Report to the Annual Town Meeting to be held on Thursday 22 April 2010.
Cllr Eric Chapman
Cllr Miss Pam Davey
Cllr Mrs Connie Geach
Cllr Dave Gordon
Cllr John Harris
Cllr Olver Harris
Cllr Brian Hogan
Cllr Tony Howe (resigned February 2010)
Cllr Brian Keighley
Cllr Jacki Ellis Martin
Cllr Graham Facks Martin
Cllr Paul O’Brien (Town Mayor)
Cllr Tony Sandercock
Cllr Rob Tremain (Deputy Town Mayor)
Cllr Colin Warne
Cllr Mrs Mary Williams
Cllr Mrs Margaret Young (co-opted 16 March 2010)
All councillors received an allowance of £185.73 for the year.
THE TOWN MAYOR
The Town Mayor from May 2009 was Cllr Paul O’Brien. 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. In his year of office Cllr O’Brien initiated the Mayor’s Charity, a local charity to be supported through special fund raising events throughout the Mayoral year. The charity this year was Launceston Town Band. Fund raising highlights include a dance at the Eagle House Hotel, a garden open day in August, and the Mayor’s sponsored slim.
Committee membership is reviewed annually at the Annual Meeting of the Town Council held in May. As the restoration work on Launceston Priory was complete it was decided to disband the Priory Committee. The Town Hall Feasibility Committee was also disbanded and a new committee, Properties Committee, was established, primarily to monitor and manage the refurbishment of the Town Hall but also to take responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of all the Council’s numerous assets. The committee structure consists of Finance & General Purposes (Chairman: Cllr Sandercock), Planning (Chairman: Cllr Tremain), Lawrence House Management (Chairman: Cllr Miss Davey), Environment and Open Spaces (Chairman: Cllr Dave Gordon), Properties (Chairman: Cllr Hogan) and Staffing (Chairman: Cllr Chapman).
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. As the Town Hall is now closed for a number of months, Full Council meetings are held in the Liberty Suite (the old Liberal Club) and committee meetings are held in the upper room of the Southgate Arch.
Much of the year was spent planning, and then implementing, the long overdue programme of repair and refurbishment of the Town Hall. In order to benefit from substantially lower interest rates it was decided to pay off the loan on the car park (at an interest rate of 9.125%) even though there was a premium payable. This was done in October 2009. The decision was then taken to borrow £1m from the Public Works Loan Board (at a rate of 4.58% for the first tranche and 4.63% for the second) to cover the cost of the repairs and the cost of providing a new burial ground for the town. An application for some capital funding was made to the Big Lottery but failed. Another application is currently being prepared for a member of staff.
The precept for 2009/10 was £300,750. Other income came from bank interest (much reduced from previous years), the Westgate Street car park, Launceston Cemetery, Southgate Arch, the lease of the Green Room to LADS, the allotments and the hire of the town hall for events and meetings. Income is also received from Cornwall Council for carrying out grass cutting and other horticultural works on its behalf
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 three times a year, and an independent external audit by the Audit Commission takes place in May. Copies of the accounts for 2009/10 will be available for inspection by the end of May.
The Council banks with HSBC but opened an account with the Co-operative Bank during the year in order to spread money on deposit and minimise risk.
The town council offices moved in February to the Southgate Arch in order for the building works to take place in the Town Hall. There were no changes to the office staff, but regretfully the Council had to make one redundancy in the outdoor staff due to the closure of the Town Hall and the consequent reduction in the workload. The Town Clerk works full time, and the Deputy Town Clerk and Administrator work part-time, making one full time equivalent post. The Town Clerk and her staff are responsible for the smooth running all aspects of the Council’s work. The three outdoor staff work full time and are responsible for the cemetery, grass cutting and grounds and property maintenance.
CONFERENCES AND COURSES
A course on the Power of Well Being was held for councillors and staff. The Town Clerk attended the Regional Conference of the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) in May, a Playing for Real event in June, a seminar on Finding and Retaining Volunteers, the annual conference of the National Association of Local Councils and the annual Health and Safety seminar run by Zurich. The Town Clerk was appointed as Cornwall Representative to the National Executive Council of the SLCC and attended one meeting in London during the year.
Mr Frain updated his First Aid certificate and is the trained First Aider for the Council. All members of the outside team have basic First Aid training. All members of the team attended a Placing Signs on the Highway course run by Cornwall Council. Training needs are met and updated regularly.
The Council adopted a number of new policy documents during the year. An Awards and Gifts Policy, Investment Strategy, Statement of Internal (Financial) Control, Community Engagement Strategy and Management of Documents Policy were among the new documents. These will be available to view on the new website.
The Launceston Youth Council was established in November 2009. It consists of representatives from all three Launceston primary schools, Launceston College and St Joseph’s. It is run entirely by the young people involved and its objectives are to celebrate the achievements of young people in Launceston and to make improvements to the town environment for the benefit of young and old. The Youth Council has its own budget of £3,000, but no expenditure has been incurred as yet.
The cemetery is owned and managed by Launceston Town Council, which acts as the Burial Authority. Eighteen burials took place during 2009/10. 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 reviewed the fees charged and decided not to increase them.
The Council commissioned Pear Technology to undertake the computerised mapping of the cemetery, with all the graves numbered. This has been done. The next step is to computerise the cemetery records, back to 1882, and this job has been started. Once complete, users will be able to click on the cemetery map on a computer to identify a grave and the information about the burial will be shown alongside. As a bonus, Pear Technology gave the Council a free copy of PT maplink for Launceston. This is a layered map of the town, showing all the streets and buildings. Other things can be added, such as street lights and trees. This will enable the Council to map all its assets digitally and will be of great benefit to the Planning Committee when considering applications.
The Council owns and manages the closed cemetery at Dockacre Road. The cemetery is locked but visits are permitted by arrangement with the office. In February 2009 volunteers organised by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers spent a day at Dockacre Cemetery, tidying up the grounds and pruning the trees.
The play equipment at King George’s Field (Priory Park) continues to be well used. A picnic table was installed in the spring. The Council managed to conclude the purchase of the remaining land at Grammers Park and a new play area has been installed with the assistance of £46,100 funding from the Playbuilder scheme. The Council’s own staff made and installed a maze made out of redundant fencing panels from the park. Two picnic benches have been purchased for Grammers Park, one of which has been installed, the other is waiting for the ground to be prepared. Both play areas are inspected daily, with an annual inspection from RoSPA.
New allotment plots were set up in Grammers Park. 26 plots were created and nearly all were taken. The allotment gardens at Dutson and Kensey continued to be very popular, with a waiting list throughout the year. An innovation this year was to offer allotment tenants an opportunity to buy seeds and plants at greatly discounted rates through the Council’s membership of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners. A large number took advantage of this new service.
Towards the end of the year the Council came to a decision to install water at both Grammers Park and Kensey allotments.
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. 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 started on the repair and refurbishment of the Town Hall at the beginning of March 2010. Pearce Construction (Barnstaple) was appointed as main contractor, and the project is being managed by Kivells in Launceston. The demolition phase has gone well and the construction phase has now commenced. One of the most stunning features will be a glass roof between the Hall and the new kitchen/bar/reception area, giving a wonderful view of the clock tower. The Conservation Officer of Cornwall Council has said that Launceston Town Hall will be the best Town Hall in the South West. It is hoped that it will be open again towards the end of 2010.
The Priory is open most days of the week and is supervised by the Friends of Launceston Priory. It is closely watched and there has been little vandalism. Unfortunately we have had to repay some of our grant from the Heritage Lottery as the expenditure was less than anticipated and the grant represented a percentage of the overall cost.
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. The loan from the PWLB (see Finance above) was paid off in October. There were fewer incidents of vandalism than in recent years.
The Roundhouse is maintained by the grounds team, and no incidents of vandalism were reported although it seems to be a target for litter.
The coach park was painted by the Council’s staff and some colourful murals of local scenes, created by children from the local primary schools, were installed on the rear wall. The planting has established well and the area looks very attractive. We have some problems with vehicles other than coaches parking in the area but continue to monitor it and to issue excess parking tickets when necessary.
The Arch is now the base for the Town Council offices, and will remain so until the end of the year. Once the Council has moved back to the Town Hall the Southgate Arch will be available to a local business or community group to rent.
SEATS, PUBLIC LIGHTS AND BUS SHELTERS
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. Mr Monty Wadland kindly donated two seats, one is situated in Tower Street and the other in the Castle grounds. A new bus shelter was finally installed in Westgate Street. It lies alongside the original stone shelter and has been welcomed by users. There was no cost to the Council, although the Council is now responsible for its maintenance.
LITTER BINS AND OTHER PURCHASES
The Council purchased six new litter bins with the Council crest on for the car park, Grammers Park, Kings Field and the Priory. A ride-on mower was purchased from North Cornwall District Council at a greatly reduced price. A laptop computer and printer were purchased for the office. Exhibition display boards were purchased with a view to the Town Council having a presence at local and regional shows such as the Launceston Show and the Cornwall County Show.
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.
Launceston Town Council made the following grants to local groups during the year:
Alzheimer's Society (Launceston Memory Cafe) £400.00
Choral Society £400.00
Citizens Advice Bureau £400.00
Cornwall County Playing Fields Association £50.00
Cricket Club £400.00
Dunheved Bowling Club £400.00
Eventide Trust £400.00
Hockey Club £400.00
Kensey Vale Bowling Club £400.00
L A D S £400.00
Launceston in Bloom £400.00
Launceston Youth Project £400.00
Rugby Club £400.00
Southgate Colts AFC £400.00
St John Ambulance £400.00
Town Band £400.00
Twinning Association £400.00
W I £400.00
£125 each to St Mary’s, St Thomas’, St Stephen’s and St Cuthbert Mayne for churchyard maintenance (total £500.00)
Application forms are available in September each year for grants for the following financial year.
The Council also supports the town’s Christmas lights appeal, and sponsors four banners at the entrances to the town. A Christmas tree was put up outside the Town Hall, kindly provided by Homeleigh Garden Centre.
CHARLES CAUSLEY FESTIVAL
The Town Council commissioned a feasibility study into a Book Festival for Launceston in February 2009 and received a favourable response. A committee of enthusiastic volunteers was set up and the first ‘taster’ festival will take place on 5 June 2010. The Council has agreed to grant £500 per annum and also contributes some of the Town Clerk’s time to the festival’s organisation. The Council is pleased to support an event which should attract visitors to Launceston, benefit the local economy, give enjoyment to the people of the town and commemorate the name of one of its best known and best loved residents.
WEBSITE AND PUBLICITY
It was decided to update the Town Council’s online presence with a new website. The old one looked dated, was difficult to update and expensive to maintain. The exercise to transfer the information to the new site proved more lengthy than anticipated but it is hoped that the new website will be available by the end of May 2010.
The Devon & Cornwall Post and the Cornish Guardian continued to support the Council through articles on its activities over the year.
The Town Clerk continued to write quarterly articles about the Town Council’s activities for the Launceston Link magazine. It is hoped that in due course the Council can publish its own newsletter more frequently, but at present this is the most cost-effective way of distributing information.
‘ The primary role of Launceston Town Council is to provide a democratic and representative voice for the community. It will support, and contribute towards, the sustainable economic and social well-being of the town, having regard to the needs and wishes of the local community. Launceston Town Council recognises its obligations to deliver cost-effective quality services’.
(Mission Statement, Launceston Town Council Strategic Plan 2008-2013)
Councillor Paul O’Brien