Chairman’s Report. April 2012.
I must firstly express my thanks to my fellow councillors for their efforts and support throughout the last year, my second as Chairman. In particular to my vice chairman, Roy Beckley, whose experience in his previous role as Chair has again proved most helpful, and I must make a particular mention of Peter Bullimore, our Clerk, who does a superb job on behalf of the Council and the Parish.
On the subject of Councillors, I will take this opportunity to mention that we are currently operating with our full complement of eleven members, which I believe is the first time for a number of years. So, no plea for someone to step forward for co-option, as in previous years.
One more item concerning Councillors is that we held a training session here at the Scout Headquarters earlier in the year which was extremely well attended by our members, and I am pleased to report that virtually all of our current members have completed, at least once, the basic training offered by the Norfolk Association of Local Councils.
I would like also to make specific mention of Councillor Chris Goodwin, one of our newer “recruits”. During last year Chris and I attended an induction course concerning what was, at that point, a proposed new website for the Parish Council. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have left Chris to build and maintain this website totally on his own. As it has turned out, that was probably good judgement because it has been live for a while now, and Chris has done a marvellous job on it. We now have a modern, up-to-date web presence that not only the Council, but Beeston Regis as a whole can be extremely proud of. Well done, Chris.
Beeston Regis Parish Council operates on an annual precept, collected as part of your council tax, and for the coming year 2012/13, it was decided, for the second year running, to adopt a “standstill” budget, keeping the precept at a figure of £13,000.
To put that figure into context, it equates to approximately £31.00 per property per annum, that based on a band D council tax rating, or around 30p per week per resident.
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 comfortably within budget for 2011/12.
Apart from the Clerks salary, by far the most significant item of expenditure continues to be on street lighting, and I make no apology for again reiterating the point made in previous years, that Beeston Regis Parish Council is the proud, or possibly not so proud, owner of some 58 street lights in the parish. The harsh reality is that a significant proportion of that 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 do have one other small source of income, the bottle bank at the bottom of Britons Lane, which continues to be well used and has during the past year provided around £400 towards the Council’s finances.
One matter that we have had to consider for the first time over the last year has been the 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 with effect from the beginning of last year. The Parish Council contracted the services of a local company and I think we would all agree that they have performed a perfectly satisfactory job. Furthermore, 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”, our nett spend on this item for the whole year amounts to somewhere around £20.
It is worth noting here that due to budget constraints elsewhere, the Parish Council may well be faced with taking on certain other regular responsibilities in the near future. I refer specifically to the cleaning of road signs and the maintaining of public footpaths, two items that we have not had to consider for a very long time, but could well be on the horizon now. These matters could perhaps come under the general heading of devolvement of powers or responsibilities; otherwise known as “How could we get someone else to pay for that?”
A brief mention of something that may come into bearing in the future:
General Power of Competence
The Localism Act, 2011 contains a section called the General Power of Competence.
It is part of the Government’s initiative to give power back to the people.
In theory, it allows parish and town councils to innovate and to legally do anything an individual would do unless that deed is specifically prohibited by law.
Councils qualify if they have a trained and qualified clerk and a minimum of two thirds of members elected to the council, both of which apply to our Council.
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 past year or so.
We have again tried to progress this issue with the relevant authorities, and will continue to do so. Sadly, it seems in the past to have been a case of one step forward, followed by the inevitable step back, and despite our efforts we have only slight progress to report in that a potentially suitable site has been identified, but that is merely the first step in a much longer process.
Car Boot Sales and associated traffic problems.
I reported last year that there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel on this issue. You will be aware that planning permission was granted for an additional exit from Mr Cook’s field. This followed lengthy consultations with County Highways, and you will be aware that the work to construct that has been completed. Mrs Cook has recently informed me that it is their intention to have a new traffic system in operation for the first of the car boot sales in a few weeks time. It is to be hoped that access and egress to the field will become much easier and go a long way toward alleviating the traffic and parking problems. I also understand that Sheringham Police are to have a presence on the first occasion to discourage inconsiderate parking.
On the subject of Cookie’s Field, the council was pleased that the events of last year largely went by without any untoward hitches and my understanding is that that the Carnival Committee intends to make use of the field only for park and ride during this summer’s events. .
We have with us this evening PCSO Rebekah Best from the Sheringham Safer Neighbourhood Team and Rebekah will be speaking a little later. The council receives a monthly list of crimes in the parish which tends to indicate that we live in a relatively crime free area. It was encouraging to note that 97.5% of the respondents to the Parish Survey we conducted eighteen months ago felt safe in their home, but I am sure that Rebekah will have some thoughts on how even that remarkable figure might be improved. One of the initiatives that they are keen to promote are Homewatch Schemes, and Rebekah will be speaking specifically about that shortly.
Apart from the specific items I have already mentioned I and my councillors continue 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, and we consult as appropriate with relevant authorities such as District and County Councils on many and varied matters.