MINUTES of the Extraordinary Full Town Council meeting held on Zoom on 8 July 2020 at 6.00pm Chair Approved
Present: Cllr Tile (Chair), Cllr Booth, Cllr Nash, Cllr Read, Cllr Aldis, Cllr Maltby, Cllr Evans, Cllr Needham, Cllr Wenaden, Maurice Howard (RFO) Jo Beighton-Emms (Town Clerk) and Emma Buckley.
Public Questions; None
EFC/07.20/01 Apologies for absence: Cllr Boughton, Cllr Newton and Cllr Luxford-Vaughan
EFC/07.20/02 Declarations of interest; Cllr Needham declared that he is a member of Wivenhoe Society
EFC/07.20/03 Questions and comments from the public; None
EFC/07.20.04 Business case; A previously circulated business case from Cllr Aldis for the purchase of land near to the Co-Op, was considered by the council (commercially sensitive)
EFC/07.20.05 Regulatory compliance; A report from the RFO had been previously circulated and is attached as Appendix A
Cllr Tile reminded everyone present that the meeting was being recorded and that all votes for this meeting would be named in the minutes. It was important for the council to act in accordance with appropriate legislation.
Cllr Aldis said that this potential purchase had in his view presented an opportunity for the town and that he had tried to put everything together to move forward. However, he said that it was clear from the report from the RFO that the financial regulations do not allow for the council to operate in a way that it could be ready for the auction and that he was therefore withdrawing his proposal.
He thanked everyone for their time and noted that the WNP had not been mentioned in the land agent’s documents, although potential buyers were advised to look at all restrictions. The auctioneers had been contacted regarding this. Cllr Read noted that this would be a test for the WNP.
It was agreed that if the land was not sold on 14 July the landowner could be contacted to request time for due diligence to be conducted, although it was thought that this was unlikely. The new owner could also be contacted.
Cllr Wenaden asked if there were other ways of raising funds such as crowd funding and also, what was the likelihood of planning permission being granted.
Cllr Aldis explained that other funding options were a good idea. Also, that planning legislation was ‘softening’.
In view of local interest, Cllr Evans suggested that WTC announce why they had not been able to pursue the purchase. Cllr Aldis said that the minutes of this meeting would be published too. A public statement will be made via the Town Clerk.
Cllr Tile suggested that WTC learn from this and look at potential areas of land coming up for sale. Cllr Needham noted that the WNP sets out all areas in detail. The RFO said that he would much rather be constructive and agreed that if correct due diligence was conducted then it would be possible to purchase land in the future. He suggested that a council policy on land should be incorporated in the council’s financial plans and budgets. He said that the council must have a capital program.
The council also considered the land opposite Millfields School regarding creating a rockery, about which Cllr Evans had opened dialogue with the Town Clerk at Elmstead. This could be a joint project.
The Chair closed the meeting at 18.33
EXTRAORDINARY MEETING OF WIVENHOE TOWN COUNCIL 8th JULY 2020
A meeting was called on the 2nd July 2020 to consider a proposal for the purchase of a piece of land between the Avenue and Ernest Road which is currently up for auction. Should this piece of land be acquired it will be used for the provision of public amenity.
A proposal is put forward for a market place providing business opportunities for the town in accordance with the Council’s public task remit. Consideration is also to be given to the advantages of public ownership in perpetuity of a central space such as this land and the future opportunities it would present to the town.
The Council is being asked to bid for the property at the auction on the 14th July 2020.
On the 9th July 2020 the Finance and Administration Committee and on the 20th July 2020 the Council will be asked by me to approve a formal statement for the external auditor that means:
• The Council made proper arrangements and accepted responsibility for safeguarding the public money and resources in its charge.
• The Council has only done what it has the legal power to do and has complied with Proper Practices in doing so.
• The Council considered and documented the financial and other risks it faces and dealt with them properly.
The internal auditor has to give their opinion as to:
• Whether the authority complied with its Financial Regulations.
• The assessed the significant risks in achieving its objectives and reviewed the adequacy of arrangements to manage these,
• The precept requirement resulted from an adequate budgetary process; progress against the budget was regularly monitored and reserves were appropriate.
Council’s Control Framework
The Council make proper arrangements to meet its’ governance responsibilities by maintaining a control framework including:
• Standing Orders
• Financial Regulations
• A scheme of delegation to Committees including the Finance and Administration Committee
Finance and Administration Committee Terms of Reference
The Committee is responsible to the Council as follows:
To provide guidance to Committees and Council on overall levels of income and expenditure
Developing the Councils strategic objectives and monitor the Council’s performance against these objectives
Developing the Councils Financial Plan
Developing and reviewing the Council’s Investment Strategy and make related recommendations, including on banking, to the Council
Awarding grants to local organisations as per the Council’s Grant Awarding Policy
To consider the annual draft budget
To recommend the draft precept to the Full Council
To authorise all income and expenditure
To receive financial reports and monitor and report to Full Council
To vire funds between budget
allocations, except staff costs, and
bring forward funds from reserve as necessary
To consider and award contracts for work
To implement the procurement/tender
Procedures for contracts in excess of £25,000
To review all policies and procedures related to financial matters
To Review the Council’s Asset Register
To review the Council’s insurance on an annual basis and ensure that the Council’s property is adequately insured
To consider use, upkeep, leases, licences rents and fees for any facilities / buildings
To monitor financial risk and ensure that adequate financial risk management is in place
To monitor risk management and ensure that adequate is in place
To oversee the management of all the Council’s property and assets
To manage the Council’s reserves
Despite the Committee’s responsibilities (particularly those shown in bold font) it has never been consulted or even been informed at any time in the last 2 years of a proposal to buy land or run a retail market.
The Council’s Financial Regulations are based on the NALC model published in 2019. The Council adopted them without any substantive changes.
The Relevant Sections extracts I would refer to are:
4. Budgetary control and authority to spend
4.6. No expenditure shall be authorised in relation to any capital project and no contract entered into or tender accepted involving capital expenditure unless the council is satisfied that the necessary funds are available and the requisite borrowing approval has been obtained.
4.7. All capital works shall be administered in accordance with the council's standing orders and financial regulations relating to contracts.
4.9. Changes in earmarked reserves shall be approved by council as part of the budgetary control process.
11.1d) When applications are made to waive financial regulations relating to contracts to enable a price to be negotiated the reason shall be embodied in a recommendation to the Council
14. Assets, properties and estates
14.4. No real property (interests in land) shall be purchased or acquired without the authority of the full council. In each case a report in writing shall be provided to council in respect of valuation and surveyed condition of the property (including matters such as planning permissions and covenants) together with a proper business case (including an adequate level of consultation with the electorate).
14.5. Subject only to the limit set in Regulation 14.2 above, no tangible moveable property shall be purchased or acquired without the authority of the full council. In each case a report in writing shall be provided to council with a full business case.
18. Suspension and revision of Financial Regulations
18.2. The council may, by resolution of the council duly notified prior to the relevant meeting of council, suspend any part of these Financial Regulations provided that reasons for the suspension are recorded and that an assessment of the risks arising has been drawn up and presented in advance to all members of council.
For whatever reason, there has been insufficient time before the auction to comply with the Council’s normal checks and balances to:
• safeguard public money.
• to ensure it has the legal power to implement the proposal and has complied with Proper Practices.
• Consider and document the financial and other risks it faces and dealt with them properly.
• Implement appropriate procurement procedures.
• Manage the Council’s budgets and reserves.
The proposal is so urgent and essential that the Council’s agrees with the dismantling of its conventional control framework and is prepared to risk legal censure and ignore the views of the Chairman, the Chairman of Finance and Administration, the Clerk and the RFO.