Skip to main content

Public Question Time

Responses to public questions presented at meetings of Crediton Town Council.

Meeting & Date: Question: Response:
Community & Environment 
23 January 2024
Item 72 on the agenda “Climate Emergency” states “To note that decisions will be made with the climate emergency at the forefront of decision and policy making”.  This item appears on the majority of meeting minutes but seems to be little more than a tick box exercise.  If the Council are truly serious about this point, and in the hope of clawing back some kudos with Cllr Fawssett, would the Council consider having an item added to the end of each meeting to reflect upon how any decisions made actually reflect this goal? Members agreed at the meeting that the Council Affairs & Finance Committee could consider implementing an evaluation of how the Climate Emergency has been considered at the end of each agenda or whether climate emergency considerations should be highlighted during each agenda item. This has been included on the next Council Affairs & Finance Committee agenda, with the meeting taking place next Tuesday, 13 Feb 2024.
Community & Environment 
23 January 2024
At the risk of incurring the wrath of Cllr Fawssett who has accused me of “prattling on” at the last Full Town Council meeting about the potential breach of GDPR which he sees as a mere “technical thing”, may I ask if the Council has informed the Boniface Allotments Association, or indeed any of the allotment tenants about that potential breach, or would they rather I did so?

All allotment holders were emailed/written to on 20 November 2023 reminding them of the information contained within the town council’s Data Protection Privacy Policy and how the town council stores and uses their information.

Community & Environment 
23 January 2024
As a member of the public who regularly watches the recordings of various CTC meetings on Facebook, I can attest to the fact that the sound of the Town Clerk typing often obscures what is being said, either by councillors or members of the public.  Would the Council kindly consider placing the owl at such a distance from the Town Clerk as to make the noise from typing less intrusive?

The Deputy Clerk confirmed at the meeting that the owl had been moved further away and the sound quality would be assessed. We have reviewed the video, and the typing sound was still overbearing. We have received advice from our IT support as to how to adjust the sound settings on the Owl and will carry out a test video before the next meeting. If this is ineffective, we will source a Silent Wireless Keyboard which is said to reduce typing sound by 90%.

Council Affairs & Finance
10 January 2024
Will the town council send its congratulations to Natalia Letch for spear-heading the formation of a new and independent strategic initiative, the Crediton Urban Taskforce [CUT!] - to be supported by up to £1,500 of town council funding - which aims to engage all sectors of the community in keeping the urban landscape free of weeds, dirt and debris, improving the condition of pavements, kerbs, roadsides, paths and other public spaces? The CUT initiative is an exciting initiative with several partners bringing their skills and energy to make it happen. The council is pleased to be part of this initiative with support from both councillors and staff.
Council Affairs & Finance
10 January 2024
Independents for Crediton also looked at this issue and proposed that this and future council administrations would benefit by having regular access to all households, including electors, residents, council tax-payers etc, via a new publication delivered quarterly to all properties in the town. Will the council agree that the first issue of Kirton Quarterly - to be published in mid-February - will provide an excellent opportunity for the Chair to use the space in this magazine that is allocated for Crediton Town Council News & Updates?

The council has discussed the Kirton Quarterly and as agreed by Full Council on 16 January 2024 will actively participate in providing the space allocated, and regularly review the content of the KQ and determine what can best be communicated by the different streams available.

Council Affairs & Finance
10 January 2024
In July 2023 the Town Clerk announced that she was going to 'brainstorm' with her colleagues the council's Communications Strategy. Please can the council say how the result of this exercise wil be felt by the community at large?  The results of the Communication Strategy are openly available together with the proposed action plan. This document and its contents have now been approved by both the Council Affairs and Finance Committee, and subsequently by Full Council on 16 January 2024. Prioritising of the actions and delivery against them will now be undertaken.
Council Affairs & Finance
10 January 2024

When will the website section detailing all questions and answers raised at committee meetings be up and running?

The section for Public Questions and their answers is available now, and can be found at Public Question Time (crediton.gov.uk) This section will be the area containing all public questions raised at/before meetings going forwards.

Council Affairs & Finance
10 January 2024
Could a breakdown of the budget and precept be provided on your website and in the agenda pack in Excel format rather than a pdf? We have not attached files to the website historically, and even now it is suggested that an HTML format is used rather than file attachments. We will however consider this alongside other website enhancements.
Council Affairs & Finance
10 January 2024
Would the Council consider setting a target for the precept at the start of the financial year and have that target discussed in detail at each full town council meeting? The process for setting the precept starts in the last third of the previous year, and is shared with councillors as the requirements become firmer, resulting in discussions at the Council Affairs and Finance Committee towards the end of the calendar year, and if required into the New Year, ready for approval by Full Council in time for the request to be submitted to Mid Devon for the precept for the coming year. Each meeting of the Council Affairs and Finance review the income and expenditure and would report any concern(s) to Full Council.
Council Affairs & Finance
10 January 2024
Could the Town Clerk request the ICO to put the advice they gave to her in writing? The response from the ICO will be included in response to the question raised at Full Council on 16 January 2024. Until the matter has been reviewed by a Case Worker the ICO are not in a position to provide a definitive response, but the content of the email received will be published.

Planning & Town Strategy 
02 January 2024

Will the town council engage more with the town by holding surgeries to deliver newsletters and provide information, especially during these uncertain times with the Pay and Display consultation and precept announcement. Councillors need to be more recognisable and I would like to see more action?

Cllr Brookes-Hocking advised that a consultation had been available online for the public to have their say regarding on-street parking. She also commented that the main issue with holding surgeries on the town square is getting information across to a wide variety of people. Holding surgeries is useful for the town council profile but not for visitors. It was suggested that an alternative location to the town square might be outside the Ship Hotel at the top of Market Street to attract a wider variety of people. Cllr Cochran advised that he has attended previous surgeries and would be useful for more newsletters to be printed. Cllr Fawssett agreed to attend the next surgery.

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

In the Draft Budget, Income, there is no mentioning of the money which CISCO paid for the room hire. I suppose other organisations, such Sustainable Crediton, pay some hire fees too, or only CISCO was charged?

CISCO was charged, and this has been included in “Other Income”, and so formed part of the income. Only income received has been included. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

So, why this income is not shown in the Draft Budget? The ongoing income is not material or guaranteed and therefore prudently ignored. The renting of office space could be limited in the coming year. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023 

Do the Youth Service's users pay any contribution to CTC? If so, why it is not reflected in the Income?

The youth service users do make contributions, but these are not only low, but is re-cycled providing, for examples materials - a net nil or close thereto. We could show them as income and expenditure but for the purposes of deciding the precept it is not going to make any impact. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

I have found out that good accounting presumes regular review of the Earmarked reserves. How long ago were they reviewed?

Agreed. They were last formally reviewed when the council set and approved the budgets earlier this year. Steve and Rachel have started reviewing their need, purpose and appropriateness already for consideration of the Council Affairs and Finance meeting in January. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

Do you think it's a right time to do it now to remove the old ones and merge the odd ones such as 4 different reserves for Foot paths? Yes, see above, and with regards to merging, it is a possibility, but the more important matter is why the Earmarked reserve is held, is it adequate, and indeed still required. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

It is recommended by LGA and CIPFA to have 3 to 6 Earmarked reserves allocated for good fundamental purposes, for example future liabilities, damage of assets or transformation reserves rather than separately for Benches, Christmas lights or Additional Trees unless some grants or donations with specific conditions were given and the funds cannot be spent on anything else than the trees or the Town clock for example. Would you follow this practice and rearrange our Reserves?

The LGA and CIPFA may indeed suggest those pots but whether you have one or fifty you still need to know from a bottom up approach what is there - having umbrella titles is all very well but one needs to be aware of what is held and why. In Crediton we do not have the issues faced directly by local government, but at a time where almost a fifth of council leaders and Chief Executives in England think it is very likely or fairly likely that their Chief Financial Officer will need to issue a Section 114 notice this year or next due to lack of funding to keep key services running highlights just how essential it is for the Town Council to be both mindful of its obligations, and to plan financially accordingly. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023 

If you don't think it's a good idea to rearrange the reserves as described above, would you suggest that the reserves are reported using the same grouping as the Draft Budget , so we can see how each of the Budget headings is reserved?   Not sure what benefit this brings? The reserves are for the full council to draw on as required as approved at full council meetings. A rearranging of the order is clearly possible but are currently shown as recorded in Rialtis ( our accounting software ) and we would not be looking to make any changes to the system for this. That said, one to look into. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

Alternatively, can the Reserves be allocated to the Committees, so each Committee can see how much reserves they have in hand?

The reserves are always available for viewing, but should not necessarily be viewed as “allocated” to a particular committee. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023 

I have noticed that we have a new additional reserve named 'LA services' to take over the services possibly dropped by MDDC in future. It is proposed to be £30,000. At the same time we have other reserves which I would describe as Development reserves: Economic development, Localism, Project initiation Funds, etc. Together, if approved, they are going to reach £82,749 , some of them untouched for many years. What is the fundamental difference between Economic development and Project initiation Fund?

Economic development is earmarked for development of the local economy specifically, whereas the Project Initiation fund has a broader use, and is there to enable us to release funds to kick off any project. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

Localism is about local development too, isn't it? It could be. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023 

Why cannot they be used to reserve any unexpected future development or to fund unexpected new services without additional £30,000 put into reserves?

This is for a matter for full council to decide. If MDDC do decide to reduce or stop the services they are currently offering and have outlined and indeed it does cost £150k pa to maintain them, and council wish to continue with them, the council will need to find £150k annually, so what is currently being looked at starts to create a fund to enable the council to take on the services. This is both prudent and logical and something as a forward looking council we must consider. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

I appreciate that we are wise enough to keep good amount of reserves to secure our services from any unexpected events including a complete end of the precept payment in case MDDC goes bast. But would you agree that we need to set up the minimum and maximum level of total reserves as it is suggested by LGA to keep reasonable balance between services given and funds reserved?

The LGA can certainly have a view but the town council follows The Good Councillor's Guide To Finance And Transparency, produced by NALC (LGA covers local government like MDDC whereas Crediton is covered by NALC).  

The-Good-Councillors-Guide-to-Finance-and-Transparency-2018.pdf (devonalc.org.uk) 

In addition we follow the Model Financial Regulations for England and Wales. 

https://www.crediton.gov.uk/Portals/0/Financial%20Regs%20May%202023.pdf 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023 

I have discovered that the total amount of General Reserves is calculated by adding non allocated General reserves to the earmarked ones. So, using this calculation in year 2024/25 we are going to consolidate £563,456.35 reserves which is more than our annual precept and more than the draft of the Annual Budget. Do you think we may reconsider our intention to reserve even higher additional amounts year after year? 

As a council we can set the budget to increase, decrease or stay the same. The council needs to be mindful of its future and what it is looking to achieve. As you are aware we are looking, in time, to buy our own office should a suitable option become available, and should that happen there is £105k in earmarked reserves created specifically for this purpose. If a purchase proceeds then immediately £105k is removed from our reserves.  Without this forward thinking and reserving there would be nothing there and so our ability to purchase a property would be severely limited. 

The above is an example of why we Earmark some reserves, compared to having General Reserves, the latter being to cover unexpended expenditure and the accepted reserve is 3-12 months running costs.

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

Following the figures shown above, would the Clerk and the councillors explore the option of increasing precepts in line of the current inflation figures, not higher?

Options are always considered by the Council Affairs and Finance Committee prior to being sent to Full Council for further discussion prior to voting.

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

GDPR breach - Looking at policies, it makes no mention of sharing people's personal information such as surnames. Minutes state concerns re amounts, but surnames. Confirmation from ICO requested. Can we please have a response regarding the matter?

We contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) the morning after you raised the concern and discussed the matter with them by telephone. Based on that discussion we are continuing to operate as before. We are awaiting contact from the ICO following your complaint to them, and will cooperate with them fully, and should there be advice or recommendations made by the ICO we will look to implement as soon as practicably possible. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

Given the serious nature of committee deciding precept, as a resident it feels underrepresented. Full council membership weren't aware of decisions being made. More reasonable to make the precept decision by Full Council?

We can confirm that the setting of the precept is certainly taken seriously by the Town Council, and so much so that the Council Affairs and Finance committee works with the Town Clerk to determine what is required on an annual basis, and the Full Council vote on recommendations made, following what is usually a discussion to clarify areas of concern. This means that ALL councillors are involved in the vote to determine the level of precept being requested. 

Given the precept for 2024-25 has yet to be determined we assume that your observation that you feel that full council membership weren't aware of the decisions being made relates to the setting of a prior year precept. As you are aware the current councillors were not necessarily councillors for the setting of previous precepts and as a result one where it is difficult to provide a specific response other than to advise that all councillors would have received all documentation at least three clear days before any meeting and therefore access to all materials which were to be discussed. The precept must be voted on at a meeting of Full Council, with all elected members able to discuss and subsequently vote, and that decision cannot be delegated to a committee of the council. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

What leadership will the Chair of the Council Affairs & Finance give to the members of his committee regarding keeping the Precept from rising above the rate of inflation – particularly after last year’s hike of 17%?

Whether as a chair or individual councillor my view will be the same, and provide guidance and support and respond to queries from individual councillors or several councillors as required. I would like to have a precept that, as a minimum enables the council to operate over the course of the following year, but being mindful not only of the current economic and financial stresses many of us are facing, but of issues/needs that are also coming our way. Currently I am keen for the council to set the precept that is appropriate, and whilst it may not be what every council tax payer wants it will reflect their needs and concerns, the future council tax payers and the council. In addition we should be mindful that there are ever increasing pressure on local authority budgets, where tough choices must and are being made. It is more crucial than ever to work collaboratively with Mid Devon District Council and Devon County Council where possible, to ensure that our communities' needs are met, and that our shared resources are allocated wisely and effectively. It is important to remember that town and parish councils are not subject to the same limitations when increasing their council tax requirement, and the sector as a whole is finding that they are taking on additional services that were once delivered by other tiers of local authority in order to safeguard them.

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

What is the upper limit of a Precept increase that the Lib Dem controlling majority will accept for 2024/25? See response to 2b. Refers to answers given following questions asked at Full Council 19 September 2023: "This is a question that CTC cannot answer but as all Liberal Democrat members have been copied in to this response they have the ability to respond directly."

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

Given that many of Crediton’s residents are struggling to make ends meet, with the steep rising costs of morgages, rents and food costs, for example, and given that a parish/town council has no statutory responsibilities other than to hold one public meeting a year and to administer allotments, how will the town council – in particular its Liberal Democrat majority – justify an above-inflation increased in the town Precept for 2024/25? Whilst there are seven declared Liberal Democrat councillors on the council, we are not a political council. As explained in the Council Affairs and Finance Committee meeting all draft responses to public questions were going to be sent to all councillors and their opinions sought to provide a full response. It would be naive and unrealistic for all councillors to agree to every aspect of every agenda item - we are all human with undoubtedly different thoughts etc. So with that please refer to the response in which you asked about what leadership I would provide. If the majority of councillors determine that an above inflationary rise of the precept is required to deliver current services and creating/increasing reserves for future needs of a progressive council then the debate which preceded any such decision would include in it the justification.

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

All councillors produced or contributed to election leaflet setting out their pitch to be our elected representatives, but none mentioned whether they were in favour of raising taxes to pay for increased services: what mandate do councillors feel they have for another above-inflation rise? The mandate received is that they were elected to perform their role as a councillor. All councillors follow a Code of Conduct as you know and as such we do our best to represent local residents, work to develop better services and deliver local change. The public quite rightly have high expectations of us and entrust us to represent Crediton taking decisions fairly, openly and transparently. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

What did the town council learn from members of the public attending the three budgeting workshops organized by the town clerk? The members of the public that attended the events listened and questioned and provided views and comments, all collated and issued with the agenda pack for the Council Affairs and Finance meeting.

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

How many hours of staff time were spent organizing and attending these events?  

Whilst not recorded at the time it would be reasonable to assume that around 20-25 hours of staff time were invested.

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

How many different members of the public in total attended, and does the council feel that it was a valuable exercise? At least fifteen different members of the public participated and we feel that it was a useful exercise in both explaining the precept, the various layers of government locally as well as receiving feedback on what they consider important and what rise of precept, if any, they felt would be acceptable.

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

Is it true that a majority of those attending only knew about the events through an Independents for Crediton leaflet distributed to all households in the town? Not based on the feedback that was received during the meetings - the council Facebook page and Courier were mentioned specifically. 

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

It has been remarked that the Chairs of various committees very rarely ask fellow committee members to give their opinion on Agenda items: why is this?  

As a chair of one of the committees the reason I do not need to ask fellow committee members to give their opinion is because members usually offer comment without needing to be asked, others that remain quiet do not necessarily need asking as many, myself included do not feel the need to speak if what I would say has already been said. There is a possibility that it may reinforce the view of something previously mentioned and so should possibly be considered. Views of other chairs and councillors are included but may differ……..

Council Affairs & Finance
12 December 2023

The town clerk states that it is 'clearly stated' that the  venues advertised on the council's website for council meetings - including this one - may be different to that posted on the Calendar. It is not 'clearly stated'. It would not occur to a normal person wishing to identify the venue for a meeting to distrust the  venue indicated against the date and committee meeting listed. It is not acceptable to publish a disclaimer in the the top corner, saying that the listed venue may be wrong and that everyone should check with what's written on the Agenda itself. Why does the council not instead correct the advertised venue?! Thanks for this. To avoid any possible confusion the venue for the meeting will be clearly identified on the agenda of each meeting and the meeting calendar will no longer show the location of the meeting.