Chairman’s Report 2014
I would firstly like to mention my fellow councillors for their efforts and support throughout the last year, my fourth as Chairman. In particular to my vice chairman, Roy Beckley; Roy has once again spent a great deal of his personal time attending meetings on behalf of the Parish, most notably on matters concerning coast defence and the proposed Coastal Path, as well as representing the Council’s views to District on various planning matters. I must also make a mention of Peter Bullimore, our Clerk, who does a superb job on behalf of the Council and the Parish. That is not to forget the other members, all of whom play very important parts in what we do, and attend many outside meetings in their own time, such as the Safer Neighbourhood Panel, Sheringham Preservation Society, Church Matters, Charity concerns, Highways issues and various other subjects that affect the residents of this and, in some cases, the wider community. Again, I should like to specifically thank Councillor Chris Goodwin for his excellent work on our website, which Chris looks after almost totally unaided by the rest of us.
On the subject of Councillors, we have managed for the last few years to keep to our full complement of eleven members so once again, there is no plea from me for someone to step forward for co—option, as in some previous years. We do of course, have an election next year, so the opportunity will be there if anyone feels the inclination.
Now on to financial matters…
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 2014/15, it was decided, perhaps slightly mischievously to put in for a small pay rise. Hence we have increased the precept by one whole pound.
In fact our actual income from Council Tax will be the same as last year. That £l figure comes about purely as a rounding—up exercise – when we take into account the Council Tax Support grant which we accept from the District council, and which varies from year to year, and also the variation in household make-up, we have requested the identical amount from District as last year. And perhaps to prove the truth in the saying about statistics, I believe l am correct in that our Council Tax bills show the result of all that as a small reduction in the Beeston Regis proportion!
To put the overall figure into some sort of context, the current precept equates to approximately £26.50 per property per annum, or slightly more than 30 pence 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 £44.49, which compares with ours at £33.10.
We do still currently have one other small source of what we might deem commercial income, which is the bottle bank at the bottom of Britons Lane, which has continued to be well used and has in recent years provided around £400 towards the Council’s finances.
Unfortunately for us, this has fallen victim to a change in NNDC policies and will shortly be no more; we will at some point, scheduled for this Autumn, be asked to place our glass in our green recycling bins, so that income will soon be lost to the Parish.
We will of course provide full accounts for the year just ended, which will be published in the next issue of Beeston Regis News, but draft accounts indicate that the Council succeeded in operating within its budget for 2013/14.
Apart from the Clerks salary, by far the most significant item of expenditure for many years has been on street lighting. Last year I reported that we were hoping to make a start on the replacement of our obsolete lighting with the help of a Norfolk County Council grant towards the cost a significant number of new lamps. Little did we think at that time that a year later I would be in the happy position of being able to report the completion of the replacement of all of our 58 street lights. We were successful in our grant bid to the County, which enabled us to partly fund the first 30, that project was completed during late summer, along with a further 4 lamps which we decided to fully fund ourselves.
No sooner had we celebrated that achievement, than we were involved in a further grant bid, this time to the Sheringharn Shoal Community Fund, to complete the remaining 24. We were again successful in our bid, and here we are now with a lighting stock of brand new LED lamps, which consume a mere 16amps each, are guaranteed for ten years, and for the first time ever, all of the lamps within the Parish are the same!
I make no apology for dwelling on this subject for just a little longer. In addition to the obvious improvements generated by more efficient, more carbon-friendly lighting, we will reap considerable financial advantages from this programme. I should first make it clear that it was not achieved at nil cost to the Parish; both the County Council and Sheringham Shoal grants provided partial funding towards the total cost of some £l 8,700, and it required £5,l00 to be used from the Council’s reserves. We have decided that we would be wise to replenish those reserves in the first instance, but we are confident that we will enjoy savings in ongoing costs relating to both electricity usage and maintenance that should easily amount to around £2,300 per annum based on current tariffs. It might well be that there
will be someone sitting here in the future asking for ideas as to how we might use these savings to benefit the parish, but I think we can at least be confident that there should be no need for any noticeable increases in our Precept for the next several years.
Other than the financial benefits, we are delighted at the effect of the new lighting: due to the design of the lamps, almost 100% of the light is focused directly downwards, light pollution is as near to nil as is currently achievable, and Beeston Regis has clear skies. I took the time to go to Beeston Hill at 4am recently so as to get an overview of the Parish whilst lit up, and the directionality of the lamps is such that one could hardly tell the lights were on at all from that angle and distance.
We are also far more carbon efficient than previously, having reduced our emissions considerably.
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 number of years ago. Our contractor, Secret Gardens, has again performed very well, 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 also have responsibility for cleaning the road signs within the Parish. Again, the County make 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 a couple of the matters that have been before the Council in the past year or so.
We have installed two new seats at bus stops, one by the Church Close stop and the other by the glass shelter opposite Britons Lane. We were unable to place that seat inside the shelter due to space restrictions, but I note it is being well used in fair weather.
We also have plans to install further seats at the bus stops by the entrances to Beeston Hall and the Caravan Park.
You may have noticed that our Village Sign at Priory Close was blown over during gales this winter. The sign itself suffered a degree of damage, but I am pleased to report that repairs are under way and the sign will be reinstated shortly. The bulk of that cost will be recovered from our insurers.
We have continued to monitor the Public Footpaths within Beeston Regis, and have periodically reported any issues that need addressing to the responsible body, which is the County Council.
Our Quality Parish Status expired in January this year after a four year period but we are still considered a Quality Council until the new criteria for re-accreditation has been agreed at national level. Announcements regarding this matter are expected soon, after which time we will be able to apply for re-accreditation. MK