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Parish Council Newsletter – September 2014


This is the first of a regular feature aimed at letting you know what your Parish Council is doing on your behalf. We will place a copy on the Chronicle and the Parish Council websites for those of you who prefer that way of receiving this type of information.


As a start I thought it would be helpful to outline some of the changes we have been required to introduce this year and to explain why this has been necessary. Before doing so I would like to say that we all recognise that this Council belongs to all the residents of Sheepwash and not just the Councillors who happen to hold office at any one point of time. Having said that, all Councillors both past and present, have taken on this role on a purely voluntary basis and receive no remuneration for the ever-increasing time and effort required. Equally, they sit on the Council as your representatives and have, in my experience, always tried to do their very best to represent you and the whole Parish.


The present Council is very keen to be as open and transparent as possible. To this end its meetings are always open to everyone, the agenda and minutes are published on the notice board in the square and on the website, and all financial information is published in the minutes and available for anyone to view on the website or by contacting the Clerk at clerk@sheepwashparishcouncil.co.uk. In addition all Councillors are available to speak to you at any time by phone or e-mail. Our contact details are published in the Chronicle and are also on the web sites of both the Parish Council at sheepwash_devon.org.uk and the Chronicle atwww.sheepwashchronicle.org.uk.


When I was asked to take the Chair of the Council last November, I made it clear that the first priority was to find and appoint a Clerk to take on this crucial role. Nowadays this job has become even more complex and is absolutely vital to the proper smooth running of the Council. In February of this year we appointed Mrs Penny Clapham to be our new Clerk. She is fully qualified and has extensive experience in this role. She has also helped other town and parish councils to set up and run properly, in accordance with national guidance on best practice and a wide range of rules, regulations and primary legislation, all which continues to grow in complexity.


Since being appointed, Penny has worked extremely hard to help us to set up and start to run the Council in line with all these requirements. This has been a lengthy and complex process and implementing this has taken a lot of our time this year. I am pleased to say that we have nearly finished this work and will then be running in line with these requirements.


Since her appointment Penny has also taken on the role of Responsible Financial Officer for your Council. She has introduced a range of changes to ensure that we follow proper financial practice and procedure and has enabled your Council to adopt very recent financial rules recently published by the Government. I am grateful to her for helping us to get all these changes introduced and put into practice.


Finally on this subject, I wanted to assure you that none of these changes have been put in place at the behest of any individual Councillor, or for my own or any other Councillor’s benefit, but purely to ensure that we are operating properly within the law when making decisions and dealing with your public money.


I also wanted to explain why we had to raise the precept this year. All of us on the Council were well aware that this would cause an additional burden on people and regretted that we had to do so. However, since 2007 the Council had regularly voted not to raise the precept, even to allow for inflation. The Chair before last had on a number of occasions recommended a steady rise over time to build up revenue to pay for a replacement Clerk but this advice had not been voted in. The reason this extra revenue was required was because Paulette Jackson had intimated that she would soon be standing down as an unpaid Clerk.


When Paulette finally did so there was no funding available in the budget to cover the cost of a paid clerk. David Ansell took over on a voluntary basis for a short while but following his decision shortly afterwards to also stand down, the Council was left with no Clerk for several months. This left us with no option but to employ a paid Clerk with the necessary skills and experience and to raise the revenue budget by the amount required to cover the cost of her salary and expenses. I hope this now clarifies matters for everyone.


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