1. REPORT. This report has been produced for Sedlescombe parish councillors and for the internal auditor of the 2013-14 accounts to show what steps have been taken by the Council during the year to meet the requirements of the Sedlescombe Parish Council Financial Regulations (2010). The Financial Regulations were prepared in accordance with The Accounts and Audit Regulations 1996 as amended by The Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011.
2. INTERNAL FINANCIAL CONTROLS. Meetings of the Finance Committee were held on:
- Internal Audit 2012-13. The Finance Committee noted Mrs Alexander's satisfactory Report 2012-13 at its meeting on 15/10/13, Minute F13/14.33.2.
- External Audit 2012-13. The Finance Committee noted Littlejohn LLP's external audit of the 2012-13 accounts at its meeting on 15/10/13, Minute F13/14.33.1.
- Internal Audit 2013-14. Ms Alison Hillman was appointed Internal Auditor of the 2013-14 Sedlescombe Parish Council accounts at the Finance Committee meeting on 10/12/13, Minute F13/14.44.
- External Audit 2013-14. For the second year of four years, Little LLP will audit parish council accounts in this area. In October 2012, Sedlescombe parish councillors confirmed that Littlejohns do not provide personal accountancy or tax advice to them.
- Standing Orders of the Council were last reviewed in July 2012 (C12/13.66).
- Finance Regulations were last reviewed in November 2010 (C10/11/77.2). Financial Regulations are expected to be reviewed following the repeal of Section 150(5) of the Local Government Act 1972.
5. INSPECTION AND JOB REPORT. On 02/09/13, in preparation for the budget meetings, an annual inspection of the Village was undertaken by Cllr Glew, Chairman of the Finance Committee and the Clerk/RFO, accompanied by Cllr Lindsay Fraser, who had been newly appointed to the Parish Council. This excluded the sports pavilion which needs a technical inspection.
The Annual Inspection led to the Annual Job Report (hard copy provided for all councillors) and was considered at the 11/09/13 Council Meeting (Minutes C13/14.64-70). The Job Report was updated at the Finance Committee Meeting on 15/10/13 (Minute F13/14.32.
Cllr Chapman inspected the pavilion, inside and out, on 02/12/13. An updated overall inspection report was reported to the Finance Committee in a report on 10/12/13.
6. BUDGETS AND PRECEPT
- The 2013-14 Budget and Income and Expenditure were monitored at the Finance Committee meetings throughout the year.
- Final Accounts
- The "Final Accounts 2012-13 Report" was received by the Parish Council at the Annual Meeting on 14/05/13 (Minute C13/14.16.3).
- A "A Final Accounts 2013-14 Report" is expected to be approved at the Annual Parish Council Meeting on 13/05/14. It will show Audited Figures 2012-13, Budget 2013-14, Actual Income and Expenditure 2013-14 and 2014-15 Budget.
- The Annual Governance Statement
- The 2012-13 Return was approved by the Annual Sedlescombe Parish Council Meeting on 14/05/13 (Minute C13/14.16.4).
- The 2013-14 Return is expected to be approved at the Annual Parish Council Meeting on 13/05/14.
- The 2014-15 Budget was considered as follows:
- Finance Committee 10/12/13 (F13/14.47). Included on the Agenda to this meeting were the following reports:
- Council Meeting 14/01/14 (Minute C13/14.101). 2014/15 Precept of £42,295 was approved (Minute C13/14.101.3) based on the Budget agreed by the Finance Committee on 10/12/13.
The 2014-15 precept, although increased in amount over the 2013-14 precept (i.e. £41,000 to £42,295), has resulted in a nil increase in Band D Council Tax over the previous year because of the addition of a further 14 new properties in Sedlescombe in 2013. This has resulted in a change in the Council Tax Base from 606.37 in 2013-14 to 625.48 in 2014-15 which has allowed the Band D Council Tax to remain at £67.62.
If a Schedule of Rother parishes' Council Tax Band D is considered:
- Sedlescombe comes out 11/31 parishes, the lowest of Rother's five Quality Councils (Rye 2/31, Battle 3/31, Crowhurst 8/31, Ticehurst 9/11).
- Ewhurst has the highest Band D Council Tax with £115.97 and Guestling the lowest with £5.00.
- The average Rother Band D Council Tax is £53.35.
- The average increase in Rother Band D Council Tax is 0.36%.
- Sedlescombe's precept is 10th highest of the Rother parishes.
7. JOBS. During the year, the Finance Committee monitored the Jobs List.
7.1 The Volunteer Scheme continued very successfully. Volunteers continued to complete Volunteer Registration Forms. Job Sheets were completed by the Clerk/or Cllr Chapman who led the scheme. The following work was undertaken by volunteers during the year using materials supplied by the Parish Council:
- March 2014 - Clearance of overhanging branches from MUGA, trimming trees at playing field and chipping of resultant material using a hired chipper.
- January 2014 - Location and clearance of paving stones from Powdermill driveway across the grass to the MUGA.
- November 2013/January/February 2014 - Clearance of leaves etc from surface of MUGA.
- January 2014 - Installation of self-closure hinge on MUGA gate.
- December 2013 - Replacement of swing seat.
- December 2013 - Replanting of flower tubs.
- December 2013 - Fence repair at playing field.
- December 2013 - Holding down of tennis net.
- December 2013 - Hedge cut and chipped at East View Kickabout Area.
- December 2013 - Preservative applied to seat in Brede Lane.
- November 2013 - Major repair to "Grand Canyon" play equipment to raise cables.
- October 2013 - Installation of litter bin next to seat in Brede Lane
- September 2013 - Removal of graffiti from slide.
- September 2013 - Repainting of springer play equipment.
- September 2013 - Removal of ivy from bus shelter.
- September 2013 - Washed dog bin.
- September 2013 - Removal of two small vandalised trees.
- September 2013 - Clearance around and washing of seat in Church Hill.
- July to August 2013 - Major maintenance and clean up of Playground.
- July 2013 - Edging and Sweeping of East View Terrace Kickabout Area.
- July 2013 - Power washing of "Sir John Keeling" seats on Village Green.
- July 2013 - Removal of graffiti from Pumphouse sandstone columns.
- June 2013 - Replanting of six flower tubs.
- June 2013 - Pumphouse leadwork repair and crime reduction marking with postcode following attempt at removal of lead.
- June 2013 - Sweeping footway near river bridge.
- May 2013 - Replacement of gatepost at Red Barn Field
- Throughout the year - litter collection at bus shelter and Pumphouse and on some surrounding lanes.
7.2 Community Payback. On 24/07/13, arrangements were made for a Community Payback team to spend the day in Sedlescombe. They carried out edging work at the Village Green and Brede Lane Car Park.
7.3 East Sussex Maintenance Service. For the first time for several years, East Sussex County Council's free of charge Maintenance Scheme was not in operation and, therefore, foc work such as seat painting, siding back of footways and noticeboard preservative application was not undertaken.
At the beginning of 2014, East Sussex County Council introduced a new "Pay-As-You-Go Extra Services" scheme. Work which used to be done by the County Council foc such as edging and siding of paths will in future be charged at £350/day. Other prices have been given for various types of highway maintenance which might be chosen by parish councils.
7.4 Contracts were awarded as follows for 2014-15:
- Landscape Services - Grasscutting
- Landscape Services - Herbicide application
- Landscape Services - Litter collection
- RcoH Ltd - Planning Consultant work (continuation)
7.5 The following jobs to be done were noted on 25/03/14:
- Approved but outstanding - replacement of plastic bollards at Powdermills (Clerk/RFO to obtain and volunteers to install).
- Approved but outstanding - hire of shredder for tree work debris at playing field (£80 including VAT).
- Removal of skid marks from MUGA.
- Work to MUGA gate to ensure automatic closure and to make it more difficult to take bikes/scooters into the area.
- Approved but outstanding - Additional set of tennis markings on MUGA.
- Washing of laminated sign on board at village hall entrance to Red Barn Field.
- Cutting back of brambles etc from Balcombe Green entrance to Red Barn Field.
- Replanting of Village Green flower tubs in late spring 2014.
- Cutting and baling Red Barn Field in autumn 2014.
- Drainage work at playing field near MUGA.
- Enlargement of paving slab area at gate of MUGA.
- Church Hill footway - clearance of leaves and siding back of path in autumn as the path gets very slippery in wet weather.
- Approved but outstanding - replacement board on fence of East View Kickabout Area.
- Purchase of speed camera.
- Highways work when approved by SPC and ESCC.
8. BANK ARRANGEMENTS AND CHEQUES
- The Chairman of the Finance Committee (Cllr Glew) and the RFO met each month during 2013-14 to allow Cllr Glew to monitor the bank account to check and initial every invoice for payment and to sign cheques. One of the other two signatories (Cllr Vine-Hall and Cllr Eldridge) added their signature to the cheques before payment.
- Signatories remained Pauline Glew, Jonathan Vine-Hall and Rod Eldridge on all three accounts throughout the year. In 2014, Section 150(5) of the Local Government Act 1972 was repealed. This removed the need for two councillors to sign orders for payment. In JPAG guidance, at paragraph 30, it states that "where multiple accounts are held, authorised signatures should not be concentrated for any length of time among just a few members but allocated widely. Authorised signatures should be rotated." It also states at paragraph 31 that "Where officers are to receive delegated responsibility for collecting money or making payments, their terms and conditions of employment should refer to the relevant Council Standing Orders, Financial Regulations and internal controls."
- The following bank accounts were operated during 2013-14:
- Barclays Bank Current Account - Sort Code 20-27-91, Account No.60700304. Monthly bank statements received.
- Barclays Active Saver Account from 19/10/13 - Sort Code 20-27-94, Account No.43651258. Bank statements received when any financial movement is registered.
- West Bromwich Building Society Account. No movement of any money since 01/04/13 and, therefore, no statements received. The next interest date is 01/04/14.
- Co-operative Bank Corporation Guaranteed Investment Account - closed 10/09/13 and funds transferred to Barclays Current Account.
- Barclays Bank Active Saver Account was opened with a £30,000 deposit on 19/10/13. Funds can be transferred to the Barclays Current Account over the phone or via online banking.
- Monthly Bank Reconciliations of all accounts were produced by the RFO and inspected by the Chairman of the Finance Committee. They were received by the Parish Council every other month during 2013-14 at its normal full Council meetings.
- Payment of cheques was either ratified if already paid, or approved, at the same time.
9. PAYMENT OF ACCOUNTS
- Apart from petty cash payments and repayments of the loans, where direct debits have been set up, all other payments were effected by cheques drawn on Barclays Bank. However, without a Parish Council debit card, the RFO was forced to settle payments using her personal credit card and then reclaim the money from the Council. This is increasing as so many purchases now need to be made online. The repayments to the RFO by the Council does not look very professional.
- Invoices were settled within 30 days of receipt.
- A petty cash float of £20 was maintained by the RFO and used to defray minor expenses such as postage and stationery. Vouchers for payments of petty cash have been retained.
- The RFO's delegated financial powers with regard to petty cash, minor grounds maintenance, purchase of stationery, copier toner etc were last approved on 26/03/13 at the Finance Committee Meeting (Minute F12/13.62).
- The Council continues to repay the £52,500 sports pavilion Public Works Loan Board fixed loan twice a year (end January and end July by direct debit). It was taken out of 30/01/09 and half-yearly repayments will continue for 15 years. Interest rate 3.86%. At March 2014, the debt was £38,219.47.
- The Council continues to repay the £9,000 MUGA Public Works Loan Board fixed loan twice a year (25/04 and 25/10 by direct debit). It was taken out on 25/10/12 and half-yearly repayments will continue for 10 years. Interest rate 1.91%. At March 2014, the debt was £8175.02.
11. INCOME. All income has been paid into the Council's Barclays Community Account.
12. POWER OF WELL-BEING. The Council's Power of Well-Being will continue until May 2015 (next annual meeting in an election year). Unfortunately, because of the resignation of several councillors, the Council cannot apply for the Power of General Competence until at least May 2015.
13. CHAIRMAN'S ALLOWANCE. The Finance Committee agreed to pay the Chairman £200 to meet the costs associated with the position of chairman in accordance with s15(5) of the Local Government Act 1972 and in accordance with he 2013-14 budget (F12/13.59).
14. MAINTENANCE OF OFFICES. The Finance Committee agreed to pay the Clerk/RFO £200 for maintenance of offices in accordance with the 2013-14 budget (F12/13.60).
15. CLERK'S SALARY. The Clerk is employed for 20 hours/week. On 15/10/13, the Finance Committee approved that the Clerk's Salary should be increased by 1% backdated to 01/04/2013, in accordance with recommendations of The National Joint Council for Local Government Services as follows: Salary Scale 30 for 20 hours/week = £13,906 pa (Minute F13/14.34).
16. CLERK'S GRATUITY. The Clerk was first employed by Sedlescombe Parish Council as Deputy Clerk on 01/04/1975. A Clerk's Contract was agreed in 1979 produced in accordance with the template recommended at the time. It includes a statement that "the Clerk should receive twice the amount of the Clerk's salary at the date of termination of employment". Despite various far-reaching changes introduced by Government to Clerks' Gratuities since 1979 including that now councils no longer have the discretion to pay a retirement gratuity, it has been confirmed that "A retirement gratuity clause in a Clerk's contract of employment, if made before 16 January 2012, will be as valid in the future, as it was in the past." (SLCC Legal Advice Note on Retirement Gratuities 31/01/14).
17. VAT AND TAX/NATIONAL INSURANCE
- VAT returns were submitted online to HMRC for June, September, December 2013 and March 2014.
- Tax and National Insurance 2013-14 end-of-year forms will be submitted online to HMRC in April 2014.
- Monthly returns of Clerk's Salary paid were made online through Real Time Initiative using Payroll Manager software. This software annual licence was renewed in March on 05/03/14.
18. ORDERS FOR WORK, GOODS AND SERVICES. The following Contracts have been let in 2013-14:
- Grass cutting and strimming 2014 - Landscape Services (Commercial Services Trading Ltd)
- Herbicide application 2014 - Landscape Services (Commercial Services Trading Ltd)
- Litter collection 2014 - Landscape Services (Commercial Services Trading Ltd)
- Professional inspection of Riverside Playground - Commercial Services Trading Ltd
- Printing of 2013-14 Bulletins (from September 2013) - Fastprint & Design
- Printing of the 2014 Sedlescombe Parish Council Annual Report and Directory by Fastprint & Design
- Printing of Neighbourhood Plan Survey - Fastprint & Design
- Disabled Area at Sportsfield gates - D&B Fencing
- New Surface at MUGA by ETC Sports Surfaces
- Internal Audit of 2012-13 Accounts - Angela Alexander
- Purchase of Topsy Royale litter bin - Glasdon Uk
- Dog bin emptying - Rother District Council
- Response Plus Licence
- Analyses of Neighbourhood Plan Survey and Site Survey - Linda Jones & Partners
- Employment of Planning Consultant - Mr Neil Homer of rCoH Ltd.
19. PROPERTIES AND ESTATES
- Title Deeds of properties owned by the Council are retained at the County Record Office in the Parish Council's records. Copies are held by the RFO. Registered land no longer needs deeds but is registered at the Land Registry.
- The Clerk/RFO has maintained the "Land and Property" file of all Parish Council property.
- The updated Asset Register was adopted at the Finance Committee Meeting on 26/03/13 (Minute F12/13.64).
- The Parish Council and the Public Playing Field & Recreation Ground Charity made an Agreement in 2012 for the Parish Council to take over maintenance of the Charity's property using its own powers and finance. The Parish Council completed refurbishment of the MUGA in 2013. The Playing Field Trust considered various options for the grass to the east of the MUGA such as mini-kickers' football pitch, skateboard ramp, cycling track but decided on a parking area. No progress has been made on this proposal as it is possible it could be provide as a community benefit associated with proposed housing development at Sunningdale, Gregory Walk, Sedlescombe. Some minor drainage work close to the MUGA is proposed in 2014.
20. INSURANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT
- The updated Risk Management Report was adopted by the Finance Committee at its meeting on 26/03/13 (F12/13.65).
- The Council's insurances were renewed from 01/10/13 with Aviva through brokers Came & Company. This is a 4-year long-term agreement which will expire on 30/09/15.
21. DATA TRANSPARENCY. A brief budget and RFO Report has been included in the Parish Council's Annual Report 2014 to be distributed to each home in the parish in April 2014. The RFO will, as usual give a brief report to the Annual Parish Assembly. Details of current and historical information is included on the Parish Council's website.
22. DEVOLUTION OF SERVICES FROM OTHER AUTHORITIES. Rother District Council has been considering devolution of some services to parish councils. In Sedlescombe, this is the Brede Lane Car Park and public conveniences in the car park. The Parish Council resolved (C11/12.100.1) "that, because of the unacceptable additional burden that the devolvement of maintaining the car park and public conveniences in Brede Lane would bring to the Parish Council, Sedlescombe Parish Council should write to Rother DC refusing its offer of devolving these facilities to the Parish Council."
Future proposals for public conveniences. The 2014-15 budget includes £1,000 to allow alterations to be made to the public conveniences to turn them into a PCSO office with a public convenience attached.