Hungerford Town Council Update April/May 2020

Note: due to Coronavirus, there have been several changes to the way in which Hungerford Town Council’s (HTC’s) business is being conducted. These are variously referred to in the sections below.

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full Hungerford Town Council (HTC) Meeting on 4 May 2020, the agenda for which can be found here. Any references below to ‘the meeting’ refer to this event unless specified otherwise. Any such issues are not necessarily covered here in the order in which they were discussed. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. This report may also include information about HTC’s activities which were not discussed at the meeting. See the foot of this post for more information. WBC = West Berkshire Council

Full Council Meetings take place 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 the foreseeable future, these meetings will be conducted online. Please see the Virtual Council Meetings section below for more on this, including how you can continue to participate in these meetings in other ways.

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

Police report

The local community policing team reported that April had been a challenging month with the need to police communities in different ways (and in the the face of rapidly changing official advice about how the new government regulations shoals be interpreted). The local team is currently based at the tri-station (rather than travelling from Newbury). The focus has been on engaging with the public to explain risks and regulations and where possible, to achieve compliance without enforcement.

The local team thanked HTC for the supply of hand-sanitisers and the Hungerford volunteers who responded to an appeal for PPE equipment.

General comments about policing in the area:

• People are encouraged to sign up for Thames Valley Alerts. As well as local crime information, you can receive details of the latest scams.
• The local policing team also wants to draw attention to the ‘what 3 words’ app which is used to help with the prevention of rural crime by locating people. The app provides a three-word code for each grid which is mapped over the world. By ringing 999 and quoting it the police can locate you.
• You can report incidents online but if it is urgent please continue to call on 101 (non-emergency) and 999 in an emergency.
• The team’s email address is hungerfordanddownlandsnhpt@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk. This is not monitored 24/7 and should not be used to report a crime.
• The Herbert Protocol. The local police team is keen to promote the Herbert Protocol initiative which helps us all to try to keep vulnerable members of our community safe.
• Please report incidents via 101 or 999. “We sometimes find that news travels fast round a community,” a TVP representative said at a recent meeting,  “but if no one tells us, we don’t know about it.”

Changes to regulations governing town councils

In order to comply with the various provisions of the CV Emergency Bill, HTC was obliged to discuss (and in both cases agree) the following points.

To propose that as permitted under Section 78, not to hold an Annual Full Council meeting this year. Therefore, all Councillors including the Mayor will remain in their current roles until May 2021.

To note that meetings will be held through the Zoom platform until further notice and following the current calendar. These will be accessible to the press and public through a link on the agenda posted on the home page of the HTC website. An audio record of meetings may be kept.

Co-option of new councillors

The process of co-option has been postponed until further notice as it is felt that this was not the time to induct new councillors.

Mayor’s report

The Mayor’s report normally summarises events and activities which she has attended. For obvious reasons there were none of these.

Instead, the Mayor was forced to list the various events which had been cancelled or postponed. These included VE Day (though this will take place around the country in a different form), Armed Forces Day, Party in the Park, the litter pick, the mayor’s reception, the carnival, the Summer Festival, the town meeting and the councillors’ surgeries. She said it was too early to tell what would happen with the Christmas lights switch-on.

She also paid tribute to the many and varied organisations, commercial and voluntary, in the town which had in their various ways responded to the crisis. She cited the example of the more than 200 people who had offered their services to the Hungerford Self-isolation Network in its first few weeks. All of them, she said, had done ‘an exceptional job’ and that she ‘was not surprised’ by Hungerford’s wonderful response to the crisis.

District Councillors’ report

All three District Councillors were present at the virtual meeting and echoed the Mayor’s sentiments about Hungerford’s resilience and positivity.

The new arrangements concerning the operation of WBC’s planning committees were discussed. Previously, applicants, supporters, opponents and parish councillors were able to make a time-limited statement to the meeting and answer any questions put to them by members. In the wake of Covid-29, this has been replaced by written submissions of up to 500 words with no opportunity for questions. This was felt by many at the meeting to be a worrying development which would remove an important level of scrutiny for what is often the final stage in the planning process. This recent decision would be reviewed by WBC. In the meantime, interested parties were advised to use their district councillors (who are able to address the meetings) to get their message across in any planning issues.

WBC would be (virtually) holding its annual meeting on 12 May which might result in some changes to committee membership.

It was confirmed that an additional £1.6bn had been allocated from the government for local councils, of which WBC will get its share. This will be used for matters such as social care and business support – see here for details.

It was reported that WBC’s Community Hub, which helps to co-ordinate the district’s response to the crisis, seems to be working well – see here for details.

Waste collection is still being performed weekly as usual (though on some occasions these are being made earlier in the morning) and the collection of bulky waste from the kerbside has re-started – see here for details.

There was no immediate decision likely on re-opening the recycling centres at Padworth and Newbury – see here for details.

The West Berkshire Community Municipal Investment initiative is still progressing – see here for details.

Thanks were also paid to the many pubs, restaurants and food suppliers in and around the town which were providing takeaway and delivery services at this time – see here for details.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

The neighbourhood development plan has reached the point questions need to be put to the proposers of the various possible development sites in Hungerford but this, like so much else, has been delayed by Covid-19. There are also uncertainties surrounding the timetables for the refreshment of WBC’s Local Plan and the government’s guidance of West Berkshire’s housing numbers. Dt’s therefore unlikely that Hungerford’s NDP can be completed before the end of 2021.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

HTC’s committees

Planning. One contentious application was discussed at the first virtual E&P meeting in April, concerning the so-called ‘blue house’ in Eddington. A sufficient number of objections had been received so it has already been called in to be discussed at the Western Area Planning Committee.

Highways and Transport. Matters such as the car parking at the station were on hold due to CV-19.

Recreation and Amenities. Work has taken place recently, including replacing the hard surface at surface at the Croft Field Centre and conducting work at the playgrounds, grass mowing, a deep-clean at the the Triangle Field changing rooms and regular checks on various other HTC assets. The continued use of the allotments is permitted, subject to restrictions.

Finance. Partly because HTC was able to increase its own fundraising work, the council was £42,203 under budget for 2019-20. This perhaps suggests that the budget should be more carefully checked against the actual needs and it was agreed that this would happen mid-way through the year in future. However, it should be noted this will be brought back back into the budget for the following year: the money is not lost but will result in a combination of higher reserves and a lower precept. HTC’s revised asset register is £838,655.

Some minor procedural matters were exposed by the most recent internal audit, including what in the auditor’s opinion was the unusual practice of WBC levying a ‘supplementary charge’ relating to the electricity bill for the street lights (about £3.50 per household).

Virtual council meetings

HTC has been as active as possible in supporting the community through these challenging times. Many tasks and activities cannot currently take place but HTC’s councillors and officers are still active online. The most important recent development has been the resumption of HTC’s full council and committee meetings.

Between late March and early April, the combination of social-distancing rules and the fact that voting could not take place save in person meant that all council meetings were suspended. However, following government legislation and guidance from professional bodies, these have now resumed virtually. The link for each meeting is on the agenda which is published on the HTC website a few days before each meeting. For anyone unable or unwilling to attend meetings in this way, questions can be sent by email to townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk or by post to The Town Clerk, Hungerford Town Council, The Library, Church Street, Hungerford RG17 0JG. These need to arrive by 2pm on the day of the meeting. You can also phone 01488 686 195 and leave your question on HTC’s ansafone (this is not always checked every day so please leave your message three days before the meeting).

Public places in Hungerford

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

VE Day 2020

All the plans for marking this momentous event across the country have been put on hold although people are bring encouraged to celebrate it within their own properties. Hungerford Mayor Helen Simpson had this to say on 5 May:

“Personally, I feel it’s hugely important to remember the service and sacrifice of a generation who gave so much. Their sacrifice ensured we can enjoy the freedom we have today. Hungerford honours our fallen each year on Remembrance Sunday, I am always delighted to see the contribution made by the younger members of our community, continuing to pay tribute to those who payed the ultimate sacrifice. On Armed Forces Day, it’s always a pleasure to host the Armed Forces in Hungerford, this allows the community of Hungerford to engage and show thanks to those who are currently serving. Hungerford has a wonderful affiliation with 6 Armoured Close Support Battalion REME.
“Hungerford will lay a commemorative VE Day wreath at both memorial sites in the town. (following social distancing) A flag will be flown from the Town Hall flag pole. Our community has been encouraged to decorate their homes with bunting and also to participate in the two minute silence, and later at 3pm to raise a glass as we toast the nation. We are also delighted that our community Bellman Julian Tubb will ring out a ‘Cry for Peace’. I’m looking forwarding to seeing the efforts of the town through social media and press alike. 
“To those who gave so much – we thank you.”

Other Coronavirus-related issues

HTC has been extremely fortunate to have so many volunteers come forward in Hungerford and gives a huge thanks to all those that have offered their services. HTC maintains regular contact with raw Self-isolation Group’s co-ordinator Geordie Taylor to help promote the many offers of help for those who require it.

HTC has been keeping in touch with West Berkshire Council Community Hub and the National Association of Local Councils and also has drawn on the expertise of local health-provision services.

HTC has 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 received a grant for 250 bottles of hand gel which have been passed on to each of the town’s volunteers and to the Hungerford police team to help all of them provide their essential services safely.

Even more so than usual, HTC is using social-media coverage and local media outlets to ensure public information messages are circulated as widely as possible.

HTC has worked with the Chamber of Commerce to produce and distribute an information poster which is currently displayed throughout the town.

HTC  is working with the Primary School to get some funding from WBC to help provide laptops for pupils for home use.

Freedom of the Town 2020

A reminder that rhe recipients (Di Loft, Derek Loft, Roger Ballard and Steve Skipworth) were announced last month and the citations can be seen here. Congratulations to all four of them.

HTC’s register of volunteers

Hungerford Town Council is gathering a list of people who would be willing to offer their services in any future emergency, whatever form it might take  If you live in or near the town and would like to put yourself forward as a volunteer in such a situation, please email please email townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk with your contact details and any information about any special skills, experience or equipment you have and any restrictions, such as circumstance in which you would not be willing to help. Your details will, with all due security, be kept on file and you’ll be contacted as necessary. Hopefully your services will not be called upon but, if they are needed, CV-19 has proved that a well co-ordinated local response is vital. The better prepared a community its, the faster this can happen.

Hungerford in Bloom 2020

Please see this post for information about changes to this year’s competition (including children’s competition on the theme of a miniature garden).

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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