If you’ve ever had to face a ‘performance review’ well, you’ll know what the local councillors are feeling right now.
Yes, it’s that time of year again when the local civil parish council has its annual general meeting. A parish council is the smallest tier of local government, but what it does and what it decides have important implications for all of us electors – and the council’s AGM is the main meeting of the year when the council seeks to explain and justify its actions to us electors.
Draycott in the Moors Council has its meeting on Monday May 19th at 7.30pm at the church hall.
Electors from Draycott, Cresswell, Totmonslow and Newton – the areas covered by the PC – are all welcome to attend.
The AGM is also the best meeting at which electors can actually comment on the council’s performance over the previous year – and this year has certainly been remarkable for some significant decisions.
The most high-profile decision by the Draycott Council in the past twelve months was choosing to raise its share of the council tax by a huge 24%.
Locally, SMDC and Staffs County had zero increases, and most parish & town councils across England kept their rises under an average of 5% ; but Draycott went for a very large 24% increase, one of the largest rises in the country…
See: Council Tax Precepts in Staffordshire Moorlands 2014/15.
(You may have heard that the government has been bringing in rules against what it calls ‘principles of excessiveness’ whereby authorities cannot raise council tax by more than 2% without a referendum – but this ruling excludes parish & town councils).
Draycott Council has said that it needs the extra money because of having to find the costs for an unexpected election in 2013, and to defray costs of more elections in the future.
However, the whole subject has given rise to controversy (see the letters on this subject)
Other significant decisions were made during the year.
# It was decided to further constrain public participation sessions. During the year, the council decided that ‘no more than one person from any organisation may speak – and that person can only ask one question’.
Until this year all electors had been allowed one question each during the fifteen minutes of ‘public participation’ (no member of the public can actually speak during the main meeting).
The new rule means, oddly, that if four people from the local Women’s Institute were to attend a council meeting, wishing to speak during public participation, three of them must now remain silent.
It’s not clear why this new rule was introduced.
# The council is pressing for a speed reduction to 30mph along parts of Draycott Level including outside the Draycott Arms. The process is now waiting on a traffic survey.
# Recently, the council also upped its levels of charitable granting. Usually it only gives out grants of around £20 a time to deserving local charities – but earlier this year it gave out a grant of £100 to a young girl guide who wanted to undertake volunteer work in Africa.
# Following a request by an elector at this year’s Annual Parish Meeting , the council is now to start publishing its decisions/’minutes’, making them more accessible to electors, by summer this year.
Last year, following a similar intervention by another elector, the council started publishing its meeting-agendas on the village notice-boards.
# In the outline of what the parish council called their ‘parish plan’ in 2011/12, the council decided to concentrate on improving four areas of local life: play facilities in Cresswell & Draycott, the use of the old railway-line as a bridle path, the creation of a footway in Cresswell Lane, and the improvement of public transport.
It’s likely members will want to report on progress with these objectives.
Electors may comment on any of these subjects – or others – during ‘public participation’.
There was also going to be a guest speaker at the AGM – Police Community Support Officer for Draycott, Adam Charlesworth – but his appearance has had to be postponed.
Thoughts about a tidy-up ?…
The AGM incorporates the usual monthly meeting of the council too of course; and one subject up for discussion is receiving ideas for an ‘environment tidy-up’…
Staffordshire County Council Highways Department sends out special neighbourhood teams each summer to tidy up and improve villages, and the one assigned to us will reach Draycott in the Moors around July.
The department is asking the parish council to come up with a list of needful tasks – and of course the parish council wants in turn to hear from you what job you consider should be carried out around the village too.
The sorts of matters the team are looking to deal with could include: tidying grass, work sorting ditches, cleaning graffiti off signs, tidying pavements, clearing highways, attending to verges.
If you have any ideas, please contribute!
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