Whittington PC – 003

Following receipt of the Parish Councils reply to my concerns I have sent the following email.


Dear Gillian,

Could you make it clear whether the concerns you refer to in your letter of the 15 September were discussed at a PC meeting and will, in due course, be minuted?  And are you responding on behalf of the PC.   If so why is the letter from yourself and not the Chairman?

  1. Firstly – I stopped putting Minutes and Agendas on the bus stop notice board when the bus service was withdrawn. I did advise the PC at the time, by email.
  2. If Parish Councillors were well known, people would not be asking me who they are and how to contact them.
  3. It is my purely personal opinion that a £50, S137, donation to people attending a B4RN social function is an entirely inappropriate use of the Council Precept, whether they are hard working parishioners or not.
  4. It is minuted that all payments to B4RN were to be supported by Invoices. My concern was that the reason for payment 470 does not appear in the minutes, merely that it was to JD&P Pinch and there was no mention of an Invoice from B4RN.
  5. Cheque 482 was minuted as £323.50 and not the £232.50 mentioned in your letter. My point was that this was an unbudgeted item and there are no minutes giving reasons for the payment.  In addition neither of the two Councillors who are Trustees on the Village Hall Charity declared their interest or mentioned that the Village Hall has a Bank Balance exceeding £20,000, and therefore not in need of such a generous donation.
  6. I appreciate that the accounts are audited. However the missing payments should have been minuted and they were not.  This should have been picked up at audit.
  7. I have concerns that email communications have potential problems, such as people changing email addresses frequently and using devices for email which cannot handle attachments, and have no facility to print. I assume that a steering group with, people more experienced in electronic communications than our Councillors, will be formed before a decision is made.
  8. It is the PC who are confused regarding the Parish Assembly not myself. Your letter is incorrect in stating that an Annual Parish Meeting has been held every year prior to an AGM.  Since May 2012 the PC has held an Annual General Meeting, not Assembly, followed by a PC Meeting on the same day.  Prior to 2012 we held an Assembly in April and an AGM in May.  The Officers are elected at the AGM, not the Assembly.  There are different rules governing the conduct of each of these meetings and who can speak at them.  Having a more sensible period of time between these meetings enables the matters raised at the Assembly to be on the Agenda of the AGM.

I am pleased to see that the PC recognise the deficiencies and problems they have.  One contributor described the Minutes in the following terms “the current record does not meet the standards of comprehensiveness or comprehensibility that I would expect. The “minutes” often read more like an agenda – a list of headings, with no actual sentences, containing verbs, to be seen, let alone a clear record of discussions that have taken place or decisions that have been made.”

I wish the Parish Council well in their endeavours.

John Keegan
Whittington Website

Whittington PC – 002

Gillian Hodgson, Clerk to Whittington Parish Council, responded to my letter of the 17 June in a letter dated 15 September, as follows:


Dear John,

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Yours sincerely.

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.

Whittington PC – 001

On the 17 June 2016 I sent the following email to Colin Hall, Vice Chairman of Whittington Parish Council:


These days, when I post the Minutes of the Parish Council meetings on the Village Website, it is in order that our PC is compliant with the requirements of the “The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014”

I have posted the minutes on the Website since May 2004, originally scanned from Wagtail, and subsequently emailed to me by Jane Binnie, and latterly by Gillian.

Although I have kept records, inaccuracies and omissions have never concerned me as the website was merely an informal service for interested Parishioners.  The 2014 Act has changed that.  I now have compliance concerns about the Minutes and do not whish it to be thought that I have any input as to their veracity.

In the parishes Annual Return, which from this year has to be included on the website, the Section covering Risk Management requires, among other things, that:

1). “Minutes should be checked by internal audit for any suggestion of unusual activity and evidence that risks are being identified and managed.” and;

2). “Recording in the minutes the precise powers under which expenditure is being approved.”

In May 2015 a payment of £186.10 was authorised to be paid to JD&P Pinch.  There are no Minutes recording discussion of this item, who introduced it and what it was in respect of.  There is no mention of six cheques, No’s. 470 to 475, anywhere in the Minutes.  It is likely that these add up to the £825.38 of expenditure authorised but not confirmed in the Minutes as being paid during the March to July period of 2015

In September 2015 a cheque for £323.50, which is 10% of the total precept, was authorised to be paid to Whittington Village Hall in respect of “tarmac”.  It is not minuted who, how or when this item was introduced, or why the PC should be concerned with Village Hall tarmac.  There is no indication of a discussion as to whether this was a right and proper payment.  Cllr’s Pelter and Atkinson were present at the meeting.  Both are Trustees of the Village Hall Charity but this is not mentioned in the Minutes. Their interest is not pecuniary, and therefore there is no reason why they should not speak and vote, but good practice requires that their involvement is Minuted, as they did in September 2012 over a payment of £700.  It should be noted that the Village Hall excess of Income over Expenditure during the last five years totals a little short of £20,000 calling into question the need for unbudgeted expenditure of this nature from the PC.

Between 2012 and 2016 a total of £1,600 is Minuted as being paid in Salary to the Clerk, comprising 5 cheques during two years and two standing order payments during the other two.  The total, paid but not Minuted, adds up to £3,000.

Between 2012 and 2016 there are a total of 27 cheques which have gone unminuted.  I cannot confirm that the payments were authorised in Council.

It has been brought to my attention that business matters have been discussed at meetings, which have been omitted from the official Minutes.  I choose to believe that it is because of the, alleged, unregulated manner in which the meetings are conducted and the resulting problems the Clerk has in recording all that transpires.  I am aware however that others are inclined towards a less charitable view.

There are more instances of a similar nature to the above, but I feel that this is sufficient to emphasis my point, which is:  The Chairman when signing the previous meetings Minutes, as being a true and accurate record, is failing to apply the customary due diligence.  Such omissions are not being picked up by the internal audit.

If it is not possible to review procedures so as to make the Minutes more compliant in future, I would prefer to remove them from the Village Website and hand the task over to whomever the PC would like.
jksig

 

 

John Keegan


Despite a number of reminders I did not receive a reply until the 15 September, three months later.  I will post the response separately.

Whittington Village Hall

The Income/Expenditure figures for Whittington Village Hall present a very alarming picture, as they show that the usage of the Hall is declining at such a rate that without some action it is in danger of becoming insolvent.

Do the Trustees have an action plan which will either attempt to restore the fortunes of the hall or indicate when they propose to dispose of what was once a well used asset?

The Village Blog