September’s Council Matters meeting started with a welcome from Deputy Chair, Cllr John Nelson and quickly moved into questions and comments from the public and Cllrs.
First on the agenda Hannah Paniccia, Assistant Finance Officer, provided an update on the finances of the Town Council. It included the Income and Expenditure report to 31st August 2020, the current balance sheet, a list of spending on items over £500 (July and August), and status of reserves. Hannah’s report also identified the additional costs due to the coronavirus pandemic. FTC have asked Mendip District Council (MDC) for £70k of emergency funding and are waiting for an answer and therefore not in a position to accurately re-forecast the financial year end position to March 2021. Cllrs will attend a closed session to look at suggestions for the work programme and budget revisions whilst also beginning to plan for a budget for 2021-22. Any changes will be brought to the Council meeting in November. You can read Hannah’s full report here.
Next up Chris Stringer gave a project update on the work to improve the public toilets in Victoria Park. Back at February’s Council Matters, Cllrs agreed to look at improving and refurbishing the existing toilets building rather than the costly and impractical option of a new building. The works will include further landscaping in the park and the demolishing of the existing storage building in Victoria Park (near the bowls club) as this will provide a more natural link between Victoria Park and Mary Baily.
Inevitably, the project’s progress has been hampered by the pandemic and lockdown, but discussions are taking place with companies who specialise in public toilets and design ideas and technologies (that will limit or remove the need to touch surfaces within the toilets) and detailed costed proposals are to be submitted.
Chris also mentioned that the responsibility for checking and cleaning the toilets on weekdays has now been moved to the Town Hall cleaning team, freeing up the Rangers for work across the town, and a further member of staff will join the cleaning team to cover weekend cleaning at the Victoria Park toilets. The full details can be found in Chris’ report.
Following, Rachel Griffin, FTC’s Marketing and Communications Manager, gave an update on the work her team have completed over the past couple of months.
Having been mainly focussed on the Covid-19 emergency response communications, the team have been able to move their work programme forward and support the rest of the team and their other projects too.
Some of the highlights included: FTC Website accessibility project, Discover Frome website updates, a series of nature activities across all channels, re-opening of Discover Frome info point, providing comms and event support for the hugely successful Bike Jumble. Alongside this, assisting with Comms surround Market Place improvements, a campaign for School Street, developing a new promotion for the Town Hall, continuing to write, collate and support newsletters, articles, and updates. Social media management has also been carried out and there has been an influx of requests from BBC Somerset Radio and BBC Points West for interviews and videos which help to raise the profile of FTC in the town and Frome’s profile to the wider county. Read the full details of all the activities in Rachel’s report.
Chris then came back with his report on the proposed new management and improvement plans for Welshmill and North Parade. These plans replace the previous plans, which were discussed and approved by the Council Matters Committee in July 2019.
Chris provided a review of the work completed since last time: Ranger-made benches have been added near the pump track at Welshmill; and during the ‘Make It Happen’ conference earlier in the year, students from Oakfield and Selwood Academies planted in and around the hedge lines and in the woods.
At North Parade, the Rangers have built two sets of timber steps taking you in and out of the woods. And alongside local residents and some more volunteers, have marked out the main woodland paths with woodchip.
Looking forward, as Welshmill is one of FTC’s most important and valued play spaces, it will be a vital part of the Play Strategy that is being worked on. The strategy will look at play across the town; and will likely set out specific ideas and ambitions for Welshmill; alongside more general design principles for all our parks and green spaces. The plans also include tree works based on the recommendations from our recent tree survey.
Plans for North Parade include a new tree survey and the team will continue to work with the group of interested residents who live nearby.
You can read all the plans in Chris’s report.
Rachel returned with an update on the Town Hall. Following recent Government announcements (that were made post the report being published) Rachel updated the meeting that the planned return for staff will be delayed. The Town Hall tenants have returned as they are able to safely socially distance and a skeleton staff are on hand to facilitate any meetings or room bookings. Further work has been carried out in installing touchless water taps in the kitchen and screens in reception, to keep staff and visitors safe.
While revenue for the Town Hall is down, the good news is that weddings have begun since the last Council Matters meeting. We have bookings through Somerset Registration Service through to March next year and are working closely with them to adhere to all government advice. Read the details in full in Rachel’s report.
Finally, there was a brief staff update and a Health & Safety review to round off the meeting. You can find these reports here.
The details of everything mentioned above can be found at www.frometowncouncil.gov.uk and the next meeting is Town Matters on Wednesday 5th August. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep updated on everything we’re up to.
Published 24th September 2020