TOWN MAYOR & CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
I feel certain that I can safely say, the last mayoral year has been like no other! I have been especially grateful for the support and guidance of my deputies, my fellow councillors and our council officers.
I have been hugely privileged to serve as Mayor to the community of Burnham-on-Sea & Highbridge and to witness the community spirit as people pulled together to help each other through the difficulties caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. My heartfelt thanks goes out to our great NHS staff, frontline workers and volunteers for all they have done to keep this country going.
Recognising that many people locally might not be online, the council commissioned a special edition of the Local Reach magazine to share important information about the pandemic, about council services and about volunteer groups offering help and assistance.
The council has continued to award grants to community organisations, many of which have been working hard to support our vulnerable residents during this difficult time. The council has been particularly pleased to have been able to support the frontline work led by Ian Jefferies and Biars visitor information centre; the local vaccination volunteers have been simply tremendous.
I am personally delighted to see that the ‘Somerset Medal’ has been awarded to our local heroes in both Burnham and Highbridge to thank them for willingly and selflessly going that extra mile.
In following the public health restrictions, this last year has meant I was not able to attend as many face to face events as I would have liked. However, I was delighted to still be able to carry out 19 face to face civic engagements, and I am especially pleased to have personally met with our civic award winners to thank them for all that they do for the benefit of Burnham & Highbridge.
2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Although it was not possible to attend public events, on VE Day the Deputy Mayor and I raised the flag and held a suitably-distanced two-minute silence at the Burnham-on-Sea flag pole at Old Station Approach. I later shared the nation’s Toast and spoke a few words of Remembrance on Sedgemoor FM.
To mark VJ Day on 15th August, my deputies and I joined the chairman of the Burnham branch of the Royal British Legion at a socially distanced commemoration where we laid a wreath on the grave of Elizabeth Montgomery, wife of the late Lord Montgomery. Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day itself were also observed. My deputies and I individually visited the ward memorials in high and Burnham
The council’s Corporate Plan sets some strategic objectives, both for the council and for our towns of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge and I am pleased that we have embarked on many projects to meet those objectives. I will be asking the council to revisit the plan during the coming year to consider how it can better respond to its post-pandemic communities and look ahead at the challenges that will be brought by local government reorganisation.
Throughout this last pandemic year, the town council has continued to serve the towns. We quickly adapted to online public meetings and our off-site officers kept the administration responsive; we are grateful for their commitment. Although I recognise the many benefits technology brings, as we re-adjust to face to face contact, I sincerely hope that I spend less time repeating “you’re on mute!”
Cllr. Mike Facey
Town Mayor & Chairman
The council’s staff team has faced and overcome a vast array of new challenges over the last year. In line with every workplace, those who work indoors have been required to work from home where possible, and outdoor-based grounds staff have adjusted their procedures to ensure they continue in a Covid safe way. We have put in place and adapted to remote methods of communication and come up with solutions that enable continued service delivery to the council, councillors and the community.
Whilst staff recognise the environmental and time-saving benefits of remote access, the novelty of continual solitary working inevitably wears thin as we all endure ‘zoom fatigue.’ However, in finding solutions to challenges created as a result of the pandemic, staff have proved their commitment and resilience by not only maintaining services, but by making service improvements that fulfil many aspects of the council’s corporate plan.
The council’s new website, created by Highbridge-based company, The Design Hive, went online in 2020 with lots more information made publicly available, including all statutory data. The website is compliant with the 2018 accessibility regulations and includes features such as an events calendar and promotional space currently used by 95 local community groups.
All work areas have contributed to GDPR compliance and the council’s data audit is up to date and monitored for change, along with data protection policies & privacy notices.
We have greatly increased paperless processes to improve efficiency and save money, including website-based grant monitoring forms, forms for burials, interments, cemetery exclusive rights, consent forms and a Princess ticketing system. We have implemented a paperless accounting and invoicing system to enable integration across teams/committees. All staff have been given inclusive access to IT, which has improved productivity and enhanced internal communications. We are using a new VoIP telephone system with auto attendant, and full office technology is accessible from laptops and desktop computers.
The Parish Online system has been implemented to map & monitor the council’s community assets and log their condition in order to inform a maintenance programme carried out either by the (newly appointment) town rangers, or local suppliers. The council’s reception accepts and pro-actively refers reports of faults across all local authority assets and spaces, including those that fall under the responsibility of the county and district council.
The last year has emphasised the importance of human resources management. The council is registered as a disability confident employer and is in membership of the DWP’s Able Futures, with occupational Health referrals having been introduced to offer support at times of sickness.
A new internal line management system was introduced in 2020 to better manage issues of staff wellbeing and team-focused performance through regular one-to-one meetings and the appraisal system. Training plans are agreed and actioned to ensure staff have the skills they need to best perform their roles.
Sam Winter LLB(Hons) Assoc CIPD PSLCC
Detailed Balance Sheet – Excluding Stock Movement
Month 12 – 31/03/2021
|135||ACCRUED INTEREST RECEIVABLE||2130|
|201||NATWEST CURRENT ACCOUNT||522414|
|202||NAT WEST DIRECT RESERVE||505911|
|203||NATWEST NO.2 ACCOUNT||3472|
|204||PRINCESS PETTY CASH||159|
|209||PT Non Banked Cash||61|
|213||Neighbourhood Plan PETTY CASH||998|
|Total Current Assets||1087480|
|505||PTAC GIFT VOUCHERS||482|
|515||PAYE & NI DUE||5807|
|581||Spilt – Dome Jolly 0421||83|
|582||Split – Ann Widdecombe 1020||957|
|583||Split – AJ’s Big Band 0520||288|
|584||Split – Little Mix 0221||544|
|585||Split – Cerebral Lolsy 0520||234|
|609||Andy Eastwood Agency 0320||405|
|611||Take A Chance on ABBA 1020||575|
|612||The Opera Singer, Hells A 1020||88|
|613||An actors workshop 0420||20|
|614||Dads Army 0321||4016|
|615||Sedgemoor Chairmans Gala 0420||50|
|617||Dire Streets 0920||68|
|618||Evening with Secret World 0920||16|
|700||ART SALES -AGENCY||6|
|Total Current Liabilities||42507|
|Net Current Assets||1044973|
|Total Assets less Current Liabilities||1044973|
|301||CURRENT YEAR FUND||51454|
|311||EMR WELCOME SIGNS||9718|
|312||EMR P&F ELECTION COSTS||7410|
|313||EMR DONATION JW||5200|
|315||REGENERATION BURNHAM EMR||1000|
|316||EMR CIL BURNHAM||4349|
|317||EMR CIL HIGHBRIDGE||40098|
|318||EMR TOWN CRIER||550|
|319||EMR CIVIC EVENTS||2900|
|320||EMR COVID GRANTS||5606|
|321||EMR FABRIC & MAINT OCH||146020|
|322||EMR H/B YOUTH PROJECT||5500|
|323||EMR PROPERTY MAINTENANCE||18175|
|324||EMR GROUNDS MAINTENANCE||18939|
|327||EMR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS||5000|
|329||EMR GRANT RLT3||7959|
|330||EMR YOUTH AWARDS||2000|
|333||EMR TOWN GUIDE||1446|
|335||EMR REPLACEMENT T/IMP’S||18341|
|337||EMR LEGAL FEES||6250|
|345||EMR REPLACEMENT VAN||24500|
|346||EMR TESCO S106||6452|
|348||EMR PAST MAYOR BADGES||1985|
|349||EMR LEGACY 2017||3022|
|352||EMR NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN||5803|
|354||EMR YOUTH PROJECTS||5471|
|359||EMR TRAINING BUDGET||14727|
|363||EMR JOINT FUNDING WITH||43840|
|366||EMR OFFICE EQUIPMENT||6027|
|367||EMR STAFFING BUDGET||40876|
|373||EMR IT EQUIPMENT||11042|
|374||EMR YOU ARE HERE BOARDS||750|
|379||EMR HANDYMAN EQUIPMENT||3063|
|382||EMR PUBLIC NOTICE FEES||1500|
|385||EMR BURNHAM EVO HTAP||5400|
|387||EMR SEAT DONATION||132|
|389||EMR PRINCESS STAFF BUDGET||6788|
|390||EMR PRINCESS MEMBERSHIPS||650|
|391||EMR PRINCESS STAT BLDNG||350|
|392||EMR CEM PROFESSIONAL FEES||6651|
|393||EMR TREE TRIMMING||8992|
|394||EMR CEM PROVISION OF PATHS||68837|
|395||EMR BRENT RD CONSTRUCTION||74715|
|396||EMR CEM EQUIPMENT PURCHASE||7846|
|397||EMR CEM GENERAL||14687|
|398||EMR CEM PUMP MAINTENANCE||5080|
|400||EMR PRINCESS RESERVES||6994|
|401||EMR PRINCESS ARTISTIC||600|
|402||EMR SDC CLOSED BUSINESS||9000|
The Finance and Resources Committee met seven times during the year.
The committee is responsible for the overall budget of the town council and for recommending to the full council the level required for the precept. The committee works particularly closely with the Responsible Financial Officer who is delegated to undertake certain financial functions. The RFO provides regular reports and updates on the council’s financial position to enable the council to take budgetary decisions.
In 2020/21 the town council requested a precept of £718,211 making a Band D Property £111.84 per annum.
The Council agreed grants to 18 local organisations totalling £30,643.70. This financial support enabled the groups to maintain their service and activities during the restrictions put upon them by the Cornavirus pandemic.
Applicants are required to complete an application and provide a copy of their constitution and bank account as well as details of how they are will spend the grant. There is a monitoring form in place that enables the town council to ensure that the grant funding has been used appropriately.
Burnham-on-Sea & Highbridge Community Centre
Burnham-on-Sea Hockey Club
Burnham & Highbridge Choral Society
Burnham & Highbridge Covid Group
Citizens Advice Bureau
Covid-19 Family packs
Friends of Apex Park
Monarchs Acrobatic Gymnastics Club
Rusty Road to Recovery
The Brickworks Studio
The council has put in place its corporate plan and meeting those objectives has saved £10,803 on numerous expenditure over previous years.
Due to the pandemic, we were unable to achieve the anticipated lettings income from the signal box, but the council hopes to resume promotion of the facility over the coming months.
The committee received the internal auditor’s reports, which included positive feedback on the high standard of the council’s Risk report which identifies risks and controls is very well written. As a result, the Council put in place strong controls around the online payments and authorisation process which are working effectively. The committee regularly reviews the progress and completion of the recommended actions.
Our staff are a vital resource and the Human Resources Sub-Committee works closely with the town clerk to ensure procedures are lawful and that our staff teams are supported. Councillors serving on this sub-committee are required to maintain their knowledge of human resources matters, guided by the newly CIPD qualified town clerk.
The H&S policy & handbook were reviewed and more numerous and stringent risk assessments were undertaken, with compliance works completed or underway across the town council sites. Both the Courthouse & Princess were registered COVID secure (gov.uk) and NHS QR Test & Trace implemented.
The sub-committee reviewed the updated staff handbook to ensure it is in line with the National Joint Council’s green book, making the council a lawful and pro-staff employer. To ensure consistency, a standard, green book compliant contract of employment was agreed for issue when roles/post holders change.
The council saw some changes to the staff structure during the year and, combined with effects of Covid 19, we have been able to adjust staffing levels to better match posts to workload. Reorganisation of existing grounds staff has meant the council was able to improve efficiencies and make savings against the staffing budget. We look forward to recruiting a communications and marketing officer to improve public information sharing/promotion of assets in 2021.
Cllr. Mike Facey
In March 2020, The Princess closed to the public resulting in a 94% loss of earned income. A strategy to reschedule all events was adopted, customers were contacted and offered options including refunds, new dates or to donate their fee to the theatre. The box office staff retained 74% of ticket sales and achieved a good yield in donations.
The staff team were pro-active in submitting grant applications and the Princess was awarded £95351 in emergency response and Cultural Recovery funding, as well as £21357 from government grants.
Good use was made of the closed period and the refurbishment funded by the HPC Community Impact Mitigation Fund was completed, with theatre staff adding the finishing touches prior to reopening.
Thanks to Cultural Recovery Fund grants we have been able to make additional improvements; wheelchair access to the backstage area, new PA system, film screening equipment, backstage video relay, automatic doors and re-siting of the box office.
With Arts Council funding the team have not shied away from producing work to develop audiences including: online art exhibitions, audio plays, podcasts, online teaching resources (over 2000 views on YouTube) and a virtual choir.
Regular meetings between the Business Development Officer and the Princess users group meant community groups have been kept up to date with developments over the past year. Staff have continued work on H&S and the Princess will re-open with a full roster of COVID safety measures as well as tightened security.
Early 2020 saw a new logo, followed shortly by the new website and a new contactless ticketing system with sophisticated capabilities including: memberships, gift vouchers and donation pathways.
External funding has allowed us to recruit a qualified freelance technician, a temporary front of house officer and a communications consultant, as well as equipment required to support their work.
This last year has been mixed with harsh challenges and joyous achievements where we have been able to bring plans forward. A year of juggling resources, planning and risk assessments has made the councillor and officer team stronger as we adapted well to the vast changes.
The Princess will re-open on 7th June with a soft return to business. 2021/22 is looking healthy with external funding already in place. The FOTP will change to a CIO, Hellend’s Kitchen will take on the management of the Café and funding is being sought for a schools’ engagement programme.
Above all 2020 saw support for The Princess grow, not only from funders but by new audiences, freelancers and volunteers. It is clear the theatre has been missed.
Cllr Louise Parkin
The town council’s Planning Committee is a consultee to the planning authority at Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) for all planning, advertising consent and licensing applications within the parish of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge. As such we are asked to comment on each application but do not have the authority to grant or refuse planning permission.
Over the past year the Planning committee has met 16 times via video conferencing, and considered approximately 120 planning applications as well as advertising consents and applications for works to trees. There have also been a significant number of applications for pavement licences for café’s and public houses to help adapt their businesses and comply with COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
For each application we have endeavoured to familiarise ourselves with as much of the available documentation and information as possible before discussing at a meeting, and except where limited by lockdown restrictions, a member of the committee has made an informal visit to establish the context of the application.
Despite the limitations and difficulties of video conferencing, again this year I have been encouraged by the number of residents taking part in the planning process either by joining our meetings or commenting formally to SDC. As chairman of the committee I welcome this as it often gives a different perspective and enables us to more accurately represent the views of local residents.
It has also been encouraging that on many occasions comments made by the Planning Committee have influenced the decision made by SDC or lead to changes being made by the applicant to make the application more acceptable to local residents.
I would again like to thank all the members of the committee for their input and support over the past year despite the additional difficulties caused by COVID-19, and also members of the public who have joined meetings of the committee to either support or object to a planning application. I also want to thank the officers of the town council, in particular, the deputy clerk, for preparing as much information as possible for our consideration at meetings.
Cllr Andy Brewer
2020-2021 has been an unprecedented year with the COVID pandemic and public lockdowns forming the backdrop to the period. The effect of the pandemic has meant that the Burnham Evolution Plan has experienced setbacks in line with the environment.
The Timps committee has continued to function in an on-line format and councillors have adapted well to the change of circumstances. Work has focussed on working in partnership with the principal councils and forms the basis of solid planning that can be transformed into effective action in the coming year as we move beyond the pandemic. Part of that process was the purchasing of new community chairs that can be lent to local groups to aid activities.
During the summer months of 2020 an area of controversy was the requirement to keep the high street safe and functional in the height of the pandemic’s first wave. The monitored closure was a focus for the committee and it continually worked with the chamber of trade balancing the needs of the local traders with the safety of the shoppers, the TC held on-street consultations and delivered an info sheet to town centre properties.
During 2020-2021 regular and important local social events were affected including the cancellation of the much supported winter fireworks and carnival.
Likewise, Christmas was also affected in 2020 and The town council was proactive to mark the festive season by providing updated Christmas lights displays across both towns, and acting swiftly to co-operate with local arts group SEED to provide an on-line switch-on event featuring children from the community, including singer, Lyra Cole (its popularity crashed the TC website as attracted over simultaneous 2000 hits).
As we move into summer 2021 with improving pandemic data and knowledge I feel encouraged that our town centres are once again operating safely and effectively attracting visitors and shoppers. However, we continue to monitor the situation and are poised to act again if necessary to maintain a safe environment.
I am also pleased that the town council’s two new, yet familiar, Town Rangers (Stewart Crosby and Chris Tuck) are co-ordinating and maintaining hand sanitiser stations along the high streets. The town rangers and the wider grounds team will play an important part in keeping our open spaces and assets in good order as we undertake maintenance projects through the coming year.
Cllr Andy Hodge
In a year that has been dominated by the pandemic that has affected us all, I think we can be proud of the work and effort that has been put into our towns cemeteries in a combined effort from the Deputy Town Clerk and Cemetery Staff. Apart from the usual duties we have had to operate within the Covid Guidance and regulations and through the three lockdown periods all three cemeteries have remained open and burials have taken place.
Our Cemetery workers have shown their flexibility and willingness by assisting the Council in its efforts to deal with the demands of coping with Covid 19, and helped by making themselves available for any support that was required in assisting the community during this time.
Earlier in the year, for several months, we had a rough sleeper at Highbridge Cemetery displaying anti-social behaviour, that caused distress to visitors and neighbours. Working closely with the Police, eventually an Injunction was issued against this man removing him from the area.
Digitisation of the Cemetery records has now been completed and will at some time in the near future be available to the public on the Town Council Website.
There was an underground water leak in Highbridge Cemetery and this had to be rectified by digging up a small area of a path in several places. The long awaited central path was finally tarmacked along with some new kerbing and a new gate at the Northern side of the cemetery.
Unfortunately, we lost three trees in Burnham Cemetery. The first, a Beech, fell in December, the cause appeared to be a fungal infection affecting the roots. In January sadly, two neighbouring pine trees also fell, possibly due to saturated ground and the loss of shelter from winds due to the loss of the beech. The cemetery was closed for a short while for health and safety reasons whilst the area was made safe.
We hope to plant 8-10 new trees in Burnham Cemetery this year.
The fees were reviewed and as from April 2020 fees were increased.
Over the last year there was: –
47 Interments of ashes
Many thanks to the cemetery and office staff, the councillors and Lorna Williams, who have all contributed to the smooth running and high standard of how our cemeteries are run and maintained.
Deputy clerk is registered member of Institute of Cremation and Cemetery Management (ICCM).
Cllr Chris Allen