ANNUAL REPORT 2008/09
Report to the Annual Town Meeting to be held on Thursday 23 April 2009.
Town Councillors (from May 2008)
Cllr Eric Chapman (Town Mayor)
Cllr Miss Pam Davey
Cllr Mrs Connie Geach
Cllr Dave Gordon
Cllr John Harris
Cllr Olver Harris
Cllr Brian Hogan
Cllr Tony Howe
Cllr Brian Keighley
Cllr Jacki Ellis Martin
Cllr Graham Facks Martin
Cllr Paul O’Brien (Deputy Town Mayor)
Cllr Tony Sandercock
Cllr Rob Tremain
Cllr Colin Warne
Cllr Mrs Mary Williams
All councillors received an allowance of £180.76 for the year.
THE TOWN MAYOR
The Town Mayor from May 2008 was Cllr Eric Chapman. The Town Mayor chairs the full Town Council meetings and is also Chairman of the Trustees of Lawrence House Museum, the trustees being the town councillors. The Town Mayor also chairs the annual parish meeting. The Town Mayor has attended many events on behalf of the town, raising awareness of worthy causes and helping to raise funds. He has been supported by the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Pat Chapman.
All the Civic Robes were cleaned and repaired this year. The Robes and Regalia are worn at the Mayor Making ceremony in May and at the Remembrance Day Parade and Service in November.
The committee structure consists of Finance & General Purposes (Chairman: Cllr Sandercock), Planning (Chairman: Cllr Tremain), Lawrence House Management Committee (Chairman: Cllr Miss Davey), Launceston Priory (Chairman: Cllr Chapman), Town Hall Feasibility (Chairman: Cllr O’Brien) and Staffing (Chairman: Cllr Chapman). A new committee, Environment and Open Spaces, was established in the summer of 2008 with responsibility for Launceston Cemetery, allotments, parks and play areas. Cllr Gordon is the chairman. Committee membership is reviewed annually at the Annual Meeting of the Town Council held in May.
All Town Council meetings and committee meetings are open to the public. Dates and times of the meetings are published on the town hall notice board, on the website and in the library. There is time allocated at the beginning of each Town Council meeting for members of the public to speak.
The Town Council had a number of major expenses during the year. The Town Hall roofs and the coach park were finished and the restoration of the Priory ruins was undertaken. The Council contributed £17,000 towards burying the cables in Western Road, which has greatly improved the appearance of the town. No further contribution was made to the reserves. The precept for 2008/09 was £275,000, £100.76 per band D property. Other income came from bank interest, the Westgate Street car park, Launceston Cemetery, Southgate Arch, the allotments and the hire of the town hall for events and meetings.
All income and expenditure is reported to and approved by the Finance & General Purposes Committee, which meets monthly. An independent internal audit is carried out twice a year, and an independent external audit by the Audit Commission takes place in May. Copies of the accounts for 2008/09 will be available for inspection by the end of May.
The town council offices are situated in one room in the town hall complex. There were no staff changes during the year. The Town Clerk works full time, and the Deputy Town Clerk and Administrator work part-time, making one full time equivalent post. There are four full time staff employed as outdoor workers, one based at the cemetery, two responsible for grass cutting and grounds maintenance and one based at the town hall. All outdoor staff were provided with work clothes (fleeces and sweatshirts) with the Town Council crest on.
During the year the outdoor workers undertook training in first aid, manual handling, use of pesticides, use of mowers and strimmers, and all four undertook a bespoke course at the Launceston Cemetery in cemetery safety, including grave digging. The Town Clerk attended courses on fundraising, risk assessment, cemetery management and use of accounts software, as well as representing the Council at many meetings around the county. An evening training course in best practice was held for all councillors and office staff .
HEALTH AND SAFETY
A comprehensive Health and Safety audit was undertaken of all the Council’s properties. The electrics in the Town Hall and at the Lawrence House Museum were tested and upgraded. Fire safety procedures were also reviewed and remedial action taken where necessary. All the Council’s staff are provided with essential protective workwear.
Launceston Town Council had contracts with Cornwall County Council and North Cornwall County Council for grass cutting and horticultural work. A contractor is employed for the County work (highways verges) and the Council’s workers look after the footpaths and undertake work within the town and surrounding parishes.
The cemetery is owned and managed by Launceston Town Council, which acts as the Burial Authority. Twenty two burials took place during 2008/09. All staff took part in a one-day training course on safe grave digging and other health and safety issues. An annual risk assessment of the gravestones is undertaken. Although the site is large, there is not a great deal of room remaining for burials and the council is considering alternatives. In February the Council approved revised regulations and fees and these were implemented in April 2009.
The Council owns and manages the closed cemetery at Dockacre Road. During the year the grass was cut and brambles cut back. The cemetery is locked but visits are permitted by arrangement with the office.
The play equipment at King George’s Field (Priory Park) continues to be well used. It is inspected daily, with an annual inspection from RoSPA. The Council continued to negotiate with the Guinness Trust to acquire ownership of their part of Grammers Park. A sum of £1 plus legal expenses has been agreed and the legal proceedings are currently underway. A grant of £37,500 from the Playbuilder scheme was awarded for new play equipment in Grammers Park, which should be installed, after consultation, by March 2010.
The allotment gardens at Dutson and Kensey continued to be very popular, with a waiting list throughout the year. Some of the Kensey allotments have been divided in two, enabling more people to have a patch of land to grow produce. The Council is considering the possibility of reintroducing allotments in Grammers Park.
LAWRENCE HOUSE MUSEUM
Lawrence House is owned by the Town Council through a long lease with the National Trust. The council is responsible for maintenance of the fabric of the building. The house contains a museum of Launceston, run as a charitable trust by the town council as Trustee and managed by a management committee consisting of councillors, the curator and others with an interest in the museum. The council donated £10,000 to the museum during this year. A great deal of work was done on the garden by the Town Council’s staff and members of the U3A Gardening Group. Part of the house is let as a flat and the income from this and the adjoining Coach House (let as a garage) goes to the Museum funds.
LAUNCESTON TOWN HALL AND GUILDHALL
Work on the roofs continued for most of 2008. The roofs were stripped and retiled, insulation was put in and provision made for ventilation. The scaffolding came down at the end of August. A limited number of Town Hall bookings were able to be taken during the period of the works, and from September we were once again able to accept day and evening bookings. A number of groups used the Town Hall on a regular basis, among them the Christian Fellowship, Launceston Forum, Twinning Association, U3A, Road Safety Partnership, North Cornwall District Council, Shelter, Stags, Young Farmers Club and LADS. Dan Rogerson MP held regular surgeries at the Town Hall. The NHS blood donation service visited twice. A dance class started on Saturday mornings. The Council considered the hire charges and decided not to make any alterations for the time being. However all room bookings became subject to VAT in order that the Council could recover the substantial VAT payments on the roof works.
The Town Hall Feasibility Committee continued to meet in order to progress the next part of the refurbishment scheme. The Town Hall is in desperate need of a more efficient and economic heating system and of a general overhaul, having been neglected for many years. It was decided that the most cost effective way of managing such a large project would be to appoint a Project Manager, and Kivells were appointed to this role in February 2009. M&E Consultants have been appointed to design a heating and ventilation system, and plans for a redesign of the Town Hall will be submitted for planning approval in May 2009. The Council are proposing to move the office to the redundant flat upstairs, where there will be space for the Town Hall staff, for the One Cornwall Community Network Manager and for town councillors to meet and work. The present office and conference room will be knocked into one space, with a sliding wall, making one large or two smaller meeting rooms. The kitchen will be reduced in size and a new reception/bar/lounge area introduced. Work will commence in February 2010 and it is likely that the Town Hall will be closed for the whole of the year while the work proceeds.
Funding was finally achieved to restore and conserve the ruins of Launceston Priory. Funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund, SITA, North Cornwall District Council and Launceston Town Council. The work was completed in October 2008 and it is hoped that it will be possible to have open access to the ruins. The completion of the work was celebrated at Candlemass with a candlelit procession and service at St Thomas Church. A Friends group has been set up to manage the ruins and to fundraise.
There is little to report on the Roundhouse. It is maintained by the grounds team, and no incidents of vandalism were reported although it seems to be a target for litter.
WESTGATE STREET CAR PARK
The car park continued to be well used, and to be a very useful source of revenue for the Town Council, enabling the precept to be kept at a reasonable level. There were still isolated incidents of joy riding and vandalism, but overall fewer than in previous years. The car park machines were broken into on one occasion and the cash stolen. However very good cctv film of the theft meant that the police were able to identify and arrest the culprit. During the winter the Council’s staff painted the internal walls and the staircases, and outside contractors re-lined the parking bays and directional arrows in March. Work has been done on the ivy and planting and generally the car park is tidier and more presentable.
The coach park has been operational for a year. It has been reasonably well used, although not as much as we would all like. A second mailshot to coach operators was sent out in March to encourage them to come to Launceston for a day trip or for a break on a longer journey to or from the west country.
The Arch had a new tenant at the beginning of 2007, and is now run as a photographic studio. The rent forms part of the town council’s income.
SEATS AND PUBLIC LIGHTS
The Council maintains three public lights (Castle Green, Bush Park and Chapel Park) and a large number of seats around the town. During the winter months many of the seats were repaired by the Council’s staff.
Launceston Town Council made the following grants to local groups during the year: £
4 Churches (St. Thomas, St. Mary’s, St. Stephens) 125 each
Eventide Trust 200
Cornwall Playing Fields 50
Launceston in Bloom 500
Launceston Tennis Club 500
Cage Bird Society 100
Kernow Runners 100
Cricket Club 500
Southgate Colts 500
Cornwall Blind Association 200
Youth Club (Methodist Church) 200
WRVS Meals on Wheels 313
Dunheved Bowling Club 500
Application forms will be available in September for grants for the financial year 2010/11.
The Council supports the town’s Christmas lights appeal, and in 2008 sponsored four additional banners at the entrances to the town. A Christmas tree was also put up outside the Town Hall.
The Town Council’s website www.launceston-tc.co.uk was revamped during the year, with additional information and photographs. Agendas and minutes, Town Council news and links to other Launceston organisations can be found there.
The Devon & Cornwall Post and the Cornish Guardian continued to support the Council through articles on its activities over the year.
A new edition of the Town and Visitor Guide was produced for 2009/2011. A link to this can be found on the Town Council’s website.
The Town Clerk wrote the first in an on-going series of articles about the Town Council’s activities for the Launceston Link magazine.
This has been another busy year for the Council, with members attending council and committee meetings, and many having responsibility for representing the council on other bodies. Councillors now hold surgeries every month at the Buttermarkets held in the town square, and these have proved very popular with the public. Cornwall Council has now taken the place of the old District and County Councils and we look forward to seeing the positive change that was promised. In particular the Town Council would like to take responsibility for some of the local services currently delivered a long way away in Bodmin or Truro.