Great Shefford Parish Council Annual Parish Assembly, 5 May 2022

Great Shefford Parish Council,s (GSPC) Annual Assembly took place on 5 May 2022. You can see the agenda in this section of the PC’s website where the minutes will also appear in due course. We have below reproduced the address made by the GSPC Chair Steve Ackrill at this meeting. The headings have been  been added by Penny Post, as has one comment (in italics) referring to an event that was discussed later.

WBC = West Berkshire Council. GSPC or the PC = Great Shefford Parish Council. EA = Environment Agency.

Great Shefford Parish Assembly

Good evening and welcome to Great Shefford’s Parish Assembly. As many of you will be aware, is actually a legal requirement that this annual event be held.

The pandemic and virtual meetings

It’s good to be back in the village hall for this meeting following last year’s virtual ‘Assembly held on Zoom. Whilst I believe that, both virtual and especially hybrid meetings are certainly here to stay, in certain circumstances face to face meetings are better. In my opinion this event is one of those occasions.

I’m pleased that we do finally seem to be coming out of the worst of the pandemic. Though there are still a worryingly high number of people contracting Covid it does, in the majority of cases, seem that the symptoms are much milder with the latest variants.

The June PC meeting last year was the first face-to-face meeting held since the March 2020 meeting, so whilst it felt initially strange I’m sure most councillors would agree it felt good to be back.

Changes at the shop

Before I go on to give brief rundown on what GSPC has been up to over the last year I wanted to formally (for the minutes) wish Ray and Sarah a long and happy retirement ( it is hard to believe that it is already around eight months since they sold the shop and left the village ) and also formally, albeit belatedly, welcome Mintu and his family to the village and wish them every success with the shop and Post Office.

Recurring themes

When I was thinking about what I would say this evening I dug out what I said last year and was struck with a sense of déjà vu – planning, speeding, dog mess, the Recreation Ground and the precept were all mentioned last year and I’m afraid will be again this. Just because I could, I then looked back on the PC section of the website to check some old minutes (they go back as far as 2013.) I was vice chairman at the time and, guess what – very similar stuff was mentioned back then and probably every year since. Looking at those dates does make me think I’ve been kicking around too long and that somebody else should probably take the job on soon…

Planning

Back to the last year. As always, planning applications remain a large part of GSPC’s world. This has been somewhat different during the pandemic as we were unable to visit sites to look at applications and as a council we rarely comment unless at least one councillor has visited the site. I’m pleased to say that we are now able to visit again so now need to get back into the routine of doing so.

Speeding

Speeding in the village doesn’t seem to get any better and complaints to the authorities about lack of enforcement is, as always, blamed on lack of resources. The Community Speedwatch team, led by Linda Bowden, is undergoing some online training to be able to video speeding motorists so they can receive a written warning: but, as always, it comes down to the police to actually carry out any enforcement – so we’re back to the lack of resources. If anyone would like to know more about this or to get more involved then please let me know and I’ll ask Linda to get in touch.

Whilst talking about speeding, I’m probably tempting fate by saying that so far the new chevron that the PC installed at the bottom of Hungerford Hill seems to be working as the crash barriers and fence have thus far remained intact.

The Recreation Ground

The Recreation Ground remains as popular as ever both amongst villagers and from those fourth afield. It is still responsible for a large percentage on the PC’s expenditure and there always seems to be something that needs repairing or replacing. I’m sorry to say that two large pieces of equipment are currently out of action having failed their recent safety inspection. We are hoping these can be repaired in-house which, whilst still costly, will undoubtedly save the village money running into the thousands.

The thing I find most worrying is the equipment that has failed now by having rotten timber is the equipment at the top of the slope that I still class as the  “new” stuff – it’s frightening where the time goes as it seems only yesterday that we held an opening ceremony at the park and our then two district councillors at the time (Graham Jones and Gordon Lundie) were photographed racing each other down the new slides. In checking the dates, this was back in March 2011.

We have recently received a request for some adult gym equipment in the park to be considered and research into this is currently being undertaken. If you have any views for or against this, or if you would like to be involved with the project which will undoubtedly involve both fundraising and grant applications, please do get in touch.

Christmas

Whilst talking about the park, for the second time we held our carols in the park in conjunction with the church which again was a success. Thanks must go to Miri for taking the lead on this. Thanks must also and again go to Charles Parry from Templars Farm for once again donating the Xmas Tree that was erected on the green opposite the petrol station. This seems to get taller every year, to the extent that we have taken to putting the illuminated star on the top before we stand the tree up.

The Parish News

The Parish News has undergone some changes in recent months, Virginia Parkes expressed a wish to step down from the job as editor. Thanks must go to Virginia for the time and effort she has put into producing the magazine over the years. A request was put out by the PC for any volunteers to come forward to help with the production going forward, sadly nobody was forthcoming from within the village. Eunice took the lead on behalf of the PC to do some research into alternatives, an offer to prepare the magazine for printing was received from someone up north (apologies I can’t remember exactly where) who does it for a job-cum-hobby.

With the help of Linda Bowden, Eunice and Linda managed to put together the Xmas edition that was Delivered to every house as normal. Another plea for help was inserted into the Xmas magazine but alas nothing was forthcoming. A decision was therefore taken that we would no longer be able to produce printed copies of the Parish News and it would change to an online only newsletter. Linda, with David Jennings who produces the online Chaddleworth News, are currently creating the online version for Great Shefford.

Due to GDPR regulations this can only be sent to you if you ask us to send it and give permission for your details to be securely held for that purpose (Mailchimp is being used for sending the newsletter so no data is being held by the PC or anyone acting on our behalf). I have some slips here with the email address to register to receive the newsletter, so please do come and grab a slip afterwards.

Finances

We prepared our budget as always at the end of the year so that the precept (the amount of money that the PC requests from WBC to on running the village) can be set in the January meeting. We did reluctantly have to increase the precept this year to £18,000 from £16,000. Having checked back, the precept had been at £16,000 since 2014 so we haven’t done too badly. The precept of £18,000 means the addition to the council tax of a band D property of £43 a year to cover the expenditure of the PC (just short of 83 pence per week which must be considered a bargain these days…)

The flood scheme

Most reports in recent years have included an update on the long-awaited Flood Alleviation Scheme but this year I’m going to leave the update on the flood scheme to Richard Hancock from the EA who will be speaking shortly.

Penny Post adds: the main upshot of this was that EA’s funding is in place and is confirmed not be time-limited (so will still be available even if the scheme is delayed again). The work can only take place at certain times of the year due to groundwater levels and it’s hoped that this will have started by about this time next year (May 2023).

And finally…

This year there have been no changes within the PC so I have nobody to say goodbye to and nobody to welcome on board. I just need to thank the councillors who all freely give their time to the village for all they have done in the last year.

Last but by no means least I would like to personally thank our Clerk Kim Lloyd for still managing to put up with us and doing a remarkable job of keeping us on the straight and narrow, Thank you Kim.

I would normally say at this point that I’m happy to take any questions about the PC, what we do and how we work but there is an item a little further down this evening’s agenda where I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have.

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