Minutes of the Finance & Governance Sub Committee of the Parrett Board Meeting held at 1 Church Street, Highbridge on Tuesday 17thSeptember 2013 at 2.15 pm.
1. Attendance & Apologies: as per register appended.
2. Items Additional to the Agenda – Peter Maltby (PM) asked for the following to be discussed – Dredging of the Parrett, the lawyers fees for the North East Bridgwater scheme and the relocation of the Boards offices.
3. Declarations of Interest – None at this time.
4. Minutes of the Meeting held on 21 May 2013: (appended) – Iain Sturdy (IS) asked for item 6 to be altered to read “spoil would be deposited on the back of the banks”. With this one amendment it was agreed that the Chairman sign the minutes as a true and correct record of the meeting held. All in favour.
5. Matters Arising – Tony Bradford (TB) was not able to take up the invitation to visit the Wellings ad Deepings IDB.
Item 12 Stephen Gee (SG) reported that telemetry insurance was now in place. (Ian Dyer joined the meeting at 2.25pm).
Nick Stevens (NS) had been contacted by Alletsons partner Richard Williams and in turn had been in discussion with Peter Maltby. NS reported that iIn accordance with the Boards right under the Solicitors Act to question a solicitor’s fees, a legal costs claims solicitor had been contacted to advise the Board on the amount of costs incurred by Alletsons on the North East Bridgwater development. For any further work to be carried out on the claim would cost at least another £1000 to carry out a preliminary assessment. The solicitor felt a claim may be possible against Alletsons but there was no certainty. The Chairman, Vice Chairman and the Clerk met with Brian Watkis to consider the matter. The outstanding payments to Alletsons amounted to £7,321. In view of the uncertainty over the benefits of incurring additional expenditure to challenge the fees, it was decided not to incur additional expenditure and to recommend to the Finance and Governance Sub Committee that settlement of outstanding fees would be made. NS reported that investigations are being made with regard to using different solicitors in the future. The Consortium Management Committee would oversee the appointment of new solicitors. Proposed: Peter Maltby, Seconded: Tony Bradford “that the outstanding Alletsons account is settled in full”. All in favour. RESOLVED 1
Bradbury House 33-34 Market Street, Highbridge – NS reported that the building currently used by the Boards will not be big enough when the favourable conditions projects come to an end and the reduced number of staff will have to be relocated. There had been a meeting of the Axe Brue Property Committee as the Board had received an offer to purchase 1 Church Street. At the same meeting Maurice Wall advised that the current National Blind Children’s society building was coming up for auction. The building was inspected and it was agreed by the property committee to recommend to the full Board that an offer be made to the owners prior to auction. The building is bigger than 1 Church Street and would allow for most meetings to be held on the premises. The full Board of the Axe Brue held an extraordinary meeting and decided to make an offer which was subsequently accepted. Contracts have been exchanged and completion would be in 3 weeks. The Parrett usage fee may need to be renegotiated which currently amounts to £12000 for 1 Church Street.
6. Amendments to the number of vice chairmen in the Board’s structure – TB would like to ask the full Board to consider increasing the number of vice-chairmen. NS agreed that the Board is large and sometimes TB is unable to attend meetings where the Chairman is also unavailable. Proposed: Ian Dyer, Seconded: Tony Bradford “that the Parrett Drainage Board make a constitution change to have two Vice Chairmen”. All in favour RESOLVED 2
IS asked members to return to matters arising item 6 – Dredging. He updated members regarding funding towards the cost of dredging. The County have put £300,000 aside towards the cost. There is £300,000 allocated from Local Levy by the RFCC, and £300,000 Grant In Aid depending upon the cost of the dredging and partnership funding. The Agency had catered for the removal of 160,000 cubic metres of silt at £4.2Mwhich leaves a funding gap of about £3Mpounds. The Bath and West have launched a fund to try and draw in partnership funding. Dutch contactors have been commissioned by the Board to review the cost of the dredging, they have identified 4 methods of dredging and in terms of the basic costs to dredge (without on costs, risk and environmental investigtions ), the Agency estimate the cost to be £2.2M whilst the Dutch information suggests a cost of £1.5M. IS asked that members agree to provide funds to retain the services of the Dutch consultants and to give advice as and when required. IS advised that as part of the approvals for the project, a water framework directive assessment is necessary. IS has approached the Dutch consultants who have said that this would take approximately 50 hours. PM felt strongly that these consultants should be retained. IS had been advised the cost would be £56 per hour. Proposed: Peter Maltby, Seconded: Tony Bradford “that the Dutch Consultants (Exco) continue with their consultation at a cost of up to £4.5k”. All in favour RESOLVED 3
IS reported on “pinch Point” dredging – is the forerunner to the main dredge. The EA is due to start at 3 or 4 locations on the River Tone. It is the simple dredge where the access is easiest. The EA has been asked to use the Dutch method at the other locations but there has been no reply so far.
3.40pm IS left the meeting.[The following items with “Ref.” numbers refer to the numbering in the Terms of Reference
7. Budgets – Ref. 8 – Drainage rate update of current position – Carrie-Anne Porter (C-AP) reported that there was still £16000 outstanding. Summons notices are currently at court being signed and will be delivered by Ross and Roberts shortly. The court hearing date is 21 October 2013 at Taunton Magistrates Court. PM commented that the rates system computer programme should be updated to improve efficiency and reduce the risks of mistakes being made as a result of a quite old piece of software.
Ref. 9 & 10 – Financial position against budget and future projection (enc) – SG not anticipating any serious overspend and there are no areas of concern at this stage. SG had also prepared a list of invoices received in the current year for members perusal.
8. Audit – Ref. 13 – Receive and review reports from the internal and external auditors – appended. SG reported that the auditors had proposed a short form report which shows the work carried out by the auditors and any actions required. This is much easier to read and understand.
Ref 15 – Receive and monitor the Action Plan – no action required, continue to perform in the current way.
9. Publications Policy – (C-AP) reported that there is no policy at present. The Broads IDB (part of the Water Management Alliance (WMA)) would allowed their version to be used and amended as required. NS asked members to read through the policies and they would be reviewed at regular intervals. C-AP recommended they are adopted as they stand. Members agreed to take them to the Full Board for agreement.
10. Ref. 21 – Freedom of Information Act – no progress has been possible however we do have a copy of the Boards IDB version on which to consider a local version. Reporting on specific delegated authority – no report.
11. Ref. 22 – Banking arrangements and facilities – SG reported that the Business Reserves Account has now been closed as it was not necessary. Accounts are monitored daily. Iain Sturdy is now a signatory on the bank accounts and is able to use the electronic banking system for authorisation.
12. Policy and Strategy – Ref. 5 – Business risk assessment – nothing to report at present.
Ref.27 Risk management – NS had circulated a risk register (appended) and explained the details.
It shows the areas that may need scrutinising and improving.
Health and Safety policies of contractors and sub contractors was an additional risk put forward which should be considered. NS updated members of a Health and Safety Incident that had resulted in the Chief Engineer issuing an Instruction concerning the wearing of hard hats on site. The Board has adopted the policy that where machinery is working on site all staff must be wearing a hard hat, TB asked if the Board’s machinery should be inspected. It was confirmed to be the case as principle inspections were required and undertaken for insurance purposes. This item together with a discussion on lone working and machinery inspection will be on the agenda of the next Employment and Machinery committee meeting.
13. Any Other Business – TB reported that John Tucker had been unwell after a major operation and asked that a get well card is sent. TB was visiting and would take the card.
14. Date of next F & G sub-committee meeting – 05 November 2013
The Chairman closed the meeting at 4.40pm