Minutes of the Parrett Board Finance & Governance Sub Committee Meeting held at 1 Church Street, Highbridge on Tuesday 20 May 2014 at 2.15 pm.

Chairman: Mr D Spicer

  1. Attendance & Apologies for Absence: as per register appended. T Bradford sent apologies as he may arrive late.
  1. Items Additional to the Agenda: None
  1. Declarations of Interest: None at this time.
  1. Minutes of the Sub Committee Meeting held on 14 January 2014: (appended) having been previously circulated the Chairman sign the minutes as a true and correct record of the meeting held. All in favour.
  1. Matters Arising: Item 5 Agreement with North Somerset: members were advised that the Board’s insurers have verbally agreed to include G Oliver as a named person within the policy however clarification is still required for other members of staff working on North Somerset Board matters; therefore the Agreement will be signed upon receipt of written confirmation from the insurers.

North Somerset Levels IDB has settled the first three months invoice (October – December 2013) and are due to settle the next invoice (January – March 2014) in due course.

Item 7 Governance – N Stevens (NWS) advised members that the advice received from ADA is to follow the Local Government practice guidance but there appears to be no legal penalty for the Board for non-compliance of disclosure within the Register of Members’ Interests however there would still be a legal consequence for the individual member if illegal practices were to be undertaken.

Item 6 Budgets – Minehead Scheme: I Sturdy (IDS) advised that a further meeting had been held with the developers, who are being encouraged to take on maintenance of the moat. However, there has been no further progress with the Project Appraisal Report (PAR).

  1. Policy & Strategy: Ref 5 & 27 Business risk assessment and Risk management: NWS advised that there are no recorded changes to the Risk Assessment at this time; however the Risk Assessment remains a working document. The Chairman was asked whether the risk of a Somerset Rivers Board (SRB) should be included within the Risk Assessment, as at this stage the SRB is an unquantified risk, the business change will lead to business disruption, which in turn will lead to a business risk. It was agreed that this matter be given consideration for future meetings and added to the Risk Register.
  1. Budgets: Ref. 9 & 10 Financial position against budget and future projection: (appended) S Gee (SMG) advised that income & expenditure to year end indicates £115k less income than budgeted, mainly due to reduced fund aided schemes, and that expenditure indicates maintenance is approx. £14k under budget due to reduced operations during inclement weather.

Contingent liabilities: (a) members were advised that, if a claim of £17k from the Environment Agency (the Agency) for damage to Northmoor pumps is proven to have been caused by a Board employee, the Boards’ public liability insurance will cover the claim. Members were advised that the damage occurred whilst bank repairs were being undertaken and a sluice was adjusted by Board staff resulting in a change to water levels, which the Agency claim resulted in the pump running dry. P Maltby (PCM) complimented officers for their diligence concerning this matter.

(e) Telemetry: SMG advised that following flood damage to four telemetry sites, the Boards’ public liability insurance may cover a claim.  SMG further advised that an investigation is currently being undertaken of the telemetry sites for repair costs and alterations to reduce future risks of damage.

Allermoor Spillway: the Chairman was advised by a member that some local ratepayers believe the Board agreed to activity undertaken in this area; members were advised that this is incorrect – the Board took the position that in principal the activity was appropriate and the information and assessments supplied justified the works, The Board also advised that a number of amendments were made: some were taken up others were not. The Board also advised that alternative arrangements should be put in place as a contingency, should the initial work not be correct. The Agency did not undertake this work; however the Board provided good advice on the sections of work produced pre and post flood.

Staffing: members were advised that staff and administration costs, with the exception of Parrett Expenditor’s and Operator, were covered within administration of the Somerset Drainage Board Consortium (SDBC) draft accounts. Several engineers were employed on a part-time basis for temporary projects; the Board has sufficient permanent engineers to deliver the Boards workload and a financial resource to hire specific expertise from time to time as required if the work load does not increase above last year’s revenue level. (Favourable Conditions projects not included), however major development and the 20 year action plan is likely to place a greatly increased workload on existing staff and additional resources are likely to be required.

3.20pm T Bradford joined the meeting

Maintenance Contracts: much discussion was held on the possibility of increased hours for  in-house staff to undertake maintenance duties all year, and to reduce contractor expenditure; members requested that a recommendation be developed by officers and submitted to the Employment & Machinery sub-committee to give consideration to undertaking work around SSSI sites August – December and undertaking routine maintenance work January – July, reducing work of contractors to allow an increase to in-house staff hours; the Clerk strongly advised that this recommendation is not submitted to the Employment & Machinery sub-committee  as it is considered contrary to best practice and leaves the Board at increased risk of prosecution for a wildlife crime. It was agreed that officers would investigate and create an adequate, legal programme to increase maintenance operations.

Proposed A Bradford seconded M Young ‘to extend the working season prior to awarding tenders to increase Board productivity if a legal programme can be produced and to consider Cannington & Wembdon maintenance being completed in-house for one year.’ All in favour RESOLUTION 1

Ref 11 Receive and consider the annual accounts for recommendation to the Board: (appended) SMG briefed members on the accounts circulated for the year ended 31 March 2014; it was agreed that recommendation be given to approve the year end accounts.

Members gave consideration to the Annual Governance Statement 2013/14 as appended; it was agreed that recommendation be given to approve the eight statements.

Proposed P Maltby, seconded C Passmore ‘that the Finance and Governance Sub-committee recommend to the Main Board at its meeting of 17 June 2014 to approve and adopt the accounts for year ended 31 March 2014 as well as the Annual Governance Statement, approving statements 1 to 8.’ All in favour RESOLUTION 2

SDBC Year End Accounts: (appended) members were advised that income is less due to a reduction in employment costs and grant aid income for Favourable Conditions Projects due to the inclement weather.

Bradbury House: members were advised that tenders had been received for refurbishment works, and that a tender’s appointment meeting would be held on Friday 23 May. (Subsequently undertaken on 6 June 2014). It is estimated that relocation will take place in October 2014.

Gas & Electricity: SMG advised that 3 year fixed price contracts are being sought for 1 Church Street and Bradbury House.

Rate System: the accounts have a retained surplus of £5,000 for a new rating system, as agreed by the Consortium in 2011. SMG advised that a new rating system is being investigated; due to inflation the cost of a new system, to include training is an additional £1,500. SMG recommended that a new system is purchased and employed prior to the formation of a SRB to familiarise staff with the system.  P Maltby requested the Finance & Governance sub-committee set a recommendation to SDBC to provide £1,500 additional funds if required upon completion of the on-going investigation.

Proposed A Bradford, seconded C Passmore ‘that the Finance and Governance Sub-committee set a recommendation to the Main Board at its meeting of 17 June 2014 to approve and adopt the Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium accounts for year ended 31 March 2014.’ All in favour RESOLUTION 3

Drainage Rate income: C-A Porter (CAP) advised members that £77,328 (current year rates) has been collected; 51% remains outstanding. Many rate payers have chosen to settle by debit/credit card.

Ref 21: To consider land/building revaluation procedures (appended) CAP briefed members on the paper previously circulated, explaining the processes used in responding to requests for agricultural land/building revaluation as stated within the paper. After discussion members concurred that during the past 25 years many farm buildings have been erected with no notification to the Board, therefore a policy should be put in place.

Proposed P Maltby, seconded M Young ‘that the Finance and Governance Sub-committee set a recommendation to the Main Board at its meeting of 17 June 2014 to approve and adopt the Revaluation Procedures as Board policy, to award delegated powers to officers to undertake revaluations when necessary and produce determinations and to respond to appeals as appropriate, reporting to Finance & Governance accordingly, to review recent changes to agricultural holdings over a two year period and to undertake an annual revaluation of agricultural holdings where necessary.’ Vote: unanimous RESOLUTION 4 

  1. Governance: Ref. 26 Consider insurance cover: SMG advised that there was nothing further to report at this time.

Consider the creation of a new policy to take watercourses in/out of view: (appended) NWS advised members that a formal process is necessary to ensure a uniform approach to take watercourses in/out of view. It was agreed that a policy should be created. Members agreed that the work be undertaken.

Thorney protection scheme: NWS reassured members that funding will be available for this scheme from within the 20 year Flood Action Plan for flood bank and associated works required.

 

  1. Banking: Ref. 22 Banking arrangements and facilities SMG advised that Nat West Highbridge branch will close July 2014; therefore tenders for banking services will be invited during the summer to be review at the next scheduled F& G meeting.

 

  1. Special Item: CAP advised that the attendance record for April 2013-March 2014, for transparency purposes, should be published on the Boards’ website, and provided to local authorities to assist with appointments on outside bodies; members agreed for the record to be published and made available to local authorities.

 

  1. Any Other Business: Bradbury House: PCM requested that car parking allocation be considered; NWS advised that a request has been submitted to Sedgemoor District Council however an unfavourable response was received. It was agreed that a further request be made.

Member’s expenses: the Chairman was asked if Board members could receive remuneration for time employed during flood events and attending Board meetings. NWS advised that Board members are elected as volunteers and that reasonable expenses may be claimed; Ministerial approval would be required for members to receive remuneration in-line with the Chairman’s allowance.

Ratepayers Meeting: A Bradford (AB) expressed concern that meetings previously requested by ratepayers to discuss raised water levels with Natural England and the Agency in Kings Sedgemoor, have not taken place. Members recommended that an information letter be sent to ratepayers regarding Aller Spillway; IDS advised that the spillway acted as expected; it was lowered to relieve overtopping of adjacent improved floodbanks during a flood event. Board officers had advised the Agency that if the spillway was to be lowered then ancillary works would be advisable to alleviate possible problems.

Members requested that if a request for a meeting is unsuccessful then a letter be sent to ratepayers detailing the advice provided by the Board to the Agency regarding Aller Spillway.

 

  1. Date of next meeting: Full Board Tuesday 17 June 2014, 2.15pm, Westonzoyland and Finance & Governance Tuesday 16 September 2014, 2.15pm, 1 Church Street.

 

There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting at 17.40 pm.