ICKLETON PARISH COUNCIL
Minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday 15 October 2008 at 7.30 pm in the Meeting Room, Ickleton Village Hall.
Present: Robin Driver (Chairman), Jane Hurst, Lewis Duke, Tim Pavelin, Sheila Birch, Terry Sadler, Liz Goddard, Mark Stone-Wigg, Jocelyn Flitton (Parish Clerk) and Richard Summers (RAGT).
156/08 Apologies for absence: Timothy Stone (County Councillor), John Williams (District Councillor) and Peter Wombwell (indisposed)
157/08 To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 17 September 2008: The minutes were approved and signed by the Chairman.
158/08 Adjournment for questions from members of the public: None
053/06 Land Registry – Recreation Ground/Village Hall – signatures required. Following a letter from Mr Marris (Adams Harrison), a resolution was passed that Pamela Fearn and Gordon Woolhouse would execute the lease on behalf of the village hall and on behalf of the Parish Council, it would be signed by Robin Driver, Sheila Birch and Terry Sadler. An E-mail would be sent to Mr Marris notifying him of this resolution and requesting he posts the appropriate documents for us to sign. Action: Clerk
028/07 Tennis Courts – Nothing further to report at this moment. Action: Clerk
023/08 Parish Plan – This item to be kept on the Agenda as a reminder. Action: Clerk
039/08 Trees in Cemetery – The Clerk had met Mr P Lilley and pointed out the 8 pine trees, which are near the flint wall. He will number the trees (beginning with those nearest the gate) and submit a quote for each tree. As the cemetery is near a sharp bend, he will need to consult with highways. Action: Clerk
057/08 Butcher’s Hill Light – The Clerk had spoken to EDF regarding the connection of the electricity to the light. They referred her to the local Council; subsequently a telephone call was made to SCDC. We await the response. Action: Clerk
Mill Lane Crossing – Some more work has been done on this crossing, but a further inspection by Councillors will be carried out to see if we are satisfied that the work has been completed. Action: Clerk
091/08 Coploe Pit gate – A verbal quotation of £100 had been received. A check was to be made to see if this could be an insurance claim. It was agreed that this quotation should be accepted. Action: Clerk
096/08 Footpaths – galvanised gates (TStone) – nothing to report in Cllr Stone’s absence. Action: T Stone
113/08 Proposed Grange Road closure – The Start of Works date is 1st December – to last one week, a maximum of five days of road closure between 08.00 and 18.00 each day. Concern was again raised about the diversion route, which as yet is unknown. The Clerk has asked Cllr Stone to see if can obtain any information from CCC as no information has been received. An E-mail will also be sent to Mike Cooper to ask if he knows the diverted route. Action: Clerk
118/08 Wellcome Trust – Dog Disposal Bins –SCDC have said the bin is scheduled to be installed in Mill Lane on 18 October. Jayne Proctor (Wellcome) has been informed. Action: Clerk
130/08 Insurance – The Clerk has spoken to Allianz and they have confirmed that the Parish Council insurance does cover Parish Councillor’s and anyone visiting her house on Parish Council business.
Circular Bench in Play Area – C Frankau hopes to have this in place in the very near future.
148/08 Paper Bank Collections – Cllr Williams was asked to find out why it takes so long for paper banks to be emptied once a call has been made to empty them. Action: JWilliams
Christmas Refuse Collections (JWilliams) – Cllr Williams reported that Ickleton’s collection will be on successive Mondays undisturbed, with Green bin/boxes collected on 22 December, Black bin on 29 December and Green bin/boxes on 5 January 2009.
The following item was moved forward on the Agenda by request.
163/08 Planning application(s) received from SCDC: Declarations of Interest to be declared.
Lewis Duke declared an interest and left the room.
S/1536/08/F – Erection of Grain Store & Repositioning of Polytunnels & Glasshouses – Rectory Farm, Grange Road – RGR Smith & RAGT Seeds Ltd.
The Councillors discussed these plans and raised the following questions:
· Why were these plans not included in the original application
· (originally dealt with at Streatham)
· The height of the grain store would be higher than the existing barn
· (they were receptive to it being reduced from 9.5 m to 8.1m)
· Was there any likelihood of any further applications in the future
· (it will be contained within the footprint)
· Would traffic increase
· Who was responsible for the planting of hedgerows/landscape
· (the local farmers consortium)
Mr Summers was invited by the Chairman to respond to the above. The Parish Council expressed a wish to visit the site in the future; Mr Summers said he would be delighted to show them around.
Terry Sadler, on behalf of the Planning Committee) recommended we approve the application but asking for consideration to be given to reducing the height. This proposition was carried unanimously.
Mr Summers left the meeting. Mr Lewis Duke rejoined the meeting.
S/1433/08/F – Extension to Annexe – 26 Abbey Street – Mr R Olds – Amendment: Reduction in size of opening upon southwest elevation. Information only.
Planning application(s) granted by SCDC:
S/1351/08/A – Display of Signs (Retrospective application) – The Ickleton Lion – Greene King
Ickleton Riverside Plans – response to letter from SCDC – the Chairman explained why he had not responded to the letter received from Greg Harlock (Chief Executive). It was agreed that any future controversial application(s) that were received, the Parish Council should consider attending the Planning Meetings at SCDC.
The Parish Council agreed that this item should be permanently moved higher in the Agenda allowing the County & District Councillors to then leave the meeting if they so wished. Action: Clerk
Appendix I – County Councillor’s Report:
Appendix II – District Councillor’s Report:
SCDC Council Housing Transfer Proposal – report by Cllr J Williams – see Appendix II
The Parish Council wished to thank John Williams for this report. It was agreed that we should put an item in Icene (with John Williams permission) notifying SCDC tenants that Cllr Williams had prepared a summary of his views and details can be obtained from him. The Parish Council would also suggest to Cllr Williams that he holds a group meeting in the Village Hall and invites the council tenants along to discuss any queries they may have. Action: Clerk/J Williams
162/08 Correspondence received:
SCDC (G Moody) - Householder Permitted Development Rights
SCDC - Housing Futures leaflet & DVD
CCC - Roadshows (Setting spending priorities & budget for next year)
CPALC - Freedom of Information Publication Scheme
Adams Harrison - Land Registry (Village Hall)
Ivett & Reed - Addition to memorial – Lilley
A Lansley CBE MP - Resurfacing Mll – Junctions 10 to 11
T Nelson - Trees rear of 34 Frogge Street
Cambs Together - Engaging Parish Councils – 19 November 2008
Sye Ryder Care - Donation request
Cambs. Acre - Annual Review 2007/08
Harts - Catalogue
Open University - Notice to meet Representatives on 4 October 2008
Stds Board - Leaflet
T Sadler - Wellcome Trust wind (turbine(s) – this to be raised at next liaison meeting with Wellcome.
J Wilson - Training services
Shaw’s - Catalogue
COPE - Newsletter No. 49
Comm & Local Gov. - Consultation Paper
Uttlesford DC - BAA Stansted Second Runway Application
Communities - Codes of Conduct for Local authority members & employees (order)
164/08 Hanley Grange Proposal inc. Joint Action Group:
Terry Sadler reported that there had been no real developments, although under the RSS review, Jarrow Investments would probably submit a proposal in the next few days. The non-ECO approved development by Uttlesford DC, would be shown alongside at the same exhibition, as a not approved development by Uttlesford DC.
165/08 Reports from Councillors:
Terry Sadler reported that the last street light on left hand side of Brookhampton Street (nearest Cemetery) was not working. Action: Clerk
Lewis Duke reported that vandals had broken 4 more windows in the Village Hall last week. This had been reported to the police. It was agreed that this should be put in the Icene. Action: Clerk
He also requested that more interaction between businesses within the village should be put on the next Agenda for discussion. Action: Clerk
Liz Goddard reported that adults had been seen smoking and drinking in the play area on the Recreation Ground.
A resident had complained about cars speeding down Coploe Road – into and out of the village and had requested a speed bump be installed. The Parish Council will monitor the situation.
Robin Driver reported that a road-testing lorry had come through the village this evening and had left marks on the road. No one knew what this was doing.
Jocelyn Flitton reported that paint tins were being dumped near the recycling bins. A notice will be put in Icene reminding everyone that these should be taken to the tip in Thriplow.
Ron Coulson had reported that some low branches on the trees in the Churchyard prevented him from cutting the grass underneath. The Clerk would ask Mr Coulson to speak to the Chairman. Action: Clerk
166/08 Finance (Bank Balances) including payments to:
Harts - £48.88 Ickleton Village Hall - £36.00 Moore Stephens - £373.66
J A Flitton - £428.45 PAYE - £74.05
Budget Update – The Clerk presented the Budget v Precept figures up to 30/9/08.
Community Account - £357.66
(following transfer of £500)
Business Base Rate Tracker Account - £16,075.18
Bank Mandate (RD) – still outstanding.
Moore Stephens – had completed the Annual Audit for the year ended 31 March 2008.
Trees rear of 34 Frogge Street – A letter had been received from Mr Terry Nelson pointing out that the trees behind his property were in need of some pruning as they were becoming obstructive and intrusive. The Chairman and Clerk will make an inspection of the trees. Action: Clerk/RD
Chapel (Quotes and possibly Grants) –
Robin Driver and Tim Pavelin declared an interest and did not take place in the discussion.
The Clerk had obtained six quotations to repair the Chapel roof. These ranged from £4591.10 to £490.00. The Parish Council agreed to accept the quotation for £1961.00 on condition that the work could be done before Christmas. If this were not possible, the Clerk would approach the Council’s second choice where the quotation was £1973.00. Once this has been clarified, the grant form from SCDC will be completed and sent off. Action: Clerk
Rabbits – the situation in the Cemetery was getting worse with more large holes appearing. The Clerk was asked to find out whose responsibility it was if an accident should occur.
Peter Wombwell had been speaking to a local landowner regarding the culling of the rabbits. The Chairman would also speak to some interested parties in ferreting in the cemetery. An article will be included in the Icene hoping other adjacent landowners will try to keep the population of rabbits down. Action: Clerk/PW/RD
C Frankau had been working in the cemetery and noticed a gravestone (Mr Broom) had fallen over.
169/08 Police Neighbourhood Panel Meeting - 6 October 2008 + Speed watch:
Lewis Duke reported that both he and Jocelyn Flitton attended the above meeting.
Speedwatch – The police are beginning to progress this initiative but not until after Christmas. The equipment is provided by the police and manned by volunteers who report offenders to the police who send a warning letter to the offender. The Parish Council agreed that they would support the scheme (and inform the Police Neighbourhood Panel). Terry Sadler is happy to lead the liaison group and a request would be put in Icene asking for volunteers – who may or may not operate in their own village. Interested parties would be asked to contact either Jocelyn Flitton or Terry Sadler. Action: Clerk/TS
The Panel Meeting then covered/discussed Anti Social Behaviour in various villages. It was noted that an effort made by the police had reduced crime. Our new PCSO Gary Kendall was presented and made himself known.
170/08 Remembrance Sunday – 9 November 2008:
The Clerk has written to Mr Hall requesting a wreath, which he should deliver to Mr & Mrs G Birch. Mr G Birch will assist Mr S Peck in laying the wreath at the War Memorial. A bugler is currently being sought for the service.
171/07 Proposed Payphone Kiosk closures:
It was felt nothing further could be done, as it did not seem feasible to either adopt or sponsor a kiosk. We now await the result of the consultation.
172/08 Minor Highway Improvement Schemes – 2009/10 Bids:
Terry Sadler recommended that we apply for improvements to the footpath along Frogge Street towards Gt Chesterford.
Also to request a proper footpath be made opposite Stone House in Frogge Street.
Terry Sadler will complete the form and liaise with the Clerk. Action: TS/Clerk
173/08 Adjournment for questions by members of the public: None
174/08 Date and time of next meeting: 19 November 2008.
A request to move the December meeting from 17 December to 10 December was agreed.
There being no further business the meeting closed at 9.40 pm.
Further details of Speed watch were given at the Sawston Neighbourhood Panel meeting on 6th October. It was good to see Lewis and Jos there. The basic structure I outlined in my report last month remains in place.
Whether you believe that citizens’ groups should be employed in this kind of initiative or not, experience does show that it works and is not threatening to life and limb. What is sure is that it will not work unless a reasonable number of volunteers come forward.
I believe that I have indicated before that there is a move afoot to extend the remit of Neighbourhood Panels to incorporate general areas of partnership working between County, District, police and the Fire service.
This is said to work well in East Cambridgeshire and, with a bit of tight chairmanship, can be handled in the same length of time as the current Neighbourhood Panels.
It is not yet clear when and how the extended Neighbourhood Panel system will be introduced in South Cambridgeshire.
Maybe it’s worth noting that South Cambs are having a Local Strategic Partnership meeting for parish councillors but although the County is involved they’ve refused to invite County Councillors. But then there are no County Budget consultation events at all planned for South Cambridgeshire – just for all the other Districts in the county.
The County Council will be selling its interest in the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. The decision was taken at the Cabinet meeting on 7th October. I supported the proposal, though I did make the point that it would have been helpful if I could have consulted with parish councils beforehand and not been sworn to secrecy.
The County has owned about 147 acres of the airfield, including the runway, since 1977. It has an agreement with the Imperial War Museum about sharing the profits but there has never been any spare cash so the council taxpayers have gained nothing. There has never been a policy disagreement between the County and the Imperial War Museum at the Executive Panel, of which I am a member, so the County’s investment brought in nothing but goodwill..
The sale price is in the region of £1.5million and there will be arrangements for the County to buy its interest back should the Imperial War Museum decide to move out of Duxford. There are also arrangements for local authorities to sit on consultative boards. As long as the Duxford Airfield Management Liaison Committee, of which Graham Igglesden is Ickleton’s member, continues its useful role, then I think we are well served.
You will be glad to know that Cambridgeshire has no deposits with Icelandic banks. It is also a slight source of comfort that local authorities of all political persuasions have been caught. At least it allows the minds to be concentrated on solving the problem rather than political name-calling.
The County nevertheless does have some serious concerns about the impact of global financial and economic turmoil. It is able to gain interest on money, which should have been spent on infrastructure projects and is now lying in the bank. But other projects, which should have been funded by Section 106 money, are going ahead without that money, forcing the Council to borrow where it did not expect to have to. The Guided Bus, for example, is expected to cost some £1million in interest in the next financial year because Northstowe is delayed and the Section 106 money is therefore not being paid.
District Councillor’s Report October 2008
Refuse Collections – Christmas & New Year
Over the festive period, collection of domestic refuse and recycling will be as normal, with adjustments for the bank holidays. Ickleton's collection will therefore be on successive Mondays undisturbed, with green on 22 Dec, black on 29 Dec, green on 5 Jan.
Whilst writing you may be pleased to know that (fortunately) SCDC had no investment in Icelandic banks and consequently has no direct exposure to the associated risks. This is what comes of being strapped for cash! No parking revenues like City's £12 million or so.
South Cambs District Council - Council Housing Transfer proposal
South Cambs. District Council is now deeply involved in the run-up to a proposal for transfer of the Council’s housing to a Housing Association, which will be put before tenants in early spring 2009.
To go back a bit – the proposal for transfer was put to tenants already a few years ago, and they voted against – preferring to stay with the Council. During the last 18 months the proposal has been relaunched. Early this year after a series of teach-ins of the subject, Councillors were presented with alternatives of the type of Housing Association, which would be presented to tenants:
This was a decision that Councillors could take, and they chose the stand-alone.
Why transfer Council housing
The move to transfer council-owned housing to an independent housing association (now called a “registered social landlord” - RSL) is driven by one very simple financial factor. Of the rent paid by Council tenants to their Council, the Government takes 50%, whereas RSLs and other housing associations keep this money for their own use. I will not go into the history and political aspects of this. It is like it is.
Over the years many Councils have finally made the move.
Now at SCDC the transfer case is strongly promoted by the Council’s Housing department at the direction of the Cabinet and the Portfolio holder. But they have to persuade tenants – as it is tenants who vote whether to transfer or not.
In remounting the proposals, the Council has been promoting transfer via a continuous series of glossy leaflets for tenants, exhibits, tenant group sessions, Q and A meetings, and most recently house-to-house visits to every tenant. The latter programme comprising 3 separate visit schedules.
There is an “Independent Tenant Adviser” – a consultant retained by SCDC who has been working nearly full-time. He visits the villages, the explanation sessions, and holds other meetings.
You may be aware that the system for preparing for transfer requires that the Council set up a “Shadow Board” as a replica of the Board which would exist should the tenants vote in favour of transfer. It is apparently necessary that such a vehicle be ready and waiting to take over. These are Government rules. This Shadow Board – like its non-shadow successor (in the event of transfer) has 15 members: 5 District Councillors, 5 tenant representatives, and 5 independent persons.
The Shadow Board meets to examine various aspects of the constitution and future role of the RSL board, including what the new RSL will be called, where it would have its office, who the employees would be and so on. They have just decided on a name for it – “South Cambridgeshire Village Homes”. It even has a logo. The latest paper from SCDC advises that employees would transfer from SCD Housing Dept to the SC Village Homes.
[It should be noted that the Council section which handles housing allocation to prospective tenants would remain within the Council, but area housing officers and all other activities would transfer].
In selling the transfer proposals to tenants, the Council has stressed the downside of voting to stay with the Council – namely that SCDC, cash-strapped, would not be able to fund home improvements, and the leaflets set out in great detail all the things that would not be done because there would not be enough money for them.
[Incidentally the entire consultation exercise is costing ratepayers about £750,000].
At a meeting a year ago I said to the Independent Tenant Adviser that this scenario is nothing less than blackmail by the government. He stated unequivocally “Yes, it is blackmail”. However when he talks to tenants he finds it more or less impossible to do other than recommend transfer, being at the same time the person steering the process of the setting up of the Shadow Board, SC Village Homes and so on.
So what are the downsides of transfer, if the upside seems so compelling?
You will not be surprised to know that there is a national movement to defend the retention of housing by Councils - called Defend Council Housing. I recommend study of their website www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk. Meanwhile I will attempt to brief you on a few of the major points.
Security of tenancy
Is tenure going to be as secure with a RSL/HA?
There is a fundamental difference between the security of tenancy with Councils – called”secure tenancies” and with an RSL/HA or - “assured tenancies”,
Very briefly, only Councils can offer fully secure tenancies, protected by Statute. With Housing Associations this statutory protection is lacking – and the relationship is defined by contract between the parties. For Councils the relationship is without time limit, and all the grounds for repossession are discretionary. For HAs contracts are time limited or renewable, and half of the grounds are discretionary, half mandatory.
A Council has to prove its case in Court, and must be seen to act reasonably. At a recent Appeal Court judgement on a case for eviction of a tenant by a Housing Association the judge described the law as draconian.
To counteract this problem the Shadow Board has agreed that “the sterner legal grounds for possession be removed in line with accepted HA practice”, such that the contracts with tenants will have the same effect in terms of security of tenancy as the current Statute protected agreement with the Council.
So – maybe this is close to being a situation which would be satisfactory most of the time, thought the fundamental differences will still remain even with safeguards proposed for the HA’s contracts. It would be very nice to say – “Oh well this RSL will be kind and nice. Look at the contracts“. But contract terms can be changed, and if the organisation is taken over by another Housing Association, there is no guarantee that the earlier assurances would pass on.
Looking at the Councils near to SCDC - there are three that have now gone for transfer – Huntingdon, Fenland, East Cambs. It is admitted by transfer proponents that the relatively small size of stand-alone RSL’s make them vulnerable to takeover. South Cambs Village Homes Shadow Board may now say – “Oh, we can require that the security of contract will still be maintained by the new organisation, we shall see to that.” But Huntington RSL has now been taken over by the large Housing Association Luminus, and tenant members allegedly had no say in this or in determination of terms.
In the event of a takeover presented as advantageous to the company, board members will be powerless to oppose it.
The reality of whether transfer is the only financially viable way forward is apparently compelling, but arguments in favour of it are presented too compellingly. On closer examination they are not as straightforward as might seem on the surface.
It is by no means a foregone conclusion that SCDC could not carry on and do justice to its tenants it terms of home improvements and other relevant aspects.
Comparing Councils and RSLs in respect of borrowing funds and other financial aspects is complex and both sides make cases, which I and most people find hard to follow.
However whereas the 3 above-mentioned Councils have gone for transfer, the two nearest to us have not – Cambridge City and Uttlesford. City has coped quite well, it appears, by taking advantage of opportunities for selling unwanted land that would not be needed for Council housing, and although there are some other differences in the situation of City vis-à-vis SCDC, I understand that SCDC could be in a position to do something similar. This is not discussed of course in the literature so far emanating from SCDC.
Freedom to sell off land
Apart from the question of security is freedom, which RSLs will have to sell off land.
I have only to look round Laceys Way sheltered homes estate in Duxford, with its pleasant expanse of greenery and speculate on the fate, which might befall it, should it fall into the hands of an RSL. The reputation of HAs in this is not encouraging – whole estates shredded and the land then used for a mixture of private sector as well as high density social housing. There are numerous cases of this sort of thing to be noted when researching this subject. Again I am not saying that a new RSL here would do this, but there’s nothing to stop them – nor any other HA, which might take it over.
SCDC owns the housing stock. Elected Councillors serve the electorate - all the electorate, and are ultimately accountable to them. If we don’t do our stuff, and the electorate doesn’t approve, they can remove us. By law, the board members of a RSL are legally obliged to act in the interest of the company, not the tenants, or anybody else.
The power of the people to look for action through Councillors is much less, and we will have no power beyond that of one-third representation on the board. So much for progress in devolving democracy. The electorate knows that the Council looks after tenants. For all its faults the trust is there.
Moves have been afoot in Whitehall for some time and are apparently gaining momentum for a complete reform of the system of social housing ownership so as to produce a more level financial playing field, among other things. The Government knows the system is skewed against Councils in simple financial terms, and it has the power to change the rules. SCDC’s loss of rental income to the Government could be ended, or modified by the Government
The transfer move, once made, is irreversible. It would be unfortunate if SCDC were to make this move now, only to find that the reasons for considering it vanish.
That is not the whole story, just an attempt to set the scene for you - I admit - from the point of view of one who believes that your local elected District Council is the institution which should be able to continue as the owner of its Council housing, and be placed in a position where it can develop this role further.
A BALANCED PRESENTATION
The Council-produced literature has presented the pros of transfer, and the cons of retention, but not the reverse. Many Councillors believe that there are serious questions to ask about potential pitfalls involved in transfer of the housing stock to a new housing association, and also, that retaining the housing stock would not necessarily constitute a doomsday scenario. They want tenants to be as informed as possible about all potential scenarios, in a fair and balanced manner.
A motion to this effect, proposed by Nigel Cathcart and seconded by myself was only narrowly lost (24:22) in full Council last month. We intend to pursue this so that further Council literature shows a balanced presentation with the cons of leaving and the pros of staying.
I welcome Ickleton Parish Council’s interest in this matter.