Minutes of Annual Parish Meeting held 24 April 2018

MEREWORTH PARISH COUNCIL

MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL PARISH MEETING HELD IN MEREWORTH VILLAGE HALL ON TUESDAY 24 APRIL 2018

PRESENT – Jon Regan (JR) – Chairman, Katherine Eykelenboom (KE),
Jenny Thorogood (JT), Andrew Wells (AW), Philip Olden (PO), Michael Bound (MB), KCClr Matthew Balfour, TMBC Clr Mrs Ann Kemp, PCSO Toni Matthews,
Gill Kirby – Clerk, 11 members of the public

1. Apologies for absence – received from Alastair Pullen , Rene Bennett, Jenny Thompson, Tessa Wells

2. Declarations of Interest – none

3. Minutes of the Parish Council meeting and Planning meeting held on 27 March 2018
These were agreed as a true record and signed by the Chairman

4. Finance
(i) Bank reconciliation and ratification of cheques for signing
Bank reconciliation as at 28 March 2018 was approved and bank statements
verified. Reconciliation and cheque payments as listed were ratified. Action Clerk

(ii) Audit of Accounts 2017-18 – Audit papers had been prepared by Clerk along with End of year Statement of Accounts – these were approved and signed. The internal Audit will take place on 21 May 2018 and the External Audit in June

(iii) Approval of Annual Governance Statement 2017-18 – this was approved and signed by Chairman-

5. Date of next meeting – 22 May 2018 – 7.30 pm in the Village Hall – This will be the Annual GENERAL Meeting of the Parish Council

ANNUAL PARISH MEETING

1. Annual Report of Chairman of the Parish Council – Clr Jon Regan gave a report on behalf of the Parish Council.
Achievements
Allotments – In January the Parish Council agreed that the Allotments be run by an Allotments Committee made up of the tenants – this will enable the tenants to monitor any plots that are not being tended and help newcomers achieve the best from their plots. The Committee organised a Clean Up weekend in March in conjunction with TMBC under the Keep Kent Clean Month.
Annual Village Fete – This was held on 17 June last year, it was, as always, a great success, and raised around £4200 – of which £3900 was distributed amongst seven local good causes. A Fete is planned again for June 16 this year.
Parking problems outside the Church – these have been alleviated by the use of the pavilion car park during church special events. Temporary signage indicating the car park has been obtained.
White lining on The Street – The Parish Council requested Kent Highways to re-paint the existing white lines on The Street and, after consultation with residents, the council agreed to fund the installation of additional white lining to encourage drivers to leave ‘passing places’. This appears to have worked well to alleviate problems of obstructions.
Kent Street improvements – The Parish Council has negotiated with Kent Highways for many years on ways to improve the sight lines at the Kent Street junction on the A228 and a scheme for improvements has been drawn up by KCC who are now negotiating with landowners
Planning Applications – The Parish Council is consulted on planning applications, listed building applications and Tree works in the village and during the past year around 12 applications have been discussed and comments submitted to TMBC.

Work in Progress
Sports Pavilion – The Parish Council has arranged for the patio at the pavilion to be re-concreted and seating installed. This will be undertaken very soon. The funding for this is by a grant obtained from KCC Clr Matthew Balfour’s Members grant scheme. We are very grateful to Matthew for his assistance with this project.
End of WWI Commemoration – The Parish Council is to light a Beacon on land to the rear of Butchers Lane on 11 November 2018 at 7pm to mark the end of WWI.
Parking problems at Mereworth school– In December 2017 the Parish Council, representatives of Mereworth School and the bus company met to discuss ways of alleviating the parking/obstruction problems experienced at school times. The Parish Council has offered the use of the pavilion car park, and the pavilion itself, for the school to organise a Coffee Club, in the hope that this will encourage drivers to park away from the school.
Speed restrictions on A228 and Seven Mile Lane – The Parish Council are negotiating with Kent Highways and Police regarding the installation of Speed Indicator Signage or Vehicle Activated Signage on these roads.

2. Reports by County and Borough Councillors and Police – Clr Matthew Balfour (TMBC and KCC) and Clr Mrs Ann Kemp (TMBC) gave a report on behalf of the Borough Council.
Due to the continuing reduction in funding from central government, we have had yet another year when considerable savings have had to be found. Tonbridge & Malling continues to receive one of the lowest payments per head of population in Kent and so we are very fortunate that for many years we have had a robust Medium Term Financial Strategy in place, making our huge savings gradually over the years without impacting too greatly on our frontline services.
With yet more pressure on our finances, the council have been looking, not only at savings, but also at opportunities to increase our revenue.
Work on our new Local Plan continues apace, with a timeline now in place for the final draft to be approved for consultation in the late summer and ready to be deposited with The Secretary of State by the end of the year. This should ensure that the number of new homes will not have to increase even more in line with very recent Government guidance.
A lot of work has been done this year on the renewal of our Waste Collection contract in the hope of improving our roadside recycling collections to include plastics and glass.
Our Leisure Services continue to be well used as well as being rated among the best in the country. Recent works at Larkfield will make sure that facilities keep up to date.
The works to make the M20 a Smart Motorway and the concerns regarding a proposal to include a new sandpit at Ryarsh in the KCC Minerals plan will both continue to cause concerns amongst our residents in the coming year, as will the ever present pressure for more houses and the effect that has on our infrastructure. We both hope to be able to continue to protect and support our communities.

Cllr Balfour gave a report on behalf of the County Council

The year leading up to the recent budget has been even more of a challenge: it has been calculated that funding for local government has fallen by 49% over the past 7 years whilst demand for services, particularly in social care, has been increasing. Our aim is to deliver the budget whilst minimising reductions in services. At KCC we have planned for these budget pressures and have not run budget deficits whilst maintaining reserves. KCC remains financially sound.
A further challenge which we are aware of is the deficit in provision of infrastructure to accommodate the housing growth that Kent faces. This is the product of demographic change – or growth – and the practical inability of London to provide enough housing. KCC is working to achieve better infrastructure provision and there is some good news with investment planned by Network Rail, the Lower Thames Crossing, the Major Roads Network proposals and more, such as the M20 widening by use of the safety lanes.
Until January of this year, I had the privilege of serving on the Kent County Council Cabinet responsible for Highways, Transport and Waste. It was a hugely enjoyable and responsibility job and, having lasted in the role considerably longer than my predecessors, I hope that my longevity shows that I left the services involved in good shape.

Before Christmas we were concerned that we would need to reduce our expenditure on subsidised bus services by £2.25 million. There has been some misunderstanding in that 97% of buses in Kent are operated by commercial companies. KCC subsidises some routes, mainly in the east of the county, and mainly in rural areas when no service would otherwise be available. By talking with bus companies they have managed to link some of these routes to other services, to cause minimum inconvenience. Some services were being subsidised by tax payers by almost £20 per journey. Our savings target for this year has now reduced to £455,000. We have also put funds aside to help communities apply for help to set up taxi/bus type services that meet the needs of their community. To discuss this we are launching, through KALC, “The Big Conversation”, which will lead to a Rural Bus Summit in the summer.

Speeding traffic through villages, HGVs (including parking) and congestion remain a problem for us all. Junctions 3 to 5 of the M20 will be widened by a lane in each direction which will mean a lot of disruption and inconvenience during construction.
Still on highways, we have added £2m to the £8.1m already in the budget for pothole repairs, following the recent snow emergencies. KCC deploy 60 full size gritters, 5 mini gritters and 117 farmers with snow ploughs fitted to tractors to help keep the roads clear. Treatment of main routes was carried out twice a day at times, instead of once. Problems on minor roads were sometimes caused by drivers abandoning their vehicles in the middle of the road making it impossible for farmers to clear the drifting snow. Many messages of appreciation to highways during the bad weather were gratefully received. To help repair the roads we are also using smaller Kent based companies.

KCC dispose of the household waste collected by districts. We are proud of the fact that only about 1% of that waste now goes to landfill as most waste is either recycled to electricity at Allington or to compost at the Blaise site in Offham. Litter on roads and pavements remains a problem, despite heroic efforts by volunteers and the districts to collect it regularly. As does fly tipping. KCC are now cleaning road signs which does make things look better.
KCC have won national acclaim for their apprenticeship scheme, placing 236 young people in jobs in the year. Pressure on school places remains, mainly due to a population bulge which we have addressed at primary level but is a budget challenge as pupils move to secondary schools.

Most recently the big issue concerning all of you is the refresh of the Kent Minerals and Waste Plan. I hope that all residents are fully aware of the consultation (now closed) and been able to respond to the issues involved. It is to my regret that I have been unable to be involved due to a conflict of interest but I am confident that those making the final decisions will do so in the most professional way. I would reassure those who are concerned that the sites being put forward will still require planning permission, which is not being considered in this consultation.

My KCC member grant has been spent on a number of community, educational and highway projects, trying to improve road safety. I also look forward to arrival of the new Speed Indicator Devices for Hadlow, East Peckham and Mereworth.

I would lastly thank the Parish Councils for all their help, advice and patience during the year and I look forward to the coming year with confidence.

Clr Balfour added that the government had now reduced the budget for mending potholes.

3. Police – PCSO Toni Matthews reported on parking at the school and felt that the initial planning for pick-
ups and drop-offs had been carefully done and restrictions were safe.
She noted that the Parish Council had offered the pavilion car park but parents were still parking on Seven Mile Lane and walking their children across a busy road but she couldn’t do anything about parent’s choice. Regarding the suggested one-way system, perhaps a newsletter asking parents to drive one way around would help. She felt that parking at the pavilion and walking safely to the school was a much better way for parents and children to start and end the school day.
Enforcement officers would be visiting from May to end of July. Mereworth School was on their list and would remain on it.
Dennis Styles felt that the parking situation at the Church end of The Street had improved due to parking signs directing drivers to the pavilion car park during special events.
Clr Balfour felt that it was important to get people to think ‘community-wise’ and was fully supportive of this.
PCSO Matthews mentioned that to deal with speeding on Seven Mile Lane required a specific position for the speed vehicle and the police had not been able to find a suitable place on Seven Mile Lane. There was also the issue of lack of money for staff to enforce. Chairman offered the use of the Weald Granary pull-in road for police vehicles.
Also she felt that the cameras which took a photo and sent a fine were the best way to deal with the issue. Clr Balfour felt that more money should be provided for enforcement and Commissioner Matthew Scott was supporting this.

4. Report by Inspector Maxine Martin (Community Safety Unit) – Unfortunately Inspector Martin did not attend

5. Annual Reports of Village Organisations and Bodies

1. St Lawrence Church Parochial Church Council – Andrew Wells reported –
Thank you to Dennis Styles for producing the parking notices.
He referred to the Deanery Synod proposals for local parishes to ensure best coverage by a falling number of clergy was to amalgamate with Wateringbury and West Peckham. Their proposal was possibly to sell Mereworth Rectory and to build a new one in Wateringbury but Mereworth was in the middle of the proposed area so would be the best place for a Rectory with possibly a small meeting hall built on.
Church attendance was falling and residents were encouraged to attend.
There had been complaints about the noise of the bells so bell-silencers will be fitted.
Chairman suggested that Kings Hill residents should be encouraged to attend at Mereworth

2. Mereworth Village Hall – Graham Matthews reported:-
For those that are not aware of the background, the village hall is a registered charity managed by a committee that includes ten trustees. Although five of the trustees are also parish councillors, MVH is independent of the parish council – though the clerk arranges repairs and maintenance, for which we are grateful. MVH receives no financial support from the parish council, so none of the parish council precept on your annual council tax bill goes to the upkeep of the village hall.

MVH also receives no regular financial support from the borough or county councils, though has in the past received ad-hoc grants to contribute towards the cost of specific improvement projects.

The village hall continues to be used for a wide range of activities. In addition to meetings such as this, the hall is used daily during school term time by the Pre-school and regularly by other local community groups including the Scout Group, the Crafty Chinwaggers and the monthly luncheon club and charity lunches. It is also hired regularly for fitness training, pilates classes and molly dancing practice. In addition, during the last year the hall has been used for 14 children’s parties, as a polling station for two elections and as a ‘pit stop’ for a cycle race.

The MVH committee also operates and maintains the sports pavilion on behalf of the parish council. Unfortunately use of the football pitches has reduced and the local cricket club played fewer matches last year which, coupled with the loss of another hirer using the pavilion for band practice, has resulted in a significant reduction in income. The parish council has been actively seeking additional users for the sports facilities and it is hoped that both cricket and football teams from Kings Hill may begin using the pitches and pavilion during the coming year.

After significant expenditure in the previous year, mainly on safety-related works such as electrical rewiring at the village hall and asbestos and electrical safety checks of both buildings, the situation has been consolidated this year and little significant work has been possible due to financial constraints. This resulted in a financial surplus for the last financial year, following three years where expenditure had slightly exceeded income.

In the absence of any local authority funding, MVH is reliant on income received from hirers to meet the running costs of both buildings, supplemented by the tote and donations from the annual village fete and individuals. It is concerning that income received from hirers is nowhere near sufficient to cover running costs, particularly in the case of the sports pavilion, so we are extremely grateful to tote members and the band of tote collectors, to those who organise and support the village fete, and to those individuals who have made donations.

Details of how to book the village hall and sports pavilion can be found on the Parish Council’s website and we also attempt to attract additional hirers through our presence on Facebook. If you would like to support the village hall in other ways you can do so through the tote (£2.50 a month for an opportunity to win monthly prizes between £20 and £50 – please speak to Helen if you are not a member and are interested in joining), we are one of the ‘good causes’ that can be supported through TMBC’s online Hive Lotto (£1 per entry for weekly prizes of between £10 and £25,000) and this year we have joined the Gift Aid scheme, in order to maximise the benefit of donations received from individuals who are taxpayers.

3. Mereworth & West Peckham Record. Chris Keeler, Editor, reported that finances were stable and that he was keen to get more editorial. Thanks to Richard Jones, Michael Bound and Mark Siggers. Any suggestions for editorial would be gratefully received. Michael Bound, Treasurer, reported that there had been a modest surplus, although regular full-page advertisers had been lost, printing costs were lower. Donations were also down and only 71 contributors out of 750 circulation paid for their edition.

4. Mereworth Lunch Club- Sue Darbyshire had provided a written report which was read by Chairman –
The monthly Lunch Club continues to be popular, and while members have been lost over time, there are still a regular group of 32 who join in on most months. We have an enthusiastic group of cooks and other supporters who organise the events each month.

In 2017, we provided 332 meals – mostly in the Village Hall, but occasionally delivered to the homes of those unable to get out – to our members. We charge has remained at £4 for the food, and members pay an additional £1 to participate in a monthly raffle which pays for a “free” Christmas lunch, with wine and a present for everybody. We provide a hot two-course meal, except in July, when by tradition we have a salad followed by strawberries and cream. We do not meet in August.

We are grateful for the support of Hugh Lowe Farms, who supply the strawberries in summer, and most especially to our cooks who have to submit to the inspection regime of the local authority. We are at present looking for someone to take over preparation of the puddings following a resignation.

5. Mereworth and Kings Hill Scout Group – Mike Darbyshire had provided a written report which was read by Chairman
Membership of the Group has continued to grow – numbers enrolled amounted to 171 at the last census. Leadership numbers are in the region of 30, although job changes and house moves make this a somewhat hard number to pin down; In the past month we have had two former Explorer Scouts accepted as Young Leaders, while two leaders in the Scout Troop have had to draw back for job or family reasons, for example. The current leadership scenario is that while we are well covered in the Beavers and Cubs teams, we have a serious problem in the Scouts team, and could do with more support with Explorers (the older scouts).

In the past year, we have lost our Group Scout Leader, who retired after a very successful seven years in developing the Group as a whole, and the leadership team especially. We owe him a particular debt of gratitude for his work, and we hope he will continue to support the Group in another capacity. We have been fortunate to persuade Kathryn Frankling, our longest-serving leader, to take over as GSL for a two year period to allow us to find a successor. In her first few months in this role she has reorganised the Group to share out some of the time-consuming jobs among the leadership team, to make the GSL’s workload a bit less demanding. As ever, though, we are seeking more candidates to help us in running the Group, and would welcome an approach from anybody with a wish to support an active group of young people, who are a pleasure to work with.

In the past year, each of the sections of the Group have been winter camping, attended a stay away at a PGL Activity Centre, taken part in the Kent International Jamboree with several thousand other scouts from around the world and participated in activities organised by the District or by our own leaders. Every year we have a Group camp at the Mereworth Campsite on Seven Mile Lane – where there are usually over 120 people of all ages camping together, and we always end the year with a barbecue, which we combine with our own AGM.

Our leaders put in an enormous amount of time, and two of them have volunteered to attend the next World Jamboree in July 2019 in West Virginia; this involves them in planning activities and leading teams of volunteers in the camp and leading up to it. This involves a considerable additional time commitment.

I believe that the residents and parents of Mereworth and Kings Hill have every reason to feel proud of the Scout Group which bears their name.

6. Crafty Chinwaggers – Crafty Chinwaggers provided a written report which was read by Chairman:
Crafty Chinwaggers continue to hold their monthly meetings in Mereworth Village Hall. We have a lively membership with ages ranging from teens to 90s. Each month a different craft is tackled with a demonstration led by one of the members (or co-opted friends!) We also have summer outings and outdoor painting sessions.

We undertake a number of charity projects. In the past year we have contributed knitted poppies for the Tonbridge Castle Remembrance display, made ‘chemo bags’ and heart cushions for Maidstone Hospital and ‘Twiddle Muffs’ for people with dementia.

We are grateful for the interest and support of the Parish Council and would welcome visitors to our meetings to see what we have to offer.

7. Mereworth School Governors – Mrs Marion Regan gave a report –

8. Allotments Committee – Mrs Nessie Brooks gave a report –
The Allotments Committee had been formed last month and she had been elected Chairman. A great deal of hard work clearing the plots had taken place and now all plots were taken, one to a local charity. TMBC had cleared the waste from the site, which had taken 4 trips by a large vehicle. A small amount remained and she was concerned that this may encourage further tipping of rubbish. There was a cricket roller which they could not move and she suggested making it a feature. She thanked the Clerk and the Parish Council for their help and was grateful to the Parish Council for agreeing to pay for new fencing, which would be erected by the allotment tenants. Tenancy agreements and a Constitution were still to be finalised and a bank account would be opened.

Questions from Parishioners
1. Dennis Styles referred to the suggestion of framing old photographs to be displayed in the Village Hall. Perhaps this could be an idea for a Parish Council project.
2. Dennis Styles asked about the Parish Council’s view for the future if residents have to become more self-sufficient if less money would be coming from the Borough Council and County Council. This to be discussed at the next Parish Council meeting.

Refreshments were served after the meeting.