Minutes of the Parrett Board Finance & Governance Sub Committee Meeting held at 1 Church Street, Highbridge on Tuesday 14 January 2014 at 2.15 pm.
Chairman: Mr D Spicer
- Attendance & Apologies for Absence: as per register appended.
- Items Additional to the Agenda: N Stevens – emergency funding application to the Environment Agency.
- Declarations of Interest: None at this time.
- Minutes of the Sub Committee Meeting held on 05 November 2013: (appended) having been previously circulated the Chairman sign the minutes as a true and correct record of the meeting held. All in favour.
- Matters Arising: Item 7 Agreement with North Somerset Levels IDB – N Stevens (NWS) advised that the agreement has not yet been signed, due to a requested amendment regarding future liabilities; the Board’s insurers have been asked to consider the whole agreement, to which a response is awaited. Members were assured that the arrangement is cost positive to the Board as it will make better use of staff resources and allow redeployment of staff nearing the end of their contracts. In addition the agreement requires that the Consortium provides a full time engineer as well as the opportunity for NSLIDB to access other officers within the Consortium.
It was agreed to amend the agenda to bring forward items 7 and 8 before item 6.
- (7) Budgets– (Ref. 7, 9 & 10) Consider proposed 2014/15 budget and Financial position against budget and (Ref. 8) Consider draft annual drainage rate and special levy 2014/15 (appended) S Gee (SMG) advised that at a recent meeting the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC) approved a 1% increase in the Environment Agency (Agency) Precept on Somerset IDBs, which is an additional cost to the Board of £1,971.
At the earlier meeting of the Employment & Machinery sub-committee, discussion had occurred on the possibility of selling the Massey Ferguson tractor to the Axe Brue Board; SMG advised that funds received, as a one off, could be directed into the income stream to reduce the deficit, to enable any rate increase to be minimal. The Vice Chairman was concerned that, in his view, the use of income in this way was not preferred as it should be returned to the Machinery fund for future reinvestment in plant.
Commentary on the draft budget provided by S Gee and (appended) was discussed and accepted as submitted by members.
I Sturdy (IDS) advised that Minehead investigations and improvements works has received an indicative allocation on the Agency Medium Term Plan (MTP) at a 45% grant rate; therefore the Board would need to raise £41k as reflected in the budget as their contribution. A Project Appraisal Report needs to be completed for funding to be drawn down; however this project could be deferred for one year if necessary as funding partners would be required for the project to progress. Members opined that this project is necessary and should not be deferred; P Maltby (PCM) expressed disappointment that this project had not progressed further. Officers are trying to progress matters with the County and District as well as Butlins via the current planning application however discussions are protracted and not concluded.
IDS advised that main river works reflected in the budget is a contingency item that would be required should the Agency withdraw maintenance from main rivers due to their budget constraints. Members agreed that this item was a necessary inclusion to the budget.
SMG advised that the rating bad debt provision has not increased; it remains at £5,500.
A Bradford considered that if the Agency were undertaking less maintenance therefore providing a reduced service, the Drainage Board should pay less precept. It was recommended that this item be an agenda item for the next RFCC/IDB meeting.
The Chairman suggested that the Special Levy split between local authorities was illogical and unreasonable; SMG advised that Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) currently funds 68.8% of the Axe Brue total income and 72.33% of the Parrett total income. NWS advised that the formula is written in legislation and is based on land values.
NWS advised that a General Drainage Charge is available in legislation to cover land outside of an IDB area. It would need to be sought by the Agency and require Ministerial approval and agreement of Treasury. However the Agency has said that the Treasury consider this to be a tax and therefore would not agree to it.
A Bradford requested that an internal review of the Drainage Board be undertaken to provide an in-depth assessment of the IDB as a whole to identify where reductions in cost could be made; NWS advised that South West Audit Partnership, as Internal Auditors have been instructed to undertake this task within their annual work for the Board.
NWS advised members that an email had been received from SDC Chief Executive expressing concern at the proposed penny rate and Special levy increase (appended) and threatening to write to the Minister if a further rise were put forward next year. Members were advised the total proposed increase to Sedgemoor District Council, across the two Boards would be in the region of £115,300 which falls within their budgeted increase of £116k given to SDC officers by the Axe Brue prior to amalgamation.
Proposed P Maltby seconded A Bradford ‘that the Finance and Governance Sub-committee set a recommendation to the Main Board at its meeting of 28 January 2014 to adopt the proposed 2014/15 budget as submitted and to adopt a 1.99% increase to the Parrett IDB penny rate for 2014/15 to 6.323p in the £ with a shortfall in budget of £21,291 to be taken from reserves.’ Vote: 4 for, 0 against, 2 abstain; Motion Carried. RESOLUTION 1
(Ref. 12) Future funding for the operation and maintenance of new and transferred assets and watercourses NWS advised that no further meetings have taken place to progress this matter with regard to existing assets.
At Steart NWS advised that the Board would take over the operation and routine maintenance of certain new water control structures built as part of the managed realignment project, however the Board would not take them over in terms of structural liability, therefore if a structural problem was identified with an asset, this would be the responsibility of the Agency to either repair or provide funding for repair. The Agency was satisfied with this approach at South Drain.
- (8) Governance – (Ref. 17 and 18) Monitor compliance with legal requirements and Monitor and confirm that Board funds are used economically, efficiently and effectively: to consider an action plan compiled by the Clerk following a review of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly of Wales report on the Caldicot and Wentlooge IDB (appended) the Board discussed the recommendations and action plan produced by the Clerk following a review undertaken by the Clerk, and Axe Brue and Parrett Chairmen of the National Assembly for Wales Public Accounts Committee on the Caldicot & Wentlooge Levels IDB. Members discussed the action plan as submitted, with the following points expressed:
Action K – recommendation 12: induction and training: an induction and training programme should be developed in consultation with elected and appointed members to include finance and funding streams.
Action Q: register of interests: upon perusal some members do not feel it necessary to declare the name of corporate bodies in which they have a beneficial interest (no. 3); however it was agreed that they would declare an interest in general. NWS would seek advice from ADA for non-conformance of disclosure.
Action S: lack of strategic plans (and policies): NWS advised that the Board’s Flood Risk Policy has not been updated since 2005, and that the Board does not have any standards of service for drainage or flood risk management. Members agreed that the Clerk and Chief Engineer with Board members should review the Flood Risk Policy and develop standards for adoption
IDS advised that the Government’s introduction of SUDs, due to begin April 2014, has been postponed for further review.
Proposed A Bradford seconded C Passmore ‘that the Finance and Governance Sub-committee recommend to the Main Board at its meeting of 28 January 2014 to adopt the proposed Register of Members’ Interest form as submitted.’ All in favour RESOLUITON 2
(Ref 21): To review and recommend to the Board the Publications Policy relating to the Freedom of Information Act (appended) and to consider the draft Publications Policy: Employee’s Code of Conduct, Gifts and Hospitality Policy, Anti-Bribery Policy, Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy, Whistle Blowing Policy and Confidential Reporting Code, Freedom of Information Publication Scheme, Division of Responsibilities between Chair and Chief Executive and Data Protection Policy; members were advised that the policies are ADA model policies. Following discussion, members were advised that the Publication Policy includes advice on how to access information and indicates that charges may be imposed for the provision of some information; however information available on the Boards’ website will not incur a charge.
Proposed I Dyer seconded A Bradford ‘that the Finance and Governance Sub-committee set a recommendation to the Main Board at its meeting of 28 January 2014 to adopt the Employee’s Code of Conduct, Gifts and Hospitality Policy, Anti-Bribery Policy, Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy, Whistle Blowing Policy and Confidential Reporting Code, Freedom of Information Publication Scheme, Division of Responsibilities between Chair and Chief Executive and Data Protection Policy.’ All in favour RESOLUTION 3
- (6) Policy & Strategy: (Ref. 5) Business Risk Assessment and (Ref. 27) Risk Management: NWS advised that the risk register is a working document with identified risks and actions to be taken, which members are advised will be referred to on a regular basis. It was recommended that members add the register provided at a previous meeting to their meeting files, to reduce administration costs involved with printing for each meeting.
- Banking: (Ref. 22) Banking arrangements and facilities SMG advised that the fixed rate bond will mature in May 2014; members were asked to give consideration to low risk investments with high interest return and advise SMG.
Any other business: NWS has advised the Agency of additional costs on flood risks; £10k staff costs and £50k damages.
PCM expressed that all the Expenditor’s had worked extremely well during the recent flood events, and that if not already received, they should be paid overtime for their commitment. SMG advised that Expenditor’s submit a time sheet and are paid accordingly.
Members were advised that R Vaux, J Thorne’s replacement, does not have a magnetic Parrett sign on his vehicle, as the other Expenditor’s have. It was agreed that this would be rectified.
It was further agreed that officers would consider PPE with the Drainage Board logo/name printed on, and report at the next meeting.
Members were advised that during recent flood events IDB staff assisted the Agency by walking banks and sand bagging where necessary.
The Assistant Clerk advised members that outstanding rates are £2,173 current year and £2,983 previous years. It was agreed that plans for unknown ratepayers would be displayed at the Main Board meeting of 28 January, and a list of ratepayers with unpaid rates should be disseminated to members and Expenditors.
Date of next meeting: Tuesday 28 January, 2.15pm, Main Board Westonzoyland and Tuesday 20 May, 2.15pm Finance and Governance 1 Church Street.
There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting at 16.45 pm.