New Parish Council ready to tackle old problems

Unofficial account of the meeting held on 21 May 2021.

Acting Chairman, Bob Jones, handed over the reins to Lydiard Millicent’s new parish councillors yesterday. Following the recent election, the parish now has six new councillors, which is enough for the interim councillors to step down.

A new Chairman, Derek Harden, was appointed, with Mel Allsop becoming Vice-Chair.

The new Chairman started off by thanking Bob Jones for his work and residents for attending the meeting. He also acknowledged it had been “a chaotic few months” and, addressing his fellow councillors, said “we have a massive job in front of us. ”

He compared the situation to trying to do a jigsaw puzzle without the actual picture. It was hard to understand how the Council had got to where it was. However, “the past was the past”, and the new Council needed to get things back on track. They’d be calling on help from a variety of sources, internal and external, in the forthcoming months to help them move forward. The goal is to put in place a suitable working plan for the parish .

Other highlights included:

  • Thanks to Mike Sharp (and team) for their efforts with the Neighbourhood Plan. Its recent success in the referendum means decision makers must take the plan into account when considering applications for development in the parish.

  • Council representatives on local organisations will be as follows; Catherine Hacker and Sally Westwood – Royal Wotton Bassett and Cricklade Area Board, Luke Curtis, and Derek Harden – Community Area Transport Group, Mel Allsop – Community Safety Partnership and Derek Harden – Parish Hall.

  • The Chairman suspended standing orders to allow wider discussion of the way the Council deals with planning applications. In practice, dates have often expired by the time applications come before the Council. Bob Jones interjected and said the clerk should get a weekly report which can be sent out to councillors. Other suggestions included putting links on the Parish Council’s website. The Chairman said he wanted it to be as inclusive as possible.

  • Appendix B, which shows payments for ratification by the Council, had not been attached to agenda. It appeared most councillors had not received it either. Payments included salaries and printer invoice. It was “disappointing” this information had not been forthcoming, and councillors were not happy as they felt they had no choice but to defer the matter.

  • The insurance renewal was agreed. Councillors made the point they had not received details of all the quotes but had little choice than to approve Company A – otherwise the Council could end up uninsured.

  • The date of next meeting is provisionally set to be Wednesday 23 June at JCH at 7.30pm. The new unitary councillor, Steve Bucknell, cannot make the first Thursday in the month because of a diary conflict. There are also issues securing the Parish Hall. This is because the Parish Council has not made any advance bookings and the Parish Hall cannot hold dates open without any commitment indefinitely.

  • The Council wants to promote better communication with residents and would like the clerk to set up councillors@ email address, which can be used to send emails to all councillors.

  • The community Police Officer attended and gave his report. He’ll continue to try and keep up with his monthly reports to the clerk.

The evening’s public questions took place at the end of the meeting. Points made included:

The Council has large reserves but is not spending the money allocated to projects. Would the Council consider reversing its decision to discontinue the improvement to the footpath behind the Sun?

Changes in the ownership of the Sun meant school parking there is no longer viable. This, and spiralling costs, informed the decision to abandon the project. Residents felt there were potentially wider benefits than just a link to the school, for example, allowing all residents access to Lydiard Park from the centre of the village.

The Council cannot reconsider its decision for another six months. Some improvements to allow better access could be carried out by the handyman, cutting back overgrowth for example (although owners should do this). Councillor Allsop said she would look into getting a footpath sign from Wiltshire Council to make the route from the garage clearer. The Council should also look into whether the £3,000 grant from Wiltshire Council for the project could be used for more general improvement.

As to potential cost overrun and the length of time it took for this project not to complete, the Chairman said he did not know the reasons. The clerk passed no comment when invited, and, more generally, councillors requested a list of outstanding projects so they could assess better where the Council was at.

Why was there no clerk’s report or handyman’s report? As agreed at a previous meeting these would be recurring items.

The clerk said she thought councillors’ preference was for her to give them weekly updates. Councillor Allsop suggested there may have been some misunderstanding, as these were not meant to replace the published reports to the meeting.

Following on from the non-publication of Appendix B, could the Council ensure payments greater than £100 are published on website or at least included in the agenda attachments in order to comply with the Transparency Code?

The Chairman acknowledged there were multiple issues with the website, and it needs a lot of work. Resident said Council were “dead in the water” if basic information like this can’t be included on an ongoing basis as it is necessary to comply with its statutory obligations. It is also the only way residents can readily see how the Council is spending money.

What is happening with appointment of the HR and independent consultant agreed at previous meeting?

More information needs still to be supplied to councillors.

Bob Jones also made the point the commissioned health and safety report still needed to be circulated and actioned, and this hadn’t been done despite its production over two weeks ago.

Isn’t this an awful lot of work for the clerk? Will councillors support her and work together?

The Chairman said there was indeed a lot to get done, and it takes both officers and members to work together.

"Jigsaw Puzzle"by Scarygami is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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