Cllr R Harwood – Chairman of the Parish Council
Parish Cllrs Brock, Curtis, Fahy, Griffith, Hughes, Lane and Sutton
Ms Caroline Noakes MP, Cllr A Ward (Borough Councillor) and 21 Parishioners
Mr P J Storey – Clerk to the Parish Council
The Chairman opened the evening by welcoming everyone to the 2017 Annual Assembly.
17/01 Apologies
Cllr Whitehead, Mr & Mrs Pepperell and Mr J Vanderpump.
17/02 Minutes
The Minutes of the Annual Parish Assembly held on 5 May 2016 had been circulated via the Village shops and website and copies were available for perusal at the meeting. Proposed Cllr Hughes, Seconded Cllr Griffith, RESOLVED unanimously that these minutes be accepted as a true record.
17/03 Matters Arising
New public seats had been installed around the Parish.
The long awaited all-weather path had been installed between The Gorrings, the School and the Village Hall; it was still hoped to extend the path to Lancaster Green but no plans had yet been formulated by the County Council.
The Council had decided not to purchase a second speed indicator device for the time being but would review the need and devices on the market when the current device was beyond economic repair. It had also decided not to pursue the suggestion of hanging baskets on the speed indicator device poles around the Parish.
HCC had declined to fund the cost of relocating the street lamp on the slip road approach to the Village Hall.
17/04 Chairman’s Report
The Chairman reported on Council activities during the past year and took the opportunity to thank publicly his fellow councillors and those members of the community who gave their time voluntarily in support of others. The full text of his report is printed below.
Good evening and welcome, thank you for coming this evening. One of our indicators as a proactive Parish Council is how well we communicate with the Parish. The Annual Assembly is an opportunity to hear from us about what we have done in the past and the challenges we foresee in the future, and for you to tell us what you think is good and bad in the Parish.
There is a temptation to think the Parish Council meetings are not worth attending and that we have little influence on the decisions made by the Borough and County Councils. However, in the last year we have obtained £9527 of external funding and financially supported 5 projects through our grant aid scheme. Our role in the community has over time become more diverse, but the core tasks are taking more time as the support from the Borough and County Council weakens. Over the period that I have been on the Council, I have seen the responsibility for preserving quality of service and getting things done put firmly in the hands of the Parish Council, and I am pleased to say that we have so far risen to the challenge.
The Parish Council is now the owner of the King’s Somborne recreation ground which will help with the day to day management and secure a long-term future for this space in the village. We have been in negotiations with the County Council with regard to the relaying and possible extension of the all-weather path from Lancaster Green, and we continue to improve the biodiversity of the Parish with the help of the school.
The Neighbourhood Development Plan, (NDP), is nearing its final stages thanks to Andrew Brock and his team, and I cannot stress enough how important this document is for the future of the Parish. For example, we know that there will be a need to develop and build in the Parish and this document supported by your views defines what we want and where and when we want it, thus providing a long-term template which meets the needs of parishioners. Andrew will give you a more detailed report later in the meeting.
On the 25th April, I and 28 parishioners attend the Southern Area Planning meeting when the planning application from Gladman was resubmitted. The Borough had recommended refusal, and I like to think that this plus our contributions meant that the application was unanimously rejected.
A new activity for this year has been the training and deployment of our own community speed watch group, and Peter Storey should be thanked for obtaining the kit and getting the group led by Terry Heffernan up and running. You may have already seen them in action on the side of one of the village roads, it is my hope that they will provide a deterrent to those motorists who regularly ignore the speed limits.
Some of you will be aware of possible changes in the Test Valley ward boundaries, as a result of a reduction in borough councillors, which have been circulated for comment. We are very much against the change because we believe that it will have a direct and adverse effect on the level of service we receive from Test Valley.
As Chairman, I think that we have represented the Parish well and spent our money wisely, the challenge for the future if a tier of local government is removed, will be to maintain standards on a reducing budget with more and more of the day to day work being given to the Parish Council. It is my opinion that in order to maintain the current level of service, the Parish Council will need to fill financial and physical voids, because neither the budget nor the manpower will be transferred with the responsibilities. This will mean an increase in the precept, and more professional advice will need to be available from within the Council. We are lucky in this Parish to have a range of skills and knowledge held by the members of the Council and the hard work and commitment of the members has meant that we are recognised as one of the best Parish Councils in the Test Valley. We are currently in an era of big change for local government, and if we as a Parish do not adapt and respond to the changes it will be to our detriment.
I would like to thank all members of the Council their hard work and doing that bit extra for the Parish. We currently have a vacancy on the Council so if you would like to join us we would be glad to hear from you. This will be my last Assembly as chairman, I was first elected in May 2013 and have seen some major changes and developments during my tenure. I believe that now is a good time for a new face to take the chair, thank you for your support.
A question from the floor on changes to ward boundaries was answered by B/Cllr Ward who explained that the Boundary Commission’s review and public consultation aimed at equalizing electorate numbers and the Borough Council’s decision to reduce the number of borough councillors from 48 to 43, partly to save costs, would result in a new ward, to be known as mid-Test, stretching from our area to the Wallops with three borough councillors sharing responsibilities. Caroline Noakes MP also commented that there would be changes in MPs’ areas of responsibilities as a result of a reduction in their numbers, the outcome of which would be known in the Autumn.
17/05 RFO’s Report
Mr Storey, as the Responsible Finance Officer, reported on the state of the Parish Council’s finances, highlighting the audited Annual Return for the year 2015-16, which showed the variations year on year, and the more recent financial outcome for the year 2016-17. In particular, he drew attention to the proportion of the Council’s finances, nearly two thirds of the precept and grants received, which was invested in the provision of community services and projects of direct benefit to the community at large, the balance meeting statutory and general administrative costs. The year had ended with an increase in the Council’s reserves of £8,365, just over half of which was unexpended money on items for which external grants had been received. The small 1.95% increase in council tax for this new year had produced only an additional £670 in the total £33,698 precepted which meant that tight control over expenditure would need to continue. He was pleased to highlight that all but £780 budgeted income for last year had been spent which was in accordance with the Council’s policy of not holding on to its cash balances unnecessarily. In conclusion, he confirmed the Council’s finances remained on a sound footing and that we complied with all statutory and other regulation in their management. We remained well-placed to continue to improve upon the standards of service provided and looked forward to the new challenges of 2017 – 18.
17/06 Report on Neighbourhood Development Planning
Cllr Brock, as lead councillor for the Neighbourhood Development Plan, updated those present on progress to date and thanked the members of the steering group and others for having progressed thus far. Drafting was in progress and an analysis of information received from the recent housing needs survey was almost completed. This would complement the information from our own survey and provide the basis for a further public consultation to be held in the near future. Cllr Brock emphasized the on-going need for volunteers to help compile and edit the outstanding matters.
17/07 Cyber crime presentation
Detective Sergeant Ivor Bowen from Hampshire Police Cyber Crime Unit introduced those present to cyber crime, explaining how we can all be affected by the ability of criminals to access our work and private lives via our computers, other devices and social media. He explained how the risk of cyber crime could be reduced, the type of threat we all faced and how important it was to raise awareness and remain alert. He particularly emphasized the need to delete any suspicious e-mails without opening them or to check with the originator’s own website if in doubt about an e-mail’s validity; to have unusual passwords, the best being 10 or more characters including upper and lower case, numbers and one or more of the other characters on the keyboard; to check for the https:// prefix and to ensure that software security was up to date. He identified three websites which offered information and advice – www.antifraud.police.uk; www.getsafeonline.org and www.cyberstreetwise.com.
17/08 Parish Matters
Mr Dyke raised the concept of the Parish Council acquiring title to the land known as Top Field adjacent to the King’s Somborne recreation ground, as had happened years ago with the purchase of the Muss Lane open space to prevent unwanted development and more recently with the recreation ground itself but accepted that the current owners, Test Valley Borough Council, had a policy of not transferring land title at least for the time being.
PCSO Claudia Pattison gave an overview of crime in King’s Somborne over the past year including anti-social behaviour, illegal fishing, travellers and neighbour disputes (19 in total), four dwelling burglaries and 14 non-dwelling eg shed thefts, Cross Stores break in, criminal damage to Village Hall and to local notice boards, three drug related offences, 23 reported incidents of suspicious behaviour eg poaching, rogue traders, and thefts, especially ladies’ handbags from vehicles. Her message was clear – remain alert to the possibility of theft and report any suspicious activity to the Police.
17/09 Closure
The meeting closed at 9.20pm with the Chairman thanking everyone for attending.