Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Council Finances, and Matters Arising

No rest for the wicked! The latest Council meeting was straight after the end of the Festival. The new councillor, Belinda, was there, and they are still in the process of looking for another councillor to make up the full numbers. No-one has answered their advert so far.
From the last meeting, Gareth had discovered that the Highways department of the County Council were responsible for the cenotaph and the cleaning thereof, though he'll be going to do extra cleaning in time for the anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and he'll also give them a push to apply for the grant that's available to repair the monument.
The Town Council have also contacted a Mr Lewis at Herefordshire County Council to request a meeting about the Sunday bus service, though there has been no response from him so far.
The rubbish left around the Gliss was moved, with the help of the owner, and the yellow car is supposed to be moved shortly.
Three fruit trees, recently planted, have been pinched. They're going to try to find replacements.
The website is nearly ready to go, and the councillors will be getting new email addresses shortly, too (apart from Nigel Birch, who doesn't have a computer - and therefore doesn't need to worry about the viruses that are going round at the moment, either).
And the gents' toilets by the clocktower have been fixed by the County Council!!!!
Rob Golesworthy was at another meeting where the question of keeping toilets open was raised, and there are some moves afoot in the Welsh Assembly to make toilets part of the public health portfolio, and to declare access to toilets as a Human Right, so that the provision of toilets by county councils becomes statutory rather than optional - but at the moment, all they have is a "strategy", which can easily be ignored.

There was quite a bit of discussion about finance, including the Mayor's allowance, which I'd never heard of before. Each Mayor gets £600 to spend as they see fit over the year of their term of office, which is supposed to cover out of pocket expenses. Apparently it hasn't gone up for years, though once it was £1,000. Gareth and Rob both said that they had spent more than that during their time as Mayor, though it seems that no-one ever checks up on what it has been spent on. The Finance sub-committee is going to look at other councils of similar size to find out what their Mayors get, and report back.
One of the other members of the public, who had come along for the first time that evening, was chatting to me later, and was quite concerned about the lack of scrutiny - after all, any allowances the councillors get (and they also get 30p a mile travel expenses, as long as they are going to a meeting that the whole council has agreed is necessary) come from taxpayers' money.
They are still pursuing the matter of unpaid rent on one of the offices in the building, too - and the new councillor has some experience with the Small Claims Court so said she would take it forward, this being cheaper than hiring Williams Beales solicitors to do the work. Meanwhile the top office in the building will be vacated this weekend, and they are looking for a new tenant there.
The lease for the Council Chambers itself was discussed too - Sarah Jowett of the County Council has offered two months more than the original offer, which they were distinctly unimpressed by, and said that the Powys Regeneration Team could help to find short term tenants. Gareth said that they haven't met for months, which casts some doubt on how useful they would actually be.

The original United Hay town plan has been unearthed, which should be useful as a basis of a new Town Plan - the next step is to get all the "stakeholders" together at the end of June. It'll be interesting too, to see what was proposed in the United Hay plan (from well over ten years ago now) and how much of it actually happened. One of the councillors, Helen, will be in Cardiff on a day when a free event is taking place about putting town plans together, so she'll go along to find out more.

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