At the Annual General Meeting held in Acklington Village
Hall at 7.30pm on Tuesday 16th May 2017
Present: Cllrs J Newton (Chair) D Barras, P
Besford, E Critchlow, N Gair, S Ingleby, G Orr, A Sharpe
and S Thorpe.
The Parish Clerk in attendance – Miss E Brown
County Councillor J Watson
1. Election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman: Cllr
Barras proposed Cllr Newton for Chair, this was seconded
by Cllr Sharpe and agreed.
Cllr Sharpe proposed Cllr Critchlow for Vice Chair, this
was seconded by Cllr Monkhouse and agreed.
2. Acceptance of Office by Chairman and
Vice-Chairman: The papers were signed and witnessed
by the Proper Officer.
3. Apologies: None.
4. Declarations of interest in items on the Agenda:
5. To approve and confirm the minutes of the meeting
held on 7 March 2017
6. Standing item – Public Questions
Neil Rogers – Executive Head, JCSC
Federation( which includes Acklington C of E First
The Federation was initiated in 2015 before his
appointment, Acklington First School opted to join the
federation at this time as is was not managing to
sustain itself alone.
School funding - every school gets an amount per school
and an amount per pupil, therefore the more pupils the
more funding the school attracts to pay salaries, rates,
bills etc. By ioining the Federation it was believed
that the school would attract more pupils to make the
school more self-sustainable.
Mr Rogers said there was a maintenance backlog for the
school and bringing it up to standard would cost
£690,000. He said he had met with parents to discuss
ideas of saving/raising money, but ultimately the issue
was low pupil numbers and the fabric of the building,
which requires significant improvement.
Without increased pupil numbers the school could never
The JCSC Governors decided at a meeting in January of
this year that a consultation was required.
Indicative budget figures were provided in November and
following discussions with multiple parties it was
agreed that consultation was the way to go. Despite
initiatives such as free breakfast clubs and after
school clubs as incentives to increase pupil numbers the
Governing body voted and agreed to the consultation with
one abstention due to a conflict of interests. He said
JCSC was engaging actively with key stakeholders,
parents and community on the consultation. A meeting was
to be held on 22nd June to work with the people who are
trying to make the school as viable as it can be, to
suggest alternative solutions.
The consultation report would take into account all
views submitted and would go the Governors in late June
where they would make a decision on how to proceed; this
would be followed by a 4 week statutory period where
written representations can be made and then it would go
to County Council cabinet where again written
representations can be submitted.
A parent asked what the break even figure would be to
keep the school open; Mr Rogers responded that at least
10 more children were required. A parent asked whether a
stripped down service, i.e. removing gardeners etc and
having a system of volunteers could help. Amy Crawley,
JCSC Business Manager, informed that the catering and
gardening was not coming out of the Acklington budget at
present but all these suggestions should be included in
Parents were keen to find any viable alternatives to
keep the school open and spoke of their lack of
knowledge of the situation in the past 2 years when they
could have had the option to provide some support.
It was queried whether the maintenance costs were so
imminent that they were required to be completed
urgently or could they be staggered over time. There
were also a number of housing developments pending for
the village which could see pupil numbers increase.
Cllr Watson queried why the Federation took the school
on 2 years ago with fewer children than it has now and
why wasn’t the school proposed for closure then. A
resident who was witness to these discussions as a
Governor was told that the classrooms would be replaced,
how children would be bussed from Amble to Acklington as
part of the benefits of joining the Federation.
It was noted that federating with JCSC was not the only
choice of the table at the time of the previous
consultation. While there was no doubt that JCSC has
provided support to the school it does not appear that
all promises have been kept. In 21 months since
federation additional children not been found to fill
places as the numbers have remained the same. Mr Rogers
queried why some residents of Acklington choose not to
send their children to the school.
The Church of England was approached for funding which
was not forthcoming. The wording of the consultation
document was a concern to parents as it implied that the
school was a drain on the Federation.
Parents pointed out there was a misleading claim in the
consultation document that the educational quality was
decreasing when the Ofsted rating is good and the
curriculum tool that was purchased for the school is
deemed a success by cornerstones and the advisor who set
up the scheme.
It was conceded that the social benefits of the school
were very positive however this was not a sustainable
model to have classes of 5 pupils.
Evidential reports showing school was failing the
children were requested by parents as they were not
convinced of this.
It was noted there was a parent governor at the meeting
which agreed on the need for consultation on close but
they had to abstain.
Mr Rogers said the Federation was advised that due to
‘purdah’ the consultation could not begin until after
the council elections, it was felt among parents this
was bad advice and they should have been informed in
January following the meeting of the Governors.
It was suggested an option could be to de-federate and
see how the school progressed.
A retraction of the statement of ‘a drain on the
federation’ was requested as it was felt that this was
off putting to any parent considering enrolling their
children into the school.
Parents asked to see detailed information of the
finances, Amy Crawley would endeavour to share what was
not classed as confidential ASAP.
Parents said they felt isolated, they would try to get
10 children needed to fill spaces but queried whether
they were needed by this September, or next September.
Parents would also like permission to invite media to
the school to try to encourage enrolments. The
possibility of visitors coming into the school would be
discussed with Mr Rogers following the meeting.
Parent requested the opportunity to sit around the table
with the Business Manager to discuss figures.
Primary Lead of Governing Body Carole Hutchinson stated
that the Governors were presented with clear information
when the decision to consult was made and a working
party meeting had been held, She stressed that closure
is not a done deal and all scenarios would be
considered. It not just about 10 children but the school
needs to grow. It was pointed out that responsibility of
the Governing Body is not just to the children of
Acklington but the children across the federation.
Cllr Barras asked if the school had joined the wrong
Federation, and should it federated with Warkworth? In
response it was said that all options should be
suggested in consultation responses but Warkworth was
considered as an option in a previous consultation but
the school was sold on all the opportunities that JCSC
The timing of the consultation was a concern as any
closure would happen mid-way through a school year and
this was not an incentive for parents considering
enrolling children in the school.
The Parish Council Chair said he hoped that the meeting
had been useful but noted an obvious breakdown in
communication between parents and governors. The Council
would consider this later on the agenda and any queries
could be forwarded to JCSC.
Mr Rogers and Amy Crawley were thanked for their
attendance and they along with the majority of the
public left the meeting.
There were no public questions pertaining to Council
7. Matters arising there from
a. Superfast broadband – iNorthumberland
confirmed that Acklington was connected to superfast
broadband in July 2016 although residents were required
to contact an internet service provider in order to
access the service. They were aware of an issue one
resident was experiencing with upgrading which was being
investigated. Cllr Gair said that Mr Mezza had told her
that problem was now resolved.
Guyzance was expected to be connected by 2018, it had
been highlighted in phase 3 of the rollout which should
be complete by September 2018. They advise any residents
interested should raise their interest with them. The
form to register interest can be found here: http://www.inorthumberland.org.uk/register-your-interest/
Cllr Thorpe informed of a neighbour who was experiencing
similar problems with connecting as Mr Mezza had.
b. S106 Agreements – update from Cllr Newton – No
update, Cllr Critchlow had already made representations
to a local County Councillor asking to have the S106
agreement overturned to the benefit of the local
community. Cllr Watson informed that the S106 had
already been agreed but they may be a chance with the
New Homes Bonus
c. Trees at roadside near the junction to Guyzance
Memorial – The Clerk informed that the Tree Officer
had not left the authority, as previously thought.
Members agreed to continue to pursue this issue which
has been ongoing for over 18 months. It was suggested to
write to the new Leader of the Council, Peter Jackson,
providing a timeline of communications.
d. Capacity of Acklington webpage - Cllr Sharpe
informed the Parish Council there was no ceiling on what
can be put on the website. It was agreed to pursue
setting up a website with NALC and then link it to the
website. New photos of Councillors were required along
with updated information on Councillors.
e. Public Footpath diversion – Public Footpath
No. 5 High Park proposed diversion in the interests of
the public due to erosion of land. Comments were
required. Members having seen the landslip supported the
8. Standing item – Report by County Councillor
Cllr Watson informed it was too early to give an update
on the change of administration following the council
elections but said it has already been decided that
County Hall was remaining in Morpeth, although he
believed the proposed Ashington site would continue to
be developed. Anything contracted would still go ahead
but anything else had been out on hold. Cllr Barras
asked about the political composition of the authority.
Cllr Watson informed that it was one short of overall
control but the Conservatives have the majority.
Cllr Watson informed of imminent charges to the Area
Committee structure and discussions about the future of
ARCH, the council’s development subsidiary.
a) Financial Summary The balance on account at 1st
April 2017 is Treasurers Account; £657.43, Business
b) Payments The following list was put before members
and agreed for payment.
||Clerk - E. Brown
d) Annual Return – The
exercise of public rights commences on 5th June 2017 for
a period of 30 days to include the first 10 working days
of July and will end on 14 July 2017. The submission
deadline for the return of the annual return and
supporting documentation is 10th July 2017.
a. To report on any planning decisions: None.
b. Planning matters pending: None.
c.To consider any planning matters:
17/01108/FUL Change of use and conversion of barn to one
dwelling and provision of solar array – Land North of
Brainshaugh Cottage, Acklington – Members had no
objections to this application.
11. Requested Agenda Items
11.1: Consideration of fencing for play area – This item
had been deferred to the new Council. Cllr Besford
suggested approaching Sodexo to see if this is something
that could be done in their workshops. Cllr Barras
informed of the need for the fencing to meet RoSPA
requirements. It was suggested that HMP Northumberland
could be made aware of the RoSPA specification when this
was queried. The Clerk would make enquiries.
11.2: Request to delegate any urgent repairs identified
in the Playground inspection to the Clerk in
consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair – inspection
due June 2017 – The Clerk would query when the
inspection was due to take place in June. Cllrs raised
concerns about the planting which enquired cutting back
and the tyre on the zip wire.
11.3: Procedure for Co-option of Councillor – The Clerk
had prepared the notice of vacancy for display in the
noticeboards and a decision on co-opting would be made
at the July meeting of the Council.
12. Correspondence Received
12.1: Consultation documents - Acklington C of E
First School – Cllr Gair declared an interest having
a child attending the school.
Following discussion, the following position was agreed
as the Parish Council’s response:
We strongly object to the proposed closure and believe
the consultation deadline should be significantly
extended or postponed to allow more time for options to
be developed and explored which would secure the future
of the school.
We understand there were issues with the timing of the
consultation due to the ‘purdah’ period relating to the
Local Council elections, although we remain to be
convinced this was a valid reason for holding back the
start of the consultation.
Under the current timetable the school would close part
way through a school year. This would deter parents from
enrolling new children in the school in September.
Within the community there is a strong feeling on past,
present and future uses of the school and a lack of
understanding of other options available and lack of
time to do anything constructive.
The Governors must recognise the importance of the
school to the local community and the importance of
children being taught within their community, rather
than being dispersed to other schools around the area.
Exploration of alternative models such as the 1 Teacher
, 1 Teaching Assistant should be included in any reports
considering the future of the school.
The working party set up by the Governing body does not
appear to have involved the local community.
Postponement of the consultation deadline is essential
while other options are pursued and the bigger picture
is made clearer regarding future housing developments in
the local area which could lead to additional children
for the school.
Can the New Homes Bonus be used to boost funding for the
school to give it more time to increase pupil numbers?
The consultation document is written in a way that
implies closure is a done deal and the school will not
be viable. This is very disappointing for what is
claimed to be an open consultation aimed at engaging all
stakeholders prior to a decision being taken in fair and
There has clearly been a poor level of communication
between the Governors and parents.
No effective marketing had been carried out locally to
encourage enrolments in the school since it joined the
Federation and whilst acknowledging the support the
school has received there is a general feeling that the
school was mis-sold on the opportunities available by
joining the federation.
More detail is also required on what provision would be
made for the children should the closure go ahead.
It was noted that parents have not been supplied with
the financial information available to the Governors.
This has put them at an unfair disadvantage.
In summary, the Parish Council believes the consultation
timescales are too short and do not allow sufficient
time for other options to be explored which would avert
closure. We also feel that parents and the wider
community have not been adequately involved in the
process. We therefore believe the consultation process
needs to be extended or stopped to allow sufficient time
for all options to be properly considered with full
engagement with parents and wider community.
12.2: Secretary of State for Justice – A response
had been received thanking the Parish Council for the
letter of 6 March to the Rt. Hon. Elizabeth Truss MP
regarding the broadcast of the BBC Panorama ‘Behind
Bars’ programme on 13 February:
‘I am responding as a member of HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS),
and would like to thank you for contacting us with your
views on the operation of HMP Northumberland.
The allegations made in the BBC Panorama programme have
been investigated by both Sodexo and HMPPS. Whilst the
allegations are serious, there has been no evidence of
any breach of contract by Sodexo. However, we are not
complacent and, as a result, the HMPPS contract
management team will be focussing contract compliance
activities across a number of the areas that have been
highlighted over the next 12 months.
I would like to assure you that private providers
continue to play an important role in the prison estate
and I can assure you that performance is closely
monitored and we will not hesitate to take action where
standards fall short. Privately managed prison contracts
set out a strict performance framework, consisting of
prescriptive performance targets. Failure to meet
performance targets results in performance points and,
potentially, financial remedies being applied against
the provider. It is important to recognise, however,
that privately managed prison providers achieve the
majority of their contractual targets.
Additionally, privately-managed prisons are subject to
the same external inspection procedures as those in the
public sector. Prisons are inspected at least once every
five years by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and usually
more frequently. In common with public-sector prisons,
privately-managed prisons face regular scrutiny by their
local Independent Monitoring Board, as well as by NOMS
Internal Audit and Assurance to ensure that the prison
is meeting its responsibility to deliver a safe and
In the White Paper published last November, the
Secretary of State clearly set out that levels of
violence and self-harm in our prisons are too high,
which is why we are investing an extra £100m annually to
support reform in the prison estate. As we implement the
changes set out in the White Paper, we will ensure that
these will work for private prisons wherever possible.
We will also continue to engage with providers of
private prisons on how the new approaches to working
with prisoners could be implemented alongside other
actions they might already be taking to improve safety.
The overall aim of the commitments set out in the White
Paper outlines far reaching reforms for a generation in
our prisons, both publicly and privately managed.
Reforms that will transform how our prisons are run and
give prisoners the skills they need to become
law-abiding citizens when they are released.
In relation to your very kind offer of a meeting, I
would advise you to contact the Director of HMP
Northumberland, Tony Simpson, in the first instance, to
address your concerns further. Mr Simpson can be
Once again I would like to thank you for taking the time
to contact us about these matters.
HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)’
It was noted that Tony Simpson had left as Governor of
12.3: Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy – This had
been submitted to the Secretary of State for Communities
and Local Government.
12.4: The Pensions Regulator – The Pension Provider was
agreed to be NEST although the Clerk was not entitled to
12.5: Correspondence from Highways England - An update
on the announcement of the Preferred Route for the A1 in
Northumberland road improvement programme.
Last year a Public Consultation was held on the options
for improving the A1 in Northumberland. A high number of
responses to the consultation were received, which
closed on 23 December 2016. Currently all the feedback
received is being reviewed and the options assessment
work completed o determine the preferred route. Highways
England is still planning to announce the preferred
route later this year and will contact Parish Councils
to provide more details in due course.
Reassurance was given that they are continuing to
progress the scheme in line with their Delivery Plan
commitments to start construction of the improvements
North of Ellingham in 2018, followed by the A1 dualling
upgrade in 2020, subject to completion of the normal
statutory planning procedures and value for money
They are currently making contact with all potentially
affected residents and stakeholders to keep them up to
date. It is important that all feedback received is
considered and feeds into the assessment and decision on
the preferred route.
12.6: Northumberland Day -This was noted for information
and passed to ACT.
12.7: Village of the year – This was noted for
information and passed to ACT.
12.8: NCC - Proposed 20mph Speed Limit - Acklington
Drive and Churchill Way, Acklington -Members welcomed
the proposal to introduce a 20mph speed limit.
13. Information Items:
13.1: NALC Enews 2 May 2017
13.2: NALC Enews 9 May 2017
13.3: Good Councillors Guide publications
13.4: Temporary Traffic Regulation Order as follows:
112013 TTRO C102 Acklngton Jcn to Guyzance Lee Jcn
Unavoidable changes to TTRO 112023
The bridge will be closed all day for the entirety of
the week commencing 24/04/2017. The remainder of the
closure will stay the same.
13.5: CAN – Getabout project
14. Items for next agenda –
15. Date and time of next meeting:
Next meeting: TUESDAY 4 JULY 2017 at 7.30 pm in
Acklington Village Hall
The meeting closed at 10.10pm.