Local Councils

Lambourn Annual Parish Meeting 9 May 2018

The meeting took place in the Lambourn Memorial Hall and was attended by about 40 people.

Chairman’s Remarks

The Chairman, Peter Penfold, said that he believed this was the 124th annual Lambourn Parish Council (LPC) Meeting. He thanked a number of people including Pete Deakin, Mark Allen, Pat Bracey, the clerks and the councillors, for their work during the past year.

The main points he touched upon were:

• The continued support for the Lambourn Library of about £4,000, via West Berkshire Council (WBC);
• The need to co-opt a new councillor for Eastbury;
• The improvements which had taken place to the Memorial Hall including new chairs, a new kitchen and the screen (now necessary as plans were no longer supplied by WBC as prints but only digitally);
• The fact that LPC pays for the salting of all roads except the B4000 and B4001;
• The fact that LPC has also provided 18 dog-poo bins (and he urged that these be used by dog owners);
• The programme of upgrading the street lights;
• The agreement with WBC whereby LPC was assuming responsibility for the maintenance of some areas of the parish;
• The production of a road-safety document in conjunction with the Trainers Association and The Jockey Club Estates which will be displayed in yards and around the villages to raise awareness of safety and co-operation between horse-riders and other road users;
• The creation of a working party to consider the re-introduction of CCTV cameras.

Police update

PC Paul Cole and PCSO Colin Reeves of the Thames Valley Police (TVP) Community Policing Team were present at the meeting.

The changes to the local policing arrangements were discussed, including the loss of the police station in Lambourn (and elsewhere). There were four PCs and six PCSOs covering the large and horseshoe-shaped Downlands District but it was stressed that the response time for any officers who needed to be deployed from Newbury was unaffected by these new arrangements.

There were 43 crimes reported in the last twelve months and the proof or suspicion was that many were committed by a small number of people. The police’s engagement with the community, and the community’s ability to supply information, was thus crucial. The officers welcomed the support of local residents in reporting incidents and urged that this continue.

They stressed, however, that posting an incident on social media, valuable though this is as a means of sharing information locally, does not constitute the official reporting of it to the police. (Note from Penny Post: This link may be of use in this respect: this concerns the police presence in Hungerford but this is in the same TVP Neighbourhood Area as Lambourn and the same procedures for contacting the police apply.)

It was hoped that PCSOs would do more foot patrols in Lambourn starting in the near future, so reverting to the role for which they had been first established. It was also hoped that more use would be be made of the mobile police stations (and perhaps also sessions similar to the ‘Have Your Say’ ones in Hungerford: click here for more).

All PCs and PCSOs were now trained in the use of anti-speeding devices and that the issue was recognised as being a serious issue. There was a range of suggestions from the floor as to where these should best be conducted and also as to what the speed limits in certain areas of the parish should be.

It was also suggested by the TVP representatives that a 20mph speed limit in Eastbury would be worth considering given the recent spate of accidents through the village, the lack of pavements and the fact that many house opened almost directly onto the road.

The TVP representatives also confirmed that were LPC to reintroduce CCTV in the parish this would make the job of crime detection easier.

They also suggested that fly-tipping remained a problem and that the discrepancy between this point of view and that expressed by WBC was due to the fact the fact that more cases were now being reported to the police and fewer to the council.

District Councillor’s Report

Councillor (and Council Leader) Graham Jones attended the meeting and apologised for the absence of his colleague Gordon Lundie. He provided a brief summary of the main challenges and opportunities faced by WBC.

The main issue has been the dramatic reduction in the Rate Support Grant: four years ago this contributed 25% of WBC’s revenue but has now been withdrawn altogether. (In answer to a question, he explained that WBC had traditionally received a smaller share of its revenue from this source than had many other councils and was thus always going to be among the first to lose it altogether.) The inevitable result has been a series of well-publicised cuts as well as an increase in Council Tax of 5.99% (the maximum without a referendum) for the year 2018-19. This had lead to some very difficult funding decisions.

Against this backdrop must be seen the escalating rise in social-care costs, due largely to the more complex needs of an aging population. Over half of WBC’s £125m budget is spent in this way. He pointed out that this was not always visible in the way that services such as rubbish collection and road repairs were. Many WBC services were not used by the majority of the population although this did not, of course, make them less important (and in many cases legally necessary).

The longer-term solution for local-government funding will be a different way of redistributing business rates (currently WBC retails about 23% of those it collects) although some details of this are still undecided. He stressed that the new scheme would not (contrary to what had at first been expressed by the then Chancellor George Osborne) result in all business rates being retained by the council that raised them but merely that these would remain within the local-government finances, re-distributed between the councils as required. However, it’s proposed that any increases in business rates by a particular council would be able to be retained by that council. WBC is, with other neighbouring councils, currently taking part in a one-year pilot scheme for this scheme.

He reported good news with regard to public health initiatives, children’s services (now rates ‘good’ rather than the previous ‘inadequate) and libraries (from the position two years ago when it seemed all bar one would close, due to various partnerships with local groups all bar one – Wash Common – remained open, and that may well be re-born in the near future).

He also mentioned a demographic challenge, which was that West Berkshire had a shortage of young adults (roughly 20 to 35), the supposition being that many people who grew up in the area moved away and did not return for some time. Given the aging population and the increasing reliance on business rates, making the area more attractive for this group was a matter WBC would be doing its best to address. In the WBC Full Council meeting the day before he had created a new portfolio for Ecomomic Development which was designed to encourage investment in West Berkshire, so hopefully addressing both the business-rate and demographic points previously referred to.

In answer to a question, Councillor Jones was asked about the so-called ‘green bin tax’ of (as has been suggested) £50pa. He said that a decision as to when this would been introduced had not been taken. He was also challenged as to whether this was now a common practice among councils, as he claimed, but admitted that he didn’t have the figures to hand although he knew that both Reading and the Vale of the White Horse applied these. (Note from Penny Post: a quick web search produced this report from 2106 which said that at that time 42% of councils charged for this service at an average rate of about £41pa, the charges then ranging from £14pa to £96. This report, however, suggested that by 2022 all councils would be charging for this.)

He also referred to an imminent change in the ward boundaries which would result in the parish of Lambourn being henceforth represented by one councillor rather than, as at present, the Lambourn Valley ward )which included East Garston and Great Shefford) being represented by two. Click here for more information on these changes, and the local administrative arrangements generally.

Draft Accounts

The Clerk, Karen Wilson, provided a brief summary of the draft accounts. There had been a 2.76% increase in the precept in 2018-19 but she drew attention to the various extra costs LPC had incurred with regard to the upgrading of the Memorial Hall and the provision for the upgrading of the street lights. The final reports would be available on the website and at the LPC office in due course. Anyone with any questions in the meantime should contact LPC.

Voluntary Organisations

Brief statements were then made on behalf of several local charities and voluntary groups.

The Lambourn Allotment Society – Mike Billinge-Jones. 53 plots, all occupied and a small waiting list.

The Lambourn Volunteers – Peter Cox. Mainly provides a transport service to and from local medical facilities. Over 6,000 miles clocked up by the 30-dd volunteers in the past year. More volunteers always welcome.

The Lambourn C of E School House Trust – Chris Harris. Originally established to provide accommodation for Head Teachers at Lambourn School, the property it owns is now rented and provided in 2017-18 about £12,000 for the School.

Eastbury Furze Trust – Fiona Drake. Established for ‘the prevention and relief of poverty’, the charity makes grants (of about £1,100 in 2017-18) to elderly and disabled people.

Theo Harris Trust – Peter Penfold. The charity, which made grants of about £3,200 in 2017-18, exists to support a range of local needs including the support of elderly women.

The Isbury Charity and the Hardrett’s Charity  – Peter Penfold. Both of these separate charities own almshouses in the parish and exist to provide low-cost housing for local residents. There are plans for these to merge.

The Friends of Lambourn Library – Sue Cocker. The recent changes to the local library service have resulted in the need for a new model for the Lambourn Library. There are currently 16 community volunteers but more are always needed. Please contact suecocker@hotmail.com, or visit the library to talk to the volunteers and staff, or contact WBC’s Volunteer Officer Gemma Taylor at volunteerinyourlibrary@westberks.gov.uk for more information. (Click here to read about Hilary Kelly’s experience of volunteering at Hungerford Library.)

Penny Post

Brian Quinn of Penny Post explained how a new monthly e-newsletter for The Valley of the Racehorse had recently been launched, following the model of the successful Penny Post Hungerford. He invited anyone who wanted to subscribe to do so (for free) and said that Penny Post welcomed contributions and engagement of all kinds, ranging from the promotion of businesses to book reviews and from information about voluntary groups to recipes. Click here for more information.

Proposed Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan (NP)

A brief, clear and objective presentation was provided by Sue Cocker and Mike Billinge-Jones about the issues involved in deciding whether the parish to proceed with an NP; and, if so, what would be involved thereafter.

(Note from Penny Post: the main points raised in the excellent presentation have been covered in this article in Penny Post about NPs generally, with some specific reference to the one in Hungerford which has recently been officially launched. This also includes (at the foot) some links to other sources of information.)

LPC recommeded that an NP be proceeded with, subject to sufficient interest being expressed by residents at various events which would take place during 2018 and which will be widely publicised, in Penny Post and elsewhere. The hope is that a decision would be reached by the end of the year.

Other Business

After a few questions from the floor, some of which touched on the interests of the racing industry in the matters of speeding and the NP, the meeting was closed

 

This information has been compiled by Penny Post. Every  effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but these may contain expressions of opinion which may not accord with Lambourn Parish Council ’s official view on the particular matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to provide additional information where this has been judged useful or necessary. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that Lambourn Parish Council necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein. The official minutes of the meeting will be published on the Lambourn Parish Council website in due course.

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