Large surplus built up by parish council

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Councillors were warned at Monday night's Audlem Parish Council finance committee meeting that a large surplus was being built up that might soon cause worries for the council's auditor.

So far this year, only £470 had been spent from a £14,000 projects budget while £6,500 earmarked for local organisations had not yet been claimed. Unless more money was spent, the council could end the year with a £70,000 reserve. The PC's finance officer warned that that the council should have a good reason for holding funds of this size.

It was later agreed that in future years a policy of "Use it or lose it" would be applied to grants and donations. The council was not a bank, one councillor observed, where money could be held over into the following year until an organisation needed the cash awarded.

It was also agreed that £10,000 should be budgeted for donations and grants next year. A small donations and grants policy is to be developed. One possibility is that a grant will require a village organisation to provide a balance sheet and statement of how the money was to be spent before receiving any money while a donation will not need require this level of financial information.

On banking, another councillor asked if the parish council had money in the Co-operative Bank and whether this was of concern given current news reports. Around £11,000 is in a Co-op account, the meeting was told, but this is well below the national 'protected' level for accounts which applies to organisations as well as personal accounts.

Many of the parish council's assets will need replacement in the near future and it was agreed that a budget of £2,000 a year be set to cover this expenditure. For those interested in such matters, the Buttermarket and the Bearstone in the Square are valued at £1 each!

Grants agreed

Amongst the grants agreed for 2014/15 — and just as many were put off to next week's Parish Council meeting — was £1,000 for ADAS/Audlem in Bloom for summer bedding plants. This did raise questions from councillors as to why Cheshire East did not provide funding for planting in Audlem when council workers seemed very busy in Crewe, Nantwich, Congleton and Macclesfield, and possibly elsewhere, growing, planting and watering floral displays.

After some councillors had argued against, saying the football club did not do enough to raise funds itself, a proposal to grant Audlem FC £386.35 to cover playing field fees paid to Cheshire East was agreed by a majority of councillors.

The Audlem Carnival committee had also asked for additional funding next year to cover the recently introduced fees by Cheshire East for use of the playing field saying that this additional expense threatened the event's future. Councillors put off a decision until the Carnival's accounts were available.

A request for funding for the Historic Narrow Boats Gathering next year was put off with councillors suggesting the organisers get together with ASET who run the parallel Transport Festival to see if savings could be made in signage and other costs.

Projects

A number of future projects were discussed including taking over the playing field, tennis courts, playground and possibly car park. It was reported that numerous emails to Cheshire East asking for a meeting had not as yet produced a response.

There was disappointment expressed by one councillor that the paper he had circulated asking for 'seed corn' funding for a possible public hall extension was not being discussed at the finance committee. That and possible funding for ADCA were put off to a future meeting.

Another possible project, for a speed indicator sign, revealed that Hankelow's sign records the speed of each passing vehicle. One driver regularly roars through the village at 70mph.

After discussion, councilors decided not to have a specific budget to cover expenses caused by future major planning applications and that any expenses could be dealt with from contingency funding.

Finally, despite the agenda saying 'To agree precept for 2014/15', councillors were told this would not be possible because Cheshire East had not confirmed what next year's grant would be. A decision has to be made on the precept, this is the tax charged on each property in Audem to fund the parish council, by mid-January. By then, it was hoped Cheshire East would have clarified the situation.