Friday, 8 September 2017

Council Meeting - Meet the Council, Transfer of Assets

Next on the agenda was communicating with the public. The first Council newsletter has gone well, and it is intended to be published quarterly. Copies are available in Londis, I noticed the other day. The Council also intends to liase with Hay Markets and have a small table, manned by two councillors at a time, once a month, probably in the middle of the month so that members of the public can bring their concerns, and there will be time to put them on the agenda for the next council meeting. So far, concerns raised with the councillors include the library, the empty shops in town, the progress of renovations at the Castle, and accessibility and pavements. Some specific concerns have already been sorted out, and several people signed up to get regular newsletters.
There was also discussion of coffee mornings at the Sports Pavilion, but this was felt to be overkill.
They are still looking at alternative providers for the new Council website, and are considering one in Shropshire which has provided websites for several community councils there and are looking to expand their services. This would cost £1,500 to £2,000 to set up, and £200 a year to run. The cheapest option is, but they haven't got back to the Council yet. There is, of course, no money in the budget for these costs at the moment, so the decision was deferred to the Finance subcommittee.

The National Park will be running a training session for town councillors in dealing with planning issues next year, and as there are quite a few new councillors it was felt this would be a useful thing to attend. One Voice Wales also has training modules, particularly on the issue of Transfer of Assets - the idea here was that 3 people would go on the course and report back to the rest.

And so to the continuing problem of Transfer of Assets from the County Council to the Town Council. There are several new county councillors who had no understanding of the history of what has been going on in Hay, but there will be a meeting between the entire Cabinet and the Town Council on 12th September.
Rosemary Harris, the new leader of the County Council, has told the Town Council that her priority for Hay is to get the cemetery sorted out. The Lodge next to the cemetery gate was sold to provide money to extend the cemetery, but time is moving on and extra land has still not been purchased. There have been suggestions that, if Hay doesn't get something sorted out soon, the money will be used on other cemeteries throughout Powys.
There are still legal documents to be signed in the case of the car park, but after that the transfer should be complete.
The Council Chambers are not accessible for wheelchairs, which is why the Council was meeting in the Swan, so this is a problem to be discussed at the meeting.
As far as the Library is concerned, the Town Council are waiting to see what HOWLS decides, and will go with that, as there are varying views among the councillors.
And then there's the Community Centre that Hay should have had 20 years ago, and now the only offer from the County Council is a small room in the new school. The County Council has said that "Hay is getting too much", but there is still money in the Shire Budget Reserve earmarked for a community centre for Hay. One new councillor was annoyed that the County Council were complaining about it taking a long time to organise - but it was the County Council which was holding things up!
What the Town Council needs to do at the meeting with the Cabinet is to update them on the state of play on the transfer of assets, and tell them what Hay's priorities are (the cemetery is important, but it's not the highest priority).
At the moment, ongoing issues involve the two sets of public toilets, at the car park and the clock tower, the sports pavilion, and the car park. The Town Council still hasn't received any of the money they are supposed to get from the car park, and figures of around £25,000 to £45,000 were mentioned.
The County Council don't want Hay to have two public buildings - they say this would be seen as "favouritism" by other councils, and they are working on the assumption that the Library will be transferred to the school building. The small room in the school which is earmarked for community facilities is clearly not an acceptable replacement for the old community centre which was knocked down.
Over the past 20 years, HADSCA have been closely involved in the deliberations about a new community centre, and they have in fact put in a planning application to the National Park for one - which cost £19,000! Rob Golesworthy said that the estimated cost of actually building the community centre in those plans would be two and a half million pounds. That's just for the building, not the running costs, and HADSCA don't want to run a community centre. The bottom line is that the County Council are obliged to provide Hay with equivalent facilities to the ones they have lost - and they haven't done that.
So the priorities for Hay are:
1. To complete the asset transfers (including the land around Loggin Brook)
2. To make progress with the cemetery (using the money which is earmarked for Hay)
3. To discuss the community facilities which have not been replaced by the County Council.
4. There are questions to be asked about the statutory provision of Library services, and it might be worth looking at the Welsh Assembly guidelines for staffing levels and opening hours.

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