Policy and Finance Committee Update – Annual Parish Meeting, March 2021
Well, what a year. This year of Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has brought a lot of disruption and challenges. As a Council, we didn’t really have policies and procedures in place to handle operating in a no-contact manner, so to enable the Council to continue to provide its services to its residents, this Committee had to quickly get policies and procedures in place to address socially distanced working, approve funding for Covid-19 supplies such as PPE equipment and items required to enable team operatives and office staff to perform their function; for example mobile phones and home office equipment.
In addition, to ensure we could provide a timely service, we approved the Clerk of Council to have delegated authority to make purchases when normally these might need to go through the Committee stages before ratification involving a lengthy delay. All this, of course, goes through our finance systems and is reviewed by this Committee before being presented to Full Council. Once lockdown is lifted and business returns to normal, these delegated rights will be returned to their pre-covid levels.
The lockdown has also impacted other areas of finance;
- Income through the revenue from community bus hire, room hire and advertising revenue has fallen
- and the number of Grants budget allocations fell.
Looking at grants first, obviously most community groups also locked down for the duration meaning that grant funding for their projects this year was not required (and in fact, unused grants monies were returned). I would anticipate that this coming year, we may see an increase in applications to help these groups get back into operation. The awarded grants this year included helping Swindon Scrap-store with its Covid-19 support programme via the foodbank and a donation to the training of a therapy dog to be used in the Parish and to the Artists group as they come out of lockdown.
Looking at lost income, we’ve juggled allocated funding around where feasible to minimise the impact to the Council and the Clerk and the Officers investigated options to obtain funding to cover the loss of earnings and the additional spends incurred. The biggest of these was the Discretionary grant from Swindon Borough Council of £40,000.00.
As well as providing our usual services, funding was provided to progress several projects within the parish, such as a youth worker to engage with our younger residents and the development of a Dementia Café which hopefully will be going live later this year. The Dementia Café will be a tremendous resource for our community and potentially an avenue of income if the service is developed outside the Parish when not in use.
This Committee also continued to perform is normal functions of reviewing and revising its policies and procedures and developing new ones are need. These can be found on the Councils website.
We continue to ensure that the Parish gets value for its money by reviewing its investments and reserves. With this in mind, you will see in the centre of this quarters Haydon Wick Living magazine details on this year’s precept. Our priority this year was to continue to provide ongoing services, continue current programmes and projects and to delay others to minimise precept charges. Monies from earmarked reserves were used to help cushion the cost this year to residents.
Here’s looking forward to a quieter 2021/22.