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Issues Archive

This page is an archive of previous Parish Council issues. Once a current issue is no longer current then it will be available to be viewed on this archive site. 

Issues Archive List

Websites: Why does Coddenham have multiple websites?

Finance: Setting the 2021/22 Budget

Three Cocked Hat: Felling of Lime Trees


Websites: Why does Coddenham have multiple websites?

Last Updated: 28th May '21

For such a small community we have a number of websites and facebook pages. This is not ideal because it fragments local community information. Historically, the Parish Council website (a previous version to this one) included pages for all of the community groups. However, the community group web pages were not kept up to date, partly because editing the site was difficult to edit and time consuming. The result was that in addition to the Parish Council website a separate village website was created managed by volunteers. Unfortunately, despite a lot of work, this too was difficult to keep up to date and was withdrawn a few years ago.

At the end of 2019 discussions were taking place to centralise all the community groups, including the Parish Council, onto a single website. In March 2020, in response to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a separate website was established for the CCRG (Coddenham COVID-19 Response Group). Later in 2020 the website changed to become the Coddenham Community Response Group providing a website presence for many of the community groups.

The Parish Council had decided to change from its previous website provider, due to difficulties in editing, and it considered a number of website providers, including moving to the new website created for the CCRG. However, becoming part of a single website (by becoming part of the website created for the CCRG) turned out to be not possible. This is primarily for three reasons:

1. Cost: the Parish Council has a responsibility, and accountability, to parishioners to manage what it spends, since the money comes from all of our council tax bills. The website platform created for the CCRG would have cost taxpayers >£600 per year, at least six-times what our current platform costs (just £100 per year).

2. Legal Compliance: Parish Council websites are required by law to publish certain information (such as minutes, agendas, finance reports) and to be accessibility compliant. The website platform created for the CCRG did not have the capability (without expensive development) to do this. Our current provider (Suffolk Cloud) are specialists in Parish Council websites which keeps costs down and ensures we are meeting our legal requirements.

3. Editorial Management: because of the legal requirements on a Parish Council, unlike other community groups, strict control is required over editorial content. This control would not have been possible on the CCRG platform.

The good news is that the CCRG website has done an excellent job at bringing together many of the local community groups under one single website, and the Parish Council has done an excellent job in upgrading its website, ensuring a better service to parishioners than our previous version and at a lower cost to the taxpayers in our Parish.

 


Finance: Setting the 2021/22 Budget

Last Updated: 4th May '21

The Parish Council has set the budget for this year (the 2021-22 financial year i.e. April '21 - Mar '22). The good news is that it is dropping by 14% compared to last year. In 2020-21 the total “precept” budget was £37,810, which is shared by all our homes. This meant that a ‘Band D’ home would have paid £136 to the Parish Council as part of the total annual Council Tax bill. For 2021-22, we have been able to reduce this to £32,227, which means a ‘Band D’ home will now be paying £117.

What makes this even more significant is that the precept was expected to increase to £50,000 this year (equating to £200 per ‘Band D’ home). This increase would have been for two main reasons: 1) the Day Foundation, who had kindly funded the annual loan payment for the original costs of building the Community Centre for the past three years, were unable to continue their support, and 2) we received an unexpected historic business rates demand from Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC). The great news though is that instead of a £50,000 precept, we have been able to set the precept at 36% less than expected, and 14% less than the previous year. This has been achieved by:

1. Community Centre Loan Payments: we recently shared the good news that thanks to a response to our last Newsletter, benefactors from within the parish have offered to pay the loan payments for the next two years (£26,000 split between 21/22 and 22/23). On behalf of all parishioners, the Parish Council have expressed our thanks for this act of extreme generosity.

2. Business Rates Payments: we have been in negotiation with MSDC and have agreed to spread the cost of a surprise Business Rate Demand of £9,892 over three years. In parallel, we continue to challenge the demand for payment. The challenge will take time to conclude, but we are hopeful of a reduction, or complete withdrawal, of the demand for payment from MSDC.

3. Careful Financial Management: the Parish Council, including our RFO (Responsible Financial Officer) Sue Frankis, have scrutinised all elements of the budget and made savings in a number of areas whilst still preserving services and supporting the Community Centre.

How Council Budget Is Made Up

The main groups of costs are summarised below. Please note that Mid-Suffolk District Council use Band D homes as the average, so the costs per home quoted are based on Band D and therefore costs will be greater if you live in Band E or higher, and lower if you live in Band C or lower.

1)    The “Ongoing Costs”

These are the costs for a range of services in the parish, this ranges from our Clerk's salary, street lighting, maintenance of the churchyard, tree surgery, ground maintenance to dog litter bins. For 2021/22 this will be £14,048 plus a provision of £1,000 to increase our emergency reserve funds. This means that the average Band D household will pay ~£52 a year for these costs.

2)    The Community Centre Loan

This is the cost of repaying loans, taken out when the Community Centre was first built, for the purchase of the centre and surrounding land. Unfortunately, the Council at the time (none of whom are now involved with the current Council) took a decision to decline an offer of financial support from The Day Foundation and instead took out two Government loans. These loans will be fully repaid by 2030 at £13,152 per year. This decision has left the parish with a significant financial burden which is why the precept payments in our Council Tax payments are one of the highest in Suffolk.

For the last three years The Day Foundation has kindly been able to fund this loan, thereby preventing the need for it to be paid for through the precept payment. However the Day Foundation notified the Council that they will be withdrawing their support. This would have meant having to increase the precept by £13,152 to pay for the loan repayment, however, as mentioned above we are delighted that benefactors have come forward with the extremely generous gift of paying £13,000 each year for the next two years. This has saved a Band D home ~£49 a year.

3)    Supporting the Community Centre CIO

in 2019 the Parish Council transferred ownership of the Community Centre building, tennis courts, bowls green and the recreational area to a newly formed charitable incorporated organisation (CIO). The Parish Council has funded the Community Centre more than £30,000 for this year and last, in addition to providing £25,000 reserve funds. For 2021/22 agreement has been reached between the Parish Council and the Coddenham Centre CIO to fully support the CIO budget proposal of £13,135. This means that the average Band D household will pay ~£49 next year for these costs.

In addition to this years support of £13,135, the Parish Council funded the Community Centre CIO £15,286 last year (20/21) this is in addition to providing £25,000 reserve funds (a total of £53,421 in two years).

4)    Business Rates

Mid-Suffolk District Council is seeking business rate payments for the Community Centre, including the tennis courts and bowling green. Unfortunately, the previous Parish Council was advised that business rates would not be due and made no provision. This totals almost £10,000 for the past three years. In order to minimise the impact on the precept we have reached an agreement to spread the payment over three years and we are separately challenging the rateable value applied to parts of the premises. The outcome of our challenge will not be known until later in 2021.

Our Parish Councillor John Peecock is leading the review and the challenge of these charges. The payment in 21/22 will be £3,892 and this means that the average Band D household will pay £16 a year for these costs.

5)    General Reserve

In addition to the operating costs we also hold a ‘General Reserve’. This is used for when we need exceptional items of expenditure. A recent example was when the Church wall needed urgent repairs. The reserves have reduced over recent years to around £8,000 and we need to ensure we have sufficient reserve funds. The Parish Council identified this risk last year and included a £7,000 provision in the budget. As a result, we only need to increase the General Reserve by £1,000 in the 21/22 budget and this has been included in the Ongoing Costs of  £15,048.

 

If you have any questions or concerns please contact our Parish Clerk or join us at a Parish Council Meeting


Three Cocked Hat: Felling of Lime Trees

Last Updated: 18th April '21

Regular inspection of trees on land within the ownership of the Parish Council revealed serious concern in respect of three lime trees on the Three Cocked Hat all of which showed serious signs of rot towards the base of their trunks. Earlier this year a single tree was felled and on 17th April two further trees were removed. Both trees were seriously affected by decay and rot in their trunks as shown on the photographs below. The large trunk shows a “V” shaped stain line above which the entire trunk is dead wood constituting about 75% of the cross section. The second smaller tree had very extensive more advanced rot along the entire length of the trunk.

Three Cocked Hat Trees 1 Three Cocked Hat Trees 3

 

Parish Council take their responsibility both towards the environment and public safety very seriously. We are fully aware of the need to take great care when felling trees to ensure that no wildlife was present or nesting in any part of the trees and that the felling would not affect adjacent trees which do indeed contain rooks nests.

The Council’s Professional Contractor and a Parish Councillor had been surveying the trees for several weeks before felling took place to ensure that that there was no disturbance to wildlife. Both trees were immediately adjacent to the B1078 with safety in this case a significant priority.