Minutes of the Inaugural Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium (Full Board) meeting held 23 October 2012 at 7.30 pm at the Huntworth Suite, Junction 24 Market Centre, Bridgwater.
- Attendance and Apologies: (appended)
- Items additional to this agenda: None
- Opportunity for ratepayers or members of the public to address the meeting: None
- Minutes of the Consortium Management meeting 26 April 2012: (appended) having been circulated for information purposes, the minutes were accepted by the Board as a true and correct record of the meeting held.
- Minutes of the Consortium Management meeting 4 September 2012: (appended) having been circulated for information purposes, the minutes were accepted by the Board as a true and correct record of the meeting held.
- Chairman’s Report: Mr Maltby advised that we have experienced the wettest summer since records began. The IDB has found that the immediate dissemination of information has been vastly improved by access to email addresses for landowners; a reminder will be forwarded with the annual drainage rate demands for email address updates from rate payers. The Wales Audit Office has produced a Report in the Public Interest of Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board, which draws attention to a failure in governance arrangements and inadequacies in management and internal control; this report will be discussed at the Finance & Governance meetings of the Axe Brue and Parrett IDB’s to ensure that the Board’s comply with all statutory duties.
- Comments were received from members regarding Environment Agency (the Agency) constraints as a result of changes in Core Government funding streams. Members were advised that a national template for funding indicates an allocation per km of watercourse. Dr J Venables is attempting to highlight the need for increased funding for high profile areas prone to flooding.
- Chief Officer’s Report: N Stevens (NWS) advised that amalgamation of the Lower Axe, Lower Brue, Upper Axe and Upper Brue Boards took place in April 2012, with the Upper Brue staff relocating to 1 Church Street and settling well. The new Axe Brue Board has three sub-catchments; Axe, Brue and Coastal with regular committee meetings reporting to the Full Axe Brue Board. New Byelaws and a Differential Rating Order have been drawn up, advertised and will be submitted shortly for Ministerial confirmation. The Chairman, P Maltby and Officers have had many meeting over the summer with the Minster, R Benyon and Defra staff to discuss flooding issues and land owners concerns.
- The Consortium undertakes the administration, finance and organisation of the Boards. Meetings and venues are organised by the Assistant Clerk along with Rating Management. Finance services are provided by the Responsible Finance Officer and the Senior Administration and Finance Support Officer. Officers also provide Election and Returning Officer duties. Engineering is overseen by the Chief Engineer. The Board’s Ecologist is well respected nationally, with good local links. The Board holds a large database of asset records and Favourable Conditions assets, and is starting to compile a flood incident record, as the Board’s insurers are dealing with claims for damage. Officers also undertake consultations with Local Government, Defra, the Environment Agency (the Agency) and other bodies seeking the views of the Drainage Boards. Development control and consenting is dealt with by the Planning Engineer and Planning & Technical Support Officer; the Board considers approx. 1,500 planning applications annually, and would respond to approx. 250, as well as approx. 180 Land Drainage Consent applications. Officers and members sit on outside bodies which require input from IDB’s such as ADA Policies and Finance committee. Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 the Board will be undertaking Assessments of the area, to identify and consider designating flood risk structures to prevent demolition of banks, walls, buildings etc. Members were advised that, through grant funding, the Board has acquired an acoustic doppler current profiler (ADCP). The ADCP connects via Bluetooth to a laptop, to receive information to gauge more accurately, watercourse flows throughout the district.
- Chief Engineer’s Report: (appended) I Sturdy (IDS) advised members that due to ground conditions, flooding etc., the programme of works is constantly being adjusted to deliver adequate maintenance. The IDB is working dynamically with the Agency, where telemetry is proving to be a useful asset. The Boards are working with the Agency and consultants to negotiate funding options for work identified within an options appraisal carried out on areas such as Currymoor. Weekly planning meetings are held at 1 Church Street with Officers and constituent Board members when necessary, with operational input from the Area Managers. Favourable Conditions projects; weather and ground conditions are being negotiated with contractors as demobilisation may be required. Funding committed for current works can be carried over with the works programme for next year. Health & Safety and Board schemes are identified and designed by the Board’s in house Engineers; following a Grant in Aid application, an indicative allocation of £1 m to continue Health & Safety and Favourable Conditions projects has been received. Board funded works programmes are to be considered shortly with a view to promoting and funding schemes.
- Ecologist’s Report: (appended) NWS advised that the IDB is discussing with Natural England the regime of water levels that will be adopted across the levels and moors this winter. Variations to the water level management plans are being sought.
- Finance Officer’s Report: S Gee (SMG) advised that the Board’s bank balance is significantly higher than expected at this time of year due to non-completion of Favourable Conditions works. Rates – rate demands were sent in May 2012 totalling approx. £366k, of which approx. £40k remains outstanding. External Audit – the Audit Commission has appointed Grant Thornton for a five year term, which will reduce the current external audit fee by half. In light of the Caldicot and Wentlooge Audit report produced by the Wales Audit Office, a more robust Internal Audit plan is to be developed; an initial meeting of Officers and C Gunn of South Western Audit Partnership will be held on November 6th.
- Confirmation of the meetings calendar for the year: (appended) Members agreed that the meetings calendar could be taken as read.
- Staffing and Office Accommodation: NWS advised members that space is maximised in both Church Street and Alpha House; a property sub-committee has been formed to consider current and future accommodation. P Maltby advised that P Ham, Area Manager, Parrett DB has won a photograph competition held by the ADA gazette; congratulations of the Board were conveyed to Mr Ham.
- Website: NWS advised that the new Somerset Drainage Boards website is now operational, with in-house editorial and administration access. A request was made for the Board to consider a link to telemetry information.
- Question and answer session: Q: is the Board involved with the proposed new Cheddar reservoir. A: the IDB has been integrated into the team to discuss issues at the preliminary stage with investigations carried out by Bristol Water plc consultants Arup and the Agency. Members were assured that water and ecological aspects will be considered.
- Any Other Business: South Western Branch of ADA will hold its Annual Meeting on Wednesday 12 December 2012, at Junction 24 Market Centre, Bridgwater at 10.30am; all Board members are welcome.
- Date and Venue for meetings: Management Committee meeting will be held 4th December 2012, 10.30 am at 1 Church Street, Highbridge.
The Chairman thanked members and officers for attending, and closed the meeting at 21.50 pm.