Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Rugby Borough Council Elections - 6 May

With all the interest focused on what looks like being the General Election at the beginning of May, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that Thursday 6 May is also the date of local elections to Rugby Borough Council.

And although the election is still more than a month away, nomination papers for those people wishing to stand as a candidate in the election need to be submitted by Thursday 8 April - only nine days time! So if you're thinking of standing for election, you do need to act quickly.

Shilton and Barnacle lie within the Fosse ward, and this seat was last contested in 2006, when the result was:

Neil Campbell (
Conservative) 907
Sally Ravenhall (
Liberal Democrat) 228
Richard Best (
Labour) 185

However, Neil Campbell has announced that he is not seeking re-election this time round, and so whoever wins, Shilton and Barnacle will have somebody new representing them at the Town Hall.

I will post a full list of the candidates once the closing date for nominations has passed. Further information for those wishing to stand as a candidate in the election can be found on Rugby Borough Council's website

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

No Scrutiny Review of Rural Broadband

At the beginning of February, I blogged about a suggestion I had made to Rugby Borough Council's Overview and Scrutiny Management Board for a review of access to high speed broadband internet in rural communities in the borough.

Rugby's councillors carry out scrutiny reviews into a range of different topics every year, and had called for suggestions from parish councils and members of the public for issues of local concern that they could look into.

I am concerned at the general lack of availability of high speed broadband within Shilton and Barnacle, and the implications this has for members of the public to access services online. The Parish Council supported my suggestion for a scrutiny review to look to establishing the extent of poor broadband provision within rural communities in the borough, as well as investigating what technologies exist that can overcome this problem.

Last week, the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board met to consider which scrutiny reviews to undertake during 2010/11. Sadly, my suggestion was not adopted. It was considered that such a review..... "would duplicate other initiatives, particularly work being carried out by Warwickshire County Council". However, one small positive was that the councillors did accept that the proposal should be considered again next year for a possible review to be carried out towards the end of 2011.

I'm not aware of what "other initiatives" Warwickshire County Council is currently involved with in this regard, but I shall be looking into this to see if there's scope for the issues in Shilton and Barnacle to be considered as part of it.

To be fair to Rugby BC, there were 33 suggested reviews, of which 16 have now progressed for further consideration. However, I shall have to look to pursue the broadband issue through other avenues.

The full report considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board can be read here.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Council Tax 2010/11

By now, Council Tax bills for 2010/11 should've dropped through letterboxes in the parish, and we can all see how much we'll have to pay for council services in the forthcoming year.

In the current straightened economic times, you'll hopefully be pleased to see that the Shilton Parish Council element of the Council Tax has gone down this year. This is slightly misleading because, as I told you in December, our overall budget has actually increased by 0.8% (from £15,580 to £15,700). However, because there's actually more properties in Shilton and Barnacle paying Council Tax this year, this means that the amount everyone has to pay towards the overall total is a bit less than it was this year.

Across the whole of the Rugby borough area, there are 37 parish councils that have set a budget for next year. These range from £70,000 (in Dunchurch) to £200 (in Willey). Shilton's budget of £15,700 is the 12th largest amongst those 37 parish councils.

Bearing these large differences in individual council budgets in mind, the services local residents will actually get from their parish council will clearly vary greatly from one village to another, and it's difficult to draw too many conclusions just by looking at overall budgets. And ultimately it's for the local electorate within each parish to decide whether their local council offers good value for money.

But I do draw one conclusion.

There is only one area in the borough that doesn't have a parish (or town) council, and that is the town of Rugby itself. Here, the services and functions that would otherwise be carried out by a parish council are undertaken by Rugby Borough Council. And the amount it charges its Rugby town residents to do the things that parish councils do is £64.58 per year for a band D property.

For the same services in Shilton and Barnacle, the parish council charges you £43.61 for a band D property. In fact, of the 37 parish councils who have set a budget, only four (Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Stretton-on-Dunsmore, Willoughby and Wolston) charge their residents more than Rugby Borough Council charges its residents who live in the town area. I think that this shows the value of parish councils, and their ability to deliver low cost services that meet the needs of local residents.

Remember this the next time you complain about the parish council costing you money!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

WALC Annual Seminar - 6 March

Last Saturday, I attended the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils (WALC) Annual Seminar in Warwick. This one day training event brings together representatives from many of the town and parish councils in Warwickshire and the West Midlands to listen to speeches, undertake training and share best practice with colleagues.

There were three main sessions that I attended: Standards for England undertook a training session on ethics, standards of behaviour and complaints about councillors; the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) led a session on the use of social media tools to improve communication with the public; and NALC also led a session aimed at improving the effectiveness of parish council meetings.

I found the session on the use of social media to be the most interesting of the day. It was led by NALC's Head of Communications and looked at how town and parish councils could use tools like Facebook, Twitter and blogs to communicate better with local residents.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many in attendance had not yet got their heads fully around this whole 'internet' thing! But what was encouraging for me was the way that even these councillors were beginning to recognise that the public was increasingly turning to websites, blogs and other social media to source information about their local council. I hope my blog can play its own small part in this process.

It was also useful to talk to others who had taken advantage of social media tools for their own local council. Councillor Philip Vial from Shipston-on-Stour Town Council uses his Twitter page to good effect, and I was interested to hear his views on how to make the most of an online presence.

Overall, it was a worthwhile event to attend (at a cost to the parish council of £35) and one that gave me much food for thought.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Red Sky at Night

As seen over Park Farm, Barnacle this evening as the sun began to set.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Parish Council Meeting - 2 March

On Tuesday night I attended the monthly parish council meeting in Shilton. This meeting was particularly interesting to me because of two issues that I've taken an interest in.

First up, the council received a presentation from Paul Collett, the Community Safety Project Officer for Warwickshire County Council who spoke about the Rugby Rural CCTV Network project. I first mentioned this project following a meeting I attended in December last year. Essentially, the scheme provides for up to eight secure CCTV cameras in each rural parish, that sends images via the internet back to a central police control centre, to be retrieved at a later date by the police if there is suspicion that criminal activity had been captured by a camera.

Parish councils that wish to apply to join the network would only need to fund the cost of the cameras themselves and the internet connection to send the images back to the control centre, which means that the total amount needed to be spent is within most parish councils' means.

The scheme is initially being launched in Wolston, and then rolled out to applicant parishes who wish to sign up to the CCTV network. Parish councils are being invited to see the system in Wolston once it is in operation to gauge the suitability of it for their own areas.

Shilton parish councillors were impressed by the capabilities of the CCTV cameras, and it's something that we will be following up on once the Wolston trial is up and running.

Those of you who read my last post with have gathered that the problem of litter and waste has become something that I want to try and do something about. Therefore, I proposed at Tuesday's meeting that as a start, the parish council could agree to fund the hire of two large skips (one for each village) to be sited in a central location on a given Saturday to enable local people to safely, easily and cleanly dispose of any bulky refuse that they have been holding on to.

The two nearest Household Waste Recycling Centres (that's what you and I would call the council tip!) involve a round trip of over 16 miles (to Tuttle Hill, Nuneaton) and 26 miles (to Hunters Lane, Rugby). Perhaps unsurprisingly, people therefore accumulate junk that they need to throw out, but just never get round to doing so. And whilst I'm sure no resident of Shilton or Barnacle would ever choose to fly-tip this rubbish, I do think that the parish council can give people a helping hand by providing a skip to encourage a spring clean and general tidy up.

The parish council unanimously backed this idea, and if it proves to be successful and popular, would be keen to make it a regular event.

None of the detail of what day the event will be held on, or where the skips will be located has yet been worked out, so keep an eye out in the next edition of BASIS for this information (and keep reading my blog because I'll have the news here first!). But with a bit of community support, and no-one taking too much of an advantage of the situation, this should result in a worthwhile event being put on by parish council to help make Shilton and Barnacle a cleaner, and nicer, place to live.

Keep checking back for the latest news regarding the CCTV initiative and future litter clearing projects, and leave a comment below if you have any views on either of these subjects yourself.