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16th March 1999
Report of Finance & General Purposes Committee Meeting held in the Committee Room, Council Offices, Derry Road, Strabane on Tuesday 16 March 1999 at 8.00 pm
Present:- In the Chair:- Councillor I Murtagh Other Members:- Councillors Mrs A Bell, I Barr, D A Bresland, J Donnell, J Emery, D Hussey, T Kerrigan, T McBride, C McHugh, J McNulty, E Mullen, J OíKane Total = 13
In Attendance:- Clerk & Chief Executive, Management Accountant,
SCHEDULE OF ACCOUNTS
The Schedule of Accounts for the month of March 1999 was presented to the meeting, a copy of which was previously circulated. The Chief Executive and Management Accountant responded to a number of queries by Members. Discussion ensued with particular reference to the following:-
The Euroventure Group Ltd - £4852.75
The Chairman of the Council, Councillor Barr, indicated that he had relayed some information which he had received in relation to this account to the Economic Development Officer.
The Management Accountant indicated that this payment was being held pending completion of the project. This was noted.
Derry City Council - £3940.00
In response to a query by Councillor McBride, the Management Accountant explained that this account related to the Councilís share of match funding for 1998/99 and 1999/2000 for the Young Enterprise Development Programme.
Crawford, Scally & Co - £3398.08
Councillor McHugh was shown the details of this account by the Management Accountant, upon request.
Derg Valley Care Ltd - £9560.00
The Chairman of the Council queried the details of this account. In response the Management Accountant explained that this contribution under Community Services had been approved by Council in February 1999 as per memo from the Department. The Chief Executive undertook to clarify the exact details and report back and this was agreed.
J H Marsh & McLennan UK Ltd - £1872.00
Councillor OíKane enquired why the Council was paying insurance for contractors. The Chief Executive commented that it was his understanding that the contractor was required to insure the works, however, the Council also had to enhance its insurance during the period of the contract.
Linton & Robinson Ltd - £1950.88
In response to a query by Councillor Hussey, the Management Accountant outlined the various locations to which the materials related with the main source being Melvin Hall.
KPMG - £14335.00
Following a query by the Chairman of the Council, the Management Accountant explained that this account related to the Economic Development Programme up to September 1998 and was recoverable from DED. It was agreed that Members be advised of the exact numbers involved.
Material World - £39.33
The Chairman of the Council and Councillor Emery sought clarification on this account which related to material and lining for the Resource Centre. He remarked that such a Centre already existed within the Community Relations Department. The Chief Executive undertook to clarify the matter and report back and this was agreed.
Muldoon Bros - £620.86
Councillor Hussey expressed concern at the damage to the pond at the Visitors Centre and suggested that an alternative means of retaining the water in the pond be investigated in order to prevent the reoccurrence of the damage. He condemned those responsible for causing the vandalism and urged that the pond be monitored, where possible. Councillor Emery also condemned the vandalism and remarked that the cctv may assist with monitoring. The Chairman of the Committee remarked that the vandalism was adding to the cost of the Centre.
Councillor Kerrigan condemned the vandalism and urged that it be fully investigated. He also urged that the pond be enhanced but also made vandal-proof. He also pointed out that it was the ratepayer who ultimately had to pay for the damages. Councillor Emery commented that the lights were not switched on, as had been the procedure in the past, and perhaps this situation could be reviewed.
Omagh District Council - £5922.00
In response to queries by Councillors OíKane and Hussey, the Chief Executive confirmed that the total sum for this account in respect of Consultancy fees towards "Shaping Our Future" was £25,200 plus VAT.
Precision Cleaning Service - £75.20
Councillor OíKane reiterated the view from previous meetings in that accounts for cleaning of drains at Greenbrae were presented for payment each month. He suggested that efforts be made to eradicate the problem so as to ensure free flow of the drains. Councillor McBride commented that the Council had agreed in the recent past to deal with these problems. The Chief Executive remarked that the various points raised would be taken on board.
Leslie Millar - £1601.38
Councillor McBride queried the details for this account which related to the supply and fitting of H/wood screen at Melvin. The Management Accountant undertook to clarify the details and report back. This was agreed.
Mr N Rutherford - £275.00
The Chairman of the Council queried whether it was Council policy to pay expenses which related to the application for the Chief Executiveís post. He understood that the Council was liable to pay the expenses towards the return journey from Belfast, as appropriate, at public transport rates. In the case of the individual who travelled from Bulgaria, he understood that payment was made for the return air fare from London but these were exceptional circumstances. He felt that the Council would be inundated with similar requests for reimbursement in the event that payments such as this were made. The Chief Executive commented that this was a policy issue and undertook to check it out and report back. He pointed out that it was normal procedure for accounts such as this to be processed by the Staff Commission.
It was agreed that the Chief Executive clarify the policy relating to payments such as this and report back.
Strabane Basketball Club - £975.00
Following a query by Councillor McHugh, the Management Accountant advised that this account related to coaching courses based in Riversdale Leisure Centre and Derg Valley Leisure Centre and Council approval had been granted in February 1999.
Spamount & District Cross Community Association - £1100.00
In response to a query by Councillor McHugh, the Management Accountant explained that this account related to a contribution under the Community Services budget and had been approved by Council in February 1999. She then passed the details of the account to Councillor McHugh for his perusal.
Strabane Wholesales - £1903.50
Councillor McBride pointed out that this was a further account which related to Melvin. The Chief Executive remarked that he was not aware of a planned maintenance programme being undertaken at Melvin but undertook to check out the details and report back.
Stanley Cookers (NI) Ltd - £93.63
Councillor Emery pointed out that this account, which related to cooker parts at Greenbrae, added further expense for this Site. This was noted.
The Villages Together - £1280.00
In response to a query by Councillor Hussey, the Management Accountant explained that this account related to a Community Services project and was grant aided by 75%.
Workers Educational Association - £515.00
The Management Accountant advised, in response to a query by Councillor Emery, that this account related to ten lectures under the ĎUs and Themí theme which was grant aided by 75%. Councillor Emery pointed out that the details in the print-out were misleading as reference had only been made to a lecture. This was noted.
Softland Leisure Products - £446.43
Councillor Hussey enquired the nature of the damage to the bouncing castle at Derg Valley Leisure Centre which necessitated repairs. It was agreed to check same and report back to Council. Councillor Hussey also queried why this account did not include VAT, however, the account for diesel for the DSO vehicles had included VAT. In response, the Management Accountant explained that VAT was not charged on services, however, it was charged on goods i.e. diesel, and this was refundable.
Hunting Lodge Hotel - £529.40
In response to a query by the Chairman of the Committee, the Management Accountant advised that this account related to lunches for 20 adults and 94 children who participated in a carol competition.
Expenses for Attendance at Conferences, Seminars, Exhibitions etc.
The Chairman of the Committee enquired, on a general note, whether Councillors were entitled to claim for attendance at conferences, seminars, exhibitions etc. without the approval of Council. In response, a number of Councillors pointed out that a Councillor who represented the Council on an outside body may attend conferences, seminars etc. and claim conference fees from the respective body. Attendance allowance and travel expenses would, however, be recouped from the Council. In the case of the WELB and Housing Council, expenses for attendance at its meetings were reimbursed by the respective body. In relation to the Sperrin Tourism Partnership, permission to attend should be sought from Council prior to an event, where possible.
The Chairman of the Committee referred to the account for £702.39 and queried whether Council approval had been sought. It was remarked that Council approval was most likely granted in respect of this account. The Chief Executive undertook to clarify the above queries and report back in due course. This was agreed.
D Smyth Office Supplies - £39,828.43
In response to a query by the Chairman of the Committee, the Chief Executive confirmed that this account related to the purchase of office furniture for various departments in the new Council Offices building.
Members proceeded to consider the budget report, copy of which was previously circulated. The Management Accountant explained that the Councilís finances were at a break-even point. There were a number of accounts which were in the process of being finalised, however, these should balance out overall.
Discussion ensued during which Councillor McHugh commented that item 3902 for travel and subsistence reflected low expenditure. The Management Accountant explained that budgets such as this had been split under the appropriate headings in order to reflect true costings and were perhaps misleading at this stage. The Chief Executive reassured Councillors that the budget print-out required further refinement but would ultimately provide more realistic costings in the longer term. In response to a query by Councillor Hussey, it was explained that the general grant and district rates balances had yet to be received. The Management Accountant further explained that the accounts which had been processed at tonightís Finance meeting would also have an impact on the various budgets as listed. This was noted.
Use of Community Halls
Councillor Donnell queried who was responsible for letting out of the community halls and the contact person for making bookings. The Chief Executive explained that such bookings were made through the Councilís Recreation Department. Councillor Donnell requested a list of the various bookings for the community halls. The Chief Executive undertook to arrange for the Chief Recreation Officer to provide an update on this in his next report to Council. This was agreed.
East Donegal Pony Club
It was agreed that the request received from the above Club for financial assistance towards its Inter Schools Showjumping Championships and Gymkhana be marked "read".
Strabane Concert Brass
It was noted that the letter received from Strabane Concert Brass on 4 March 1999, in which financial assistance was requested for its forthcoming trip to Warrington, had been dealt with at the Council meeting the previous evening.
ATCM Spring Conference - Bristol Marriott Hotel
Members considered correspondence advising of the above conference to be held from 13 to 15 April 1999. Councillor Mullen pointed out that Mr Peter Hunter, Architect for the Strabane 2000 Board, had recommended that this conference be marked "read".
It was agreed that the correspondence be marked "read".
Local Government Finance in NI - The New Agenda - April and May 1999
Members considered correspondence received from CIPFA regarding the above seminars for elected Members to be held in Craigavon on 8 April, Antrim on 9 April and Belfast on 5 May 1999.
It was agreed, following discussion, that one Councillor from each Party attend the seminar given its importance and relevance. The Chief Executive indicated that he would be interested in attending. This was agreed.
Castlederg Chamber of Commerce - Fashion Show
The Chairman reminded Members that the Castlederg Chamber of Commerce had requested assistance towards the cost of hiring the Derg Valley Leisure Centre for a Fashion Show on 24 March 1999. The Council was being requested to consider charging a reduced fee.
Discussion ensued during which Councillor OíKane stated that the Council had taken a decision to charge the normal fee and a rescinding notice would be required in order to alter this. Councillor Hussey enquired if it was now Council policy that groups should not receive concessions. The Chairman of the Council pointed out that only charitable organisations were considered for concessionary rates. The Chief Executive suggested that the Councilís position on this be clarified by the Chief Recreation Officer in his next report to Council. Councillor Hussey commented that if individuals in a Group made bookings consecutively rather than a Group booking being made there would be a significant reduction in the costs incurred by the Group. He, therefore, suggested that the pricing policy be examined closely. The Chief Executive undertook to clarify the matter and report back and this was agreed.
Conference - Business Management Forum
The Chairman of the Committee commented that individual Councillors may have received notification of the above conference. The Chairman of the Council questioned the merit of Councillors attending as these conferences were ongoing. Councillor Kerrigan remarked that a few Councillors had attended the most recent conference in Ballymena and it had been very worthwhile.
It was agreed that the Chief Executive make enquiries, as outlined above, and report back.
The Chairman of the Committee referred to the re-opening of the Apostolic Church. It was agreed, on the proposal of the Chairman of the Council, that a letter be sent from the Finance Committee wishing the Church every success in the future.
It was agreed that the document regarding the regional rate, a copy of which was circulated at the meeting, be deferred for discussion at a future meeting.
Protective Clothing for Councillors - Site Meetings
Members proceeded to consider information, copy of which was previously circulated, relating to costings for protective clothing for Councillors for site meetings. Councillor OíKane commented that it was essential that Councillors were provided with a good quality jacket which would offer protection from the elements. It was noted that a Barbour endurance jacket cost in the region of £176.00. Councillor McBride remarked that he would not be in favour of a lot of expenditure being incurred on jackets. Councillor Kerrigan advised that a number of other Councils were allocated a sum of money towards the cost of protective clothing. He pointed out that the National Association of Councillors had written to all Councils on two occasions on the issue of protective clothing. He did not feel, however, that it would be necessary to spend this amount of money for a jacket in order to fulfil the criteria. Councillor Hussey concurred with these remarks. He suggested that reflective waistcoats should be provided in order to comply with Health & Safety Regulations. Alternatively Councillor Bresland suggested that a reflective strip could be attached to the jacket provided. Councillor Kerrigan commented that some Councils gave an allocation towards a jacket, however, the wellingtons and helmets etc. were provided by the Council. Cookstown District Council had already adopted this policy.
Councillor Kerrigan informed Members that at a recent meeting of the National Association of Councillors, it had been reported that a group of solicitors were providing free legal advice to Councillors and their families. This practice was currently operating on the mainland but it was intended to extend this to Northern Ireland in the near future. He explained that the matter would be raised at a conference due to be held in the Slieve Donard Hotel at the end of the month. This was noted.
The Chief Executive referred to the letter dated 22 October 1998 received from the National Association of Councillors which stated that under the Health & Safety legislation the necessary equipment should be supplied. In relation to the Councilís duty of care, he considered that Councillors should be provided with basic health and safety equipment. He undertook to clarify the position with other Councils and report back.
Visit to Sioux Falls by Vice Chairperson and Suggested Trip to Philadelphia
re. John Dunlap Proposals
Reference was made by the Vice Chairman of the Council, Councillor Mullen, to the above trip which he was undertaking on 11 April 1999. He outlined the background to the visit and explained that he was participating at the request of his Party leader and the American hosts were meeting the majority of the costs. He had learnt from David Stenseth that a programme of events had been drawn up for him and he would be interviewed on two local radio stations. He would also be required to give two or three talks on the twinning with Strabane.
Councillor Mullen explained that his flight expenses and other associated expenses were being met by their American hosts and he was requesting that the Council reimburse him for travel expenses to and from the Airport and also pay attendance allowance.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor Bresland, seconded by Councillor Kerrigan, that the Council meet Councillor Mullenís travel expenses to and from the Airport and also pay attendance allowance.
Councillor Mullen thanked the Council for granting his request. The Chairman of the Council enquired whether the Chief Executive would be participating in the trip. The Chief Executive advised that he was not yet in a position to make a decision. The Chairman of the Council proposed that if and when the Chief Executive decided to go, that the Council should meet any expenses incurred. Councillor OíKane seconded the proposal.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor McBride, seconded by Councillor Mullen, that the meeting go "Into Committee".
The Chief Executive informed Members that a note of thanks had been received from the Grotto Society in respect of a cheque for £200 received from the Council towards the maintenance of the Grotto. This was noted.
Strabane Rugby Football Club
The Chief Executive advised Members that a letter of thanks had been received from the above Club in respect of £650 which the Council had paid towards the rental of its rugby pitch. This was noted.
Trip to Sioux Falls - Mrs G McClintock
The Chief Executive informed Members that a letter of appreciation had been received from Mrs McClintock in respect of the settlement of the bill for £257 for the trip to Sioux Falls. This was noted.
St Patrickís Day Celebrations
The Chairman of the Committee wished everyone present a Happy St Patrickís Day.
The meeting closed at 10.20 pm.