Chairmans Report. April 2015.
I would firstly like to mention my fellow councillors for their efforts and support throughout the last year, my fifth 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 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 totally unaided by the rest of us. If you haven’t visited it, it is a veritable mine of information, including not only Council matters, but covers a huge amount of useful topics.
I must also make a mention of Peter Bullimore, our Clerk, who does a superb job on behalf of the Council and the Parish.
On the subject of Councillors, we have managed for much of the last few years to keep to our full complement of eleven members, but sadly we lost one of our number, Barry Hill, during the last year which has seen us reduced to ten members, so we will be looking to try to entice at least one additional councillor to join us. I am sure it won’t have gone unnoticed that we have elections on 7th. May, not only for Westminster, but also for both District and Parish Councils. The deadline for correct nominations for Parish elections is in fact tomorrow, but if anyone is minded to step forward I am sure we can help to get the papers submitted in time, and if we can’t achieve that then we will have the opportunity to co-opt later in the year. Of course, if there are no more than eleven candidates for this Parish, there will be no requirement for an election and all those candidates will be returned unopposed.
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 2015/16 we have set a precept of £13400, which includes some £1341 relating to the Council tax Support scheme grant.
I think the average Council Tax Bill for residents of Beeston Regis shows a small decrease in the Parish element of 1.9%, and an annual figure for a Band C property of something just short of £29.00.
On looking through precept levels across the district, Beeston Regis falls pretty much centrally on the list, and we could be a lot worse off, our near neighbours in Sheringham have had a 31% increase imposed, and the comparative figure for a Band C property is some £50 per annum higher.
Our other small source of income which was generated by the recycling of glass via the bottle bank finally disappeared during the last year, but I assume we are all finding the green bin option far more convenient for disposal of our glass.
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 2014/15.
Glancing through last year’s report, I think I spent quite a while talking about our street lighting, and whilst there is a lot less that needs saying this year, I am afraid I am unable to resist just a small piece on it. As you will be aware, our total lighting stock of 58 lamps are now operating with 16watt LED lighting, and I am pleased to be able to report that the projected annual cost reductions have in fact been achieved. We now spend just over £1100 per year on electricity and routine maintenance, which compares impressively with over £3200 prior to undertaking the upgrade.
It will still be a couple of years before we fully recoup our portion of the initial outlay but the savings should continue to benefit us for some considerable time.
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 take into account the amount that the County Council allows us for what are termed “safety cuts” we are able to recoup all of our costs in that regard.
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.
Affordable Housing has periodically appeared on our agenda ever since I joined the Council some 10 or 12 years ago, but we have never been able to make any headway. However we are currently attempting to push forward a scheme that could well result in a positive outcome. I can’t disclose too many details as yet, suffice to say that we are hopeful that we will be able to overcome the obstacles currently in place.
We have installed two new seats at bus stops within the Parish, on the A149 outside the entrances to Beeston Hall and the caravan park.
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 2014, and after much deliberation new criteria was finally established for a replacement scheme. We have automatically been granted the foundation level of the Local Council award Scheme and are currently looking into achieving the higher level, which I am sure with a little application on our part we can successfully attain.
The last item I want talk briefly about is something we are rather pleased about. For the first time in many years the Parish Council is once again a land owner, having been able to purchase a piece of land in Caxton Park. Many residents will recognise it as the plot that one walks through to gain access to Beeston Common from that end of the estate. The whole story began several years ago with a simple enquiry regarding the grass cutting and maintenance and progressed from there. It turned out that the body that initially thought they owned it in fact did not, and when we finally tracked down the actual owners, we were able to proffer a plea of abject poverty, but a desire to purchase it and our offer of one pound was accepted. With legal fees I think the total cost to the Parish has fallen around the £1200 mark. I doubt we would have bought it if it had been much more expensive, principally because we have no specific plans as to what we might do with it, but we felt it would be remiss of us not to proceed at that valuation.
We have mooted a couple of possibilities as to future usage, none of which have really provoked any interest. For the time being I think we have decided to put a couple of benches on there so one can sit and catch the sun in what is usually a very sheltered spot, keep the grass cut and the plot tidy and see what might transpire in the future.
If anyone has any brilliant ideas that they would like to put forward, we will be happy to consider it.
That is really about it from me, thank you once again for attending, if there are any questions about anything I have just covered, I am happy to take them, otherwise we will move on to the next item.