Belstone Parish Clerk’s Report 19th October 2021

BELSTONE PARISH COUNCIL

Parish Clerk Report for 19th October 2021

Actions from Last Meeting

Borough Councillor Statement

  • I have enquired about a grant for an electric charging point for the car park, but because we do not own the land, we are not eligible.
  • I had an email from Nick Bull at Old Rectory Lodge to let us know that he has worked in the electric vehicle sector for some years, and offering advice and assistance. I explained about the grant not being available, and asked if he knew of any other funding. I also noticed that he was the owner of the electric car for sale in the car park, and advised him of the rules.
  • He replied with an extensive email detailing the ways to go forward without incurring costs. The Electric Vehicle Charging is now a separate agenda item.
  • With regard to the Okehampton Parkway Station, I have found a document from June regarding the ‘West Devon Transport Hub’ with further details of the plan for the station, attached. The announcement on the Levelling Up Fund decision is due in the ‘Autumn’! A summary article is https://themoorlander.co.uk/wdbc-applies-for-government-backed-funding-to-build-west-devon-transport-hub/

Finances

Current Balances

  • The balance in the Current Account at 30th September 2021 was £2932.13.
  • The balance in the Business Reserve Account at 30th September 2021 was £1,642.83.
  • The only payment out for the second quarter (to 30th September) was the SLCC Membership. There was also the transfer of £150 to the reserve (still in the current account) for election expenses. The A-Frame and poster has been paid for (£111.79) but has not come through in the bank statement yet.

Change of Bank Account & Internet Banking Volunteers

At the point of writing, I have not started on the bank account application, purely due to pressure of work.

Reserve for Election Expenses

A letter was sent to the bank on 17th September to ask for the money to be transferred to the reserve account, I have just received a letter saying that it was not signed in accordance with our account operating mandate, even though I copied the format used for previous transfers. I do not intend to re-submit this, as when the bank accounts are changed over we will be able to do this ourselves. The 2nd Quarter Budget shows both last year’s and this year’s election expenses payments as a reserve in the Current Account. I have not shown the car park fund as a reserve because we are going to be using that £100 for the A-Frame and poster.

Access to telephones in the village

  • I have put the article about phones on the website and notice board.
  • I have contacted Ian Solomon asking if his issue is resolved. It isn’t, they cancelled his order for a battery backup saying that he had a mobile phone that he could use. He has replied to them saying that the mobile phone does not work in a power cut. I have advised him on the actions that he needs to take to complain.
  • I have emailed the Digital Enhancement Officer at West Devon Borough Council to find out if she has any advice for us about improving the mobile phone signal in the village. She is concentrating on broadband at the moment, but encouraged us to appoint a community broadband champion who could work on mobile coverage as the project progresses. https://www.westdevon.gov.uk/community-broadband

Kerbing on Great Green

I have emailed the Neighbourhood Highways Officer; although apparently the Officer has changed. The previous officer, Russell Hookway, replied “I don’t believe that an extension of the Kerbing would deter the parking in this area due to the points you have already raised – From my perspective I could suggest either the placement of stones on the edge of the Green, however these would have to be placed at least 450 mm away from the metalled surface and it would be recommended that they are well secured into the ground. Otherwise, it could be possible to introduce some traffic restrictions to the area, however this would have to be what the whole community wants as any change in restriction requires a legal order and therefore will go through public consultation, where local residents are able to object if they disagree with the proposed change.

Car Park Actions

  • I have emailed the Village Hall Committee and the Belstone Commoners’ Association. The Village Hall Committee have agreed to pay £200 towards the car park expenses. The Commoners do not have a standing committee meeting until the end of the month.
  • I have arranged for the payment for, and collected the A-Frame noticeboard and poster. The poster says that the car park layout is on the reverse.
  • The car park layout has been created by Peter Grubb and forwarded to the Councillors. There may be an issue with the boundary of the car park. It is on the agenda.

Planning – Rew Meadow –

See Agenda Items for October Meeting below.

Communication

  • Facebook Account – I have not had time to do this yet. I may need some support from any councillors who use Facebook.
  • Parish Council Logo – I have not had time to do this, and hope that somebody more talented in art could take on the design.

Grant Giving Policy

I have put the Grant Giving Policy on the website. Some of the Employment Policies are on the website as well, the remainder are listed with instructions to contact the clerk to see them. At the bottom of each policy is a space to note when they will next be reviewed. I have guessed that we will wait 5 years to review them.

DALC Conference

See Agenda Items for October Meeting below.

Queen’s Jubilee

I have not had time to action either the letter to Michael Reddaway about the Ash Tree, or researching the engraving.

Dog Poo Bags

  • I emailed Ian Brooker to check that it was acceptable to put the signs about dog poo bags on the moor gates, to which he responded that the DNPA were happy about the two gates that are theirs (Tawcroft and Mere Pool) and asked him if he knew about the diversion of the Resugga stream. He replied that David Marino at The Duchy will be talking to Bill Wedlake about the works.
  • I emailed Jenny Gibbons about the other three gates which Ian says are the responsibility of the Commoners. The Commoners’ Association Standing Committee are not meeting until the end of the month or early next month, but she will ask them then.
  • I have emailed Olivia with our response, to which she responded that she was disappointed. She had also noticed the Resugga earthworks so I was able to tell her the news on that.

Agenda Items for October meeting

Borough Councillor Statement

At the time of writing, I have not received an October statement from Cllr Daniel or heard if she will be attending.

Finance

Internal Auditor

The Internal Auditing company that I approached turned out to be the same company that my SLCC Mentor uses. By the time I filled out their form (27/9/21) the relevant person had gone on holiday, so I am still waiting for a reply. I have also contacted the WDBC, who no longer provide external auditing services, but the manager of West Devon and South Hams Internal Audit Section who works for Devon Audit Partnership has replied that they may be able to help, and I have sent him further details.  DALC have suggested that we approach other clerks. In particular Melanie Bickell of South Tawton, whom I contacted, but she is no longer doing audits. There may also be some options within the village. I noticed that there is a £30 DALC Course “For councillors and officers that want to understand the role of the internal auditor and how to appoint one.” This could be a useful course for somebody to attend.

Grant Application

Last year the Parish Council donated £25 to the Okehampton District Community Transport Group under Section 137 payments.

Planning – Rew Meadow

I submitted details of the possible enforcement breach on 2nd October on the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) website on behalf of the Parish Council, and it has been sent to the enforcement team at DNPA. The authority’s enforcement plan indicates that a site visit would normally take place within fifteen working days. I hope to request an update if I have not heard anything before the meeting.

Report from DALC Conference

All sessions at the conference were recorded, so I can obtain recordings and PowerPoint slides for anybody who is interested in any of the information below. I attended the following sessions at the DALC Conference:

  • Welcome Address
  • DALC Induction – useful for me to understand all the DALC services available.
  • Become a master of your own accounts – Some useful tips.
  • Improving community Engagement for Local Councils – useful information concerning the need for a Social Media Policy and Strategy, which will be part of the process of setting up the Facebook Page. A key message was that communication with the community should ask “What do they want us to do on their behalf?”.  One method of communication that we could consider would be an annual report leaflet delivered to homes.
  • Young People’s Panel – This included some inspiring stories from young councillors, full of energy, enthusiasm and new ideas. One of whom had become a councillor because he saw a comment that said that his town had no young people! Are we guilty of believing the same? Several councils discussed their schemes to raise awareness of the council amongst young people, by liaising with local youth groups.
  • Community Self-Help Initiatives – Ideas from Devon County Council’s Highway Services Team, which will be added to the November agenda.
  • Managing Difficult People and Conversations – A very useful session.
  • Health and Wellbeing Panel – Stories from councils which have implemented services to help Dementia Awareness, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Support. Perhaps not so applicable to Belstone, or is it?
  • Parish Diversity and NERC – NERC is the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 which imposes a duty on the Parish Council to consider biodiversity in all our actions. We have a role to encourage a culture of biodiversity action in our community. They also spoke about the Wild About Devon project to which Cllr Pike has introduced us.
  • Wildlife, landscapes and planning – This was similar to a webinar that I had attended in August and explained the rules that planning applications have to follow to protect animals, birds and plants, and the work of the ecologists at Devon County Council.
  • Right Tree, Right Place – As mentioned in an email to Cllr Pike, this included speakers from the Devon Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust and Devon County Council. I have enquired already about the Tree Hubs that Devon Wildlife Trust are starting to set up, where organisations can arrange an event where people can get trees to plant in their gardens, and receive advice on best practice. The main tree packs for public land appear to start at 30 trees! Devon Wildlife Trust also provides landowner advice on actions and funding. https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/get-involved-saving-devons-treescapes-project-landowners. The DCC initiative has an interesting website https://www.devonlnp.org.uk/take-action/right-place-right-tree/
    The Woodland Trust are looking for Councillors who can become Tree Champions. These are councillors “who can have a voice for trees from the council chamber. They can also raise issues to us directly on trees where they feel that we can assist them with dealing with tree issues. Ideally, we would like these to be councillors as they can lobby their counterparts, vote on the decisions that affect trees and keep us informed about good and bad decisions.”
  • Climate/Ecological Emergency Panel – I did not attend this, but can get a recording of it.
  • Final Remarks – DALC are considering whether next year’s conference should be live, hybrid or virtual. They may do something in February.

Dartmoor National Park Byelaws Consultation

Details of the changes are available at https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/about-us/who-we-are/byelaws-consultation The response form requires a response to each clause as to whether the changes are agreed with or not, together with other comments.

Uncut roadside Hedges

Following Marion’s email, I asked the Neighbourhood Highways Officer about the best way to handle overgrown hedges. He replied that the website reporting tool “is the best method to report overgrown vegetation as the Highway Authority have the powers to enforce a hedge cutting notice if a safety issue is being caused, I am not sure that Parish Councils have the same legal rights.” However, at one of the DALC conference sessions, somebody commented that parish councils knocking on doors for a polite conversation could be worth doing. I have suggested to Marion that she reports the hedging on the website with some photos. The important thing is that the website tool allows you to pinpoint the location on a map, and multiple reports in the same place are more likely to be actioned. Is it worth putting something on the website to encourage people to report?

WDBC Documents

I apologise that these weren’t sent out before. I was going to check with Ann whether they were relevant as WDBC is not our planning authority, and we do not have a gambling problem in Belstone (as far as I am aware)! But then I wasn’t feeling well and forgot! When I did find the Memorandum of Understanding, Ann said to put it on the agenda, so I put the other two on as well.  NB The Planning Validation Checklist consultation period ends on the day before our meeting, so if anybody feels that there should be an urgent response please let me know.

https://www.engagement.westdevon.gov.uk/gambling-consultation

https://westdevon.gov.uk/validation

Lion’s Mouth Fountain

This is what Ian Brooker said about the fountain:
You may be aware that the Lion’s Mouth water fountain was recently damaged again and I have asked the Commoners/landowner who is responsible for its upkeep. Whilst I am awaiting a reply I was wondering if the PC would be interested in adopting it as I doubt the former will have any interest in doing a similar thing.
I am going to see if I can persuade our Conservation Works Team to repair the feed pipe that has been badly broken but they are unlikely to do this unless someone does take on the overall responsibility.

The fountain is on land belonging to the Lord of the Manor.

Items for November Meeting

  • Asset Register
  • Risk Assessment
  • Self-Help Schemes (Road Wardens)
  • Budget for Next Year – We should be considering if there are any projects we would like to do that will need financing.

Website

  • I have published the cancellation of the Tor Down Temporary Traffic Notice and the Brenamoor Temporary Traffic Notice.
  • I have published the article about Phones agreed at the last meeting.
  • I have published the draft minutes of the last meeting.
  • I have published a summary of the Tree Preservation Order applications.
  • I will shortly be publishing the agenda.

Training

  • I have attended online training about using social media, ’10 Tips for Social Media’ run by the Teignbridge Council for Voluntary Service. I was able to ask some particular questions about best practice for setting up the Facebook page.
  • Along with Cllr Weaver, I have attended online training organised through DALC, and run by Breakthrough Communications, ‘Building a two-way conversation with your community’ which provided us with some useful pointers.
  • I have attended online training provided free for clerks by a company called Scribe, useful sessions included ‘Debunking 5 common GDPR myths’, ‘Social Media to engage your community’, ‘From anxiety to optimism’ and a talk by Jackie Weaver (the clerk who became a news sensation following a council zoom meeting last year).
  • DALC Conference – See Agenda Items for October Meeting above.

Other Completed Actions

  • I attended an online meeting about the ‘Plan for West Devon’. They thanked us for our input about buses and mobile signal. They will be adding delivery plans to the plan and getting to work on it. They mentioned that they would like to introduce a subscription for parish councils for the link meetings, in order to pay for somebody to co-ordinate the meetings, collate questions, contact partners and plan agendas. Probably £25.
  • I have filled in an online consultation response to the Peninsular Transport Vision, in a similar vein to our response to the National Bus Strategy. Peninsular Transport cover Devon, Cornwall, Torbay, Plymouth and Somerset.
  • I have submitted an article for the October Beacon magazine.
  • I have responded to emails from a couple called David and Julie Foden who hope to move into the village in November, and were asking about the availability of broadband and allotments.
  • I have set up the payroll, which is now transferred from South West Devon. I have not paid myself yet.
  • I have updated Jo Robison by email about our actions on the telecoms problems.
  • I have reported the Eagle House grit bin and the Village Light to the relevant authorities (Devon County Council website).
  • I have responded to an email from Marion Walpole regarding overgrown hedges in Skaigh Lane. This will be added to the next agenda, but I have also sent her a link to the website where she can report this.
  • I have written to the Local Highway Officer with regard to the kerbing on Great Green, the grit bin,
  • I have filled in a national research survey about our local council (anonymous data) run by the Society for Local Council Clerks and De Montfort University. It was mainly concerned with our functions and assets.
  • I have responded to an enquiry about where you can stay in a campervan in Belstone.
  • I have updated the council information on a website called ‘Pinpoint’ which is a directory of services that we were already registered on.

Copies of all letters and emails will be available to view at the meeting.