Local Councils

Hungerford Annual Town Meeting, 21 March 2018

Note that this is Penny Post’s report of the event, not Hungerford Town Council’s (HTC). This article is not intended to be exhaustive and merely covers some of the main points. HTC’s official minutes will follow in due course and will be published here. The agenda for this meeting can be seen here.

Opening remarks

The Mayor, Keith Knight, opened with a brief summary of some of HTC’s achievements in the past year. These included  the installation of a new CCTV camera at the skate park, a new deal with the Rugby Club and the Triangle Field, pigeon-curbing measures, cost reductions, an increase in local grants, no increase in the precept and an improving relationship with West Berkshire Council (WBC).

The Thames Valley Police

PC David Burleigh gave an overview of the police activities in and around the town over the last 12 months, including the changes in policing arrangements and the opening of the Tr-service Station, most a result of budget cuts.

He provided a summary of the crime statistics for the area. Most were broadly in line with those for other areas (and this despite the recent spate of thefts form vehicles in the town). Superficially, the one exception seemed to be with shoplifting, where the incidence had more than doubled in 2017 compared to the year before. Expressed like this, this seems a shocking statistic. On talking to him afterwards, it perhaps seems less so.

The change was from 33 cases (a low bases which can make any percentage variation seem spectacular) to 71. Of course, a crime isn’t a crime for the police until it’s been reported. PC Burleigh suggested that a simpler system recently introduced had probably contributed to more incidents being recorded. Most importantly, the detection rate had increased, from 18% (6) in 2016 to 31% (22) in 2017. Perhaps this suggests that the kind of crimes which were not  reported in 2016 but which were in 2017 proved to be easier to clear up; or perhaps that the new reporting systems are providing more timely and suitable information.

He also pointed out that only about a fifth of police time, in his area at least, is spent dealing with reported crimes: domestic disputes, searches for missing people (particularly vulnerable ones), traffic-speed monitoring, general patrols and educational visits all make their mark in the time-sheets. (So, I imagine, do addressing town meetings and doing paperwork, though he didn’t mention these.)

• For more information about policing in and around Hungerford, please click here.

Action Through Enterprise

Penny Locke and Toby Quinn made a presentation about their recent trip to Ghana in support of the above small charity which included a short film about this. They thanked the many people in and around Hungerford who had provided donations or other support for this and stressed what a difference a £5 a month donation to ATE can make.

Penny said that they were there when the Oxfam story broke. She stressed that ATE’s work was very focussed on certain aspects of life in a small area and so the negative aspects of ‘corporate’ charity work were avoided. Clearly everyone is now asking more questions about exactly what any charitable donations they make are being used for: with ATE, the results seem to be both demonstrable and immediate – better school attendance, less bias against disability and more small-business funding.

• For more information about Penny, Toby and Adam’s trip to Ghana, please click here.

The Town and Manor

Ellie Dickens, the Constable of the Town and Manor gave a short presentation about the Town and Manor’s regular work in and around the town, including a number of environmental and conservation measures such as tree planting, riparian management and wildflower restoration, as well as the recent purchase and restoration of a remarkable 100-year-old orchard at Pickets Mead, educational tours and the general upkeep of areas such as the Common and the marsh for public use. She also stressed that this work, and the local donations (around £17,000 in 2017), were derived from the Town and Manor’s income, not from any charge to the council-tax payers.

Ellie particularly praised the work done by the Town and Manor’s first CEO, Jed Ramsey, in managing the various commercial and environmental assets of the Town and Manor since his appointment last year.

• For more information on the Town and Manor, please click here.

The Minutes of the 2017 Town Meeting

These were approved (and can be seen here).

Reports from the committees

Each of the committee chairmen made a brief presentation about the major achievements, issues and challenges of the past year.

Once again, I was struck by how many aspects of life in and around the town, many of which are taken for granted, are accomplished by the work of HTC’s councillors. Several thanks were also paid to the Town Clerk, Claire Barnes, and her colleagues Philippa Adams, Jeff Ford, Sarah Hennessey and her former colleague Allison Blake, without whose work nothing would be able to happen either.

Rather than list the wide range of matters that were referred to (see the above-mentioned official minutes for this), I thought I’d pick out a few,in no particular order:

• Solving the (at one time seemingly impossible) problem of the future of the library;
• Restoring the war memorial;
• Instigating the Hungerford Trade Showcase;
• Dealing with the numerous issues surrounding the Salisbury Road planning application;
• Discussing with WBC about providing a pelican crossing in Charnham Street;
• Continuing to provide the best Christmas lights in the area;
• Constructing the Croft Field Activity Centre;
• Ensuring that Hungerford was involved in the Great West Way tourism initiative;
• Adding to the equipment in the playgrounds;
• Planning to develop a brochure to promote Hungerford;
• Preparing a budget with precept rise yet an increase in grants available to local bodies;
• Renegotiating several supplier contracts;
• Enouraging all residents to be Hungerford tourism ambassadors;
• Agreeing a new rent arrangement for the Triangle Field;
• Pressing NR and GWR to fulfil their obligations to maintain and improve the station;
• Supporting HAHA in its National Lottery-funded bid to install a compostable toilet;
• Negotiating with WBC the difficult question of the transfer of 105 antiquated street lights.

These were just some of the many issues that were touched on. Many other matters, all important in their own way, have been addressed by HTC over the last year.

• For more information on HTC’s recent activities, please click here.

Annual litter pick

This will take place  on Sunday 8 April and volunteers are welcome. Please meet outside the Town Hall at 10am wearing suitable clothes. All materials will be provided. Normally this lasts for an hour or so and light refreshments will be provided afterwards. There will also be a litter pick organised by the Town and Manor on the Common starting at the Down gate, also at 10am.

The library

This was mentioned above but was also covered separately. The plan is that the building be transferred from WBC to HTC (to be managed by a charity) but with WBC maintaining the library service and HTC, outside the library hours, being able to use the building for other purposes is the intention and this is now close to being achieved. Various issues concerning the lease and the various works that need to be carried out by WBC before or after the transfer still need to be agreed and further discussions in the rest of March and in April are to be expected. Paul James, West Berkshire Council’s Culture and Libraries manager, has been closely involved in these discussions. He was also present at the meeting and confirmed his full support for this new arrangement.

The Mayor and the Deputy Mayor, both of whom have also been closely involved in this, paid tribute to the volunteers and trustees and to the friends of Hungerford Library, as well as those who have supported the idea of saving the library since the dark days of 2016 when closure seemed the easy and inevitable option. Local residents are encouraged to step forward to continue all of these aspects of the library’s continued success and survival.

• For more information about volunteering at the library, please click here.

The neighbourhood plan

A steering group has been set up and a preliminary meeting held. The Mayor said that matters were still at a formative stage in what seemed likely to be a long process and that further volunteers would be needed. This will be given further publicity in Penny Post soon.

• For more information about Hungerford’s neighbourhood plan, please click here.

Freedom of the Town Awards

Congratulations to the three 2017 recipients of this honour: Norman Barr (former fireman and cricket club chairman, tireless fundraiser, charity trustee and businessman); Catherine Wooliston (midwife, Chain volunteer driver, hospital visitor, Christmas meal provider and village agent); and Chris Scorey (former town councillor, leading member of the Hungerford town plan team and Town and Manor trustee). Well deserved in all three cases and Penny Post extends its congratulations.

 

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