PENSHURST PARISH COUNCIL
Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of Penshurst Parish Council held on Monday 6 October 2014 at 7.45 pm in Penshurst Village Hall
1. PRESENT: Cllrs J Cass (Chairman), Mrs D Broad, J Broadhead, A Campbell, I Carson, S Frederick, J Horsford, J O’Shea
In Attendance: SDCllr P Cooke, Mr M Knowles (Gatwick), Mr P Johnson (Alms Houses and Neighbourhood Watch),
APOLOGIES: Cllr B Townsend, KCCllr C Pearman, Mr R Sellings (Swaylands & Speedwatch), PCSO David O’Neill, Clerk received an email from Cllr Carson after the September meeting advising that, due to a complaint having been made against him he would be unable to attend the meeting.
PCSO David O’Neill had provided contact details for Cllrs Mrs Broad, Horsford and Townsend in relation to reporting system he wishes to set up for farms and stables.
2. MINUTES OF MEETING HELD ON 1 September 2014 having been circulated, were approved and signed by the Chairman.
Declarations of interests in agenda items
If a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest in an item of business this must be declared at the start of the meeting, unless dispensation has been granted. The member may not participate in any discussion, vote or discharge any function related to that business.
Non-pecuniary interests may be declared at this point if not already registered. Members with a non-pecuniary interest may speak on the subject if members of the public can do so but may not vote. NONE
Visit by Mr John Harley of Becket Trust: Mr Harley gave brief information regarding the Becket Trust which had formed in 1970 to provide housing for families in the parish, at present eight properties were owned freehold but the trust were interested in building further homes. In 2012 two properties were advertised for allocation, this resulted in 16 valid applications being received which provided evidence of need in the parish.
BT had considered other sites for provision of affordable housing and had advised SDC accordingly, they were prepared to consider providing funding towards a survey of the parish to identify further suitable sites, possibly working with the PC to these ends. Mr Harley advised costs of a site survey were being sought and considered major landowners in the parish should be involved in any such process.
A letter had recently been forwarded to Kent Highways regarding possible access problems to the Becket Trust site via Glebelands to ascertain that all safety requirements were being complied with by the Trust, this issue was now being discussed by Kent Highways with SDC. Mr Harley confirmed this issue was only one of many he had been addressing since his appointment to ensure the Trust was complying with the charity requirements.
Mr Harley wished BT to become more involved in the village activities and they had recently sponsored the childrens’ WW1 art and poem exhibition, it was hoped that the Trust could continue to work as part of the community in the future.
Cllr Broadhead stated BT should be supported in providing housing.
Mr Harley was asked if he was aware of the Glebelands and Becket Trust Residents’ Association, he had not been but confirmed he would be happy to meet with the Association to discuss issues.
Cllr Cass thanked Mr Harley for attending the meeting and answering questions put by parishioners.
3. OPEN SESSION
Those present were reminded of the WW1 Exhibition Book containing information on all those from the village lost in the war, this was available from the village shop, Penshurst Place Shop and the Leicester Arms at a cost for £10.
It was noted everyone was welcome to attend the WW1 event taking place on 11 October 2014 in Fordcombe Village Hall.
Members were advised that Gatwick had now dropped the contentious survey on changes to local airspace “due only to the Gatwick Obviously Not action” and the council was urged to think again with regard to the modest sum allocated towards the costs of the group. Clerk pointed out that the PC had been working with the High Weald group for nearly a year, the impact of this work being successful in the campaign in view of the number of electors they represented. It was noted that the LGA ruling on expenditure required it to be of proven direct benefit to the parish. The allocation of costs for GON to be an agenda item for November meeting.
SE/13/02488/9LBC: Finches, Chiddingstone Hoath, Edenbridge: Demolition of side garage and erection of 2 storey extension and glazed entrance hall. Creation of new access, driveway and garage/carport. Notice of amendment: Proposal description amended to clarify that the proposed new access is not off of Coldharbour Road. PC Support
SE/14/01953: 1 Culvers Hill Cottages, Penshurst Road, Penshurst: Insertion of pitched roofs on existing flat roof dormers, roof lights, garden room and garden wall. Alterations to fenestration. GRANTED
SE/14/02255/6LBC: Hammerfield House, Penshurst Road, Penshurst: Alterations to garage/studio and conversion of workshops to provide additional residential accommodation with the installation of two roof lights, new staircase and alterations to fenestration, installation of two new roof lights to the flat roofs over the kitchen and main entrance hall. GRANTED
SE/14/03096: Oak House, High Street, Penshurst: Raise canopy and tidy snapped branch stubs to Mature Horse Chestnut.
SDC/Affordable Housing Enabler: 2nd Stage Survey:
Survey dispatched to parishioners with return date requirement of 8 October 2014. One email received from parishioner with comments regarding survey and one question raised, passed to organizers for their information and response as necessary. A decision with regard to the possible appointment of a land agent to identify sites deferred until survey results available.
Village Magazine Article: Comment from Cllr Carson’s email: although he had joined the e-round at a later stage, what should have been a straight forward exercise had not been. He stated this supported his view that the PC body was not working as well as it might and should strive to do better. Cllr O’Shea advised there had not been sufficient room for the PC article, this was disputed by the Chairman.
Cllr Carson to report on discussions with land owner at Coldharbour Road adjacent to Bottle House allotment site as requested at August meeting. Cllr Carson declined to report on this issue as he advised this would be resolved when a site search was undertaken. He confirmed that the landowner he had approached had stated he would consider selling land.
Cllr O’Shea to report on meeting with Bottle House residents as indicated at September meeting to local resident. Cllr O’Shea advised he had asked this item be removed from the agenda previously. He confirmed he had written to SDC to ask for the planning history of a local site.
5. MATTERS ARISING:
a. Long Bridge Project: Cllr Cass reported on the meeting with Cllr Pearman, Mr R Sellings and Donna Rixon (Highways Officer – Traffic Engineer), on 8 September. Phase 1 – provision of coloured markings of SLOW on the road required road closure. With regard to replacing the unserviceable fence, Highways had made contact with the Estate and when the vegetation had been removed the new fencing could be erected. Phase 2 – Priority movement of traffic as at Colliersland Bridge plus moving 30MPH sign marginally towards Fordcombe. We are advised that any scheme promoted under Phase 2 will be made subject to the necessary investigation process which will include an independent road safety audit.
b. Swaylands: Situation regarding access for National Gardens Scheme checked by Enforcement Officer with SDC Legal Department.
c. Rectory Hedge: Issue deferred for response from KCCllr Pearman after discussion with Cllr Julian Cook.
d. Churchyard: Cllr Carson asked if the debris in the churchyard was as a result of the mowing undertaken by the contractor, clerk and Cllr Campbell advised this was not the case as this was either removed from site or used to mulch under the trees by the wall. (On inspection debris consists of two bags of spoil from paving repairs and christmas tree from church, PC contractor will remove when next in area)
e. Becket Trust: Clerk had circulated via email Becket Trust letter to Kent Highways regarding periodic restricted access through Glebelands during certain times of the day and night, letter forwarded by Cllr Carson.
f. Litter Bins – Rectory/Leicester Square: Cllr Carson advised these required refurbishing, these were the Heritage style owned by SDC, clerk to check options. St. Peter’s Row Junction/Penshurst Lay By: Bin at Junction moved, as soon as further litter bin available further unit will be provided in lay by.
g. Fly Tipping: Cllr Frederick reported on asbestos sheeting having been dumped in Bradley Road approximately half way along. Clerk reported to SDC, issue resolved.
h. Parish Childrens’ Fun Day: Report received advising over 50 children and families attended the event even though the weather was very poor with persistent rain, many local families also benefitted from the Fun Days held in Chiddingstone Causeway and Leigh. The magician was particularly popular as was the current craze for making bracelets.
a. Sevenoaks District Councillor Paddy Cooke: Cllr Cooke advised that:-
Not only had Sevenoaks District Council successfully implemented the three key welfare reforms – change to council tax support, removal of spare room subsidy and overall benefit cap. They had delivered far in excess of their own projections. Collection levels of council tax across the District for those receiving support had been 87% compared with their target of 50% and 43 households had been helped to downsize with another 52 wishing to downsize. This year alone 4 over-crowded families have been re-housed and 28 properties have been freed up for reuse. Most importantly, not a single household in the District had been rendered homeless as a direct result of the welfare reforms. In other words, the residents have willingly made a contribution towards local services and some have chosen work over welfare for the first time. The housing and benefits teams have helped and successfully supported those less self-reliant to realign their expectations and manage their money to avoid debt and adjust to less subsidy. (Please note that figures are as at 01.09.14 – refer also Appendix ‘A’ attached.)
Sevenoaks District Council had invested £75,000 in a new roof for Edenbridge Leisure Centre, which is attended by a number of people in our area. Cllr Roddy Hogarth, the Council’s Cabinet member for leisure, said the significant investment would benefit customers and over time save money as it will put to an end to the need for urgent, expensive repairs. It also demonstrates the commitment to Edenbridge Leisure Centre.
Cllr Cooke had been requested by Radio Kent to pass on the following:- On October 13th, BBC Radio Kent will broadcast a series of programmes on the future of train travel in the county. It wants to know what travellers think of SouthEastern services. Email your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kent Employment Programme (KEP) managed by KCC has supported over 750 young people into apprenticeships across the county since its’ inception. The Team engages with businesses employing less than 1,000 people in a variety of sectors and roles.
Employers who take part in the programme would be eligible for a grant of £2,000 towards the cost of employing an apprentice, this can also be coupled with the National Apprenticeship Service grant of £1,500. To find out more information call 0800 101 8224 or email KEP@kent.gov.uk
Cllr Cooke further added that the period for the Apprenticeship was 12 months with no more than 30 hours a week to include courses and training. This was closely monitored by KEP inspectors. Employers were informed that the minimum hourly rate to be paid was £2.73 per hour but were encouraged to pay the apprentices in excess of that rate.
b. KALC: Cllr Broadhead advised the September meeting had been cancelled, the next one was scheduled for 14 November.
c. Kent County Councillor Clive Pearman: No report
d. Alms Houses: A meeting is scheduled for 7 October during which Trustees will consider all outstanding matters including the allocation of No. 6 and the redecoration of the residences not worked upon to date. The Penshurst Estate has provided some welcome news regarding condition of access way at the side of the Almshouses leading to the Enterprise Centre, a tarmac drive in the centre of the access is planned by South East Water/Southern Water which will improve matters and allow ambulances to use the access.
e. Neighbourhood Watch: Two police reports have been issued covering crimes in Penshurst – a burglary and damage to a parked car – but Fordcombe has no crimes recorded during the previous month.
f. Speedwatch: Mr Loring reported that the team continued to carry out checks on a regular basis although these had been less due to Mr Sellings having been on holiday. A check had been undertaken at The Glebe entrance between 4.55 and 6pm which showed 50 drivers exceeding the speed limit with the fasted registering 49 MPH. Mr Loring confirmed that the team spent 4/5 hours per week on Speedwatch.
Cllr Campbell reported that from 30 May 2013 – 30 September 2014 figures were:
Total detections 2949, 329 letters sent for 2nd detection, 85 for 3rd, 22 for 4th, 11 for 5th, 4 for 6th, 1 for 7th, 1 for 8th and 86 for excessive speed (+50%)
During the last three months there have been only 4 letters for 4th detection, 2 for 5th and none for 6th, 7th or 8th. The number for excessive speed continues at around 5 per month, the majority – 122 in the the last 3 months are for 2nd and 3rd detections. This might indicate that the process is working.
g. Gatwick: Mr Knowles advised that he was a Co-optee of the Parish Council and also on the Steering Group for GON, the PC had a unique voice in its representation of electors whereas action groups could cause problems in other ways. He was supportive of both the structured PC work and the sabre rattling groups.
He noted that no reply had been received to the PC letters to Easyjet or British Airways regarding modification of the Airbus Series. He had contacted Lufthansa to obtain information regarding costs of modifications and it was assessed to be approximately 8p per passenger, he considered the companies should be shamed into taking action.
Clerk to work with Mr Knowles to place current responses on PC website.
It was considered crucial that the original KCC statement which included their support for a second runway be rescinded.
Clerk to check situation with regard to High Weald Group and possible appointment of specialists to assist with ongoing campaign.
Clerk continuing with collation of information required for Gatwick Matrix in relation to schools, air lines, councils, individuals to contact (suggestions from councillors for relevant parishioners) plus the Mayor’s Office in London and the CPRE.
Please Note: Copies of the letters drafted by Michael Knowles and forwarded to Keith Williams – Chief Executive of British Airways and Carolyn McCall – CEO of Easyjet regarding the problems generated by the high pitched whine emitted from the Airbus A319/320/321 can be found on the Parish Council Website.
Reported Faults Update:
83586: Entrance to The Lane, Fordcombe: damaged grating cover reported for repair/replacement. Work authorized for contractor, information awaited regarding date of work, traffic signal control required.
93431: Blocked drains from Chafford Lane towards Walters Green. Clerk had chased this issue again, work should have been completed by end September.
93436: Drains still blocked on New Road past Burzes Cottages, site attended, further work required. Clerk to advise that this area was particularly vulnerable during winter as ice pockets occurred on this stretch of road.
91196: Penshurst Road/Poundsbridge: Further contact received from Highways indicating further investigations required to find route of water during heavy rain, possible ditch/road side gulley clearance necessary to prevent incursion on to road.
113139: Path/Kerb Damage: Work completed. Clerk to ask if kerb can be highlighted as this had already been hit by vehicles turning into the road.
119701: Obscured signage: 30MPH opposite The Glebe and 30 MPH signs at Long Bridge reported to have vegetation cleared. Website indicates work completed 5 September.
118885: Drains/gullies blocked on Rogues Hill. Work completed 30 August.
119581: Glebelands – Primary School: Stretch of road from bottom of Glebelands by bus stop towards Forge Garage – drains blocked with silt. Work completed 4 September.
119592: Hedge – Sandfield Road to Colliersland Bridge: Request made to clear vegetation from bridge/corner area to aid visibility. Website indicates issue investigated as of 4 September, further work required, no further information available. Clerk to chase again.
117130: Bradley Road towards Walters Green Road: Fly tipping reported as removed.
Please Note: Any signs that are leaning but still visible and considered safe will be deferred for repair until funding is available. Only signs required to support speeding issues or of a safety nature will be repaired until further notice. Items in abeyance: 92566, 97389, 98395, 91196.
Mr Peter Johnson noted that signage indicating traffic lights further in the village had been left behind after the lights had been removed, an inefficient practice by the contractors.
The following accounts were presented and approved for payment:
Mr I Streeter Lengthsman £89.00
RIP Cleaning Services Dog Waste Removal £63.36
Fordcombe Village Hall* New Boiler Installation £3581.00
Complete Weed Control Fordcombe Village Weed Treatment £170.80
NAD Property Services Repairs to Fordcombe Noticeboard
And Penshurst Bus Shelter glass £190.00
South East Water Allotment Water Costs £29.65
Mrs E M Divall PC Administration Costs £1215.37
*Please Note: Final charge includes for the cost of a 7 year warranty. Installation will be suitable for continued use on any new building.
a. Planes over Penshurst: Proposal to provide payment of £250 agreed at September meeting, PC advised bank account being arranged, issue deferred.
b. Quarterly Accounts: Clerk provided the accounts to September 2104. These were noted
c. Precept 2015/16: Clerk provided initial draft figures for members consideration. Precept to be on November agenda.
a. Sir John Stanley MP: Copy letter forwarded to new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – Elizabeth Truss together with press statement regarding Leigh Flood Storage Area.
b. Healthwatch, Kent: Advice regarding information events in Maidstone on 8 September and Swanley on 30 September. Newsletter available on website: www.healthwatchkent.co.uk or email organization at email@example.com
c. Sir John Stanley MP: Copy of Sir John’s response to Gatwick Local Area Consultation to the Chief Executive of Gatwick Airport Ltd.
d. Sir John Stanley MP: Copy of response to Chairman of Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies, strongly opposing the creation of a second runway at Gatwick Airport and any relaxation of existing restrictions on night-time use of airport.
e. Sir John Stanley MP: Letter enclosing Hansard record of debate in House of Commons on Flood Protection in West Kent
f. Fordcombe School: Request to place temporary notices on Village Green regarding school Open Mornings, there were no objections to this from members.
g. Hever Triathlon: Cllr Mrs Broad asks for comments on the event. A number of problems had arisen particularly with road closures; there had also been more than one event taking place with the triathlon clashing with the marathon and two different levels of competitor in the triathlon might have caused problems due to two different cycle routes being used. Cllr Mrs Broad to discuss with organisers.
10. ANY OTHER BUSINESS:
a. Provisional Dates for 2015 Meetings: Penshurst: 2 February, 6 April, 1 June, 3 August, 5 October, 7 December. Fordcombe: 2 March, 13 April (Annual Parish Assembly), 11 May, 6 July, 7 September, 2 November. (Fordcombe dates confirmed)
Meeting concluded 9.15 pm Next Meeting 3 November 2014
Penshurst: 1 December – 7.45 pm
From Council Tax Benefit to Council Tax Support
The renaming was deliberate and underlines that the purpose of welfare is to support people temporarily through hard times not to provide benefits for life. Also Council Tax Support (CTS) for working age applicants is now governed and administered locally so the level of CT support we provide our residents is entirely within members control.
Under the new local CTS scheme all applicants except pensioners pay a minimum of 8.5% of their council tax from last April and 18.5% from this April. This means that every working age resident is now paying something towards the local services we all enjoy.
Pensioners are unaffected as their CTS is still worked out under a national scheme similar to the old council tax benefit.
Numbers of residents affected
· No. of CTS applicants of working age – 3309 (circa 4% of District’s working age population)
· Average amount CTS applicants of working age have to pay – £6.68pw
· No. of households in Sevenoaks District – 48,976
· Collection rates in year for 2013/14 for all tax payers achieved the target at 98.5%. For CTS customers an in-year collection rate of 87.7% was achieved against a predicted 50% expectation.
Whist we have a relatively low number of working applicants receiving council tax support which reflects the relatively high employment in the District, the figures are very positive. The headline is that collection rates have been 40% higher than predicted aided by the Council being very flexible about how and when people pay e.g accepting small amounts of cash over the counter. Nonetheless the vast majority of people have found the money to pay their council tax either by re-prioritising spending, finding additional hours or finding work. Consequently, everyone now contributes something towards the cost of the essential services they benefit from.
Under-Occupation of tax payer subsidised social housing
According to West Kent Housing Association the biggest factor affecting their ability to find appropriate homes for residents living in over-crowded accommodation is other social tenants under-occupying their tax payer funded accommodation.
The loss of spare room subsidy affects only people of working age – pensioners are exempt.
The new rules create a fair and equal playing field putting those in subsidised social housing in the same position as those in private rented housing and those claiming housing benefit in the private sector.
People of working age who have more rooms than they need (need is defined by the same criteria as social housing is allocated by) have their housing benefit reduced. This means that if a tenant has a spare room this is funded by them and not the taxpayer.
To recognize the fact that it is not possible for some people to downsize quickly or even at all the coalition Government has increased the Discretionary Housing Payment safety net to help fund the gap where individual circumstances justify it e.g extra room needed due to disability. Interestingly of the £157,000 given to SDC for discretionary housing payments for 2014/15 only £50,000 odd has actually been needed to deal with under-occupation cases.
Number of residents affected
· No. of Claimants affected across the District in total – 406
· No. of Claimants under-occupying by 1 bedroom – 343 (HB reduced by 14%)
· No. of Claimants under-occupying by 2 or more bedrooms – 63 % (25% reduction)
· No. of households in the district claiming HB – 5428 (3294 working age; 2134 pensioners)
· No. of households under-occupying helped by Discretionary Housing Payment this year – 97
Feedback from Social Landlords is that the number of mutual exchanges has significantly increased and that rent arrears were actually lower than expected at 31 March 2014.
Actions by SDC Housing Team
During 2012 a Member led in-depth Scrutiny into under occupation identified the issues, and agreed key actions which were then executed by Officers.
A dedicated Under-occupation officer jointly funded by West Kent Housing and Sevenoaks District Council was appointed by WKHA in July 2013.
Incentives for tenants were funded by an additional £20,000 contributed by SDC.
Both the UO officer and the additional £20,000 were funded using S106 affordable housing planning gains contributions.
Under the banner of the “Small is Beautiful” Scheme the housing team have been very successful in seeking out those who need to downsize thus freeing up family sized homes to improve living conditions and maximise effective use of housing stock.
18 completed downsizes in 2013 and 25 so far in 2014.
A further 52 applicants to the scheme wishing to downsize.
4 over-crowded families helped so far this year and 28 social homes freed up.
Several ‘match-making’ events have been held to encourage mutual exchanges and the UO officer has been working with Moat colleagues to identify further potential exchanges.
Due to the success of the initiative and the number of further cases identified, approval was given to extend the UO post for another year until March 2015 jointly funded on same basis as before by SDC and WKHA.
Workless households can no longer receive benefits in excess of the average take home pay for working households after tax and national insurance contributions. (£26K).
Claimants in receipt of disability benefits and Working Tax Credits are currently exempt.
The amount of benefits a working age household can receive is restricted to £500 per week for a family and £350 per week for a single person
Until universal credit is in existence, the cap is applied by reducing housing benefit entitlement.
Number of residents affected
No. of HB Households capped – 23
Minimum cap amount applied – £0.60 per week
Maximum cap amount applied – £132.63 per week
Average current cap amount applied – £ 54.49 per week
Actions by SDC Housing Team
The team has been proactive in supporting affected families to plan and budget more effectively in order to adjust to reductions in welfare payments. Strategies include demonstrating how planning meals in advance and shopping on line can reduce costs, ensuring people have access to debt advice and promoting the benefits of accepting a job, as even a few hours exempts them from the cap and increases their income through Working Families Tax Credits etc. Where appropriate there is still the ability to apply for transitional benefit.
These initiatives start to wean people away from welfare dependency and encourage personal responsibility. Work must always pay more than welfare.
Universal credit update
Universal credit (UC) will replace the 6 main benefits: Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance (Income-Based), Employment Support Allowance (Income-related), Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit with one universal household payment. The current benefits system is vastly complicated, expensive to administer, open to abuse and unfit for the 21st century.
Unfortunately, as with all gargantuan and complex projects the devil is in the detail and the implementation of universal credit is taking a lot longer then at first thought.
When will it come to Sevenoaks?
DWP current planning assumptions assume that the national rollout of UC will now commence in 2016. The date for the transfer of Sevenoaks District housing benefit claimants to UC remains unknown but it seems reasonable to assume it will be well into the next parliament and probably not until after 2017. The DWP have already advised that local authorities will retain HB claims from pensioners, until at least 2017/18, together with any supported housing HB claims.
Will there be a greater role for local authorities then at first thought?
Yes! DWP have finally accepted that it is not realistic for UC to be digital by default although the main claim route remains on-line. The second major change is that the DWP have also finally appreciated that by far the most sensible way to deliver UC is in conjunction with local authorities, who have been successfully administering housing benefits for years.