MAIDSTONE BOROUGH COUNCIL
COBTREE MANOR ESTATE CHARITY COMMITTEE
Minutes (PART I) of the meeting held on Thursday 25 January 2018
Councillor McLoughlin (Chairman), and
Councillors Perry and Mrs Wilson
Mr Bernard Mee, Cobtree Charity Trust Ltd
Apologies were received from Councillors Cox and Mrs Gooch.
There were no Substitute Members.
The Chairman agreed to take an urgent oral report to be
taken in private which related to an uprated power supply at Cobtree Manor
Visitor Centre/Café. The reason for urgency was that a decision needed to be
made as soon as possible and this information was not available at the time of
There were no Visiting Members.
There were no disclosures by Members and Officers.
There were no disclosures of lobbying.
RESOLVED: That the items in Part II of the
agenda (including the urgent item) be taken in private due to the possible
disclosure of exempt information.
RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting
held on 19 October 2017 be approved as a correct record and signed.
There were no petitions.
There were no questions from members of the public.
Mr Paul Holland, the Senior Finance Manager presented the Annual Report and Financial Statement which included the independent auditor’s report.
The Committee noted:-
The balance sheet as at 31 March 2017 showed net assets of £4.3m
which had reduced from £4.5m previously and was a result of a number of
movements, the most significant being the downward revaluation of the value of
the golf course. The golf course had since been re-let and as a result of that
the valuation was expected to increase.
The current cash position of £100k was expected to rise to £215k.
Members were minded that they had previously undertook to
start to repay some of monies back. Mr Holland stated that it would seem
prudent to wait until the final trading figures were available at year end and
then assess the situation.
Mr Holland highlighted a couple of changes that would be
made to Page 6 of the accounts, which were as follows:-
Under Financial Review
Under Financial Review and Investment Policy – the balance sheet
shows net assets at 31 March 2016 – this should read 2017
The words ‘Golf Course’ should be inserted after Cobtree Manor
Park in the last sentence of that section.
Under Plans for Future Periods – in the last sentence it referred
to a master plan, this should be ‘capital programme’.
There had been an assumption made by the auditors that a
disputed sum incurred by the contractor would be paid but it had not been
entered into the debtors section. Mr Holland was requested to ask for an
explanation from the auditors as to why it had been handled in that way.
RESOLVED: That the report and financial statement for 2016/17 be approved and submitted to the Charity Commission subject to the Chairman being satisfied that the Committee’s comments and alterations have been incorporated.
Mr Paul Holland, the Senior Finance Manager presented a report on the External Auditor’s Management Letter. The purpose of the letter was to bring matters of interest to the Trustees. However, it was noted that there had been no new recommendations made as a result of the 2016/17 audit.
However, the Committee noted that the External Auditors had continued to strongly recommend that the Council set up the charity’s own accounting records. Mr Holland advised that this would be a relatively easy process to undertake.
Members were concerned after reading the comments under Item 6 – Status of Audit Issues Raised in Prior Years about the legal status of the Committee and requested Mr Holland to seek legal advice in relation to the Members’ limited liability and bring a report back.
That the Committee noted the contents of the Management Letter and the
proposed courses of action from Officers.
That the Senior Finance Officer be requested to seek legal advice
in relation to the Members’ limited liability and bring a report back.
Mr Paul Holland presented a report on the re-appointment of external auditors to the Charity.
RESOLVED: That UHY Hacker Young be appointed external auditors to the Charity for the financial years 2017/18 and 2018/19.
Mr Paul Holland, the Senior Finance Manager, presented a report on the current financial position of the Estate as at 30 November 2017.
The Committee noted that the overall budget forecast for the estate activities would show an overall deficit position of £27,250 for the year. However, taking into account the estimated investment income of £50,000, it would project resources increasing by £22,750 for 2017/18.
In response to questions from Members, Mr Holland advised that:-
Income for the estate would remain about the same even though the
Café would be operated by a private Contractor as the Council would receive 8%
of their turnover.
Mytime, the Contractor for the Golf Course, would be invoiced
quarterly in advance rather than annually. Mr Holland committed to confirming
with Members once this arrangement was in place.
He would investigate whether it would be feasible to move
invoicing Kent Life to quarterly rather than a year in arrears and would advise
Members what sums had been paid to date.
RESOLVED: That the current financial position
Mrs Elizabeth Buckingham updated the Committee on the day to day work on the Estate and the issues that affected its management.
Cobtree Manor Park
Maintenance of the park over the autumn and winter period
included shrubbery maintenance and tree works. An application had been
submitted for Green Flag status for 2018/19.
Various events had been organised including three Autumn and Halloween themed drop in craft sessions and a Santa 5km course.
The Men in Sheds project continued to thrive and was looking to improve the building and facilities by seeking funding for the roof insulation and septic tank installation.
The Committee was keen for work to progress on the Elephant House and requested that Mrs Buckingham obtain copies of the quotations for works from the Men in Sheds Group in order that a decision could be made on a contribution to the work from the Cobtree Manor Estate Trust Committee.
Visitor Numbers – There had been a healthy increase in visitors in 2017 in the Park but a slight decrease in numbers at the Golf Course due to the wet weather.
Car Park – The car park income remained healthy, being above target at year end.
Incidents – There had been a number of break-ins at the Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre and the Elephant House.
RESOLVED: That the contents of the Cobtree
Manor Estate Update Report be noted.
Mr Jason Taylor, the Leisure Manager, presented a report which updated the Committee on the performance of the Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre/Café.
The Committee noted that whilst the visitor figures for the Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre/Café were down in December, income had risen.
RESOLVED: That the contents of the report be
Mr Jason Taylor, the Leisure Manager, presented a report which set out the proposed improvements to the car park at Cobtree Manor Park.
The Committee noted that the car park was very wet in the winter and very dusty in the summer and marking out of the bays had proved difficult.
Mr Taylor drew attention to the Exempt Appendix to the report which contained details of the successful bid for the car park improvement works. He emphasised that an additional £10,000 had been included to carry out the extra works to the bottom car park and another £10,000 to appoint a Project Manager to oversee the works.
The Committee was asked to consider increasing the car park charges following the completion of the car park improvement works. It was felt that the charges should be increased consistently and that the Council should be encouraged to align Mote Park car parking charges at the appropriate time.
Members expressed concern that should the improvement works be approved, the Charity’s reserves would be low. However, Mr Holland suggested that the capital payments to the Council could be made in instalments rather than all at once. Mr Holland was requested to provide a cash flow statement to all Members of the Committee.
1) That the Car Park Improvement works to proceed at a
£214,500 be agreed, including £10,000 to carry out the extra
works to the bottom car park and £10,000 to appoint a project
manager to oversee the works.
2) That delegated authority be given to the Director of Finance and
Business Improvement to award the contract to the successful
contractor detailed in Exempt Appendix 3 to the report of the Head
of Regeneration and Economic Development.
3) That delegated authority be given to the Head of Mid Kent Legal
Services to enter in the necessary contracts with the contractor.
4) That the daily car parking charge be increased from £1.50 to £2,
and the annual residents season ticket price from £40 to £50 upon
the completion of the car park improvement works.
RESOLVED: That the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business because of the likely disclosure of exempt information for the reason specified having applied the Public Interest Test:
Head of Schedule 12A and
Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre/Cafe Security Review
7 – Information re Crime
Mr Jason Taylor, the Leisure Manager, presented an exempt report on the actions taken and proposed to improve the security at Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre following a number of break-ins.
1) That the works as detailed in the exempt report of the Head of
Regeneration and Economic Development be approved at a
cost of £9,800.
2) That the installation of measures to protect the vulnerable access
points around the Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre, as detailed
in the exempt report of the Head of Regeneration and Economic
Development be approved at a cost of £7,506.
The Committee considered the urgent oral update of the Head
of Regeneration and Economic Development which related to commercially
sensitive information and should be taken in private.
RESOLVED: That a capital cost be authorised of £23,000 to fund the installation of an uprated power supply for Cobtree Manor Park Café as detailed in Part II of the minutes.
2.30 p.m. to 4.45 p.m.