Wednesday, 29 April 2009

WALC Rugby Branch Meeting - 28 April

On Tuesday evening I attended the AGM of the Rugby branch of the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils in Pailton. The purpose of WALC is to advise parish councils in Warwickshire and the West Midlands on issues or problems they may be encountering, and to offer a range of services and assistance to local councils, including training seminars and workshops. Each county in England has its own association, and collectively these affiliate to the National Association of Local Councils. The Rugby branch comprises 35 parish councils in the Rugby borough area, and meets usually every 2/3 months to receive updates on current and future issues, and to discuss areas of common interest. Other organisations will also use these meetings to meet with the parish councils collectively and share relevant information. At last night's meeting, discussions with the following guest speakers were held:

  • Simon Warren, Chief Executive of Rugby Borough Council, on how parish councils and the borough council can work more closely together;
  • Phil Ward, Rural Housing Enabler at Warwickshire Rural Community Council, on the role they can play with parishes in helping to providing affordable housing to local residents unable to buy property at an open market value; and
  • Stephen Marks from Rugby Borough Council, on the different types of grants that were available to parish councils to apply for to help fund projects in their area.

There was then a general discussion on a number of different subjects of interest to parish councils. Of particular interest to me were the proposals for the launch of the new 'Rural Link' bus service taking place in May (I'll blog about this in more detail another time because it is of particular interest to people living in Barnacle), and outline details from Warwickshire County Council concerning road signs to discourage lorries from using unsuitable village roads. Again, I will post more about this once I have more information.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Regional Parish Council Conference

Last Wednesday I took the day off work to attend a conference in Coventry for parish councils. The conference was organised by the National Association of Local Councils, the representative organisation for the 8,500 town and parish councils throughout England. NALC provides support and advice to its members, and lobbies the national government to advance and protect the interests of local councils and the communities they represent.

The Coventry event was one of three regional conferences organised by NALC to provide parish councils with the opportunity to discuss government initiatives and their impact on local councils, the relationships between parish, borough and county councils and how they could be improved, and to share examples of good practice undertaken by parish councils that others may learn from. In all, representatives from almost 30 different local councils took part in the day.

There were a number of interesting sessions led by speakers from the
Local Government Association, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Commission for Rural Communities and Buckinghamshire County Council on a range of topics and issues. It was also very useful to network with colleagues and hear of the different approaches that others have taken to similar issues and problems that many parish councils, including Shilton, face. I always find that spending a day amongst people who can demonstrate great examples of where they have improved the services of their own parish council can help to put into perspective the sorts of things that we need to do locally in order to improve the standing of Shilton Parish Council amongst the community were serve.

I shall be reporting back to the parish council on a number of these things at our meetings over the coming months, as well as keeping in touch with colleagues I met during the day.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Warwickshire County Council Elections - 4 June

Elections to determine the 62 councillors who'll make up Warwickshire County Council for the next four years will be held on Thursday 4 June. And although that's still six weeks away, nomination papers for people wishing to stand as candidates in the elections need to be submitted by Thursday 7 May, in just 13 days time. So if you're interested in putting your name forward, you need to act quickly. If you want to know more, further information can be obtained from the County Council by clicking this link.

Barnacle and Shilton come under the Fosse ward, and are currently represented by Phillip Morris-Jones. Elections for the County Council were last held in 2005, when the result was:

Phillip Morris-Jones (Conservative) 1,873
Douglas Hall (Labour) 820
Richard Gunstone (Liberal Democrat) 671

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Consultation - Bus Service Improvements

Warwickshire County Council are looking to improve the bus services that operate within the county, and to do this they are seeking your opinion on the suitability of the buses operating through the area. In particular, they are looking to see if there are areas where there is a demand for additional services that are not currently being met.

Shilton is currently served by bus service 74/75, operated by Stagecoach, between Nuneaton and Coventry. Barnacle's bus services might as well be considered non-existent, with just the service 213 picking up at 11.31am on Tuesdays on its way to Bedworth market and returning at 2.11pm.

If you'd like better, more or different bus services, this is your opportunity to have your say. Responses are needed by Tuesday 5 May to Parish Council Clerk Chris Warburton, or Simi Braich, Warwickshire County Council's Passenger Transport Project Officer. Further information and contact details are available from the village noticeboards.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Pot Holes Used as Traffic Calming

Parish councils only tend to feature in national newspapers when they are part of a trivial local dispute that's blown out of all proportion, or when they've made a decision that defies ordinary logic. So it's no surprise to see Navestock Parish Council in Essex featuring in a story when they decided to no longer report pot-holed roads in their parish to the county council for maintenance and repair.

Their logic? It seems councillors decided that roads full of gaping holes provided cheap and easy 'traffic calming' with which to slow speeding traffic.

I'm happy to confirm that the almost permanent pot holes in Lower Road, Barnacle are not the result of a similar policy adopted by Shilton Parish Council!

Read more here:

An Introduction ........ and Explanation

A very warm welcome to my blog, and my first posting! Seeing as this is where it all begins, it's probably sensible for me to give an explanation as to why I'm doing this, and what I hope to achieve.

You may know that I've been a parish councillor for a few years now, and what I've learnt more than anything in that time is that so much of what a parish council does is on behalf, and in the name, of local residents. In truth, parish councils have very little direct power and authority (and future postings will touch on the things we can and can't do), so we tend to act more as an advocate on behalf of the local community. But this only works if the local community actually knows what it is we're saying, and why we're saying it. And that is one of the things this blog will attempt to do.

The benefit of a blog is that, being web based, it's easy (and cheap!) to update on a frequent basis. I will try to explain some of the background to the things the parish council talks about and decides, as well as sharing with you the meetings and events that I go to and the things I learn whilst I'm there.

Being a parish councillor is not for everyone (and I suspect most of you would find a lot of what we get involved in as tedious, unproductive and dull!), but the benefit of the blog is that you can skip the bits that are of no interest and go straight to postings that tell you something that you might otherwise not of known. And all of this in the knowledge that I've sat through the three hour meetings so that you don't have to!

The blog will hope to add to, and not replace, any other source of information that is currently used. BASIS magazine does a great job of sharing information, and the parish council always has a few pages explaining the business it's considered over the past few months. This will continue. The village noticeboards - especially Barnacle's brand new one! - will also continue to display public information of interest (including the agenda for upcoming parish council meetings). Many people don't want to, or can't, access information online, but my blog is aimed at those of you that, given the choice, are happy to find out what you want to know via the internet.

I'll get my apologies in early too. The seven councillors who make up Shilton Parish Council are representatives for the whole of the parish's area (ie. both Shilton and Barnacle villages). None of us represent a specific location, or part of an area, in the same way that your county and borough councillors do. But inevitably, many of us have a greater understanding, knowledge and interest in the immediate area where we live, and for me, that'll be Barnacle. So if some of you detect too much of a Barnacle-centric slant to my postings, then I am sorry, but it's reflective of what prompted me to start this blog in the first place - sharing my news, views and information with the people I live amongst in order that they have a better idea what one of their parish councillors, and their parish council, are getting up to.

It may of course all turn out to be a pointless exercise and of little use to anyone, but time will tell! I'll certainly commit to keeping it running for at least 12 months, and promise to try and post some snippet of news or information at least once a week. Ultimately, it'll be up to you to decide whether it's telling you anything you didn't already know.

It also goes without saying that any views or comments expressed are mine, and mine only. If you don't like what I'm saying, then let me know via the 'comments' option that's available at the bottom of every post, or the next time you see me in the street.

So that's the introduction and explanation. Now to start blogging!