Online Annual Parish Meeting held at 6:30PM on Tuesday 4th May 2021 via ‘Zoom’
Present: Marc Mohan (Parish Council Chair), David Hunter-Miller (Parish Clerk), Duncan Smart (Footpaths Officer), five parishioners
1. Introduction and Welcome
Marc Mohan opened the meeting and welcomed residents.
No apologies were received.
3. To approve the minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting held on 11th May 2020
It was resolved to adopt the minutes as a true record and they were duly signed by the Chair.
4. Matters arising
There were no matters arising.
5. To receive a report from the Ward Councillor
I did not support 4.99% increase in council tax. I felt that many residents would be struggling a year into the pandemic and this increase would be another burden on their household budgets so I voted against the increase.
In my view, the administration’s political agenda has reduced its ability to be tactically agile. It has committed itself to a costly program that does little to enhance Herefordshire’s economic revival. On top of this, the pandemic has changed the game and the administration’s, lack of a strategy for future infrastructure investments will result in a shrinking tax base. They will increase taxes just to stand still.
Councillor Shaw proposed a budget amendment to increase council tax to 3.99% he explained that despite the council tax reduction scheme a number of local residents would have to economise to pay the proposed precept of 4.99%. The decrease of 1% would help local residents who were struggling to meet their council tax obligations due to the COVID pandemic.
Although I felt this was still too high, I did support the amendment as the lesser of two evils. However, the amendment was defeated and an increase of 4.99% was applied.
The other amendment I supported was a grant to fund parish councils enabling them to alleviate and prevent flooding. This was to be funded from 341k of the New Homes Bonus funding.
Councillor Shaw proposed the budget amendment and explained that parish councils and lengthsmen were often frustrated that they were unable to resolve local flooding issues. The amendment sought to provide funds to local parish and town councils to address perennial flooding problems.
The amendment was put to the recorded vote and was lost by a simple majority of 20 for to 28 against.
Hereford’s Children’s Service
It is very painful to report Hereford’s Children’s Service have received a damming judgment from the Royal Courts of Justice (the highest court in the land), which involved the death of a child in their care. I’ve attached the 74 page Approved Judgment from Mr Justice Keehan (below), which describe a catalogue of failures, lies, and cover-ups by the children’s services. You can read it for yourselves but here is an extract.
220. The children have been utterly failed by this local authority. By its actions, failures and omissions over the course of the last eight years, it has compounded the emotional and psychological harm the children have suffered. The local authority has ignored, indeed, challenged the advice of a hugely experienced child psychiatrist for reasons which I do not begin to understand. It has treated with contempt the clarion call of a senior family judge for the local authority to re-evaluate its approach to these children, to the family and to the carers.
The full judgment: http://councillors.herefordshire.gov.uk/documents/s50089005/Appendix%201%20YY%20v%20Herefordshire%20Council%20Public%20Judgment.pdf
Hereford council’s letter to Hon Justice Keehan:
There have been previous cases the recommendations of which were not acted upon Hereford’s Children’s Service and there are other cases that are currently in the legal pipeline.
At the extraordinary meeting on 27th April 2021, I asked if there was the potential for criminal culpability and if so, would the council seek to prosecute those responsible?
I was told that this might come at the end of an inquiry.
At the extraordinary meeting on 27th April 2021 Councillor Phillip Howells proposed that ‘Given the lack of firm recommendations for Councillors to approve for the next steps from here following the Family Court Judgment, we would like to propose that the Leader commissions a firm and clear action plan with action ownership and timescales to be presented to an extraordinary meeting of the Children and young people scrutiny committee to be held no later than 28th May 2021 for discussion and to make recommendations to full Council’. This was passed and I voted for it
And: Councillor Paul Symonds proposed ‘That all staff resigning from Herefordshire Children’s’ Services are required to undertake an exit interview conducted by a children’s social care specialist outside Herefordshire Council, to understand the reasons for their resignation. This process to be implemented no later than 1st July 2021 with the outcome of all such exit interviews reported to the Children & Young People Scrutiny Committee. This could be a stand-alone arrangement with an external consultant, or a reciprocal arrangement with another authority’. This was passed and I voted for it.
Dog poo Bins
Finally, it appears that all the dog poo bins in the parish have been replaced by a standard green litter bin does anyone know why if not I’ll make some enquiries.
Herefordshire Ward Councillor
6. To receive a report from the Footpaths Officer
In the 11th April 2021 Footpath Report it was noted that an increasing number of the Parish footpath furniture requires repair and/or replacement including the four items listed below:
1) Replacement of the ditch crossing planks on path HO13 (near Munstone Road)
2) Replacement of the leaning stile on path HO13 (close to the ditch crossing) with a new stile
3) Improvement to the cross steps on the stile at the junction of paths HO13 and HO14, possibly by fitting an additional lower step on the east side of the stile
4) Improvement or replacement of the HO14 stile, handrail and finger post at the steps down to Shelwick Lane (near the Patch Hill junction)
The good news, hopefully, is that at least some of these items will have been repaired/replaced by the time of the Annual Parish Meeting. A Ramblers’ Work Party is scheduled to carry out some of the above improvements in Holmer & Shelwick on Friday 30th April.
A quick check on these and other locations was made on Sunday 25th April with trimming work performed using the new parish battery powered hedge cutter.
A number of paths were checked and vegetation trimmed, as required, using the new hedge cutter with little change to the battery charge level. It will be a highly effective tool for reducing path clearing times once the growing season gets into full swing.
This stile on HO13 near Shelwick Lane will need to be a joint operation with the landowner as, the gatepost is damaged.
It would be appreciated if anyone coming across other problems with the Holmer & Shelwick public footpaths (as identified by finger posts and yellow waymarks) will report them through the website or to the Parish Clerk. This includes stiles, bridges/ditch crossings, overhanging vegetation etc. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done about muddy patches after heavy rain or floods.
Holmer & Shelwick Footpath Officer
7. To receive a report from the Police
No report was available.
8. To receive the Annual Report of the Parish Council by the Chairman
No report was available.
9. To receive a report on the Parish Council’s finances
The Parish Council’s 2020/21 accounts and audit paperwork would be published online shortly. A summary of the figures is as follows:
Opening balance 01/04/20: £17,492.23
Receipts for period 01/04/20 to 31/03/21: £18,000.00
Payments for period 01/04/20 to 31/03/21: £19,915.66
Closing balance 31/03/21: £15,576.57
VAT recoverable 01/04/20 to 31/03/21: £860.79
10. To invite the public to raise any matters of interest
A member of the public requested an update on Smart Water signs and suggested that larger signs should be installed to make people aware that they are entering a Smart Water protected area.
The meeting closed at 6:55PM.