Gillian Hodgson, Clerk to Whittington Parish Council, responded to my letter of the 17 June in a letter dated 15 September, as follows:
I write in response to your earlier correspondence relating to various matters. I apologise for the delay.
I understand that matters have been raised on the village website and the blog that need consideration by the Parish Council. You most helpfully numbered them from 1 to 5 and I respond accordingly.
- Parish Council minutes and agendas are posted on the noticeboard attached to the Village Hall and by your good self on the bus shelter noticeboard. If on occasions they have not been displayed correctly then I apologise. Incidentally the noticeboard fixed to the exterior of the village hall is for the sole use of the Village Hall and the Parish Council, hence it having a lock and is not for public use. This I think should answer point 2.
- Parish Councillors are easily contactable and well known throughout the village, however their details will be displayed on the noticeboard in Whittington and also on the noticeboard at Newton. I have previously sent details to the Lancaster City Council website co-ordinator, but on checking Parish Council’s page, no contact details of Parish Councillors are apparent.
- I’m afraid I do not know why there is no letterbox for the Village Hall. However, if you care to contact the Village Hall Committee, then I’m sure they will explain the reason for this omission.
- Again this falls under the remit of the Village Hall Committee and I suggest you get in contact with them.
As a matter of interest, the donation made by the Parish Council was not to B4RN but to those volunteers in the village who physically installed high speed broadband to so many households.
With regard to your comments on the village shop, the Parish Council particularly welcome your kind offer (and others) to get involved in the village shop venture and I do know that one of the Parish Councillors has been investigating the possibility of getting other involved.
I now turn to your correspondence dated 16 June 2016 relating to Parish Council minutes. I understand you have compliance concerns when publishing the minutes on your website and you have also listed a number of fiscal transactions that need clarification. I can answer some of your queries.
The payment in May 2015 of cheque number 470. minute 1216. transaction number T8. of £186.10 to JD&PPinch was for payment of tools and accessories for volunteers installing broadband in the village. The S137 donation was unanimously agreed by all Councillors.
The cheque number 482. minute 1232. transaction number T18 of £232.50 issued in September 2015 was authorized as a contribution to reinstating the Village Hall driveway after being excavated in order to accommodate broadband in the Village Hall. As parishioners as well as Village Hall attendees are to benefit, it was agreed unanimously that a S137 donation from the Parish Council was sensible.
You are quite right that £3,000 was paid out in salary to the Clerk in cheque form until a quarterly standing order was agreed by all Councillors in October 2014.
With regard to your concerns over several other cheques issued, the Parish Council accounts are audited annually internally and externally and are available, by request in writing, at any time. They are posted annually on the noticeboard fixed to the Village Hall, as required.
I now refer to your correspondence dated 30th June 2016 including suggestions from a resident of the village. Parish Councillors agree that administration could be improved and that greater use of electronic mail would be the answer.
With regard to scheduled ordinary meetings and special meetings and minutes. I, as Clerk, am guided by the “Local Council Administration” by Charles Amold-Baker. recommended by LALC – Lancashire Association of Local Councils and I am confident that protocols are adhered to.
Parish Councillors are aware that agendas and minutes will no longer be accepted by your website from the end of September 2016 and confirm that alternative arrangements, to comply with current legislation, will be put in place.
Parish Councillors are concerned about comments relating to the legal requirements to hold a Parish Assembly and I think there may be some misunderstanding here, as an Annual Parish Meeting has been correctly held every year prior to the Annual General Meeting. This has always been advertised and, historically, has never been patronized until this year when three parishioners attended. The Chairperson gives the Annual Report and attendees are invited to speak The Chair’s report is published along with the minutes of the Annual General Meeting.
In conclusion, you are absolutely correct in highlighting some deficiencies in our Parish Council administration and the recording of the minutes. As a result of your comments (and others) the Parish Council is addressing our procedures in order to satisfy those who have written to us and also contacted you via the website blog page.
Again, can I apologise, profusely, for the delay in responding to your correspondence and should you need clarification on any cheques issued that I have not covered then let me know, in writing, if you wish to examine the annual accounts.
Gillian Hodgson Cleric to the Parish Council
The explanations were, in many instances, either inaccurate, blatantly wrong or failed to address the issue raised. Needless to say I responded, and have posted this as a separate post.