       CLERK’S SALARY.  The 2007-8 budget included a 2% increase on the Clerk’s Salary.  However, there is still no resolution of the dispute between the NJC and the Local Government Employers who are claiming a 5% increase for this year.  NALC/Society of Local Council Clerks follows the pay recommendations by the NJC.  The draft 2008-9 budget for the Clerk’s Salary is shown with a further 2.5% increase.

5.       GRANT TO THE RURAL ROTHER TRUST.  SPC has approved a grant to the Trust on receipt of last year’s accounts, leaving it for the Finance Committee to decide on the amount.

How much should be allocated for a Grant to the Rural Rother Trust?

6.       STREET CLEANING, LITTER AND DOG WASTE. 

Rother District Council provides street sweeping and litter clearance services over 712Km of adopted public highway and verges throughout the District.  A Code of Practice, issued under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, defines the standards that the Council aims to achieve when providing the service.  An area, when treated and where practicable, shall be left in a litter-free condition.  This is achieved by mechanical or manual sweeping and litter picking.  Roads are cleaned/litter picked at varying frequencies according to their nature and use.  Additional, responsive works can be carried out where necessary but the overall aim is to meet the statutory requirements of the Act.  In this context, the presence of litter does not imply a road/street is in need of treatment, but it has to be taken in the context of the overall conditions of the area. 

The provision of litter bins is an integral function of the street sweeping and litter clearance duty.  The general practice is to provide litter bins where a requirement to dispose of small items of refuse is identified.  This may be areas such as:  shopping areas, picnic areas, promenades, car parks, adjacent to educational establishments.  Litter bins are usually sited on the adopted highway or land owned or under the control of the Council.  Emptying of bins is undertaken in accordance with their use and the uses of the area in which they are situated.  It is not general practice to locate litter bins in remote lay-bys, housing estates, on land owned by others and in some cases recycling centres.  Litter bins sited in such areas can suffer abuse and become a nuisance.  Removal of a litter bin where abused has proved to be an effective means of addressing a nuisance.

[The information in the two preceding paragraphs has been taken from the Rother District Council website, October 2007.]

Since the new waste collection contract was awarded by Rother DC to Verdant in April 2007, emptying of waste bins in Sedlescombe has been problematic.  Bins are being emptied intermittently rather than all being emptied at the same time which is probably in accordance with The Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse issued under s.89 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  This states how clean an area needs to be, rather than how often it is tackled.  The problem is that fly-tipping is occurring in or beside some of the bins.  The content has varied from household waste and green waste to waste deposited by local businesses.  There is the added problem that the churchyard and the village hall no longer have rubbish bins and, therefore, people may be encouraged to deposit rubbish arising from the use of these amenities in the litter bins.  We have no proof of this habit however.

Verdant’s litter bin emptiers are very aware of the type of thing being put in bins as they have been going through the rubbish to check its origins.  I was even criticised by them for placing a couple of notices removed from the notice board in the bin outside the shop as, it was said, these were not litter but were fly-tipping.  At least one local business has been visited by a Rother officer regarding the use of litter bins for commercial waste disposal.  Legally, businesses have to pay for other arrangements to remove their waste.

The question of what is and what is not litter has been addressed by Defra.  Its advice is that, although the term litter has a very wide interpretation without a legal definition, it is commonly assumed to include materials often associated with smoking, eating and drinking, that are improperly discarded and left by members of the public;  or are spilt during business or waste management operations.  As a guideline, a single sack of rubbish should generally be regarded as fly-tipping rather than litter.    Defra’s advice concerns items that are “improperly discarded” but does not cover what is left in “litter” bins.

Most of Sedlescombe’s seventeen rubbish bins and all three dog bins were originally provided by Sedlescombe Parish Council but, in most cases apart from the dog bins, Rother District Council is responsible for emptying them, a responsibility they contracted to Verdant under its street cleaning contract.  Where the litter bins are remote from the highway, the Parish Council has made other arrangements for dealing with the emptying.  This was not a problem when rubbish from these bins could be put in household dustbins but, with fortnightly collection, this is not really an option.  There is a similar problem for the large gang of volunteer litter collectors in the parish who previously used their own dustbins to dispose of litter collected from the highways and byways of the Village.

The three dog bins were, prior to April 2007, emptied by Serco on a separate priced contract with the Parish Council.  This ended when Rother changed to Verdant.  The current arrangement is that the three dog bins are being emptied by Verdant separately from other waste at no cost to the parish but the Parish Council has been warned this will not continue.  Again dog bin emptying has been intermittent during the summer and at times bags of dog waste have been piled on the top of the sportsfield bin.  Dog faeces are classed as “refuse” rather than litter but local authorities have a responsibility to remove it from land and highways under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  [It has been calculated that councils in the UK collect enough dog waste in a year to fill the new Wembley Stadium twice over.]  Dog waste can be placed in normal non-recyclable household waste bins if double-wrapped.  However, this wrapping of waste only prolongs its life in landfill.  The use of ordinary bins not emptied by Verdant for disposing dog waste has brought complaints to the Parish Council from the person who empties the bins.

The following rubbish bins are situated in Sedlescombe and are currently emptied by Verdant on behalf of Rother DC (maybe twice weekly):

  1. East View Terrace next to seat outside flats – bin provided by SPC
  2. Top Gammons Way – bin provided by RDC
  3. Brede Lane by seat – bin provided by SPC
  4. Top of Village Green by seats – bin provided by RDC
  5. Outside Queen’s Head – bin provided by Queen’s Head landlord
  6. Outside Pumphouse on Village Green north – bin provided by SPC
  7. Outside Pumphouse on Village Green south – bin provided by SPC
  8. Outside Post Office – bin provided by Post Office owner
  9. Outside Old Chapel – bin provided by RDC
  10. In bus shelter – bin provided by SPC
  11. Driveway south of Bridge Garage Antiques (special arrangement made with Alan Dodge about 2005) – bin provided by SPC
  12. Sportsfield by river bridge (new arrangement made with Alan Dodge early July 07) – bin provided by SPC

In addition a further bin situated outside Old Hall House was removed by persons unknown in September.  It had been replaced by the Parish Council earlier this year at the request of a local resident who objected to there being no litter bins at that end of The Street.  A new liner had been added at the same time.

 

The following additional bins are currently emptied by the Parish Council:

1.       Dustbin outside sportsfield car park gate – currently emptied by Cllr Cameron but arrangements no longer satisfactory

2.       Rubbish bin in Riverside playground – emptied by Roger Wood 2007, fortnightly

3.       Rubbish bin near tennis courts – emptied by Roger Wood 2007, fortnightly

4.       Rubbish bin in Kickabout Area – emptied by Roger Wood 2007, fortnightly – problems highlighted with dog waste being added to the bin

 

The following dog waste bins are emptied (once a week) by Verdant:

  1. Brede Lane public car park
  2. Driveway south of Bridge Garage Antiques
  3. Sportsfield by river bridge

 

The following areas are swept by Rother (once weekly)

 

1.       Pumphouse

2.       Bus shelter

 

Street sweeping has also been unsatisfactory this summer with the bus shelter never being swept up until September.  After constant complaints to Rother, a half-hearted attempt to sweep cigarette ends into the corner was made (the smoking waste shouldn’t be there in the first place as it is a “No Smoking” area).  The Pumphouse area requires constant cleaning but it is difficult to say whether Verdant has been doing it as John Cook does a lot of free clearing in this area.

 

a.       Does the Parish Council agree that litter bins should generally be used only for depositing rubbish arising from take-away food, sweets, smoking, gum, small receipts and bus tickets with the proviso that bags of rubbish collected in the Village can be placed in the larger bins?  However, these larger bags can be difficult to differentiate from fly-tipping.  Are volunteer litter collectors aware where it is acceptable to put the waste they have collected?

b.      Should the Parish Council do anything to encourage retail outlets to reduce the amount of packaging they produce?

c.       Should the Parish Council try to discourage wrapped dog waste being deposited in Sedlescombe’s litter bins although Rother is saying it is alright to do this?

d.      How does the Parish Council stop household waste/green waste being added into or dumped beside the bins? 

e.      Would it be a good idea to remove some of the bins so as not to encourage “incorrect” waste being put in or beside bins?

f.        How does the Parish Council stop business waste being added to the bins?

g.       Should  the Parish Council do anything about possible Village hall/churchyard waste being added to the bins?

h.      A lot of rubbish thrown into litter bins is recyclable such as drink cans and bottles.  Can anything be done to separate these items for recycling?  This is a particular problem at the Sportsfield.

i.         How do people know what they can and should not put in a bin?

j.        How should the Parish Council deal with bins that are remote from the highway and, therefore, are not emptied by Verdant?

k.       In the interest of health and safety, should the Parish Council try to discourage the use of dog bins by highlighting ideas for disposal of dog waste by householders in their own gardens?  Should the Parish Council remove one or more of the dog bins or should the Parish Council provide additional bins (if sites could be found which is difficult)?

l.         Should the Parish Council employ a person to sweep around the Pumphouse, the bus shelter and, occasionally, the play areas and tennis courts and the car park?

 

7.       VILLAGE GREEN

LEAD PUMP REFURBISHMENT.  The pump on the Green appears to be in need of refurbishment if it is to be maintained.  The pump has been out of use for about 50 years and nothing has been done to it in the intervening years.  About 25 years ago, the oak lining of the pump was burnt in a small fire and some of the lead melted causing the top to slip.  RPJ Leadwork of Rye who are doing work to the Church roof have agreed to have a look at the pump and provide advice. 

Should the Council include £3,000 in the 2008/9 budget to carry out work to the pump?

TILES ON PUMPHOUSE.  During the summer, tiles on the roof of the Pumphouse were broken.  Cllr Rand to repair.

BINS.  The gold paint on three bins on the Green has been renewed this summer.

SEATS.  Cllr Rand is to advise on redecoration (30 years after installation next year).

TREES.  There are three trees on the Village Green.  Two of them – the top oak (planted in 1935) and the lower oak (planted in 1992 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Queen’s Ascension to the throne when forty trees were planted by Rother around the District) have grown up into the overhead telephone cables.  It is thought that these cables were installed by BT after the trees were planted.

What action, if any, should the Parish Council take regarding the trees on the Green?

See also street sweeping, mowing, weedkilling

8.       EAST VIEW KICKABOUT AREA. Regular maintenance by the Parish Council involves a contracted eight cuts of the grass around the tarmac area and one cut of the hedge bordering the East View estate.  The grass was, however, only cut six times between April and the end of September, ie once a month.  The mowing contractor has complained that, at times, youngsters will not let him cut the grass.  P.C. Cleverley has agreed that a PCSO will accompany the contractor if requested (and if one is available).  This year, councillors have reported again that the grass is too long.  The chainlink fencing bordering the public footpath is subjected to regular vandalism and is currently damaged.  The chainlink fencing at the rear of the northerly hedge is in a poor condition.  The youth shelter was removed earlier in 2007 by Orbit Housing Association.

a.       Should the Kickabout Area mowing be increased to twice a month, the same as the Riverside?

b.      Should the repair of the chainlink fence be restricted to making sure it is not dangerous?

9.       GAMMONS HILL.  The seat was refurbished in summer 2007 and a new litter bin installed by the County Council Parish Maintenance Team (bin provided by Parish Council).

10.   BREDE LANE CAR PARK.  The Parish Council maintains the car park under an agreement with Rother District Council.  Southern Counties Landscapes has been contracted to cut the grass 20 times/season but by the end of September it had been cut 13 times ie twice a month each month from May to September and 3 times in April.  The “Welcome to Sedlescombe” board is in reasonable condition, although faded.  The layout of the car park is still not satisfactory which needs sorting out with Rother District Council.  The dog bin needs a new lid.  With a wet summer, the trees have grown better.

a.       Has the grass been cut satisfactorily during 2007?

b.      Should the Council still try to get the markings on the car park redone so that there is a turning space at the bottom of the area?

11.   SPORTSFIELD CAR PARK.  In 2007, Herbage was cut back from the ditch, weedkiller was applied to the surface of the car park and the dustbin was emptied by Cllr Cameron.  A Dogs on Leads notice is needed on the kissing gate.  The interior of the portakabin which has been in place since mid-August is almost complete and the services are being connected.  Vegetation needs to be removed from around the sign at the car park end and the ditch needs strimming

12.   RED BARN FIELD.  In 2007, Southern Counties was contracted to strim the path edges 10  times/season.  However, by the end of September, 12 cuts had been done although the cutting around the picnic table and litter bin had been omitted.  There have been three applications of weedkiller by Languard Ltd.  No complaints have been received as had been in previous years.  As last year, four sheep have been allowed to graze the land throughout the year.  This restricts growth of the flora such as spotted orchids.  The pond has not been cleared this year and is completely overgrown with sweetgrass. 

a.       Should the pond be cleared?

b.      Should the sheep be allowed to continue grazing rather than getting the land cut by machine?

13.   WEEDKILLING.  This year, for the first time, weedkilling was carried out at the tennis courts, the public car park at Brede Lane and access path adjacent to the surgery, Pumphouse, Red Barn Field Nature Park footpath and the sportsfield car park by three applications of Diuron in February, July and October.  The contractor was Languard Limited and the cost was £900 plus VAT. Languard has confirmed that treatments were carried out on 02/03/07 and 12/07/07. Unusually, there have been no complaints from residents regarding weeds growing around the Village. 

Should the Council employ Languard again in 2008/9 on the same basis as 2007/8?

14.   COUNTY COUNCIL PARISH MAINTENANCE TEAM.  The Team will be asked to carry out the following work on behalf of the Parish Council next Spring:

a.       Cleaning plastic seat on Church Hill.

b.      Painting wooden seat outside Church.

c.       Cleaning stone footpath marker at top of Church Hill.

d.      Cut back herbage from footway at top of Church Hill.

e.      Painting metal seat at East View Terrace outside flats.

15.   QUEEN’S HEAD PATH.  Installed by County Council in the summer.  Landlord concerned about drainage but for County Council to deal with.

16.   BUS SHELTER.  The Chairman and Clerk, on this inspection, recommended replacement of the bus shelter.  It now appears that the developer at Park View will be required by the County Council to replace the shelter and SPC’s Planning Committee has submitted its requirements both to the County Council and to the developer’s agent.

 

The following items come under the Sedlescombe Playing Field and Recreation Ground Trust.  They  will give rise to prejudicial interests which must be declared by all councillors who may go on to state that “pursuant to a dispensation granted by the Standards Committee on 11/09/2007, I am entitled to remain in the room, to speak and to vote on the matter”.  

17.   HOGWEED REMOVAL.  Languard are about to complete the second of three years’ treatment of the giant hogweed on the riverbanks of the Rivers Line and Brede in the parish of Sedlescombe.  Languard has confirmed that Giant Hogweed was treatment on 19/05/07 including privately-owned fields and garden.  They wrote:  “There was only one plant behind the play area and several plants along the bank by the sportsfield.  There are however a large number of plants on the far bank by the “horses field” and along the contributory streams in this area.  There were two plants in the garden.  All plants we have found have been treated.”  There was further treatment of some new Giant Hogweed plants by Languard on 12/07/07.  Languard inspected the river bank in mid-August and found that soil was being moved on the privately-owned side near the horse field.  It is thought that it may mean more seeds may be given an opportunity to germinate next year in the same area as they were brought nearer the surface.  Languard were due to check during September for any rogue plants.

Should the Council employ Languard for the third and final year of the treatment of the cost of £800?

18.   PLAYGROUND INSPECTIONS.  The Parish Council decided to contract Glendale Services to carry out playground inspections at the Riverside in June, December and March and an annual inspection in September.  Although Glendale’s quotation was accepted, the employee involved left and did not hand over any of his work to the company.  I was not aware that he had left and made several attempts to contact him by e-mail before telephoning the company only to find they knew nothing of our contract.  They are willing to honour the arrangements if the Council wishes.  However, they carried out their annual inspections in June and we have, therefore, missed out on that this year.

Should Glendale be asked to carry out a quarterly inspection of the Riverside playground in December and March (£39.52 each) followed by an annual inspection next June (price quoted in 2006 was £83.75)?

19.   TENNIS COURTS.  The public have been allowed to use the courts free of charge for the first time this year.  This appears to have been very successful and to have removed the problems with vandalism of the fences.

Should the courts be left open for the remainder of 2007 and during 2008?