Louth Town Council - Working with the community to make Louth a better place to live and work

Minutes for the Town Council Meeting 19th September 2023

09-19-23 TC MINS

 

MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF LOUTH TOWN COUNCIL
HELD IN THE OLD COURT ROOM, THE SESSIONS HOUSE, LOUTH

ON TUESDAY 19th SEPTEMBER 2023

 

                                                    The Mayor, Cllr. J. Simmons (JS) (in the chair).

 

Present Councillors: J. Baskett (JB), L.M. Cooney (LMC), Mrs. S. Crew (SC), J. Drake (JD), S. Evardson (SE), D. Hobson (DH), G.E. Horton (GEH), M. Lamb (ML), Mrs. J. Makinson-Sanders (Mrs. JMS), P. Starsmore (PS), Mrs. P.F. Watson (Mrs. PFW).

 

Councillors not present: Mrs. E. Ballard (Mrs. EB), M. Barnes (MB), H. Filer (HF), L. Frost (LF), Mrs. K. Parsons (Mrs. KP).

 

The Town Clerk, Mrs. L.M. Phillips, the Town Clerk’s Assistant, Miss S. Chitauro, the Mayor’s Serjeant, Mrs. S. Dykes, the Mayor’s Chaplain, Reverend R. Mansfield, Mr. P Gutherson, Mr. S. Evardson, two members of the public and East Lindsey District Councillors A. Leonard, R. Jackson and D.J.E Hall were also present.

Members of the public spoke in the public forum as follows:

  • A lady from UPP Broadband spoke to the Council sharing that the company was rolling out full fibre broadband for residents and businesses throughout Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Leicestershire using open reach ducting to minimise environmental destruction. She said that UPP have sponsored events in Louth and that the company would have a stall at the market on 4th October from which they would be able to answer residents’ questions.


The Council received the following reports from elected Members of Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) and East Lindsey District Council (ELDC):

  • The Mayor read out an email received from LCC Councillor Alex Hall which confirmed that he had been in contact with the Local Highways Manager regarding the disruption of traffic flow in Louth. He explained that the pedestrian crossing which was due to be installed on Newbridge Hill in October would be postponed until April 2024 due to lack of availability of traffic signal equipment.
  • The Council received a written report from ELDC District Councillor R. Jackson regarding road safety, Charles Street Recreation Ground, district finances, UKSPF funds, the Environment Act, the Nipper Bus, planning and housing.
  • ELDC Councillor Mrs. JMS told the Council that the Louth area would be largely unaffected by the Humberside Review of Services. She informed that Health Scrutiny had created new pathways for cancer, mental health, dementia, and young people services which are available to view on the LCC website.  She stated that she would be holding a stall on behalf of the Food Bank at the Louth Food Festival and encouraged donations.  Mrs. JMS shared that white lines had been repainted in the Cornmarket car park and that Cllr. AL had fought the corner for that.  She finished by sharing that she is available to help families by providing baby-care essentials due to a grant from ELDC.
  • ELDC Councillor A. Leonard said that there was to be over 60 stalls at the forthcoming Food Festival and he had been inundated by businesses in town that were relieved about the return of parking in the town centre. He stated that the Council’s attendance at Transport Board meetings had had a positive effect.
  • ELDC Councillor GEH expressed his concerns about the directive road signs into the town becoming overgrown with foliage.

 

  • Apologies for Absence
    Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs. Mrs. EB, MB, HF, LF and Mrs. KP.
  • Declarations of Interest/Dispensations
    The following declarations were made:

    1. Mrs. JMS – Item 8 as a Trustee of Hubbard’s Hills.

  • Minutes
    It was RESOLVED to approve the minutes of the Council Meeting held on the 20th June 2023 as a correct record.

  • Committee Minutes
    It was RESOLVED to confirm the receipt of minutes and adopt resolutions contained therein of the following Committee Meetings:

    1. Planning Committee – 25th April 2023
    2. Planning Committee – 23rd May 2023
    3. Planning Committee – 20th June 2023
    4. Planning Committee – 8th August 2023
    5. Planning Committee – 11th July 2023
    6. Governance and Finance Committee – 2nd May 2023
    7. Governance and Finance Committee – 20th June 2023
    8. Community Resources Committee – 23rd May 2023
    9. Community Resources Committee – 11th July 2023
    10. Personnel Committee – 4th April 2023
    11. Personnel Committee – 3rd May 2023

  • Mayor’s Announcements
    The Council received a list of the Mayor’s engagements from 16th May 2023 to 19th September and heard a short presentation from the Mayor, Cllr. JS, about the events she had attended, in addition to the Mablethorpe Civic Service on 21st May and the Honeysuckle Club on 20th The Mayor stated that standout events included collecting money raised for Andy’s Hospice and the Children’s Christmas Party on 23rd August, attending the Riverhead Theatre Showcase on the 18th September 2023 and attending the St. Bernard’s School Parliament Q&A Session on 19th September 2023.  Cllr. JS stated that she was enjoying her time as Mayor and thanked the Council for electing her.
  • Presentation from Mr. P. Gutherson – Reclaim the High Street / Platform Places
    The Council received a presentation from Mr. P. Gutherson of Reclaim the High Street, who pitched the idea of Louth Town Property Partnership, which focused on community ownership of empty properties within the town. He expressed that there was potential for a property partnership which would be a community land or development trust and would open the possibility of grant funding and issuing community shares.  Gutherson stated that they would work with Platform Places, an organisation which supports the development of community ownership of vacant buildings, and that one estate agent in Louth was interested in working with them.  Mr. Gutherson asked the Town Council to consider how it could support his idea by giving advice, by speaking to the community as well as practical help such as adding details of his scheme to the website.  He ended by willing the Town Council to be a proactive partner and champion of the idea of a Louth Town Property Partnership.   

  • Co-option
    JS read out the letter of application from the applicant hoping to be co-opted onto the Council. Councillors then received a presentation from the applicant.  It was RESOLVED that Mr. Sam Evardson (SE) would be co-opted onto Louth Town Council to represent Trinity Ward.

    NB: Cllr. Mrs. JMS left the room at 8.39pm for the duration of the discussion of Hubbard’s Hills.

  • Hubbard’s Hills
    1. It was noted that the 2nd installment of funds for 2023/24 in the sum of £24,500 was due by 30th September and payment of this was approved.
    2. The Council received confirmation from The Hubbard’s Hills Trust that the amount required from the Town Council in 2024/25 would be £49,000 increased by the increase in CPI from August 2023 to the corresponding month in 2024. This to be paid in two instalments on 30th April and 30th September, as per clause 4.1 in the Hubbard’s Hills Maintenance Agreement which was reiterated to the Council by the Town Clerk as follows: To reimburse the Trustees for expenses and costs incurred in relation to the discharge of its Management Responsibilities and the Additional Services and all the properly incurred and related expenditure in respect of the management of the Land in accordance with its responsibilities under this Deed to a maximum amount of £49,000 for the year 2023/24 (the Contribution) and thereafter a maximum amount of £49,000 increased by the increase in the Consumer Prices Index from the month of August 2023 to the corresponding month at every 12 month interval during the term of this Management Agreement.  The Council received a verbal financial update but expressed concerns that they had not been provided with a business plan or full set of accounts, however they were given assurance that a written business plan as well as invoices for the river and bridge work would be provided by 21st November, as per clause 3.1 of the Hubbard’s Hills Maintenance Agreement which states: Written information in the form of a simple business plan (such as that provided by the Trustees in September 2021, which included details of expected spending in the forthcoming year together with a list of projects which the Trustees hope to undertake and their estimated total cost) would be provided to the Council going forward on an annual basis.  This information would support the Trustees requests for funding each year in September and would also contain basic information on projects expected to be undertaken over the longer term (over 3-5 years) as well as those in the coming financial year.  This information would assist the Council in its budget setting process.
    3. The Chairman of the Hubbard’s Hills Trust, Mr. A. Leonard shared with the Council that he had not prepared an official business plan as it seemed inappropriate. He explained that the Hubbard’s Hills Trust had been accruing cash reserves for some considerable time in preparation for ‘big projects’ such as the work undertaken to the riverbank, which had led to finding several unexpected issues, causing further costs to be incurred, including a well that appeared and which had had to be recapped.  At 19th September he confirmed that the Trust had not received the final invoice for the riverbank works and so could not present a business plan as it did know how much the invoice would impact on the Trust’s finances.  It was expected that it would take all the funds it had available and maybe a bit more.  Leonard confirmed that once the Trust had received the bill, he would present it to the council to consult on how to proceed.  Mr. Leonard stated that there had been approximately 400m of gabion basket work, which had been hinged from the edges backwards with a membrane to form a barrier and stop further erosion through the baskets as the water would otherwise seep through the rocks and come through sucking the soil out from behind over time and thus creating voids behind the baskets which had been the problem before.  While carrying out the riverbank work there had been a lot of sculpting, trees had had to be removed and dead wood.  The work to the baskets had taken around 6 weeks to complete and had been applauded by the Lincolnshire Wolds Countryside Service.  However, he also reported that the contractor had only been on site a week before the work they had done had been vandalised, which was wasted money.  That had had to be dealt with.  Mr. Leonard explained that a particular area for repeated vandalism was the toilet block, incurring further costs.  He went on to explain that several trees had been removed from Hubbard’s Hills and that there were still more to go, including a huge copper beech opposite the new bridge, which was expected to cost around £2,500 and take a week of work.  This was a massive job which needed careful management.  He then shared that local group The Men’s Shed had restored the bridge which leads to the steep steeps at a nominal price of around £700.  They were also to make a prototype bench.  Mr. Leonard mentioned that the steppingstones, which he considered the most heavily used area of Hubbard’s Hills, had had to be re-lifted after sinking due to the current and further work in that area had also been required.  This had been included with the gabion baskets, incurring further costs which had not been expected.  Mr. Leonard explained that the recent major works to the riverbank could not be delayed as it had been noted as necessary by environmental agencies.  Also, there had been a problem with the old gabion baskets which had been secured with large metal stakes which were becoming dangerous.  He reported that the riverbed had been graded and restored to its original state, with the overhanging foliage removed as the river officer stated it created an unhealthy river.  He mentioned that a lot of wood had been taken out near the rain shelter, which, while the heavy plant machinery was on site had been deemed prudent.  He reiterated that all of the work had needed to be done.  In reference to what the Trust planned to do in the forthcoming year, Mr. Leonard said, ‘very little’ and that the Trust planned to pause and review their financial situation, possibly with the Council.  He finished his presentation by sharing that the response from the public regarding the works had been overwhelmingly positive and that the work completed would hopefully last a generation.  The floor was opened for Councillors to question Mr. Leonard.  Cllr. JD started by sharing his concern that the Hubbard’s Hills Trust did not have a business plan because it didn’t know what it was going to do.  He continued by asking for the rationale behind building up uncommitted capital reserves with no business plan.  He also asked about other sources of income for the Trust.  Mr. Leonard responded by stating the reserves could have been spent on various projects, including the removal of trees which were all listed, numbered and identified on a sliding scale of risk.  Having said that there are trees which require attention sooner than expected and there was also the car park at the far end, but it had been agreed by all agencies involved that the river was the most urgent project and so the money was spent in that area, and it would take the majority of the capital reserve.  Cllr. Drake opined that unexpected events which required dealing with would just require a change to the business plan.  In response to the comment regarding the lack of a business plan, Mr. Leonard said that he could not provide a year’s business plan as he had not yet received the bill for the work recently undertaken at Hubbard’s Hills.  He explained that the cost of work and modifications to Hubbard’s Hills were expensive but that in the coming weeks, the Trust would be able to ascertain the financial position they will be in and will be able to provide a business plan to the Council.  In response to the question from Cllr. JD regarding outside sources of income for the Trust, Mr. Leonard stated that they had struggled.  The Trust did not want to be in a position where it needed to come back to the Town Council for funds.  He explained that a gentleman from the National Lottery Community Fund had previously told the Hubbard’s Hills Trust that they would not be eligible for funding as they could not provide an exit strategy.  Cllr. JB commented on the importance of a business plan, to which Mr. Leonard reiterated that once the Trust has received the bill for the work to the river, he would provide the Council with a business plan.  Cllr. LMC asked Mr. Leonard whether the Trust had considered working with a fundraiser.  Mr. Leonard responded that they had worked with a fundraiser in the past, however it was expensive and ultimately was not suitable for the Hubbard’s Hills Trust as it was not getting the results.  Cllr. LMC then expressed her concerns regarding the upcoming bill for work that had been authorised by the Trust despite potentially causing it a shortfall.  She asked Mr. Leonard whether the Hubbard’s Hills Trust would come to the Council for the shortfall, which he confirmed that they would.  Mr. Leonard explained that the Trust knew the cost of the work would be roughly £136,000 (400m x £340/m) and that whilst they could afford a substantial amount of the total, there may be a shortfall.  He confirmed that he would provide the Council with the bill once he received it.  Cllr. Mrs. PFW commented on her belief that a business plan should be ongoing and that Mr. Leonard should have one regardless of whether the Trust were able to stick to it or even if it went wrong.  She stated that she thought the river project should have been on a business plan as the Hubbard’s Hills Trust would have predicted they would need to work on it at some point.  Mr. Leonard responded that the river project was indeed on a ‘wish list’ of desired works that the Trust provided to the Council in previous years.  Cllr. PS recommended that the Trust compile a 5yr business plan which explained to the Council about future works that they wished to carry out and would give complete visibility to the taxpayer.  Cllr. JD also suggested that the Trust compile a 5yr business plan.  Mr. Leonard asked the Council to clarify what it wanted as a 5 year business plan was different to the agreement.  The Council agreed that the agreement should be followed.  Cllr. LMC asked Mr. Leonard whether the Hubbard’s Hills Trust owned the toilet block which had been defaced.  Mr. Leonard confirmed that it was the Council’s asset as it was built by the District Council on Hubbard’s Hills land.  Mr. Leonard gave his assurances that he would supply the Council with a business plan for the Council to peruse at its next meeting on 21st November, in time to assist the Council with its budget setting for 2024/25 and that next year it would be in time, as per the agreement.

 

            NB: Cllr. GEH left the meeting at 9.25pm.

  • Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) 2022/23
    1. The Council noted that the Council’s External Auditor had completed its limited assurance review of Louth Town Council for the year ended 31st March 2023.
    2. The Council received and noted the Notice of Conclusion of Audit.
    3. The Council received and noted Section 3 – External Auditor Report and Certificate 2022/23 and noted that it had received an unqualified audit with the auditor finding no issues on which to make comment.
  • James’ Church Christmas Tree Festival

It was RESOLVED that the Council would take part in the 2023 St. James’ Church Christmas Tree Festival.  It was further RESOLVED that the Mayor would lead the arrangements and that the Town Clerk would have delegated authority to incur expenditure in this regard.

  • Louth Food Festival
    The Council received an update from the Town Clerk that the colouring competition in conjunction with Morrisons for the Louth Food Festival on 1st October 2023 would no longer be going ahead.

 

  • Budget
    The Council noted that they should submit details of projects that they would like to see included in the next budget, along with costings, to the Town Clerk by 31st October 2023.
  • Closed Session Item
    It was RESOLVED to move into closed session in accordance with the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 in order to discuss confidential information of a third party nature in relation to Old Mill House. The Council received an update from the Town Clerk and advice from its solicitors.  It was noted that the Solicitor was to make contact with outside agencies.  Following discussion, it was RESOLVED that the Town Clerk should chase the Council’s solicitor, inform the police that the property was empty and incur expenditure to have the fence at the side of the property mended / restrict access. 

  • Next Meeting
    It was noted that the next scheduled meeting of the Town Council would take place on 21st November 2023.

 

The Meeting Closed at 9.48pm.

 

 

 

Signed_______________________ (Chairman)                Dated_________________________