A fair description of the function of the Parish Council is to oversee all aspects of the business of the Parish.
This includes managing the finances of the Parish, becoming involved in Planning decisions, maintaining good communication with all departments of Northumberland County Council, and ensuring a high standard for the overall presentation of the village.
At the hub of all the activity of the Parish Council is the Parish Clerk who is a paid employee who also takes on the role of Responsible Financial Officer.
At present, our Clerk is Sylvia Johnson. Sylvia is a part-time official who assists in circulating all incoming information to the councillors and in liaison with the chairman, sets the agenda for all the councils meetings. The clerk records the minutes, is responsible for all the financial matters and undertakes correspondence for the Council. The clerk is not just an administrative role, the clerk has to be up-to-date with all the various legislations that govern the business of a parish council and ensure that the councils decisions are legal. The clerk also supervises the updating of the Parish Website.
Planning issues are probably the most time consuming and sometimes controversial part of Parish business.
All Planning Applications to the County Council Planning Department that are within the Parish Boundary are sent to the Parish Clerk who then circulates all the documentation for Councillors’ comments. This is accompanied with a deadline for when comments must be with the planning department.
Consideration is given to the plans, views of the applicant and objectors before submitting a formal response to the County Planning Officer. There may be need for a site meeting when Councillors can meet with Planning Officers. If necessary, there may be an opportunity for a Councillor to speak at the County Council planning meeting before a decision is made by the County council to approve or reject. Any decisions are made in accordance with planning regulations.
There is a valuable service provided by the planning department for applications to have their ideas examined by the County planners before plans are drawn up.
The day to day financial aspects for the Parish Council are dealt with by the Responsible Financial Officer (RFO).
As is often the case in a small parish like Hepscott, this is the same person as the Parish Clerk.
- Keeps a running total of income and expenditure and presents details at Committee meetings.
- Draws up the estimated budget for the coming financial year from which the Committee determine the precept required for that year.
- Presents cheques for signature (2 signatures required, does not include the RFO).
- Monitors expenses to ensure they are kept within budget.
- Prepares accounts for both the Internal and External Audit at end of financial year.
The RFO does not make any decisions regarding how the money is to be spent - these decisions are made by the Councillors after appropriate discussion and in line with the Financial Regulations which can be found in the Governance Section on the homepage.
Annual Parish Precept
When you receive your Council Tax demand from Northumberland County Council, you will see an amount included for your Parish Precept.
This is a small percentage of the overall bill but is important to Hepscott as it provides the funds to keep the Parish ‘in order’. The precept covers: Salary of Parish Clerk/RFO, Public Liability Insurance, Training, Grass and Hedge cutting, Printing of Hepscott Herald, Health and Safety Inspections for Play Park (Stobhill Manor), Inspection of bus shelters and repairs to same, emptying of dog bins, external audit and general administration.
In the past, a donation has been made to the Village Hall Management Committee towards the provision of a toilet for the disabled and also for the Stobhill Play Park to meet current Health and Safety requirements.
We endeavour to keep the Precept as low as possible, and will not ask for an increase unless absolutely necessary. However all Parish Councils are having to take on more and more responsibilities from their County Councils for services originally paid for by the County Council (2012/13 Devolution of Local Services). For example we have to ensure that all bus shelters are clean and not damaged and pay for any repairs where necessary.
We try to save money where possible, a good example of this being the printing of the Hepscott Herald which, year on year, has reduced in cost quite considerably.
The precept is determined at our November meeting and the County Council notified. It is paid in two equal instalments in April and September.
Parish Council Meetings
These are held at 2 monthly intervals in January, March, May, July, September and November at 6.30pm in the Parish Hall. Members of the public and press are welcome to attend and a short period is set aside at the start of the meeting for members of the public to address the Council on business to be discussed at the meeting and appearing on the agenda. Members of the public cannot, however, participate in the meeting.
The first is the Annual Parish Meeting which is called by the Chairman at any time during March, April or May. The Annual Parish Meeting is not an official meeting of the Parish Council but a meeting where the Chairman presents a report on the previous year and the Responsible Financial Officer presents the Annual Accounts. Councillors are not obliged to attend and the Clerk is not obliged to minute the meeting; the first item on the agenda should be to nominate a minute take but generally this is the clerk. Representatives of local organisations, particularly those who have received grants from the council in the preceeding year are invited to address the electorate when members of the public can raise topics and ask questions in an informal setting.
The second is the Annual Parish Council Meeting where the Chairman, Vice Chair, Internal Auditor and Responsible Financial Officer all stand down and encumbents or replacements are elected by members of the Council. The meeting usually takes place one week after the first Thursday in May to allow any new members to be present following a local election.
The Annual Parish Council Meeting is relatively short and is followed by an ordinary meeting of the council.