From our Reporter at the Parish Council Meeting
This month, the Crier welcomes a brand new reporter to its pages: David Greenfield. In his very first report, you can read just how he was head-hunted.. .
LIKE MANY OTHERS I was very interested in attending the presentation by Ashwell Developments Limited of their proposals to develop the Water Tower Site. The presentation was organised to precede the Parish Council meeting and as you'd expect overran its 30 minute allocated window by nearly 20 minutes.
Having never attended our village Parish Council meeting I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to see the workings of those dedicated councillors who, from a personal point of view, I occasionally feel are taken for granted. With the meeting about to start, the members of the public just disappeared, leaving me and two others in the public gallery, so to speak. My mother warned me many, many years ago NOT to talk to strange men. So when one of the two members of the public, who I'd seen many times, both around the village and pictured in the Crier, asked if I could 'write things down'it was unlikely I'd say anything other than 'yea sure'. I remember this brought a smile to his face as he passed me the Agenda, Minutes of the Last Meeting and 6 sheets of blank paper, then promptly got up and left.
Now, on to the embarrassing bit.
I had no idea WHAT I was doing, WHAT I had to write down and only several hours later, when walking home with the other member of the public and two of the Parish Councillors, did I become aware of the role he'd roped me in to. But this was after the meeting - and therefore too late. Yes I was a little annoyed and embarrassed, for although I've lived in the village for three years and knew the name very well, I'd never been introduced to this Gentleman, so had never put 'the name to the face'. I know now it was not deliberate, just that OLD problem, assumption, assumption, assumption!
Now if you can put yourself in my place, with no idea of what I'm doing, the meeting was already on item 103, Reports from CCC & ECDC. I'm assuming there were the usual Apologies for Absence (item 100), Minutes of the Previous Meeting (item 101) and Members Declaration of Interest (item 102) but I missed them as I was still looking around not knowing what I was doing there.
The other problem I've not mentioned yet, is that not only did I not know the provider of the Agenda, Minutes of the Previous Meeting and the 6 pieces of paper (remember the Man my mother warned me about) but I only knew 6 of the 11 around the table, so by spending so much time trying to track who was doing the proposing and who was doing the seconding I started to develop a form of short hand that I might exploit commercially in the future, if I can remember how it works.
So after the Crier Copy deadline had passed, with still no contact telling me what to do with the copious notes I'd taken, was I really surprised to learn I was supposed to have written everything up. No not really. Fortunately, I had three back copies of the Crier so was quickly able to establish what was expected of me. This introduced another dilemma. With the Parish Council Clerk writing 'Notes from the Parish Council Meeting'also in the Crier I wasn't sure how I could report the first two issues in the CCC Report. It seems that the Mobile Libraries are being reduced from 8 to 6 with August being the end of the consultation period and that grants that were given to the Citizens Advise Bureau aren't going to be given any more and numbers like £7M or was it £9M (perhaps my short hand hasn't a commercial future) being presented but it was still being debated, so that's alright then. My point is that the Clerk's Report will tell you all this detail. Therefore, is my responsibility to inform you of the things that are between the lines. If so it can only be the way I see it and not necessarily the way you would.
Now this approach interests me, not because I'm not interested in a specific subject, examples being The Traffic Calming / Safety Measures on Mill Hill or the Travellers on Headlake Drove, because believe me I am, but because I can only tell you my impression of the problem that won't be written up by the Clerk.
In the Travellers discussions which followed Geoffrey Woollard asked both the CCC (Hazel) and the ECDC (Allen) representative if the 'follow up'agreed at the last meeting, about the Travellers Headlake Drove had been followed up. I'm still not sure whether it had or not, but words like 'extremely difficult', 'evidence needed', and 'Law of the Land'were free flowing. It was clear to me that even after the agreed discussion with the Travellers Liaison Officer, nothing would change and we'd go through it all again next time and the time after and that nothing will change until the 'Human Rights Act'is written out of UK Law or there is a balance between the Individual and the Group.
As Hazel needed to leave the meeting, it was proposed that two agenda items be moved forward so Hazel could be involved. These (items 108 and 109) concerned the Road Safety Measures / Traffic Calming on Mill Hill and Jointly Funded Minor Highways Improvements. This had been a major area of discussion at the Pre PC meeting regarding the development of the Water Tower Area and a lot of the same issues were discussed and proposals put. By now I'm starting to realise what an old cynic I really am as I'm sure I'm hearing the same phrases used during the Travellers Issue - 'extremely difficult', 'evidence needed', and 'Law of the Land'. It's still an enigma to me that I come across speed bumps the size of houses and other measures elsewhere but we [the village] can't have a speed reduction system which works. It was obvious to me that nothing will happen until it's too late. It was agreed to adopt Hazel's suggestion to write to a Senior Officer in CCC and ask for their Help in resolving the problem, rather than giving them potential solutions that they just say no to - Hazel then left.
It was now the turn of ECDC and Allen commenced by explaining the change to the recycling dates and the consequential pile up of peoples recycling, because they hadn't read the attached letter with the leaflet, so your fault then; assurance had been given that all would be perfect on Friday the 13th, some commitment if you are slightly superstitious.
Allen informed the meeting that 100 x Badges (@50p) and 200 x Car Stickers (free) were now available for the 'Don't Ditch our Lodes'campaign. However the real positive escalation in the campaign was to be a Motion to Maintain the Lodes to be proposed by Allen and seconded by Hazel at the forthcoming full ECDC meeting. The discussions over the Lodes merged with the National Trust and were quite emotive, rightly so. Having been one of the millions who signed a petition on the Governments (PM) Website about Road Charging to have it totally ignored by the Government I feel it's a David and Goliath battle and we won't win; this doesn't mean I'm suggesting we do nothing, because I'm not. Although it grieves me to say so, I think I agree with Allen's belief that the NT and their 'Wicken Vision'was going to happen and the way forward was to influence their direction. The Chairman also agreed the best way forward was to influence the NT and it was decided to continue bringing a number of PC's together with a joint committee to have maximum influence.
The meeting proceeded at a pace with a number of minor issues (to me anyway), some procedural until we arrived at the point on the Agenda (item 112) - High Street Signs and House Numbering. It seems that, even though the signs weren't asked for and had been erected in the wrong places, the EDCD still required the PC to write to them identifying the problems so they can enter into the consultation process required in such circumstances. At this point I'm not sure which Parish Councillor had the most 'steam'coming from ears and elsewhere, but the gist was - the EDCD caused the problem, so they can rectify it. It was also noted that some of the signs had been vandalised although I'm not sure the word 'vandalised'is correct as they were apparently uprooted and surely you can't vandalise something that should not be there in the first place, or do signs have 'Sign Rights'.
There were at least another 10 items on the Agenda that I've not mentioned, each being important in tits own right and I'm sure will be covered by the Clerks Report. I look forward, depending on the reaction to this Report, to attending my next Meeting and maybe Reporting It!