Sunday, 4 December 2011

WALC Rugby Branch Meeting - 30 November

Last Tuesday I chaired the Rugby branch meeting of the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils (WALC) in Wolvey. This is the quarterly meeting of all of the parish councils in the Rugby borough area where we discuss recent developments and shared matters of interest.

There are always invited speakers to give a presentation on a topic of interest to parish councils, and at this meeting the focus was on highways and transportation. Roger Newham from Warwickshire County Council spoke about the range of services that the county's highways and transportation department provided, including highways maintenance, subsidising bus services (especially in the rural area) that would otherwise not be operated because they were not commercially viable, modelling projected traffic flows within the county's towns, encouraging sustainable travel options (eg. cycling and walking) and maintaining the county's network of bridleways and footpaths.

Representatives from parish councils asked a number of questions, particularly concerning the provision of speed cameras in areas where there was considered to be speed-related problems but where no cameras were currently located. Unfortunately, Roger Newham explained that the funding allocated to speed cameras within Warwickshire had reduced in recent years from £1.8m to £250,000 per year, which effectively meant that it was not possible to site cameras in any new locations in the county as the entire budget was used to maintain the existing network of locations.

Harborough Magna Parish Council took the opportunity to raise its concern that Main Street in the village was not gritted, despite it being a twisting road and used for school bus services. Roger Newham agreed to look into this matter to see whether it could be added to the roads in the village that were gritted.

Also in attendance was Tiz Gibson from Balfour Beatty, who had recently signed a five year contract with Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council to maintain the highways assets across Coventry and Warwickshire and undertake necessary maintenance. This maintenance work would include responsibility for winter gritting, surface dressing, white line marking, structural works and the filling of pot holes.

In an attempt to improve on the service currently being provided, Balfour Beatty was trialling four 'Find & Fix' teams that would carry sufficient equipment in their vans to enable them to repair pot holes immediately upon discovering them. This initiative was one of a number of ideas that were intended to reduce the inconvenience to the public caused by road maintenance problems such as pot holes. If the initiative turns out to be as successful as it sounds that it could be, these improvements in the speeds of repair will be very much welcomed.

Elsewhere on the agenda, we received updates from councillors who represent the branch on outside bodies and groups, including the county-wide committee of WALC and the latest business discussed by the Rugby Local Strategic Partnership.

The next branch meeting is scheduled for the end of February, when it is hoped that an officer from Warwickshire County Council will be in attendance to talk about grant funding opportunities that exist for parish councils (which should be particularly useful considering the pressures that parish councils are currently under to restrict increases in the amount of funding they raise from the Council Tax).


  1. Given Cllr. Watts has now decided not to stand for re-election in the ward, can you give us an update on her attendance at the last, say, three Parish Councils?

    It would be disappointing to see her taking her Council expenses (£6,000/year) without doing any of the work simply because the voters will not be asked to pass judgement on her tenure.

    My view is that attendance at meetings is really important because representative politics is a dynamic process. It is important that Borough Councillors hear the views of local people and vice-versa. Debate should be encouraged.

    By the way Editor, have you considered standing as a Borough Councillor yourself? I am sure you would be an welcome addition to the Town Hall, and a darn sight better than certain current Councillors.

  2. Thanks for your comments. My recollection is that Rachel Watts hasn't attended any of the last three Shilton Parish Council meetings, and had submitted her apologies for non-attendance for different reasons. I think that at two out of the three meetings, we did have Tony Gillias come along though.

    It would be for Rachel herself to argue whether she's done enough work in the ward to justify the allowances she receives, but I have to say that I've continued to find her interested in what's going on in the ward when I've talked to her outside of parish council meetings, notwithstanding the fact that she won't represent it after May.

    Whilst I'm flattered by your comments regarding my suitability as a borough councillor, it is not something I am able to pursue at the moment, not least because it would be incompatatble with my current paid employment.

    (As an aside, do you know who the Conservatives have selected to standing in the Wolvey & Shilton ward in May, or would you like this blog to break the news?!)

    For myself, with elections in Shilton next May, including the possibility of new parish councillors coming on board, there's exciting times ahead locally during the next 12 months which will keep me busy anyway. Do look out for future posts about some of the new initiatives that are planned.

    Thanks again for submitting your comments - debate is what it's about!

  3. Thanks for your response Editor.

    It is a real shame that you cannot consider standing for the Borough Council. I hope that in the future when your circumstances are different you will think seriously about becoming a representative on the Borough or County Councils.

    Unfortunately I have no idea who will be replacing Rachel Watts as the Conservative candidate(do they even know?). I would contend that Ms. Watts should stand aside now because she quite clearly is not performing the tasks she was elected to do. Being a Borough Councillor is a serious duty and she is making a mockery of the role.

    Let me be clear, I do not have a personal vendetta against Ms. Watts but I do believe in democracy and holding Councillors to account when they fall short.

    Do you ever recall a situation where either Cllr. Gillias or the past Cllr. Neil Campbell missed three Shilton Parish Council meetings in a row?

  4. Hello again mystery comment person,

    As I've said to you before please contact me directly for a discussion. It would be so much more, hmm, honorable?!

    I'm not self-employed or retired and I think you will find that any Councillor who is a commuter to London would not make every meeting.

    As every parish council knows my number and email address and that my door is open they can always get in touch even if I cannot attend. I was also advised that this was the best policy to take considering my education commitments (I'm a full-time LPC student sponsored by Stephenson Harwood at College of Law, Moorgate) by other Councillors who stated you should attend if you have something to report on otherwise give apologies and reaffirm that your door is open.

    Also, the reason I am not standing for re-election is that I have my legal training contract to begin at Stephenson Harwood in Septmeber 2012 - full-time in a corporate law firm of course is impractical with being a Rugby Borough Councillor.

    I believe I've had a beneficial impact on various committees I have sat on and the one and only grumble I have heard, my association, the Council itself and any other Councillors is from you who won't even give me a contact detail.

    As you are so passionate about attacking me and, therefore, I presume, local politics I would really encourage you to stand. Then maybe you could understand how Rugby is such an innovative Council partially because there are young and old in a variety of roles from full-time mum to someone in education to someone who works for a huge corporation. You would also understand the time pressures and, especially if you are not self-employed or retired, that certain parts of your life must be prioritised over others.

    My open door policy still stands and feel free to reply but I will not be drawn into a discussion with an anonymous poster - especially in an exam week, but I will still be there at Full Council and Task Group this week FYI!

    Kind regards,