Hungerford Town Council Update February/March 2022

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 7 March 2022, the agenda for which can be found here. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. 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.  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.

Full Council Meetings take place generally at 7.00pm in the Library on the first working Monday of every month except August (when there is no meeting). The agenda for the next one (as well as for the Council’s various committee meetings) can be found in this section of the HTC website

See the foot of this post for more information.

HTC = Hungerford Town Council; WBC = West Berkshire Council; WAPC = WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee. NDP = Neighbourhood Development Plan. H2036 = Hungerford’s NDP. DC = District Councillor.

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

Hungerford Surgery

Before the meeting proper, there was a presentation by two representatives of Hungerford Surgery, Practice Manager Mike Hall and Senior Partner Dr Niti Sodhi. This was in response to concerns which had been raised about the staffing levels there in recent months (which had been prompted by a statement by the Surgery itself in December 2021). The issue can be summarised as an acute problem (the resignation of two GPs for unrelated reasons, one of which will come into effect at the end of May) and the chronic one of a shortage of GPs and other clinicians across for BOB (Bucks, Oxon and Berks) area and, indeed the country as a whole.

Various statistics were used to explain the situation. There are many ways a surgery’s goals and performance can be measured. These include the number of GP sessions ( a period of four and a quarter hours) per week; the number of appointments each GP has a day; and the number of patients on each GP’s list. Given the staffing situation at Hungerford, one would expect to see the first one falling and the other two rising: this is exactly what the figures revealed. The optimum number of sessions which Hungerford Surgery, given its patient list size, should provide is 32: since September 2021 this was 27 and will from June 2022 (if nothing is done to address this – see below) fall to 21. The GPs that remain are also over-worked. 32 appointments per day from an individual roster of 1,500 patients was the norm in February 2021: a year on and the GPs are seeing 38 patents a day out of 2,000 patients allocated to them. If unaddressed, this will rise to unsustainable levels by mid-summer.

The measures being taken to address this include a hunt for two new GPs, a continuing use of locum cover, the aspiration to become a training practice (which will provide greater access to trainee GPs) and further work on the development of and training of the nursing team. Perhaps the clearest sign that the situation was reaching serious proportions was the application to close the practice to new patients. This could run for between three and 12 months and is contingent on the local health board being satisfied the neighbouring practices can absorb these. No final decision on this has yet been made. As Mike Hall stressed, successful recruitment could well change this.

He also pointed to the recent recruitment of a range of new clinicians including a first-contact physio, a mental health practitioner and a clinical pharmacist, all of which will be in place by April. This will certainly help: but the main gap is with the GPs who remain the first point of contact for most patients. Pulse reported in August 2021 that one in seven GP vacancies were unfilled. In the BOB area, Mike Hall said there were close to 50 – and that’s just based on a survey of active job posts. This is a reality which is not confined to Hungerford.

Mike Hall was also candid about the implications were the situation to remain unchecked. These included unmanageable demand and workload, increased wait times and higher risk of staff burn-out and decline in morale. The worse the problem became, the harder it would be to recruit new staff and to retain existing ones. The implications of this are not encouraging but at least it seems clear that to a greater or lesser extent these are shared by GP practices everywhere. (It was, however, agreed that Hungerford Surgery was perhaps suffering worse than many for reasons beyond its control as house prices are high (and rising) here).

The problem has its origins in what many see as a decade of under-investment during the period of austerity that followed the financial crash of 2008. A long origin does not suggest a quick fix, in Hungerford or anywhere else.

At least parliament seems to be trying to take some steps, its Health and Social Care Committee starting to hear evidence for its recruitment and retention inquiry. During the first session on 1 March, one GP from Leicester is reported is quoted in Healthcare Leader as likening life as a a GP to being “pelted with rocks”, adding that GPs are “‘left carrying all the risk of system failures, including patients being inappropriately discharged into GP care.” Management Practice suggested that the “ever-increasing demand” on GPs was only being kept at bay at all by their preparing to “go above and beyond” for their patients.

Dr Niti Sodhi gave some examples of how this was happening in Hungerford, while stressing that patient safety was not being compromised. Aside from the possible temporary closure of the practice to new patients (see above) the most immediate result of this would likely be longer wait times for those with non-urgent conditions. “Please be patient,” she asked. “We are doing absolutely all we can to address this.” Both have promised to supply Penny Post with updates as the situation develops and these will be reported without delay. You can also keep your eye on the the News section on the left-hand panel of the Surgery’s website.

Police report

The following report was provided for the meeting:

Crime report

(This relates to “incidents of note to the wider community” in February 2022)

  • Anti-social behaviour: two reports. The team is continuing to patrol the “hotspot” areas.
  • Criminal Damage: two reports, both in the rural areas on the outskirts of the town.
  • Theft: two reports: one occurred in town and one the theft of catalytic converter from a vehicle parked in Eddington.
  • Burglary: three reports have been made in the last month. One to a business premise in Charnham, one in town and one rural to outbuildings. The team has arrested a male on suspicion of burglary that occurred in the Hungerford area in early February.
  • Shoplifting: Two reports: on 17 Feb a male was arrested for shoplifting after being stopped by staff in The Arcade and a further offence occurred at the Co-op on 26 February.

The neighbourhood police team’s recent activities

  • In February, the team visited Hungerford Primary School to talk with the foundation year group about keeping safe. They will be back in at the end of March to do an input to the older children on internet safety.
  • The team’s Wildlife Officer has been working with the RSPCA across West Berkshire and has carried out address checks after receiving information that animals had been mistreated.
  • The team continues to carry out rural operations with its counterparts in Wiltshire and South and Vale to prevent, deter and detect rural crime offences.

The local police team

The current set-up of the team is one Inspector, one Sergeant, three Police Constables and five PCSOs to cover the Hungerford and Downlands area. Please see below for how to contact them.

Local events

If you have any community events for which you would like representation from your local NHPT, please contact us via the above email address. While we cannot guarantee we will always be able to attend, we will make every effort to do so. 

General information (including contacts)

  • Please report all incidents to the Police or otherwise they will not be officially recorded – news travels fast round a community but if no one tells reports incidents the police may not know about it. Mentioning an incident on social media does not count as reporting the crime.
  • People are encouraged to sign up for Thames Valley Alerts. As well as local crime information, you can receive details of the latest scams.
  • Thames Valley Police has a Facebook page.
  • The local policing team also wants to draw attention to the ‘what three 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.
  • If you would like to report anonymously you can do so via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online.
  • 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 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.

Councillor resignation

The Mayor reported that Councillor Rupert Mills had recently announced that he needed to resign due to pressure of work. She thanked him for his contributions and said that, fortunately, other would-be councillors had recently made themselves known so it was hoped that the position could be filled fairly easily. The usual formalities would need to be undertaken first.

A special thank you

The Mayor paid tribute to Andrew Burbidge for “exceptional service to the community.”

Andrew was the vaccine lead at Hungerford cricket club. He was there daily to ensure the service ran smoothly and supported the public who were queuing for vaccines, as well as opening the club and closing each day. The vaccine service enabled a fast roll out of around 8,000 covid vaccine boosters on the run-up to Christmas. He was presented with a Myor’s commemorative coin at the meeting and given a well-deserved round of applause.

Mayor’s report

Jubilee Community Picnic Sunday 5 June 2022 2-7pm

A committee has now been established for the organisation of the Queens Jubilee community picnic. Councillor Jerry Keates and carnival organiser Neale Marney will lead a group of enthusiastic volunteers to pull this community event together for Hungerford.

I am thrilled we will be celebrating the monumental achievement of our monarch’s 70 years on the throne. Here’s hoping for a beautiful sunny day to enjoy with friends and family. If you would like to contribute in any way, please contact jubileehungerford@gmail.com.

HTC will be running a beacon-lighting event on the Thursday before at the Triangle field (details to follow). Please also see the separate section below.

Town Meeting Wednesday 30 March 7pm The Corn Exchange

We are pleased to announce, this year’s annual town meeting will be in person. This is a public meeting which provides you with an opportunity to chat with Cllr’s and learn more about some of the exciting projects planned for 2022-2023.  Many groups and organisations will be present on the evening, to include, Police, Schools, WBC, Town & Manor, Smarten Up Hungerford, H2036 Neighbourhood plan. Please pop along to this informal meeting. I promise no long presentations, just lots of enthusiasm and listening ears. I’m really looking forward to seeing and chatting with you all again.

David Clayton – Hungerford Theatre Company

I was thrilled to attend the youth production of Jungle Book last weekend. The cast were all fantastic, I was so impressed with the, enormous amount of lines which were remembered and performed with such confidence. The production was dedicated to the memory of David Clayton. I attended David’s funeral last Monday, the service was a lovely reflection of David’s life. He will be remembered for his commitment to the theatre company and also as a Freedom of the Town awardee in 2016.

More sad news

Hungerford has recently lost two more stalwarts from our community.

Bill Acworth was a town councillor for 40yrs, he also served as a district councillor. He was founder member of HEAT (Hungerford environmental action team) and worked hard to secure and develop the allotments in Marsh Lane. Bill was also given the Freedom of the Town in 2013. Bill was completely dedicated to the countryside and the environment. He will be sadly missed by so many.

Ron Tarry sadly passed away last week. Ron was a former Mayor, serving twice, and at the time of the town’s tragedy. Ron was forced to manage the attention of the worlds media and also to console the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy. This was one of Hungerford’s most turbulent times in history. Ron was a member of the Hungerford Football Club for over 70yrs, serving as once manager, chair and more recently president of the club. Hungerford is a poorer place without Ron in it.

Personally, I will miss his support and encouragement throughout my time as Mayor. I was lucky enough to be told by Ron that I was doing a grand job as town Mayor. I will be forever grateful to him for his kindness and commitment to our community.

HTC wish to forward our condolence to all the family and friends who knew them.

Bewley Homes

Claire Winser and I met with managing director of Bewley Homes Andrew Brooks. We were given a guided tour of the new affordable homes on the Bewley development on Salisbury Road. These new homes will be handed over to the local authority quite soon. Construction supply lead-times still remain problematic.

Claire and I were impressed with the size and build quality of the two-bedroom homes which were all fitted with EV chargers and pepper-potted around the development.

Andrew is keen to show his commitment to Hungerford’s community and keen to support the town with a community project. I will be meeting with Andrew again soon to discuss the idea of a make-over for our treasured war memorial site. Claire and I informed Andrew that our newest councillor is from the new development and discussed how successful the welcome packs were for all new residents to Hungerford.

Other news

  • I have recently received news from WBC that Hungerford has been allocated £200,000 in its budget for footway improvements in Hungerford (see also District Councillors’ Reports below). A work schedule will be put together and priority given to the worst affected areas. I would like to thank Councillor Fyfe for his detailed report on the condition of Hungerford’s footways. Work should commence later in the year.
  • I am also delighted that Hungerford will have some wild-flower matting on some of our green spaces in Hungerford (like that at Speen roundabout). I have been asking for some time, I’m so thrilled it will be laid in such an important Jubilee year.
  • At a recent meeting that Brian Quinn of Penny Post hosted with WBC’s CEO Nigel Lynn in Hungerford, he pointed out that some of the footway areas around the market stalls could do with a bit of maintenance: as a result, this is now on WBC’s machine-patching list of works. Nigel Lynn has also requested WBC take a fresh look at coach parking within the town. More details will follow in due course. This is all great news for Hungerford!

District councillors’ reports

All three DCs (Dennis Benneyworth, Claire Rowles and James Cole) were present at the meeting. The points they raised included the following:

  • A tribute to the three recent stalwarts of the town who have recently died (see Mayor’s report above).
  • Footway improvements: £200,000 has been allocated to this in WBC’s recent budget.
  • Hungerford Primary School: in the same budget, £90,000 has been allocated to a kitchen extension which will help enable the continued provision of free school meals for those entitles to them.
  • A4 Charnham Park Roundabout: this area, to around 270m east of Cottrell Close, is due to be resurfaced later this year; however the Drainage and Flood Management Team at WBC has investigated the “puddle” and confirmed that there is a broken gully connection. Work to repair this will be undertaken in the new financial year in advance of the surfacing work.

Please see this page on WBC’s website should you wish to contact the DCs directly about any matter that relates to the Hungerford and Kintbury ward.

Recycling bins

DC Rowles reported that the recent test of public recycling bins showed that this in Hungerford had 58% of their contents not suitable for the purposes stated (compared with 63% in Newbury). The Mayor suggested that this might be improved were landfill and recycling bins to positioned next to each other. It was agreed that this certainly helped reduce littering. It remains to be seen whether the experiment will be continued.

The platinum jubilee celebrations

Councillor Jerry Keats told the meeting that a committee of 12 had been set up which would be organising the town’s celebrations. Its next meeting will be on 15 March and a further announcement will be made thereafter.

What has so far been agreed is that the main event will take place from 2pm until 7pm on Sunday 5 June in the Croft Green with stalls on the Croft Field. All are welcome. Bring a picnic and chairs: refreshments and food will be available from various vendors. Please don’t bring your pets, although service and assistance dogs are welcome. There will be musical and other forms of entertainment with sing-a-longs and flag-waving likely to feature prominently. Planning is still ongoing  – please please contact the committee on jubileehungerford@gmail.com if you would like to help in any way or to suggest further ideas.

More information on this and other events planned over the jubilee weekend will be widely publicised as the details are confirmed. See also the Mayor’s report above.

The 2022 town meeting

This will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 30 March at The Croft Hall (the event had been booked for the Corn Exchange but continued renovation works there following last year’s floods have recently made this impossible). A number of local groups will be participating there and the Mayor expressed her delight that this would take place in-person following the Covid-induced curtailments of the last two years.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

The Project Team met again in February to continue the evaluations of options for allocating sites to satisfy Hungerford’s housing and sustainability requirements. It has not yet reached a conclusion on its recommendations on the NDP development strategy and will continue to work towards achieving this.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

The Croft Field Activity Centre

It was agreed at the meeting that the discussions about the final design issues should be delegated to the working party to report back to HTC. The Mayor said that the proposals for this exciting project were now “mainly finalised” but that it was best that a consideration of the final matters be left to those who had so far developed the scheme. This was uniamously approved.

The skate park and pump track

Over 100 responses have been received to the consultation on this, and you still have until 25 march to make your views known. The Mayor said at the meeting that although significant CIL funds had been allocated to this, it was likely that at this stage the pump track may need to be deferred. Anyone wanting to find out more should contact HTC (see below) or attend the town meeting on 30 March (see above) at which representatives of the project would be able to answer any questions.

Direct train services between Hungerford and Paddington

As recently reported by the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group (BTPG), these will be considerably reduced from May 2022 as a result of cost cuts which have been demanded by the DfT of GWR. HTC agreed at the meeting that every effortshould be used to lobby for these to be reversed. Some of these are suggested in the BTPG’s most recent message.

The BTPG has proved itself to be an effective advocate for rail services in the area. It also provides timely and comprehensible information about any service disruptions. Anyone who uses these services, even occasionally, is recommended to subscribe to its newsletters and to respond to any advice it gives about improving the services on what has proved to a problematic stretch win the main line between Bedwyn and Newbury. Details can be found in the above-mentioned post.

Gigaclear cabling at the Rugby Club

It was agreed at the meeting to permit Gigaclear to use existing ducting to supply cabling and connection to the rugby club building. Gigaclear has agreed to provide HTC with a small monetary payment to compensate for any inconvenience caused.

The Ukranian flag

It had been suggested that this might be flown above the Town Hall. The Mayor said that the Town and Manor (which owns this building) had recently told her that it had purchased some and that these should be in evidence soon.

HTC’s committees

The following committee meetings have recently taken place:

  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 14 February – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on previous actions and six new applications.
  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 24 January – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: speed indicator devices; EV charge points; the railway station; improvements at thew Tesco junction; and a report from the electrical contractors for the Christmas lights..
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 18 January – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: the Smitham Bridge playground; the allotments; the Cemetery; The Croft Field Activity Centre; the skate park; the leisure strategy; the Triangle Field; trees; and the Greenham 40 plaque.
  • Finance & General Purposes. (Last meeting 12 January – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: welcome packs for new residents; HTC’s risk assessments; the heritage trail; and various financial matters.

For details on HTC’s committees, including membership, agendas and minutes, please click here (and go to the “Town Council” tab).

Contacting HTC

HTC can be contacted in the following ways:

  • By email to townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk
  • By post to The Town Clerk, Hungerford Town Council, The Library, Church Street, Hungerford RG17 0JG.
  • In person at the above address between 10am and 2pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • By phone on 01488 686 195.

Any questions for an HTC meeting need to arrive by 2pm on the day (please allow more time if you have left this on the ansafone).

Members of the public are also welcome to attend any meetings.

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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