At a recent Parish Council meeting, we were asked why there is such a high turnover of people on the Parish Council. The honest answer is that I do not know. However, what I do know is that every member of the Parish Council, past and present, as well as those who work for other volunteer organisations, are doing their best with the time they can spare. Being a volunteer is not easy and I strongly believe that people do not join an organisation to do a bad job.
The Parish Council is no different from any other organisation, but I would liken the conduct of Parish business to swimming with one arm tied behind your back. The Parish Council are obliged to follow the Local Government Act as well as decisions made by previous Councils. The Local Government Act slows down the conduct of business to a frustrating pace but it is done for good reason to ensure all decisions are taken and recorded correctly. None of the decisions made by previous Councils were wrong at the time – however some of the unintended consequences have identified the need for more work and administration than was perhaps expected at the time. The simple fact is that your current Parish Council are doing their best but there will be times when we could do things better or that we get things wrong. Please bear with us. Please also note some things that you may think are the Parish Council responsibility are actually the charge of the District and County Council; there is clarification of this on the Parish Council website.
The Summer has seen a large number of successes for our community. The allotments are fully functioning with an increasing waiting list and an active and diverse community. The Tennis Courts have now opened, offering another activity within the Parish for residents to make use of, and the Village Hall is being increasingly used by Businesses, Residents and Charitable Groups. The Parish Council have supported a number of Social and Community events within the Parish through the provision of grants and we remind you that this option remains accessible to all to make use of – details can be found on the website or by contacting the Parish Clerk. To manage the increasing number of facilities and usage rates, we are looking at increasing the automation behind the booking processes to ensure the workload matches the availability of our resource. Equally, whilst we will put in place appropriate guiding Terms & Conditions for the use of Parish facilities, we must rely on the Parish Community Spirit to ensure they are used fairly and within the set constraints – the Parish Council has very minimal enforcing functions to guarantee that T&Cs are followed.
The next facility that needs to be opened is the Village Bowling Green. This is another asset, requested by the community in previous years, which will add to the social fabric of our Parish. The Harris fencing will soon be removed to be replaced by low metal fencing and benches surrounding the Green. Whilst the facility is currently owned by Vistry, there is the option to ask for it to be released to us early under licence. However, to do this, there is a need to establish a Community of Interest who could run the facility, potentially as a committee of the Parish Council. Of course, there is no reason that this approach could not be followed for other facilities in the Parish, should there be a desire from a group of people to help.
It is no secret that, once the POS is handed back to the Parish, the workload will increase but be assured that members of the Parish Council are working with appropriate contractors to ensure that the needs of the Parish are met. The transfer fee that Vistry are obliged to offer, as well as existing Parish Council funds, will cover any issues related to the transfer. I know there is concern in some areas of the village about the impact to the precept following transfer. The Parish Council see no demand for an increase and it is expected that all requirements can be met within current precept levels. In short, the Parish Council will run its business within the means that it has available to it. I personally am more concerned about potential increases in the County Council or District Council rates.
From a wider community perspective, there will soon be a second Defibrillator fitted to the Dragon Vets building (the old Co-Op). We are grateful to them and also to a local business, Collett & Brooks Electricals, who have agreed to absorb the costs of fitting to support our community.
On the subject of vandalism, there have been a number of unfortunate incidents over recent months. All of these incidents have been reported to the Police and I would ask all residents to highlight any issues to the Police as soon as they can. It would also be useful if the details and Crime Number could be passed to the Parish Clerk. Members of the Parish Council engage regularly with Vistry and details of these engagements are available through the Parish Clerk on request. Recent walk-rounds of the site have identified potential areas of concern and positive action will be taken, including the physical removal of derelict buildings if needed.
Finally, I would like to return to our community. The Parish Council is here to help the residents. It was great to see such a large turnout at the most recent Parish Council meeting and all views and suggestions are welcome. The more we know about what is going right or wrong, the quicker we can take action. Please keep engaging with us and, if you really want to have an input to your community, then please join us – you will be made to feel very welcome and you will be making a difference.
I hope you have a great end of Summer and Autumn period.
On behalf of the Parish Council