Parish Council Chairperson’s Reports

Introduction

The year has passed at a terrifyingly fast rate.

We continue to meet on Tuesdays of alternate months for regular meetings, and at various times in between as and when required for planning application considerations.

The Government and County are still enforcing cuts. In fact the cuts are so deep that the Council practically no longer exists.

Schools are still under threat. Newcastle. Ruth Gittins continues to run the school with flair and efficiency. And governors are continuing to support the school to ensure its progress.

The Local Joint Council continues to meet to obtain information, and, perhaps to act as a channel for putting pressure on the Authority to listen to us. It no longer has funding for small projects provided by the council, but has managed to obtain some funding by other means. It is hoped to develop those by involving businesses and contributions from Parish Councils.

Once again I would urge people to attend the LJC meetings, which are public, and designed to give people the opportunity to voice opinions and to bring to the committee areas of concern. I would also urge you all to let me know if there are things happening – or not happening- in Bettws, which may usefully be taken to meetings.

This year there has been some funding of small local projects, and much focus has been on the plight of SpArC. Shropshire County Council has, in the 2017-18 proposed budget cut all funding for leisure, tourism and the arts. the swimming pool, as the most expensive part of the facility is seriously under threat. This is of great concern. The teaching of swimming is a mandatory part of the school curriculum, and if the pool is closed there are implications for transport, and time pupils are out of the classroom. The Theatre and the Gym are both doing well and, together with the pool, providing vital health benefit, and good cultural experiences to the people of South West Shropshire. The loss of these facilities would be a tragedy.

An enthusiastic and dedicated team of campaigners is working extremely hard to raise funding for the centre – and has the full support of Philip Dunne, who is also making representations to various organisations.

Highways

I think it has fair to say that Highways has been pretty chaotic this year. Pretty much all work has been allocated to different organisations. There seems to be little or no communication between these companies, with resulting difficulties  in uncoordinated diversions.

There has also been no consultation with Parish Councils. As a result of this – smooth highways have been created on little used roads, while well used roads have been woefully neglected.

You will all have noticed the state of our roads. We do report potholes and draw attention to what needs to be done, but funding continues to be abysmal.

Please report potholes. Those who have the technology might consider taking photographs and emailing or posting them to Shire Hall. The knock on (literally) effect of the state of the roads can be damage to cars through hitting them, or accidents through suddenly swerving to avoid them.

We can report one triumph. We have frequently received comments from residents about an ‘accident waiting to happen ‘, accidents that have happened and near misses at the crossroad between Quabbs and Cote Bank.  We are delighted to say that two ‘give way’ signs have been erected, and there is promise of some white lines soon.

Finance

Precepts this year was minimal as the clerk constantly finds ways to keep costs down by scrutiny of insurances etc. We are fortunate in that our Clerk has two other Parishes and a Town, so that costs of training continues to be shared.

The accounts can be made available to anyone who is interested, and are externally audited annually.

Planning

Last year I reported that the planning department had suffered from cuts. The result of this has been that the county has a minimal staff who seem to be overburdened with applications, resulting in long delays. This became seriously unsatisfactory when applicants suffer financial loss as a result of this. There has been some improvement recently. There seems to be a more cohesive structure.

All this year’s planning applications were approved by this council.

Members of the public are sometimes present when planning applications are discussed, and their views are welcomed.

Parish Hall

The Parish Hall Committee runs the Parish Hall on behalf of the Parish Council, which acts as trustee. Yet again I should like to thank, on behalf of us all, this excellent committee of dedicated people who work hard to maintain and improve the Hall, car park, and garden. They do not meet often, as a committee, but work hard for year on year improvements and the garden improves annually. You will notice the improved state of the hall, which has been funded by some highly successful events – such as a quiz nights and a concert, as well as coffee mornings and other events throughout the year. A recent addition has been the introduction of film nights, which have been popular. ‘Paddington Bear’, a film definitely for adults as well as children, was enhanced by the provision of marmalade cake, as well as the usual ice cream, tea and wine.

Fund Raising is constant, and the Parish is generous in supporting all events.

Parish Plan

The writing of the Parish Plan is complete, and a few photos are to be added. These will soon be printed and distributed at a local event.

Conclusion

As always my thanks and gratitude  go to councilors and all others whose work and dedication to this parish help to make it so special.. A

My thanks go to all those who are prepared to serve the community in any way, attending meetings of all the committees that work to keep this parish going, turning out in all weathers for meetings and supporting events. It is a tribute to the community that, despite the snow, this hall was packed to overflowing by those attending the Quiz Night. Come rain, wind or snow, the residents of Bettws and beyond remain undeterred in their support of events.

I am, of course,  ever grateful to those volunteers who give me support and encouragement, on this council on other committees, and in the community generally.

As always these thanks, from all of us, are extended to our Clerk, who makes council work so much easier than if we were struggling alone.

As I have said many times before, Bettws is good at getting things done. We are a small community, but a there is plenty going on. There are good groups of people (or groups of good people) who give generously in all ways, to make this such a special parish.

Valerie Whately

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

 

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito – to which this year, I shall add – mosquitoes also buzz – and so does Bettws.

 

 

Chairman’s Report     2014

Introduction

It seems such a short time since the last AGM and here I am again writing a report which will continue say the same things that I have said many times before.

We continue to meet on Tuesdays of alternate months for regular meetings, and at various times in between as and when required for planning application considerations.

We were pleased to welcome Martin Britnell as a co-opted councillor, and hope he will be with us for many years to come.

The Government and County are still enforcing cuts.

Schools are still under threat. Although Beguildy School is across the border, its closure impacts on the choice the children of Bettws have. Newcastle, too, faces changes as its Headteacher is leaving to head a much larger school. We wish him well in his new position, but realise that the governors may well have some hard choices to take, since, in the current climate the appointment of a new Headteacher may not be a viable financial option.

The Local Joint Council has had funding for local projects removed altogether now. This is a very great loss, since it had been possible for local people to support small, and sometimes not so small, local projects. However, we continue to meet to obtain information, and, perhaps to act as a channel for putting pressure on the Authority to listen to us.

Once again I would urge people to attend the LJC meetings, which are public, and designed to give people the opportunity to voice opinions and to bring to the committee areas of concern. I would also urge you all to let me know if there are things happening – or not happening- in Bettws, which may usefully be taken to meetings.

I shall deal briefly with the headings that annually are mentioned in the report, because they vary very little. They are:

Highways

You will all have noticed the state of our roads. We do report potholes and draw attention to what needs to be done, but funding continues to be abysmal.

Please report potholes. Those who have the technology might consider taking photographs and emailing or posting them to Shire Hall. The knock on (literally) affect of the state of the roads can be damage to cars through hitting them, or accidents through suddenly swerving to avoid them.

Finance

Precepts increase year on year, but there was no increase in last year and the increase this year was mimimal as the clerk constantly endeavours to keep costs down by scrutiny of insurances etc. We are fortunate in that our Clerk has two other Parishes and a Town, so that costs of training continues to be shared.

The accounts can be made available to anyone who is interested, and are externally audited annually.

Planning

All this years planning applications were approved by this council.

Members of the public are sometimes present when planning applications are discussed, and their views are welcomed.

Parish Hall

The Parish Hall Committee runs the Parish Hall on behalf of the Parish Council, which acts as trustee. Yet again I should like to thank, on behalf of us all, this excellent committee of dedicated people who work hard to maintain and improve the Hall, car park, and garden. They do not meet often, as a committee, but work hard for year on year improvements and the garden improves annually.

Fund Raising is constant, and the Parish is generous in supporting all events.

Parish Plan

These have been distributed and gathered in and will now be taken to Enterprise House for analysis.

Conclusion

As always my thanks go to councillors and all others whose work and dedication to this parish help to make it so special.

I make no apologies for restating what I have always said:

First – Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.

Those who are prepared to serve the community in any way, and who are prepared to turn out in all weathers for meetings are deserving of recognition. On a personal note I am ever grateful to those volunteers who give me support and encouragement, on this council and on other committees. As always these thanks, from all of us, are extended to our Clerk, who makes council work so much easier than if we were struggling alone.

Bettws is good at getting things done. We are a small community, but a there is plenty going on. It may well be likened to a duck on the water, moving smoothly across the surface, with its feet paddling like mad underneath. There is a good group of people ( or a group of good people) who do a lot of paddling for the community.

As I said last year and the year before:

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. 

Valerie Whately

 

Chairman’s Report     2013

Introduction

So, here I am making this report which will essentially say the same things that I have said many times before.

With the exception of Councillor Sheila Davies, you all know what I always say, and Sheila will soon learn, so you will be glad to know that I shall be much briefer this year.

We continue to meet on Tuesdays of alternate months for regular meetings, and at various times in between as and when required for planning application considerations.

The Government and County are still enforcing cuts.

Schools are still under threat

The Local Joint Council is still able to allocate some funding for local projects, but this has been cot back to a fraction of what it was.

Once again I would urge people to attend the LJC meetings, which are public, and designed to give people the opportunity to voice opinions and to bring to the committee areas of concern. I would also urge you all to let me know if there are things happening – or not happening- in Bettws, which may usefully be taken to meetings.

I shall deal briefly with the headings that annually are mentioned in the report, because they vary very little. They are:

Highways

You will all have noticed the state of our roads. We do report potholes and draw attention to what needs to be done, but funding would appear to be abysmal.

Please report potholes. Those who have the technology might consider taking photographs and emailing or posting them to Shire Hall. The knock on (literally) affect of the state of the roads can be damage to cars through hitting them, or accidents through suddenly swerving to avoid them.

Finance

Precepts now increase year on year, but I am pleased to say ther there was no increase in Bettws this year and we consciously try to make the increase as painless as possible. We are fortunate in that our Clerk has two other Parishes and a Town, so that costs of training have been shared. The clerk constantly endeavours to keep costs down by scrutiny of insurances etc.

The accounts can be made available to anyone who is interested, and are externally audited annually.

Planning

All this years planning applications were approved by this council, though Shire Hall was less generous

Members of the public are sometimes present when planning applications are discussed, and their views are welcomed

Parish Hall

The Parish Hall Committee runs the Parish Hall on behalf of the Parish Council, which acts as trustee. Yet again I should like to thank, on behalf of us all, this excellent committee of dedicated people who work hard to maintain and improve the Hall, car park, and garden. They do not meet often, as a committee, but work hard for year on year improvements and the garden improves annually.

Fund Raising is constant, and the Parish is generous in supporting all events.

Parish Plan

These are now ready and about to be distributed

Conclusion

As always my thanks go to councillors and all others who’s work and dedication to this parishQhelp to make it so special. As always:

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.

Last weeks Flower festival was a wonderful example of this. Those who are prepared to serve the community in any way, and who are prepared to turn out in all weathers for meetings are deserving of recognition. On a personal note I am ever grateful to those volunteers who give me support and encouragement, on this council and on other committees. As always these thanks, from all of us, are extended to our Clerk, who makes council work so much easier than if we were struggling alone.

Bettws is good at getting things done. As I said last year:

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. 

There is, of course, one final thing that must be said and recorded. John Davies has finally carried out his determined plan to retire. This despite the fact that we have all tried to persuade him that 48 years as a councilor is not quite long enough, and he could at least have made it 50.

John, I cannot adequately say how much you will be missed by all of us.

If I had to describe John briefly, I should say he is a Quiet Gentleman. I have never heard him raise his voice in anger. I have never known him to be discourteous in any way, and I have never heard anyone say a critical thing about him. He adds wisdom to these meetings. If there is anything controversial in planning it is John towards whom we look, and his calm common sense is critical in forming judgments.

Over the years I have learned, and it sometimes hurt to learn, that no one is indispensible. We put our hand in the waters of the pond of life; we stir it about and the ripples spread; when the hand is removed the ripples continue to spread for a while, but eventually the pond is still and it is as if the hand was never there. The council will continue without you. Sheila and others after her will make their own mark. However, John, you may not be indispensible, but you are irreplaceable. Those of us who have been your fellow councilors will remember you always with gratitude and affection.

 

Valerie Whately

Introduction

Each year when I write this report I become increasingly aware of the speed at which the years pass by. Always it seems like only a very short time ago I was writing the previous year’s report.

We continue to meet on Tuesdays of alternate months for regular meetings, and at various times in between as and when required for planning application considerations.

This year we have been made very aware of government cuts which have impacted on the county, which will inevitably have an effect on all of us. Our library service was under threat, but had a reprieve. This will need to be monitored if it is to be retained.

At the moment there is much concern over two major areas. Schools and Hospitals are both under major threat. The possibility of school closures has caused much stress in some areas.  Fortunately Our local school fulfils requirements both under pupil numbers and distances children would have to travel if it were to close.

Hospitals have undergone some reorganisation and, at present are not under threat of closure, but the reorganisation has resulted in greater travelling distances for patients and visitors.

Last year I commented on the actions of the local Joint Councils, and although I had previously bemoaned the necessity of attending an increasing number of meetings, I continue to be very glad to have attended them. Membership of the Local Joint Council has ensured that information has been provided for us, and that we have been able to express our concerns. When concerns have been brought to the attention of officers they have been addressed by the provision of further information or by action.  Our representatives at Shirehall have voiced their concerns on our behalf very strongly.

As I also stated last year two useful by products of these meetings are that we are able to learn from each another, and that we learn that we have concerns in common with other small Parishes, and are able to speak with a louder voice. We are able to work together and support one another. In this way our sparsely populated area may not have such a small voice as formerly. We can shout as loudly as the rest of them!

Each LJC still has an amount of money to spend on local services and resources. This is now reduced, but there is still some funding for projects, the LJC gives consideration to all and all valid bids. This year we were able to gain funding for our jubilee celebrations, thus lessening the amount paid through the precept funds.

I would urge people to attend the LJC meetings, which are public, and designed to give people the opportunity to voice opinions and to bring to the committee areas of concern. I would also urge you all to let me know if there are things happening – or not happening- in Bettws, which may usefully be taken to meetings.

This year Eddie Jones Chairman of the Newcastle Parish Council has worked extremely hard to promote the Clun Valley AED scheme. I can report that Bettws y Crwyn now has two defibrillators. One is at the Anchor Pub, the other here at the Parish Hall. More people have been trained, and refresher courses organised. Again it is hoped that more people in the area will come forward as volunteers. The area in Bettws that is furthest away from the defibrillators are the areas on the border with Beguildy, near St Mary’s Church, and the Duffryn farms. However they are nearer to the Newcastle unit, which has the same access code.

I shall deal briefly with the headings that annually are mentioned in the report, because they vary very little. They are:

Highways

As usual the state of the roads is seasonal. In spring and summer potholes are filled, ditches are drained, hedges are trimmed.  In Autumn and Winter frosts create more potholes, wind blows down trees, branches and signposts, rain floods the roads, and snow blocks them.

We do our best to keep abreast of these problems and appreciate information from those who travel our roads. Any information supplied is always passed on to the appropriate department. However, this year cuts have had considerable impact, and the Highways Department has had to prioritise in such a way that many of our small roads have shown considerable deterioration. We were fortunate this year in having a comparatively mild winter, but hard winters in future may well present great difficulties for rural roads.

Finance

Precepts now increase year on year, and we consciously try to make the increase as painless as possible. We are fortunate in that our Clerk has two other Parishes and a Town, so that costs of training have been shared. The clerk constantly endeavours to keep costs down by scrutiny of insurances etc.

The accounts can be made available to anyone who is interested, and are externally audited annually.

Planning

Planning applications included planning was mainly for agricultural buildings.

Members of the public are sometimes present when planning applications are discussed, and their views are welcomed.

Parish Hall

The Parish Hall Committee runs the Parish Hall on behalf of the Parish Council, which acts as trustee. Yet again I should like to thank, on behalf of us all, this excellent committee of dedicated people who work hard to maintain and improve the Hall, car park, and garden. They do not meet often, as a committee, but work hard for year on year improvements and the garden improves annually.

Fund Raising is constant, and the Parish is generous in supporting all events.

Parish Plan

Sadly weather conditions and illness hampered the process this year, but questionnaires now have only to be finalised at a meeting in June and will be sent out.

Training

We are now expected to undergo training in order to perform our duties adequately. The training in Power of Well Being was held in Newcastle on May 18th  last year, together with Newcastle Parish Council, and was led by our own highly trained clerk Gwilym Rippon. This was training for allocating parish funds, and was well attended by our councilors.

Conclusion

Yet again I am repeating what I have said in these reports every year. However, one cannot say ‘Thank You’ too often. We are all privileged to be members of a wonderful community. The heartfelt thanks go to all who work so hard to make this Parish so special.

It bears repeating that I am privileged in working with councillors who serve only because they love this Parish, and genuinely care about its future. Again I make no apologies for repeating, almost word for word – thanks to the wonders of computers – my thanks to my fellow councillors who are consistently supportive. It is also worth repeating that:

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.

It is important for us to recognise that these volunteers are now expected to do much more than used to be the case. Attending meetings in all weathers, and absorbing what is said, can be time consuming and tedious, but is essential if we are to keep abreast of developments.

Humble parish councillors often go unrecognised. It can be a thankless task, and one where criticism is heard much more often than praise. It is my view that those who are prepared to serve the community in any way and who are prepared to turn out in all weathers for council meetings and to give proper attention to planning applications are deserving of recognition. I am grateful to those volunteers who give me support and encouragement, so I make no apologies for repeating my next quotes:

Insults should be written in the sand, and praises carved in stone. (Arab proverb). It is easy to criticize decisions that are made. Harder to have to make them, and silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.  (G.B. Stern) so 
applaud us when we run, console us when we fall, cheer us when we recover. (Reese
Edmund Burke)

In addition and again, my personal thanks go to the Clerk, Gwilym, for his help and cooperation and constant good humour. Since taking on this and other parish Councils Gwilym has become possibly the county’s most qualified Parish Clerk. From my point of view the job of Chairing this council has become increasingly easier, for which I am very grateful.

I am also going to repeat last year’s final quote, because I really like it and it personally reflects the way I feel about being part of a small Parish that has, in the past, often been ignored.

It gives encouragement when, ‘oh we of little Bettws’, feel we are a ‘lone voice crying in the wilderness’:

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. 

 Valerie Whately

May 2012

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