Tag Archives: council tax

Time for councillors to resign

As we approach the annual general meeting of Draycott Council next month, it’s time once again to assess the councillors’ performance in these last twelve months.
And, looking at their record, all one can say is that it is so hopelessly dismal, that they should all resign forthwith.

The easiest way to point out our council’s embarrassing lack of achievement is to compare it against the work done by the three surrounding village councils – Forsbrook/Blythe Bridge, Fulford and Checkley/Tean. And that’s what this article is about.

By the end of this article, you might well agree that it would be a better thing for Draycott’s electors (in Draycott, Totmonslow, Cresswell, Newton etc) if the current crop of councillors simply stood down and let more energetic people take over.

Let’s look at the facts.

Covid response
In this country’s worst peacetime year for a century, nearby councils charged ahead, organising help-groups and getting grants. Fulford Council especially set a great example, putting out a special Covid newsletter, getting grants and setting up a specific action group; they even won an award for their efforts. Checkley Council recently created a small Covid memorial plantation.

But what have Draycott Council done to help? …nothing.
Local relief here was actually carried out by a small village community group and by volunteers at Blythe Bridge library.
Very poor.

No progress
Earlier this year, a resident asked at a meeting what hopes & strategy the council had for 2021. The answer was almost predictable… : ‘nothing particularly different to before’.
The resident went away, dissatisfied, to go on to become one of the founders of DCAT, the new Draycott Community Group.

A good example of how hopeless this council is is shown by its efforts to set up a Neighbourhood Plan. Over the years, three times they have started the process, including last year – only to see it collapse each time, meaning thousands of pounds has to be returned. The simple fact is these councillors lack the energy & belief to make it happen, and certainly have failed to inspire the local public.
Compare that with Checkley Council – where their five-year NPlan process is now very far advanced!
The energy in neighbouring councils is evident: Checkley and Forsbrook have even been out buying land for community projects in the last year.
And, after the NALC (National Association of Local Councils) declared a climate-action emergency more than a year ago, other local village councils have been busy setting up green policies – including Forsbrook, which has created space for a colony of bees.

By contrast, Draycott councillors have just been sitting on their hands.

Residents have been waiting & waiting: for the promised brass plaque to remember our local war dead (although the national WW1 Project started back in 2014!); for any sign of the so-called ‘Gateway’ signs for the village; for any sign of the renovation of the Draycott kiosk; for any sign of a solid local policy for the environment.
What we got instead in 2020 was … a new bin!
(It’s true that the VAS speed-signs went up last year, but that project was launched in 2018, and most of the work was done on it in 2019).

As you’d expect from all that lack of action, Draycott Council is now sitting on a fat financial reserve. Despite that, the council is still asking for the same level of council tax this year as before…
(In terms of population and responsibilities, Draycott-in-the-Moors is comparable to Caverswall, which asks for 20% less council tax).

Duties
Draycott Council has virtually no responsibilities. Unlike other surrounding councils, it manages no playground or cemetery or allotments. Because of this, it really only has two statutory duties: to comment on planning applications and to monitor the local footpath network. But the record on these is not good either.
Probably the most important planning application it was asked to look over last year was the one about the giant Blythe Fields housing estate. It completely failed to put in a comment. Which is pretty bad.
Despite promising a local-footpaths report in 2019, none has materialised. The promise was repeated in council early this year, but still nothing has appeared.

Communication
Draycott councillors admitted a few years ago that their lines of communication with local electors needed massive improvement – what was urgently need was more newsletters, development of a user-friendly website, better use of social media, engagement with local newspapers, more involvement with the local community. In other words, they needed to catch up with surrounding councils like Fulford (which produces its own monthly news updates) and Checkley, whose councillors formally liaise with their local organisations.
But in this past 12 months… you guessed it… no progress. In fact things have gone backward.

A promise to mail out two newsletters a year fizzled out (though the council did piggy-back a newsletter made by the DSGroup).
Councillors stopped engaging formally on the village Facebook page.
The website has seen no improvements.
Nowadays, no councillor represents the council on any local community organisation – the last one being on the Church Lane Renovation Group, but he resigned from that fifteen months ago.

Only in one area does Draycott Council escape criticism: it has started to get ‘the basics’ right. Agendas and minutes appear on time, supporting documents are listed properly and the finances are transparent. However, that has little to do with the councillors; the responsibility for the ‘basics’ falls to the paid staff, not to the councillors.

All in all, it’s a very, very poor record.
… and we are only comparing Draycott Council to three other councils. Suppose we’d compared it with more…

Resignations, please

Judging by this dismal record, Draycott-in-the-Moors Parish Council has simply turned into an expensive monthly talking-shop, where almost nothing is achieved. Compared to the energy and creativity of surrounding councils, Draycott councillors look tired-out and stuck in their ways.
Even the newer councillors seem unable to shake things up. In fact, during 2020, one councillor only attended four of the council’s ten meetings (even though most were on Zoom)!
Councillors have to do more than just turn up. As well as demonstrating a commitment to the betterment of an area, they have to show leadership and energy.

There is no doubt of course that most of the seven Draycott councillors are nice people – but their record simply shows the job is beyond them. It is time they did the honourable thing, and moved out of the way. They should resign now. The people of this village should not have to wait until the next elections (in 2023) to see improvements in the area.

And… we all know that there are some really energetic people in the village – who would (we think) happily step in to act as co-opted councillors until 2023. If councillors were to resign, it would give these new people the chance to show what they could do, as well as providing a much-needed injection of energy into the area.

***
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NEWS: vacancy deadline / council tax mess / banner of history / Local Plan debates

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors in late October 2018
In this post we have news of…: the council needs you! / council tax mess-up / Draycott’s history banner / debates at Local Plan inquiry …
(NB – There are also dozens of events coming up in our locality – including a talk about World War One…  Check out the Events page)
For daily updates about life in our district, keep checking the village Facebook page

_ _ _
Be a councillor… for six months…

Following the death of its vice-chairman, Draycott in the Moors Parish Council has announced that any resident who feels themselves suitable to fill the post should come forward and apply for a place on the council.
There won’t be an election; instead, any resident should just drop a line to the clerk explaining why they think they could be good in the role.

There are a few stipulations: you must live or work locally, be an elector etc (see councillor stipulations), but it’s all fairly straightforward.
Your note to the clerk should give a brief description of yourself and what your connection with the Draycott-Cresswell-Totmonslow area is and a line about why you want to be a councillor. If you are selected to the short list, you’ll be expected to make a short presentation about yourself to the councillors too. The councillors will then make a choice.

This is a great opportunity for someone who just wants to see up-close how local government works at the village level. So…. why not give it a go??
As there will be full elections next May, this post is only for six months (though the candidate can seek re-election then if they want, of course).
You have until November 9th to email the clerk (draycottparishcouncil@aol.co.uk); and you should be available on the evening of November 12th to see the councillors.

_ _ _
Banner of history

The History Weekend at St Margaret’s Church was a great success, with dozens of people coming from far and wide to check out the ancient building and also to join in the celebrations for its 750th anniversary.
There were some really interesting discussions too on the extremely unpredictable future of the St M’s: what really is going to happen to it over the next twenty years…and what can be done about it?

But the highlight of the weekend was the unveiling on the Sunday (Oct 21st) of a specially-made banner.

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The Draycott Craft Club – especially its leading lights, Jackie Knott, Pauline Clarke and Pam Hibell – had created it as a tribute, and it was unveiled by the bishop, who had arrived for the day.  It really is a simply terrific piece of work, outlining the history of the village over the last millennium, and has been beautifully made.  A credit to the makers, it now has pride of place in the church.

Unfortunately the church is kept locked most of the week, although the church is open for services on Sundays, so it can be seen at those times.
For more pictures of the history weekend, click here.

_ _ _
VVSM gets a hearing

Well done to Jacquie Leach (a VVSM supporter), who made sure that the controversial issues regarding Draycott & Cresswell did not just get swept under the carpet at the recent Moorlands Local Plan inquiry. The inquiry, based in Leek and headed up by a government-appointed inspector, took place over seven days at the beginning of this month.

Jacquie LeachOn the day appointed for discussion about Draycott district, Jacquie (pic, right) was there to speak up and debate the issues with the inspector. Jacquie told us that she felt compelled to give it one last shot.

She stood up and told the inquiry that that our district was in danger of being swamped – with 500 new houses in the pipeline and a large expansion of industry on the way, all of which would lead to a near-doubling of the population (and traffic) over the next ten years. She pointed out that much of the development was contrary to the regional Core Strategy guidelines. For more of how the day went, click here.

Let’s hope the government inspector listened, and gave her arguments full consideration.

_ _ _
Council tax mess up

We know now how much the new clerk at Draycott village council is to be paid. This was kept under wraps at first (why, who knows?) but it was bound to come out eventually because it has to be mentioned in the monthly accounts, and so it has.
(A council clerk is basically the ‘manager’ of the council’s business and, amongst everything else, also has to deal with all the new government legislation that keeps coming in).
Denise, who was appointed in May and will be part-time (4.5 hours a week), is to be paid £10 an hour, i.e. £200 a month.

Last year there was much discussion at village meetings over the rate of pay & hours for the clerk, (which has not gone up in many years). It’s a responsible, legally-fraught position, but while some felt that a clerk was not worth much more than the national living wage, others felt that the job had become much more demanding and therefore wages should be more in line with what other parish councils do (who pay up to £12 an hour).

person holding black pen wrting 'TAX'

Which leads us to … the council tax mess-up.

At the January meeting of the council, it was decided to go for a very large increase in the parish council’s demand for council tax – a jump of almost 12%… (!!) to cover an increase in pay & hours for the clerk. (It was pointed out at the time that it wasn’t strictly necessary, as there was enough money in the reserves to cover it, but the councillors went ahead anyway).
All over the rest of the country, austerity was still in place and other councils were deliberately trying to keep their council tax down – but Draycott Council went ahead anyway with this massive increase.

And then… the councillors changed their minds about the clerk’s pay-rate.

Again, we’ll never know exactly what happened – because the councillors’ discussion was in secret (why… who knows?) – but a few weeks later, the councillors reverted to offering £10 an hour. The then-clerk Kate Bradshaw resigned in disgust (not just about pay, but a number of matters); so a vacancy had to be announced – but a number of new suitable new candidates walked away when they learned the rate on offer.
Fortunately, eventually, Denise, a very able candidate, came along, and she accepted the rate of pay.

So… why exactly did we have to have the increase in tax foisted upon us???
In the end, the residents of Draycott parish were forced to pay considerably extra in their council tax for something that never happened.

It’s not even the first time that Draycott councillors have put large increases in council tax on us.  Over the last ten years, there have been inflation-busting demands for increases of 9.9% (2007), 11% (2009), 4% (2011), 14% (2012), a staggering 24% (!!) in 2014; 6% (2015); and this year (2018) 11.8%.
Don’t forget that, over this period, inflation was running only at rates between zero to 2.5%…

Roll on the elections next May!  We need new, common-sense, thoughtful representatives to come forward, stand for election and shake Draycott Council up; we really do.

***
Do you have news or information snippets that you think residents would like to see up on this website? If so – email us

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email address, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

Council shenanigans – again

If you are as tired of the shenanigans of Draycott Council as some people are, you’d best skip this particular post. It will only get you depressed.
It’s an update on some of the odd things the council is doing.

The meeting of the council on Monday (20th March) was remarkable: the clerk was so upset by an allegation from a councillor that she had to leave the room; one councillor narrowly escaped censure from his colleagues for his unexplained insinuations against them on social media; one councillor called another’s views “trashy”; and two councillors did not even seem to know sometimes what was actually going on!

Remarkable is one description of the meeting; bizarre is another.

Attack attack

One major issue was the allegations against the Chairman and the Clerk (a clerk is the person who acts as an independent secretary to the council).  One councillor weighed in immediately the meeting started, saying that some sort of plagiarism (which is plain illegal actually) appeared to be in the clerk’s records of the previous meeting.  This so upset the clerk, she had to leave the room to recover.

The next question, of why one councillor had decided to put insinuations against the clerk and the chairman (which they both found offensive) on Facebook, came up. This councillor – even though he was sitting in the room – did not respond, or try to explain the comments, but another councillor was in no doubt about them, and said such views were just “trashy, trashy”.
One poor councillor, who perhaps hadn’t read his agenda documents, said he didn’t at all know what the whole matter was about!
Meanwhile, the watching public were just … dumbstruck.

The Clerk, who was understandably knocked back by all this, has now decided as a result to do no work over & above her four paid hours per week.

Draycott in the Moors Church Hall

Draycott Council meets every month at the local Church Hall – meetings are open to the public

In the past couple of months, the dislike some councillors have for each other has really surfaced – even leading to a formal allegation to the authorities that one councillor had seriously broken the councillors’ Code Of Conduct (though the allegation has since been rejected).
It is very hard to know what is going on; and why this war of words has broken out.  It is certainly unbecoming, that’s for sure.

It might also explain why some electors preferred to chose a full election process (after a vacancy arose in January) rather than let this group choose a new councillor themselves.

Secret meeting

You may remember that, in January, an extra, ‘closed’ meeting was held by the councillors – who did not publish to everyone what they were doing, as they should have done.
Well, we have applied to see the minutes of that meeting (at least, the bits we are not allowed to see) – but… no result so far.

Councillor resignation

Back in January, a councillor suddenly resigned from Draycott Council.  The public still does not know why. Neither the councillor nor the council has explained. It may even be a personal matter, which is fine, but we still should know (surely?) what the general issue was.
We have asked the council to publish the resignation letter – but… no result so far.

Council tax

You may wish to look away at this point.
If you have received your council tax demand in the last week, you’ll notice that the ‘precept’ from Draycott Parish Council has increased by 3.3%, double the rate of inflation at the time the council agreed it.  (And that was before it was even known that there would be an election…).
In contrast, nearby Caverswall Council cut their council tax by 3%.

By law, larger authorities (such as SMDC for example) are obliged to hold a referendum for any increases above 2% – but parish councils, like Draycott, do not.
Usually with a large increase a council will come out to its electorate and explain why the increase is so large (they might have responsibilities for instance), but we have not had that from this council.

In general, Draycott PC has a poor record on council tax increases – in one year recently, it increased the tax by a whopping 25%.
In fact, in a survey conducted by BBC News Research last month, Draycott was in the top 16% (across the whole country!) for councils with the highest council-tax increases over the last three years.

Transparency

One success for the residents is that, following a request from an elector at this last meeting, the council will, from now on, advertise the jobs that it wants done. Seems a small thing to ask – and lots of other parish councils already do it – but the promise has been a long time coming!

The council commissions a number of jobs around the parish and spends hundreds of pounds a year on them. However, rarely have they advertised these jobs, and often they don’t even get three quotes for a job.

The government got so fed up with small councils acting in this way without regard to how carefully public money should be spent that it introduced a ‘Transparency Code’ for small councils in 2015.  Under this code, all councils should publish full details of any item of expenditure over £100.  Let’s hope this happens in future.

New councillor

One feels sorry for the current chairman of the council, who seems to be doing his best to act as a firm-but-fair peace-maker; and one feels even more for the clerk, as the strange allegations against her by her colleagues have still had no evidence put up to justify them.

However, we the public have a big opportunity to ask questions of councillors: when the Council has its Annual General Meeting, which is when it has to present all its reports for the year and its list of objectives for the coming year.  It also has to take questions from its electorate about its conduct, its achievements (or lack of) and its financial affairs.  The AGM is on Monday 8 May.

We wonder what Pat McLaughlin and Roger Leach, who are both standing in the Draycott Council by-election on April 6th, are thinking of it all…  the one who is elected will have a big job on their hands.

In the meantime, the councillors are really not getting on with what they are supposed to do – making improvements for their district.

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

Draycott Council’s ‘performance review’

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.

Council tax

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.

Draycott in Moors council tax bill

A detail from this year’s council tax bill which has been posted to households showing the council tax increase

(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)

More decisions

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!

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.

(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to, and it is always kept private anyway and never published, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

NEWS: tax rise? / Izaak latest / burglary / Potter play on

News-in-brief of Draycott-In-The-Moors in late-January 2014
We have news of…:  rise in parish council tax?  / the latest on the Izaak Walton / Draycott Potter FC play on / Cresswell burglary  / local library under review.
(NB – There are also dozens of events in the area. Check out the Events page!)

– – –
Rise in council tax?

If a recent decision by Draycott Parish Council goes ahead, it looks like we may well be paying more for the parish part of our council tax.
Parish Council members have agreed that they will seek an almost 25% rise in their allotted money, which would mean that the council would receive £8000 in 2014/15, instead of what it received last financial year, which was £6700-ish.

The request for the large increase is, it seems, because of the unexpected costs incurred in staging last year’s by-election (when Roger Tabbernor was elected as a new councillor), which has left the council shorter on funds than it would like to be.

However, it’s yet to be seen whether the council will be able to persuade the powers-that-be that they should be allowed the rise.

– – –
Izaak – latest

It is now exactly a year since the Izaak Walton Inn in Cresswell ‘went dark’ – and closed.
The pub-business that own it, Wellington, says the place is available for lease, and they do have it up on the James A Baker real-estate website, but (as far as we know) they have not yet accepted any of the offers they’ve had in.

Izaak Walton Inn pub sign

Poor Izaak is flaking off more and more day by day

Wellington has, also, so far, not replied to any letters of concern sent to them by the Draycott Parish Council, despite the way the building’s appearance has been dilapidating, and the way that vandalism has been occurring on the site.
It seems a shame that the company didn’t seem to wish to talk to the local community.

Izaak Walton car park

The Izaak Walton’s car park is now behind a chain-plus-tables barrier

However, at least there has been a little activity on the site in the past fortnight.
Someone has clearly been along to the pub – to clear up the litter that was in the car-park, and to create a barrier across the car-park entrance.  It’s a bit of a makeshift barrier (!)… but at least it shows some interest by the owners.

– – –
Potter keeping on

We were horrified to read in one of the local newspapers that there had been a serious injury to a home player at a recent Draycott Potter FC match.  The injury – a double fracture of the leg – was so bad that the game was called off, in respect.
Actually, the reporter was a bit mixed up.  Though the game had certainly been in Draycott (on the Draycott College pitch), the match had featured not Draycott FC but Fulford & Tean FC.    F&T’s captain Matt Forrester was the man who was so badly hurt.

As it happens, Draycott – who now play on pitches in Blythe Bridge – had actually been doing well elsewhere, in the quarter-final of the Charity Trophy tournament, where, in a hard-fought encounter, they beat Stone Town by five goals to three after extra time.
They are doing okay in the league too.

– – –
Support your local library

Blythe Bridge is home to our nearest local library.   so, it must have sent cold shivers down local library-users’ necks, not only in Blythe but here in Draycott too, to learn that the county council has decided on a full-scale review of library services.
Visits to library buildings are dropping – though electronic/digital online use is increasing massively.

If you use the library – whether frequently or infrequently – you may want to express your views about what should happen to it.  Find out more about making your views known by clicking here.

– – –
It’s easy to be a good citizen

As you may have heard by now, two weeks ago some riding tack was stolen from a stable block across the road from the cricket club in Cresswell Lane.

The police tell us that they feel that people too often do not report seeing suspicious activity – just the sort of activity that might have then led to this burglary.  Many people think they are over-reacting if they just report suspicions.

However, 101, the police non-emergency number, has been set up very much for this kind of eyes-and-ears reporting; and the public is beign asked to use it whenever we have concerns.
If you would prefer complete anonymity of course, you can ring the Crimestoppers number – 0800 555 111 – instead.

***
Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.

(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to, and it is always kept private anyway and never published, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

NEWS: busy meeting / re-Marriage / cricket hog / turbine / Brookside path

News-in-brief of Draycott-In-The-Moors in mid-January 2014
We have news of…:  busy parish council meeting!  / wind turbine coming / a celebration of Marriage / cricket club starts a college, with a hog / overgrown footpath at Brookside / school places deadline.
(NB – There are also dozens of events in the area. Check out the Events page!)

– – –
Get your seat early! 

The Draycott Parish Council meeting on Monday 20th January promises to be an interesting one.

Starting at the earlier than usual time of 7pm, one item that will definitely be raised is the question of the proposed housing development in Cresswell (click here for details).
And, though it may be difficult to fit in a full debate, the amount of ‘precept’ that the parish council wants to set as its council tax for the forthcoming year should be decided too.

The VVSM local community-action group is holding a pre-meeting on Thursday (16th) at 8pm at the Church Hall to gauge residents’ feelings about the Cresswell proposals; and will be taking their impressions from that session to the parish council meeting too.

– – –
Married? Do it again!

There are only a few churches across Staffordshire taking part in Marriage Week, but Draycott St Margaret’s is definitely one of them.

On Saturday 8th February, it’s Marriage Day at the church, when there will be a display of marriage memorabilia (photos, dresses and more!) during the afternoon; and a renewal of vows for couples at 4.45pm.
Any couple that is married can apply to be part of the renewal of vows ceremony, and we understand that there is even a video being made of the occasion, so you will have a permanent record of the moment if you get involved!

If you want to take part, ether in the renewal of vows or by contributing memorabilia/photos, please contact the church wardens.
You do not have to have been originally married at St Margaret’s.

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Cricket club is going places – with a hog…

Congratulations to Blythe Cricket Club on their latest signing – a water-hog!
Actually a water-hog is a device for mopping up water off a wet pitch, and will come in useful if this summer proves to be rainy.  The club has now replaced the old one they had, so chances of ‘play resuming’ at their ground in Cresswell are now much higher.

Water hog

A water hog is basically a set of rollers, attached to a device to suck up water. The club’s new one has a seat…

The hog is being acquired thanks to a £10,000 grant from Sport England, and the money will also provide for new rain-covers for the cricket-square, and a fascinating new development in cricket coaching at the club.
Members of the club are setting up a ‘Blythe Cricket College’ – which basically will see them providing cricket coaches in local schools and running community-based cricket sessions for youngsters.

It’s really great to see that young people in Draycott and around will have these kinds of opportunities for their leisure time as the season gets under way.

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School places

Incidentally, talking of youngsters, parents should be aware that, if they want to apply for a new school place for their child – to start in September 2014 – they have only one day left to make their application. The closing date is 15 January. (Click here for details).

The catchment-area primary school for us is William Amory in Blythe Bridge.

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No way through

Thanks to Bill who sent in this photo of the footpath that leads off Cheadle Road down to Brookside.

Footpath finger post, from

Footpath finger-post at the point where Cheadle Road goes down to Brookside

As you can see, it is completely overgrown, and really needs cutting back.  In fact, it is impassable at the moment.

Bill, we’ve passed on this photo to parish councillor Gordon Winfield, who takes a special interest in our local footpaths, and to the Staffordshire Ramblers.  The Ramblers groups now work hand-in-glove with the county council trying to keep footpaths clear.

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G
etting the wind up

Almost eighteen months ago, we reported on an application by New Buildings Farm to erect a wind turbine to generate the farm’s own electricity.  It was a relatively small one by comparison with some, but was still turned down by planners last year.

But the farm, which is in a remote spot between Cresswell and Hilderstone on a ridge looking down on to Bromley Wood, did not give up; and re-submitted the application with improved environmental standards.
It has now been approved.  For conservationists it will be a good result; though some countryside campaigners will be less happy.

So… it will be interesting to see how another application for a turbine in Draycott – at Draycott Cross (click here for details) – will be treated by planners.

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News of: council tax / hat-trick / ancient election / VVSM joy

News-in-brief of Draycott-In-The-Moors in late March 2013

We have news of:  no rise in council tax; your chance to vote in an ancient election; hat-trick for Dan Rooksby; and VVSM celebrations over business park.
(NB – There are also dozens of events in the area. Check out the Events page!)

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Some good news about tax…

Most of us have had notices through the letter-box now, telling us what the council tax will be this year. The good news is that we’ll be paying more or less the same as last year – in other words, a slight drop in real terms (taking inflation into account).
This is because most of the relevant authorities whom we have to pay the council tax to have decided on no rises.

Our own parish council, Draycott-in-the-Moors PC, had originally sought an increase (see previous post), but after discussion, and in view of the economic climate, has also decided to remain at last year’s level.
This means that (with the ‘District Council grant’ added on) Draycott PC will receive £6,703 this year, of which £6,187.28 comes directly from council tax.

For more info, see Council Tax 2013/14 in the Staffordshire Moorlands / What Parish Council in Staffordshire Moorlands will receive 2013/14

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Want to be an ancient police officer?

One of the weirdest things about ancient English traditions is that some really are still on the statute book.  For example, did you know that church wardens at a local parish church still have the legal power to arrest anyone misbehaving within the church confines?  Strange – but true.

The other strange thing is that anyone – including you and me – has the right to elect such church wardens.
Here in Draycott you don’t have to be a member of St Margaret’s Church, or even religious… Anyone over 16 who lives in the parish has the right to take part in the elections.

If you’d like to exercise your ancient right, the Annual Meeting of Parishioners (also know as the ‘Annual Vestry Meeting’) is where it all happens; and this year it takes place at 11.30am on Sunday April 14th at St Margaret’s.
The meeting is followed immediately by the AGM of the Parochial Church Council.  For details email the PCC Secretary

You have to love these ancient rights and traditions…!

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Marksman Dan

The astonishing Dan Rooksby has really hit form again for Draycott Potter FC.   Another brilliant display from him (with yet another hat-trick!) saw the Potters recently beat Blacksmiths Arms 8-4 to get through to the semi-finals of the Uttoxeter Sunday Charity Cup.
They must now have a realistic chance of lifting the trophy…

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Cheers all round

The members of the VVSM Action Group must be celebrating this week – after learning that some of their hard work has had a very successful result.

As you may know, there has been a big consultation about the Staffordshire Moorlands Council’s proposed ‘Core Strategy’.  As part of this, the council were suggesting that further expansion of the Blythe Business Park in Cresswell would be no bad thing.
VVSM disagreed with that point of view – and explained their case in person at last month’s official hearing into the strategy.

The inspector has now reported back his findings; and he clearly agreed with VVSM in his report:
“The support for the expansion of the Blythe Business Park is not justified in the supporting text.  The evidence indicates 70ha of employment land available in rural areas (over 56ha with planning permission) [doc MC(5)], and the location of the site is within a Special Landscape Area (Local Plan, Policy N8).
There is no evidence before this Examination to indicate that account has been taken of the proximity and potential impact on the neighbouring settlement of Cresswell, or that the known toxicity of industrial waste has been acknowledged as part of the process of determining whether the principle of expansion is feasible or desirable.”

Well, it seems VVSM must have put a forceful case!

***
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You do not have to leave your email address (which is always kept private anyway), but, if you don’t, that means you might miss any feedback.

News of: tax rise? / local lad success / Valentines / reviewing the local NHS

News-in-brief of Draycott-In-The-Moors in February 2013

We have news of:  a parish tax rise? / local lad Rob Pointon’s success / Valentines at local hostelries / how to review the local NHS / why turbine was refused / and, a roadside con-trick…
(NB – There are also dozens of events in the area. Check out the Events page!)

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Council tax on the up?

The latest meeting of the Draycott Parish Council concentrated on deciding the council budget for the forthcoming year.

Councillors proposed that the so-called ‘precept’ go up by 3.8%.   In cash terms this means that the households of Draycott could be paying £6,750 for the parish council in 2013/14 – which is up from £6,500 last year. This means it would be an above-inflation increase, as inflation is currently around 2.7%.
Of course, the parish council part of the council tax is minute, especially compared to what the district and county councils and police service will demand!

At the meeting of the council, there was a feeling that extra cash was needed to improve the salary of the parish clerk.

The PC’s proposed rise now goes off to be considered by the  local authority.

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Rob on the canals

Nice to see a local boy doing well… and in this instance we are talking about Rob Pointon, the painter.
Rob, who was raised in Draycott, and is now based in Burslem, is well-known to many of us and has drawn and painted many local scenes.  He’s the brother of the writer, Matt Pointon.

He’s an amazingly prolific painter, and in fact we seem to see his work all over the place all the time. Just last week, we saw some of his paintings in the Millard & Lancaster Gallery in Shrewsbury, where they sell for around £1000 each.

Rob Pointon painting

A painting by Rob Pointon, as seen in a gallery window in Shrewsbury

Rob specialises in ‘live’ painting, so to speak, standing in the open-air painting away furiously depicting what he sees in front of him, whether it’s town-centre scenes or landscapes.
Well, now he’s taken that idea a stretch further by undertaking  a year long project in which he’s been  touring the canal network on a narrowboat –  painting on location – and now the project is almost finished.

A touring exhibition of the 80 paintings he will have completed (called ‘The Year of The Boat’) will get under way in April, with an opening in Manchester.
For more information see Rob’s website:  www.robpointon.co.uk

Didn’t he do well?!!

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Choose your Valentine now

You won’t need telling that it’s Valentines Day this coming Thursday.  If you haven’t bought your cards yet, time’s running out…

It’s also running out if you want to book that ‘special meal’ at one of our local restaurants.  The Draycott Arms are only running their Valentine’s menu on the day itself, so book ahead.  (Incidentally, if you really feel like going mad, you can buy a bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne there for £55… but… a glass of the house-white is just £3. Phew.)

The Izaak Walton is also going all out to make it a special time for lovers, and the Izaak’s Richard Graves tells us the music mix – which is one of the best things about the Izaak – will be ‘appropriately smooth’. And so will the Valentines dessert – which is a chocolate mousse over a chocolate sauce!
However, Richard says he’ll keep the Valentines feeling going into the weekend, retaining the menu for the Friday and Saturday as well.

Richard Graves

Richard Graves – the man (and chef) in charge at the Izaak

Richard also told us that he once cooked for the Queen when he was a chef in London. If he’s not too busy, he might tell you the story himself, and even show you the photo.

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Roadside scam

Neighbourhood Watch is reporting a very strange confidence trick which has already taken in a number of unsuspecting people.

Motorists are being warned of fraudsters who park in lay-bys off main commuter roads and flag down passing cars. They say their own vehicle has broken down and then ask for money (in exchange for jewellery or gold) to enable them to get help.  The jewellery is fake of course.

Recently, the con-men have been working in Blythe Bridge, Leek, and Wolseley Bridge – so, in our backyard. If you see anything, contact Staffordshire Police on 101.

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Turbine refused

You may remember our article about a proposed wind turbine in this area, in the southern part of Draycott parish to be exact.  It was turned down by the planners.
Annoyingly, the Planning Applications pages on the council website don’t always say why a proposal is refused, but it seems in this instance, it wasn’t because of objections. The planners simply weren’t convinced that enough research into the ecology of the spot had been carried out by the farmer who was asking permission.
So, it may yet come back to the table.

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Get your view of the NHS heard

The shocking news about Stafford Hospital and the poor treatment of patients there sent a chill down everybody’s spine I suspect.  But nothing would have really come to light unless a group of determined users of the hospital insisted on standing up to criticise the services. They were pushed back many times, but wouldn’t be silenced.

Now, we’re told, the NHS is going to be more open to criticism, and even down here at our level, we can ‘review’ services more easily.

For instance, many of us use the Pilpel & Ptrs surgeries in Tean and Blythe Bridge, and now you can go online and put down your feelings on the service there.
On the Pilpel & Ptrs NHS Choice pages, there are already some fairly uncomplimentary reviews (!), so if you’ve had good service there, why not go on and write down your thoughts to blanace things up.
Or.. maybe you agree with the criticisms?

***
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Parish Council accounts – questions

Yes, it is that time of year again.
As electors, we have the opportunity to speak out, and say if we think our local government (parish) council is spending the council tax we pay it in a correct and proper manner.

The year’s financial accounts of our civil-parish council – the Draycott In The Moors Parish Council – have just been completed, and you, as an elector who votes in Council polls, have a right to see them and query them.
It’s called the ‘Exercise of Electors’ Rights’ – and, why not use your rights?
The Audit Commission outlines and encourages the sorts of questions you should ask in its Guide to Council Public Accounts.

What sort of questions can you ask?

Well, for example, you may feel too much is being earmarked for expenses or wages, or you may feel that the parish council is spending the money it receives in council tax on matters it shouldn’t, or you may think it’s spending to much in general.
Or – you may want to congratulate the council on how wisely it spends its income!

However, if you do want to make a comment, the fact is that the Audit Commission would like us to do it right now.
The Commission gives us a month to do the necessary – from April 24th to the cut-off date of May 23rd.

To see the accounts…

The parish clerk (who holds the accounts) is inviting electors to call round to her house to examine the accounts, any time between 10am-7pm over the next few days until May 23rd.
The Clerk lives at 136 Draycott Old Road – but if you’re thinking of calling in, it would be a courtesy to give her a call in advance, on 01782 394807.  If you don’t get an answer more than a few times on that number, do contact the Audit Commission.

And, if you feel strongly that there is an issue that really does need addressing, you should contact the Audit Commission with the specifics of the issue.

Good luck – and do tell us too if you have an issue with the way the money is spent (by using the comments-box below).

Don’t forget: you can also put your queries in person – at the Draycott Annual Parish Assembly  on May 28th.

 

Still confused about how parish councils function in local government?  A new website CPALC explains all you need to know about parish councils in clear and user-friendly terms.
See the CPALC – Communities, Parish and Local Councils website

Parish council put up tax

The proposals for this year’s council tax are now in, and Draycott’s Parish Council has asked for one of the lowest ‘precepts’ in the Moorlands.

As their parish-council contribution to the overall council tax, it looks like Draycott ‘Band D’ households will be paying just £17.38 each this year, which will help bring some £6,500 into the PC’s coffers.
According to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, this represents a 1.4% increase on last year.

For comparison, neighbouring town and parish councils have asked for varying amounts from their ‘Band D’ householders. For example:  Cheadle – £54.81; Checkley – £38.92; Dilhorne – £20.95; Forsbrook £26.08; Werrington – £14.74.
However, the new ‘Uttoxeter Rural’ Parish Council managed a determined cut of 15% from its budget – see ‘Tax Controversy’ story in the Uttoxeter Advertiser.

Of course, the parish part of the council tax is minute compared to what is also added on by the district council, county council and statutory authorities, so the total council tax bill for households is much bigger. However, all those authorities have announced there will be no demand for any increase from them this year.

See:  Moorlands town & parish council tax proposals  (this will download a Word document)