Tea, coffee and biscuits and a more informal approach were on the agenda at yesterday’s annual Parish Meeting. Any differences were put aside. A sense of feel-good, positive reflections and congratulations were the order of the day.
Highlights of the evening included
- The Chairman’s reflections on the past year, and a plea to lay off abusing the parish council on social media,
- The community field/car park has been the biggest challenge over the past year, and now the Parish Council is looking at how to utilise the field, a vital community asset, for the benefit of everyone,
- An invitation to find out more about the Freemasons,
- Lunch Club’s plans to celebrate the Queen’s birthday with corned beef, coronation chicken and spam,
- Discovering there is a puppet group that meets regularly at All Saint’s Church
- Lydiard Millicent Juniors Football Club looking forward to being more involved in the village community,
- The Parish Hall plans for an afternoon tea to mark the Queen’s birthday,
- Yellow lines should be on their way.
It was a very full meeting. The following account is quite lengthy, but still incomplete. Apologies in advance for any omissions. If there is anything people want to add, please contact me or feel free to leave a comment.
Report of the meeting
Over forty residents attended the meeting, which took place in the Parish Hall.
In contrast to the annual meeting of the Parish Council, the annual Parish Meeting is a meeting of the electorate. Its purpose is to let the Parish Council explain what it has been doing over the last year. It allows electors to have their say on anything they consider is important to the people of the Parish. It’s a sort of annual democratic point of communication.
Although last year, the Chair and Vice-Chair were elected at the annual Parish Meeting, the Chairman said this was not technically correct. The Chair and Vice-Chair should be appointed at the annual meeting of the Parish Council, which is what happened this year (on 12th May 2016).
The annual Parish Meeting is also where village organisations can get to tell the community what they’ve been up to! This year’s meeting was attended by All Saint’s Church, Lydiard Millicent Juniors Football Club, the Freemasons, the Parish Hall, Community Link Scheme, Ellen Blacker, Health and Wellbeing Champion and the Luncheon Club. Lydiard Millicent Primary School also sent a report.
The Chairman’s address
After a short prayer by Rev Tricia Roberts, and the Chairman welcoming everybody to the meeting, Andrew Harris gave his address.
He said that it had been a very eventful year both for himself and the Parish Council.
Appointment of a new Parish Clerk
The Chair acknowledged that, previously, having a parish clerk who lived 150 miles away was not ideal. One of the first things he had done as Chairman was to appoint Deborah Bourne as Parish Clerk, “a progressive locally based Clerk who could add value and who was prepared to go the extra mile for the Parish.” He praised the new clerk’s professionalism, her involvement with the working groups, attending local events and being available for parishioners’ queries at the Jubilee Club House on a regular basis.
Restructuring of working groups
The Chairman said that his next task had been to set up working groups to handle the various areas of the Parish Council’s work, rather than the Chairman handling everything. Groups have been set up for Finance, Highways, Planning, Open Spaces and Recreation (the latter two since merged). They have allowed councillors to get more involved, he said, and are working splendidly.
Councillors, leavers and joiners
The Chairman said that unfortunately the Council had lost some good members this year for a variety of personal reasons, but welcomed the four new councillors. There are still two spaces, and the Council would welcome new members, particularly ladies.
Tom Pepperall has stepped down after thirty years on the Council, but will continue to be involved with the neighbourhood plan.
Mollie Groom has also stepped down from the Parish Council, now concentrating on her role as councillor for the unitary authority.
Andrew Harris also paid tribute to the late John Bennet, the previous chairman, who died shortly after leaving office. John “had worked tirelessly for the Parish and his input will be missed,” he said.
The cut backs in funding from Wiltshire Council mean that there will be some challenging times ahead. It is likely that the Parish will have to make a greater contribution to maintain services, particularly so with highways. This is one reason for looking at the car park/community field project more critically.
The Community field/car park
The Chairman described this as “probably the biggest challenge over the last year.” He explained that a proposal had been drawn up for 36 spaces on the field, but that unfortunately it had not been fully costed. Going out to tender, the Council had found “a large discrepency from the predicted cost” and that a lot more money was needed.
The Chairman said he had pressed for the parish to be consulted as the shortfall would need to be funded by an increase in the precept as well as from reserves and other sources. The result of the survey of parishioners had been inconclusive because of the number of undecideds. “The Parish Council agreed that they supported the principle of a parking area, but that the Community Field Working Group should look at ways to reduce the cost and raise more money to minimise the effect on ratepayers. The Community Field is a major asset for the Parish and it must be utilised for the benefit of everyone.”
The Chairman thanked Winston Huth Wallis for his contribution to the project.
Car parking problems
The Chairman spoke of the continuing issues around parking near the school, a risk both to road and child safety. However, the Parish Council feel it is the responsibility of Wiltshire Council, and are pursuing a joint approach with School Governors and Wiltshire County Council. The Parish Council is looking to the provision of yellow lines in this area.
Projects and improvments now need to be part funded by the Parish before Wiltshire Council will support them.
The Highways Working Group is working on improvements to the chicane near the church, completion of the Lydiard Green footpath (to Bagbury Park), traffic-calming at Washpool and a number of other smaller projects, such as highway repairs and signage.
Lay off the social media
The Chairman said that although the paish councillors are elected, they are also volunteers doing their best for the community. Although they expect constructive criticism, on occasion, this had gone over the top.
The Chairman said that he had been accused on local websites of taking bribes from contractors to get the car park through, and pushing his views through without listening. He said, “this is so far from the point, it is laughable…..Abuse drives people away from public service and at present we need volunteers to step forward and offer their time to benefit everyone.”
The Working Group is looking at financial control in a much more professional manner.
Recreation and Youth
The Chairman said that the Jubilee Club House and sports field were key Parish assets. The Parish Council is looking to maximise them for the benefit of the village, whilst minimising issues for local residents. Unfortunately, the youth club did not take off. However, the Chairman said he thought it important that younger people are engaged and the Council is investigating a summer club for youngsters.
Special thanks was extended to Alan Pfleger, as Vice-chairman, “a tireless worker behind the scenes, Parish walks, Christmas tree, Speed Watch, Lorry Watch” were “just a few examples.” Thanks was also extended to the Working Group Chairs and all volunteers, those involved in the annual litter pick, Brian Cooper for donating the flowers for the flower beds, and the volunteers who water them and keep them alive.
Jamie Edwards was thanked for his work on local footpaths, as were the councillors’ wives for making the teas and coffees.
Some highlights from the reports given by local organisations
The Link Scheme
Tom Pepperall said that the scheme continues to operate well, and is now run under Community First. Last year it made 140 trips, 90% of which were for medical appointments. As one of the smaller schemes, its volunteer driver to client ratio is critical, and it welcomes more volunteer drivers (and clients). Tom Pepperall thanked the Rotary Club of Wootton Bassett for its support, and the Wiltshire Link Scheme.
The Freemasons invited all those interested to attend their open day on 4th June at the Parish Hall, 10am-4pm.
Julian Wright outlined some of the many things going on at All Saints Church. These include Home Church Groups, a variety of services aimed at all ages, a puppet group, and a Staycation over three days. The church has worked actively with the school, and set up Milicent Minis, a group aimed at pre-schoolers, which meets Thursdays. Cake Break, the community cafe in All Saints on Mondays, has been very successful, as has the church’s involvement with the Food Bank.
Lydiard Millicent Primary School said they have had an exciting and busy year with their conversion to an academy, and are looking forward to working with Ridgeway Farm Academy. The school has enjoyed serving the community, particularly being involved in the Village Show.
Lydiard Millicent Junior Football Club have had a successful season, and look forward to being more involved in the community, possibly in the fair and any summer camp.
Julian Wright also gave an update on behalf of the Lunch Club. Thanks were extended to all volunteers, Purton Age Concern (who loan the minibus) and the Parish Hall Trustees who funded the installation of a commercial dishwasher. All over-50s in the Civil Parish are welcome.
In addition to its regular lunches, the club plans a special meal to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday. Corned beef, coronation chicken and spam are on the menu!
Nigel Margetts gave an update on behalf of the Parish Hall Trustees. It has been another successful year for the Parish Hall, with the hall being used every day, for the benefit of the village. The Hot Cross Buns and Mince Pie and coffee mornings had been particularly succesful, although the planned barn dance had not gone ahead due to lack of support. An afternoon tea is planned to celebrate the Queen’s birthday on 26th June.
Nigel Margetts paid tribute to all volunteers, and the high quality maintained by the hall, including its compliance with health and safety legislation. The details, he said, may be tedious, but reflect the high standards and devotion of those involved.
Footpaths, Jamie Edwards and Pat Cole have been busy Tuesday afternoons clearing footpaths and fixing stiles.
The Chairman said that if people in the village saw something needed doing, they would support residents if they wanted to take things forward. If enough volunteers came forward for the litter pick next year, then he hoped they could also help to clean up the footpaths.
Ellen Blacker, the Health & Wellbeing Champion (previously Good Neighbours) explained her funding now came from the Area Board. Wootton Bassett and Cricklade area was the only scheme in the county that was continuing. She described her role as “abit like yellow pages”, being there to help and support as needed. She drew attention to the possibility of discounts on charges for those in need from Thames Water and Wessex Water.
Councillor Cobb gave an update and explained about the CATG meetings he attends. At the next Parish Council meeting, he said they would be proposing money be allocated to the provision of yellow lines.
Questions from the public
One parishioner was unhappy at the inflexible policy on burials. She asked why it had to be so “black and white.” Somebody recently with a long association with the village and whose family were buried here, was denied a space because they were not on the electoral roll.
The policy remains in place, but there is a discretion. Not exercised on this occasion, so the original decision stood.
What progress has been made on the defribilator? The need for any defribilator to be readily accessible and close to those who would benefit from it was debated, although not resolved. It is the policy of the Parish Council to look to install one, but more information is needed.
The next annual Parish Meeting will be 25 May 2017.