Chairmans Report 2013

Chairmans Report 2013 .
(As delivered to Annual Parish Meeting – May 2013.)

I would firstly like to express my thanks to my fellow councillors for their efforts and support throughout the last year, my third as Chairman. In particular to my vice chairman, Roy Beckley whose experience and assistance on many matters has proved most helpful. I must also make a
mention of Peter Bullimore, our Clerk, who does a superb job on behalf of the Council and the Parish. Before I became a Councillor I doubt I would have had any inkling that there were such things as qualifications for Parish Clerks, but there are, and Peter’s knowledge of procedure and
the regulations governing what we do is very valuable.

On the subject of Councillors, as last year, we are currently operating with our full complement of eleven members so again, no plea from me for someone to step forward for co-option, as in some previous years.
I would like to thank Councillor Chris Goodwin, who has continued to manage our internet presence single handedly. The Beeston Regis website contains not only all the boring items such as agendas, minutes and similar official material, but a wealth of useful and interesting items as
well.

Now on to financial matters ….
Whilst we do have one small source of what we might deem commercial income, which is the bottle bank at the bottom of Britons Lane, which I am pleased to report continues to be well used and has during the past year again provided around 32400 towards the Council’s finances,
Beeston Regis Parish Council operates almost solely on an annual precept, collected by the District Council as part of your council tax. For the coming year 2013/14, it was decided that we ought to put in for a pay rise. Hence we have increased the precept to £14,000, an increase of £1000 from the previous year. Whilst this does represent a 7.5% increase on the previous year’s figure, if we look back over the last few years, we were at £13,500 in 2009/10, so one could put the point that the precept has risen less than 1% per annum over those four years.
To put the overall figure into some sort of context, the new precept equates to approximately £34.00 per property per annum, that based on a band D council tax rating, or around 33pence per week per resident. On looking through precept levels across the district, Beeston Regis falls
pretty much centrally on the list, and in fact the average across the whole NNDC area for a Band D property is £40.02.
We will of course provide full accounts for the year just ended, (summary included with this issue of Beeston Regis News), but draft accounts indicate that the Council succeeded in operating within budget for 2012/13.
Apart from the Clerks salary, by far the most significant item of expenditure continues to be on street lighting. The harsh reality is that a significant proportion of our lighting stock is very old.
As lights fail, or deteriorate to a point where safety is compromised, we will continue to be faced with the cost of replacement of lantern tops or, in extreme cases, complete lamp standards
We have recently received a full report from our lighting contractor that points out that no less than 14 of our lights are reaching the point where they will need significant attention, and a further 14 are what is termed “obsolete”. This means that should the lamp fail, it is almost
certainly irreparable and will need replacement. Our overall spend on lighting for the year just gone, to include the costs of electricity consumption, routine maintenance and repairs and replacement was just over £5200, getting towards 40% of our total budget.

There may be a glow on the horizon here however.
We have applied for a grant from the County Council under their Highways improvement scheme and should we be successful in winning that bid, we intend to embark on a programme of replacing as many as 34 of our 58 lamps with modern LED lighting. There are several benefits to this, should it come to fruition. Lower energy consumption and lower maintenance costs going forward, not to mention the  main advantage to be gained by completely updating around 60% of our stock. The grant, if awarded, will cover something like 75% of the total cost, so whilst it will not be totally free, it could amount to one huge commitment from future expenditure that could be lifted should we be successful. Of course, this is an initiative brought forward by the previous administration at County Hall, and I am not sure
whether the new incumbents will rubber stamp it, assuming they actually manage to form a ruling group, but we have fingers crossed!

The Council has continued to bear the initial cost of keeping the Parish looking tidy in terms of grass verge cutting. You may be aware that the District Council curtailed their responsibilities for that function a couple of years ago. Secret Gardens have again performed perfectly satisfactorily, and once again, I am pleased to report that when we account for the allowance made by the County Council for what are referred to as “safety cuts”, we have managed to all but cover our costs on this item.

We have also now taken on the responsibility for cleaning the road signs within the Parish. Again, the County makes an allowance towards the cost of this and by judicial management that allowance just happens to cover the contractor’s costs.
A number of items have been suggested for discussion later in the meeting, but I will take the opportunity to update you on some of the matters that have been before the Council in the last Year or so.
Affordable Housing.
We have again tried to progress this issue with the relevant authorities. Sadly, I feel that we have reached the end of the road on this subject, certainly for the near future. All potential sites have, for one reason or another, been ruled out and it is with regret that we have now removed this item from our agendas until there is a significant change in circumstances
Crime.
As mentioned previously, we have no representation from the Safer Neighbourhood Team this evening. The Council
receives a monthly report on crimes within the parish and a PCSO regularly attends our monthly meetings.
The reports continue to indicate that we live in a relatively crime free area, I believe we are averaging something like l2 reports of potential crimes per calendar year, and of course those are reports of crimes, on investigation they do not always relate to actual criminal activity.
Car Boot Sales and associated traffic problems.
As you will be aware, the new entrance and egress system on the Car Boot field has been in operation for over a year now, and I think the traffic situation at the junction has improved considerably during that period. We still have the somewhat annoying situation of people parking in Britons Lane and Regis Avenue, rather than using the designated parking within the field, but I can only say that this will probably be a “work-in-progress” for some time. The proprietors are to be commended for the efforts they have made, and continue to make, to alleviate this, but there is nothing that says motorists are not
allowed to park legally and I am afraid customers of the Car Boot cannot be forced to use the field if they prefer not to.
Public Footpaths and Rights of Way.
Following a shift in emphasis from the County on how they would approach routine inspection and maintenance of public footpaths, we decided to take a more active role ourselves. Encouraged by the CPRE, and assisted by the Ramblers Association, we carried out a full survey of all of our public footpaths towards the end of last year. Issues and problems were duly reported to the County Council, and I am pleased to say that practically all of the issues reported have since been attended to. These issues related to fallen trees blocking passage, lack of effective waymarking and the like. All of the
surveys were forwarded to the Norfolk Ramblers to become part of their overall monitoring of the County’s paths, and we have continued to liaise with the Norfolk CPRE on the subject. As a matter of interest, Beeston Regis officially has 22 public footpaths, although there are a few that no longer exist or are no longer within our current Parish boundary, but the Council feels that this is an important part of the heritage of the area, and we intend to repeat the process, probably on a half-yearly basis.
One other matter on the more distant horizon concerns the Stone Pits at the top of Britons Lane. You may be aware that a significant portion of land to the South of the existing workings has been designated for possible future excavation. This is barely beyond consultation stage as yet, and if it does happen, it will be several years from now. The Council will continue to monitor developments regarding this matter, with particular regard to doing whatever we can to try and mitigate the traffic situation in Britons Lane itself.
Apart from the specific items I have already mentioned I and my councillors have continued to attend many meetings throughout the year on a wide variety of subjects including Sheringham Preservation Society, Church Matters, Charity concerns, Area and Community Partnerships, various seminars, etc., and we consult as appropriate with relevant authorities such as District and County Councils on planning, highways and many other matters. MK

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