Clerk’s Column November 2005

Visibility. At last it is plain for all to see that the Parish Council can get things done. There are white lines again on all the corners – except one. The operators ran out of steam, paint, or maybe courage, on the corner by Pennymarsh, but the Council has fulfilled one of its main functions as an organ of Local Government and vital foundation-stone of democracy , namely to act as an irritant to larger bodies at Borough and County level. We represent the grass-roots, though only metaphorically, as one of our recurring tasks is to irritate the County Council into removing the grass so firmly rooted along the kerb in Red Rice Road.
Transparency. This old governmental buzz-word has greatly added to the work of the Council in recent years, with masses of legislation leaving no scope for being as laid back as 20 years ago. The Audit Report recently exhibited on notice board and website is only the end-product of a meticulous examination of the Council’s financial and administrative activities, and it feels as if the threat of incarceration in the Tower hovers over the Chairman or Clerk who fails to toe the line. From Whitehall to Village Hall, everything is subject to appraisal, and in case anything opaque could be missed, any proposal, from building a million houses in Sussex to re-spraying one of Joihn Prescott’s Jaguars, has to be submitted for consultation, responded to, re-submitted in the light of the responses (you have to believe this), responded to again and…am I boring you? Just two examples from last month: HCC has produced an 88-page document and a 7-page questionnaire on The Hampshire Minerals and Waste Development Framework. What can a Council manned by part-timers do with this except to use it as a cure for insomnia? Another consultative document – Rural Social and Community Programme – Business Case Guidance – only covers 15 pages, but when the Clerk tried it out on an experienced businessman, he turned pale, and this was not just because the word community occurs ten times in the first page, and partnership 11 times on page 2.
Professionalism. The rather opaque reference, in last month’s Newsletter, to the Clerk acting as “a true professional” arose from a discussion in the periodical The Clerk. Dismissing the more frivolous definitions (A professional is a man who can do his job when he doesn’t feel like it, while an amateur is one who can’t do his job when he does feel like it; or Amateurs built the Ark; professionals built the Titanic) the Editor seems to come down to two competences: (a) knowing: on the rare occasions when professionals don’t know everything, they need to know a man who does; (b) thinking: professionals need to think of everything that has to be done and ensure that it is done, preferably by someone else.
And finally. A further thought on the Age Discrimination Regulations, due to come into force in October 2006, which remove the upper age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights. Not only will we all be a year older by then, but it might be harder to sack the Clerk.

Council Meeting 10 November 2005

Matters discussed included:

Information and correspondence
Sports Field. There is good news that the ruts left by the constructors of the skate park have at last been filled in, but bad news that the faithful tractor, without which the Field would rapidly revert to Meadow, has needed major and expensive surgery to prolong its useful life.

Conservation Areas. The council was asked to comment on the review of Monxton’s Conservation Area, because a small part of it had escaped into our Parish. The Planning Authority has decided that a small part of that small part should be excluded from the Area; the Council decided not to fight them on this issue. As for our own Conservation Area, Test Valley has spoken, but Prof. Gibson was determined to have the last word, and is publishing his summary of the doleful story on the Website.
Future Development Plans. The Council approved, with gratitude, the Response, drafted by
Dr. John Moon, with Prof. Gibson and Mr. Ray Lucas, to the consultation about housing development in Hampshire. The task of deciding how much brick and concrete to impose on the County has been entrusted by John Prescott to SEERA (which is not a She but a Them, and is the South East of England Regional Assembly, a powerful body which came into existence when you weren’t looking). The text of the Response will appear as an appendix to the published Minutes.
Minibus Training. If anyone is interested in training as a minibus driver, a correspondent from Hedge End has offered to put him/her in touch with a source of funding. The Clerk has his address.

Planning. The Applications and Decisions listed in the Planning Summary were noted.
The application for a new dwelling adjacent to Rosebank, Red Rice Road, has been refused, partly on the grounds, as suggested by the Parish Council, of the scale and impact on the neighbourhood; but equal attention appears to have been devoted to the absence of an adequate environmental survey, which should have covered possible disturbance of the habitat of the resident slow-worms.
The application for a new dwelling adjacent to 85 Little Ann was also refused, not on the grounds suggested by the Parish Council, but because of susceptibility to flooding.
The Council resolved to object to the application to extend 1, Manor Cottages, because the plans as submitted added to the incoherency of the cladding, roof-line and materials of the terrace.

Reports. The Clerk was concerned about the time taken to process some of the consultative documents which require a considered response. Many of these are massive, and have only a marginal effect on the Parish; it is suspected that the effect of the Parish’s response is marginal, too.
Councillors suggested filing in a black container with wheels, but volunteered to offer a second opinion if the Clerk had doubts.
Councillor Arthur Peters welcomed the election of the new Borough Councillor, Mr. Andrew Dunnett. He lives in Goodworth Clatford, which can’t be helped, but Mr. Peters is sure that he will be as keen as his late predecessor to promote the interests of the village and ward.
Mr. Whyte reported that the Fete had been extremely successful, raising a total of £3250, from which many village activities would benefit. The Council expressed its appreciation of the hard work involved.
Mr. Stanton reported that plans to re-site the school have received a governmental set-back, but was sure that this is only temporary, as the County remains supportive.
Mr. Downey, for Neighbourhood Watch, drew attention to the suspected Mercedes-driving burglar mentioned in Mr Mike Butt’s report and requested continued vigilance. Cllr Peters referred to the abandoned car at Red Post Bridge; at present the Police have no powers to remove it, as it is currently licensed and regarded as “parked.” As Hon. Footpaths Officer, Mr. Downey warned of the danger of “Trailriders” obtaining permission to invade our footpaths in or on powered vehicles.
On the subject of the Website, Mr.Whyte, informed that the Council’s contribution to the running costs had been gratefully received, commented on the satisfactory and increasing level of use of the e-mail facility, and gave assurance this was not technologically challenging

Nursery School. Mr. Chris Urquhart, Treasurer of the Nursery School Committee, having been invited to attend the Meeting, explained the current challenges facing the Nursery School. The Council noted that a shortfall in rental revenue would have a negative impact on the overall finances of the War Memorial Hall; Councillors were grateful to Mr. Urquhart for the information provided, and expressed appreciation of the value of the Nursery School to the village

Finance. Mrs. K.Callard, for the War Memorial Hall, outlined the problems affecting the roof of the Hall, which would best be resolved by a radical overhaul, using as much of the original material as possible. The Council, after registering a declaration of intent to give all possible assistance, asked that the Hall Committee should obtain at least two more quotations for the work and should explore all available sources of external funding. As a start, Cllr Peters undertook to approach TVBC, and Mr. Downey suggested an approach to Community Action Hampshire.
Budget. The Clerk provided an estimated forecast of receipts and payments for the year beginning on 1 April 2006, which would require a modest increase in the Precept if the normal running expenses were to be securely covered.
One substantial liability looming ahead will arise from the take-over of the old Church burial ground, especially in the light of recent Health and Safety legislation. At present the cost is completely unquantifiable; the Council, however, has been setting aside a reserve for this purpose.
Apart from the Hall roof and the repair of the tractor, other major projects have to be considered. One possibility arose from a conversation between the Clerk and a group of youngsters sheltering from the rain in the porch of the War Memorial Hall, who indicated that they and their contemporaries would welcome the provision of a “Youth Shelter” as a more commodious place in which to hang out. Another concern is the surface of Church Path which needs attention, though it is hoped that HCC might be persuaded that this is a County responsibility.
Mrs. Wilkins, however, championed the case for providing new swings for the Sports Field, now that the old ones, which had been in place as long as the Queen, have had to be removed as unsafe; so this project was readily afforded a high priority. Affording the cost of these ideas will be the subject of the next meeting.

Administration. The Clerk’s own elderly computer has passed beyond the bounds of economic repair, so the Council decided to purchase its own basic computer, to lodge with the Clerk.

Other Business. The Clerk was asked to keep working on the Highway Authority in connection, among other things, with the bollards and direction signs by the Jubilee Oak, weedy kerbstones along Red Rice Road and possible “horse and rider” signs in Cattle Lane.

Minutes. Full Minutes of all meetings are available in the Village Shop, on the Website, and, by request, from the Clerk.

Meetings. There will be an extra meeting, to discuss the budget, on Thursday November 24th, and an ordinary meeting on Thursday December 1st. Both meetings will be held in the Jubilee Room of the War Memorial Hall at 7 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend. Items for inclusion in the Agenda should reach the Clerk at least 7 days in advance.

Adrian Stokes
Clerk to the Parish Council