Hungerford Town Council Update March/April 2020

Note: due to Coronavirus, much of the normal work of Hungerford Town Council (HTC) has been suspended. That is not to say that the councillors and officers have been idle. This post concentrates on the main changes to HTC’s working practices and services as well as describing some of the other roles which it has recently taken on. 

Full Council Meetings take place in the Corn Exchange complex, generally at 7.00pm on the first working Monday of every month except August (when there is no meeting). The agenda for the next one will be provided in this section of the HTC website in due course.

For HTC updates from previous months, please visit the archives here.

WBC = West Berkshire Council.

A message from the Mayor

Firstly, I hope this finds you all well and – as far as circumstances permit – in good spirits.

I’ve been in self-isolation at home for the last 14 days as a pre-existing medical condition puts me in the ‘vulnerable’ group. This has proved to be quite challenging, as the part of the Mayor’s job I’ve always liked best has been going out and meeting people. Fortunately, modern technology can to some extent provide a way round this.

First, of course, one has to get to know one’s way round modern technology. After a bit of coaching and a few false starts I’ve just completed my first Zoom call with the Town Clerk. Those who know me personally will understand the enormity of this statement. I’m fairly well known for my lack of understanding around all things tech so I’d like to pay a tribute to my husband for all his patience and guidance with the IT. I fear for his sanity if I continue to need this for too much longer.

As we’re all discovering, being at home can have some benefits. My garden, for example, has never been in better shape and my dog Toto is delighting in the extra attention. Thankfully we’ve all been rewarded by some much-needed sunshine which has helped us all to feel a little more uplifted. I’ve also been baking for the elders in my family to ensure they are kept well fed and receive little treats in their dropped off supply parcels. I suspect that when we come out of this we’ll all be more tech-savvy – and better cooks.

You don’t need to be particularly tech-savvy to know the contribution that’s being made by our NHS staff, as recognition of their work can be found everywhere – including, the last time I saw the BBC News, in lights on the top of London’s BT Tower. I found the applause for the NHS last Thursday very moving and uplifting. Thanks to every single one of them.

I’d also like to pay tribute to Hungerford’s community spirit. Knowing the town as I do I was delighted but not particularly surprised when I was told that over 200 people have already volunteered for the Self-Isolation Network set up earlier this month by local resident Geordie Taylor. You can find more information on the group’s work here.

Hungerford’s very own ‘Disco Dan’ has been entertaining and lifting the mood of Hungerford’s Facebook community every evening at 8pm. He has created quite a following online and united our community in such a wonderfully positive way.

All of these exceptional efforts, alone or as part of a larger volunteer group, showcases our community as being simply outstanding. They also help to calm the mind and offer a sense of togetherness through these uncharted waters.

The Town Clerk has provided below a summary of how HTC is adapting the constant changes. Hopefully, government guidance will be approved shortly allowing HTC to function and hold virtual meetings.

As she also explains, we are in addition supporting the community in many other ways, including sharing information, liaising with WBC and signposting the various requests for help or support to those who can best provide them.

I will continue to update you with news and information as it becomes available to HTC. Thank you for the amazing efforts you’re all making to support your community through these unprecedented times. Stay well!

Helen Simpson
Hungerford Town Mayor

Usual council work on hold…

With all meetings cancelled HTC can’t make many decisions or proceed with planned projects. This is mainly because votes need to be made in person and can’t be carried out remotely.

The government is working on a Coronavirus Bill and associated legislation that will allow council meetings to be held remotely and to make decisions without the need for physically meeting. We welcome this asap. Particularly it will allow us to meet deadlines for annual returns, vote in new councillors and spend money where needed. Skype and Zoom are just two possible platforms for future meetings.

Fortunately, there are some delegated powers already set such as to allow limited expenditure on budgeted items and to carry out basic services. Office staff are well equipped to be able to work from home and can be contacted (preferably by email but ansafone messages will also be listened to remotely). Please see the HTC Office section below.

In order to help keep everybody safe we have closed all our playparks, community centres and sports facilities for the time being and restrictions are in place for use of the allotments and cemetery.

Instead…

Our role has changed to supporting the community through these challenging times. We have been extremely fortunate to have so many volunteers come forward in Hungerford and a huge thanks to all those that have offered their services.

We have used our contacts to reach as many community groups as possible who then reach out to their contacts. We maintain regular contact with co-ordinator Geordie Taylor to help promote the many offers of help for those who require it.

We have been keeping in touch with the local authority ‘communities working together’ group and the National Association of Councils and drawing on the expertise of local health provision services is vital in keeping us all informed and to ensure we act where we can.

We have been actively involved in discussions with local retailers and other organisations in order to help ensure an orderly and appropriate distribution of goods in and around the town.

Thanks to Greenham Common Trust, HTC will receive a grant for 250 bottles of hand gel purchased. These have been passed on to each of the town’s volunteers and to the dedicated Hungerford police team to help them provide their essential services safely.

We are using social media coverage and local media outlets to ensure public information messages are circulated as wide as possible.

We have also worked with the Chamber of Commerce to produce and distribute an information poster which we will be displayed throughout the town.

Freedom of the Town 2020

The recipients (Di Loft, Derek Loft, Roger Ballard and Steve Skipworth) have been announced and the citations can be seen here. Congratulations to all four of them.

Hungerford in Bloom 2020

An announcement about this will be made shortly.

Hungerford Town Council office

The HTC office at The Hub is currently closed but emails and phone messages are being monitored.  Call 01488 686 195 to leave a message or (preferably) email admin@hungerford-tc.gov.uk.

Contacting WBC in an emergency

You can also contact West Berkshire Council out of office hours for emergencies. These are considered to include:

  • Major incidents such as major accidents or significant flooding.
  • Fallen trees and other debris blocking or restricting roads or causing potential danger to road users.
  • Traffic lights not working (West Berkshire Council only manages fixed traffic lights, not temporary ones).
  • Emergency repairs to council-owned temporary accommodation (tenants of properties should contact their housing association, landlord or agent).

 

The sections above cover the main issues with which HTC has recently been involved or concerned: it by no means describes all of HTC’s activities. Nor is this an official record of any meeting nor of any other aspect of HTC’s activities. Links to the official minutes of this and other meetings are provided in this post.

For more information on HTC, please click here.

If there’s anything that you’d like to see addressed by HTC, and perhaps also covered in this way in future editions of Penny Post Hungerford, please email claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk. Any such suggestions should be received at least four working days before the end of the month (and preferably sooner) if they are to be included in the corresponding post for the following month. That is not, of course, to say that HTC will not in any case give the matter its attention and respond personally if appropriate.

This information has been compiled by Penny Post from information supplied by HTC and others. Every reasonable 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 HTC’s official view on the matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to give additional information where this has been judged useful or necessary. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that HTC necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein.

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