Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Fosse Division Community Forum - 22 November

Last Thursday evening, despite the wind and rain, I attended the quarterly meeting of the Fosse Division Community Forum, held in Wolvey. Also attending from the parish council were Councillor Stephen White and the clerk, Margaret Cartwright.

The meeting received a presentation from the Rugby Rural North Safer Neighbourhood Team on local issues they've been involved in during the past few months, along with a report back on the three local policing priorities identified at the last meeting. None of these related to Shilton/Barnacle area.

However, in identifying the local priorities for the next three months, Stephen White referred to concerns regarding speeding traffic in Leicester Road, Shilton. This had been a matter that a local resident had recently contacted the parish council about, and it was therefore put forward as a matter that deserved extra attention. Fortunately, the forum agreed to adopt this as one of the three local priorities, and therefore the local Safer Neighbourhood Team will be visible during the next three months seeking to slow speeding traffic entering the village along Leicester Road. The on-going work the police are doing on this issue can be viewed here.

The forum then received two of its regular updates: from Leigh Hunt from Warwickshire County Council on the superfast broadband project, and from Anna Rose from Rugby Borough Council on planning issues and developments. A number of briefing notes were circulated with information on matters on interest, including the progress on a gypsy and traveller site allocations development plan, quality control monitoring of the highways maintenance teams, and the Warwickshire Director of Public Health's 2012 annual report (the video at the bottom of this post is of Dr John Linnane introducing his report).

The next meeting of the Fosse Division Community Forum will be on Thursday 14 March from 7.00pm at the Village Hall in Monks Kirby.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Police & Crime Commissioner Election Results

The election of Warwickshire's first Police & Crime Commissioner may not have gripped the county to the extent that I hoped it would, but on Thursday, 66,085 voters chose between three candidates in a poll to determine who would have responsibility for setting the objectives and budget for the county's police service for the next four years.

The turnout for the election was a pitiful 15.6% (which was in line with the national average), and electors got to pick their first and second preferences for the post. If no candidate got more than 50% first preference votes, the second preferences of the candidate finishing third were re-allocated.

The results were:

First Round
1. James Plaskitt (Labour) - 22,308 (34.7%)
2. Ron Ball (Independent) - 21,410 (33.3%)
3. Fraser Pithie (Conservative) - 20,571 (32.0%) - eliminated

Second Round
1. Ron Ball (Independent) - 33,231 (56.9%) - elected
2. James Plaskitt (Labour) - 25,200 (43.1%)

It's fair to say that it was something of a surprise to see Ron Ball winning, although he turned out to be one of 12 independent candidates elected to the 41 Police & Crime Commissioner positions throughout England and Wales, and there may be something in the idea that the public preferred individuals who weren't aligned to a political party.

Two things strike me about the results though. Firstly, how close the first round was, with each candidate broadly getting a third of the vote each. If just 420 of Ron Ball's 21,000+ voters had chosen Fraser Pithie instead, then the eventual winner himself would've been knocked out in the first round.

Secondly, of the 14,713 electors who voted for Fraser Pithie first and expressed a second preference vote as well, 80% chose Ron Ball with that second preference. And that's what did it for James Plaskitt, for despite topping the poll in the first round (albeit by a fairly slim margin), he was unable to secure the second preference votes that this particular electoral system requires you to. I wonder if, in May 2016 when elections for the commissioner post are next held, we'll see candidates make more of a pitch for the second, as well as first, preference votes?

As Commissioner Ball takes up his new position, I've linked to his election manifesto to see what he's pledging to do in the role.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Police & Crime Commissioner Candidate Hustings

There's little more than four days to go now until the elections for Warwickshire's first Police & Crime Commissioner. I've never hidden the fact that I think this new post is a really positive development, replacing the anonymous (and some might say ineffective) Warwickshire Police Authority with an individual tasked with ensuring that policing in Warwickshire is better aligned with what the public wants from its police service.

Despite frequent doom-mongers talking about the politicisation of the police, abysmal turnout and a lack of public engagement, I've heard more public discussion and scrutiny regarding local policing in the last six weeks than I've heard in the last six years of the police authority's existence.

Voting takes place on Thursday, and if you haven't decided who to vote for, have a look at the websites of the candidates Ron Ball (Independent), Fraser Pithie (Conservative) and James Plaskitt (Labour).

You might also like to watch a 'Question Time' type event held last week in Stratford-upon-Avon and shown on the internet TV station Stratford TV. Questions were invited from the public, and I was pleased to see that the question I submitted was asked to the candidates (see 19 minutes 15 seconds into the programme).

Video streaming by Ustream
The following day, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire broadcast another candidates' debate, which can be heard here.

Hopefully these can help you make up your mind who to vote for on Thursday!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Police & Crime Commissioner - Election Hustings

Yesterday, I received a 'comment' on my recent blog post concerning the upcoming Police & Crime Commission elections, from Councillor Howard Roberts, an independent councillor representing the Dunsmore ward on Rugby Borough Council.

Because of the information he's provided, I've decided to give it a higher profile and reproduce it in full below for wider awareness. All of the following words are Councillor Roberts', not mine:


Next month we, the people of Warwickshire, will be voting to elect a Police & Crime Commissioner. The person elected will control local police funding, have the power to employ our Chief Constable and set the objectives for policing in Warwickshire. An important role, I am sure you will agree.

Many of you have raised with me concerns that looming police budget cuts could see rural officer numbers fall, meaning that crime in our villages increases. The new Police Commissioner will have a great influence on whether our villages remain safe places to live.

With the election to decide who will be Warwickshire’s first Police & Crime Commissioner taking place on 15 November, I have arranged a debate between the three candidates. The debate will focus on the subject of rural crime. I hope it will give anyone interested the chance to hear the candidates debate issues relevant to our villages at first hand. There will be an open floor for questions.

The debate is free and open to all who wish to attend. Please just turn up on the night. The details are given below. I very much hope you will be able to attend - I look forward to meeting you there.

Rural Policing: The Views of the Police & Crime Commissioner Candidates
Date: Wednesday 31 October 2012
Time: 7.00pm
Location: Dunchurch Village Hall
Duration: 1 hour
Councillor Roberts' blog can be found here.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Police & Crime Commissioners

In 27 days time, elections will be held across England and Wales to appoint the 41 new Police & Crime Commissioners whose job it will be to ensure an efficient and effective police service within their area, and to hold the Chief Constable to account. They will also have responsibility for setting the budget for the local police service for the year.

The period of time for candidates to be nominated for this role expired today, and in Warwickshire three candidates have put themselves forward:

Ron Ball, Fraser Pithie, James Plaskitt

Right from the very start I have been strongly in favour of the creation of these new Police & Crime Commissioner positions, to replace the almost invisible police authorities. I shall blog more in the lead up to the elections as to why I think they're a good thing. For the moment, I'll just make two comments:

In response to suggestions that policing shouldn't be made political, I'd like to know why not? If housing, social services, leisure, highways, food safety, planning and education can be oversee by democratically elected bodies, why should policing be treated differently when it impacts so much on everyone's lives. And the election of Police & Crime Commissioners will actually help Chief Constables be less political, not more, as the most senior uniformed officer rightly becomes focused on being accountable for operational delivery matters and less on getting involved in debates on matters of public policy.

But most of all, Warwickshire's new Police & Crime Commissioner will be publicly accountable for policing matters far more so than Phil Robson ever was (he's the current chair of Warwickshire Police Authority for the 99.99% of the population who've never heard of him). I guarentee the public profile and awareness of either Ron Ball, Fraser Pithie or James Plaskitt in the first three months of their four year term of office will exceed anything that Phil Robson could ever dream of.

In addition to the three candidates websites, there's also a dedicated website for the Warwickshire elections here, which has more information.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Superfast Broadband Project Update - October Newsletter

The latest newsletter from the Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire Broadband Project Team has just been released. The focus this month is the procurement stage, where the team will be starting discussions with potential suppliers to better understand the infrastructure currently in place and where suppliers are intending in make investment themselves during the next three years.

The latest timetable for the project is also interesting. The next key date for me is between November - December this year when there will be a public consultation on the so-called 'intervention areas' (ie. those areas of the region that will require public subsidy to achieve superfast broadband because the commercial market itself does not consider it cost effective to make investments there).

This is the latest newsletter in full:
A reminder of what we are trying to achieve
The Coventry Solihull Warwickshire (CSW) Superfast Broadband Project aims to deliver the Government’s 2015 targets, as set out in the December 2010 strategy document 'Britain’s Superfast Broadband Future' that every premise should be able to access broadband at speeds of at least 2Mbps, and that superfast broadband (defined as providing more than 24Mbps) should be available to 90% of premises in each local authority area. The intention is to procure open access wholesale network services that:
  • any internet service provider can use to deliver retail superfast broadband services to residential and business customers;
  • can assist businesses by helping to connect premises and mobile workers to the services they require;
  • can assist any public sector organisation in building Public Services Network (PSN) compliant infrastructure;
  • any community network can use for backhaul.
Our aspirations beyond 2015 are in keeping with the European Commission’s 2020 targets that fast broadband coverage at 30Mbps should be available to all EU citizens, with at least half European households subscribing to broadband access at 100Mbps. The project will endeavour to deliver infrastructure and services that can scale appropriately to keep pace with the increasing bandwidth demands of new applications and services.

Pre-procurement phase has started
The project has now passed the B-zero gateway which was a significant achievement and reflects the amount of hard work that we (and our Community Champions) have been doing over the past few months to really understand the true state of broadband in our area. We now have the go-ahead from BDUK to enter the pre-procurement phase of our project and can start to engage with suppliers in readiness for a full procurement exercise (see timetable below). This is great news and means that we now enter an exciting time as the project starts to become very real.

However there is still the issue of State Aid to be dealt with. We are informed by BDUK that the EU should be giving its approval for the UK to set up a National Competency Centre “imminently”. This means that rather than the EU dealing with approval requests from all of the UK projects individually, they will be dealt with at a UK level, which should speed up that part of the process.

Our timetable for the project
The following indicative timescales are determined by BDUK with the stages following a prescribed process, subject to the State Aid issue being resolved:

October – November 2012: Open Market Review
Includes 4 weeks to engage with all suppliers and learn their future roll-out plans, and 2 weeks to update our coverage maps

November – December 2012: Public Consultation
Publish maps of our intervention areas and invite comment

December 2012 – January 2013: Initial State Aid Application
Results from the Open Market Review and Public Consultation used to refine our intervention area

January 2013: Issue final Invitation to Tender
This will go out to the two approved contractors on the BDUK framework – namely BT and Fujitsu

April 2013: Preferred bidder choice signed off by Warwickshire County Council Cabinet
A required formal process

May 2013: Contract awarded
We will work with the successful bidder will start designing our network.

October 2013:Stage sign-off

November 2013: Commence Phase One roll-out
We will be actively testing the solutions throughout this phase.

February 2014: Commence full roll-out

March 2015: Full roll-out phase sign off

As stated above – these are indicative timescales only. Full updates will be given as the project progresses

Open Market Review (OMR)
The OMR is intended as a precursor to a formal public consultation document. The OMR, in contrast to the public consultation document, is not a specific requirement under the European Commission’s Broadband Guidelines. However, we consider that early market engagement at this stage is an essential and extremely important part of our early market research. The results of the OMR will assist us with understanding the broadband infrastructure (basic broadband and Next Generation Access (NGA)) already in place and where there are definite plans for investment in such infrastructure in the coming three years and is a significant step in the design of our intervention area.

We are sending the OMR to all known broadband infrastructure and internet providers in our area. It can also be downloaded here.

We invite responses from any broadband infrastructure and internet providers in our area. All responses (as detailed in the OMR document) should be received by Friday 26th October 2012.

We have also provided coverage maps and a list of postcodes for the sub-region which you can access here:

The maps, which are fully zoomable, illustrate our current assessment of the State Aid status (white, grey, black) for each postcode area in the region – pink has been chosen to represent the “white” areas. The boundary of the region is shown by a thick red line and the area outside the boundary is the buffer area required by State Aid where communities either side of the boundary may benefit from upgrading the infrastructure. The coloured dots on the map represent both business and residential premises, with the different colours highlighting our current estimate of the distance of the premise from existing infrastructure (green is near, hence good, red is far away, hence bad).

You will see this evolve as we gather more information from people filling in surveys and crowdsourcing the existing infrastructure.

The postcode list covers all postcodes in the mapped area. The data is derived from the OS AddressBase Plus dataset released in August 2012.

Surveys and data collection
The survey responses that we have collected so far will provide crucial data to assist in our supplier engagement. We are all aware that Internet Service Providers will advertise and sell a service on an "up to" speed basis - in other words you are unlikely to achieve the headline speeds that are advertised. The survey responses that we have received have enabled us to build a partial picture of what the actual speeds are in many places in Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire.)

However, we do have some significant gaps in our data and we do need to develop a much fuller picture. So, we would ask all of our Champions and individuals to redouble your efforts to ensure that we get 100% coverage of our survey data so that when we enter into negotiations with suppliers we will be smart clients and can show the picture as it really is rather than as we may be told it is.

Top questions this month:

Q1. When will you know what speeds I will get?

There are so many variables - right down to the wiring in your home or office - that until the roll-out is complete it will be impossible to say exactly what speed any particular property will achieve. However we will be working with our chosen supplier to design a network that will address the issues that we have discovered during our many months of public consultation and data gathering. When we do go out to tender we be using a performance-based specification rather than requiring particular technologies, so it will be up to the bidders to use their expertise to achieve our targets of 100% coverage at a minimum of 2Mbps and 90% at 24Mbps or above.

Q2. Does this mean we don’t need to do the surveys any more?

It is now more vital than ever that we get full coverage with our surveys. Throughout our tendering and design phase we will be looking to achieve best coverage for every area, and we cannot do that unless we know what speeds are actually achieved in each area and what the possible future demand for faster broadband might be.

Q3. I am a community broadband provider – what does this mean for me?

Our project aim is to provide a wholesale broadband network. That means that any ISP can provide services over the network. We have also stated our intention to get fibre as close to every community as possible because that is the best way to provide future resilience. Therefore the final network should provide affordable backhaul for community broadband providers.

CSW Broadband now on social media – come and join the conversation
We are now on the major social media channels and are already creating a buzz. Join in for up-to-date information and an opportunity to influence how the project develops:


Friday, 5 October 2012

Playing Fields Fencing Completed

If you've been into the playing fields in Wood Lane at all this week, you'll have seen that the new fencing is now complete. I blogged about the work in progress last week.

I'm really pleased with the finished job, particularly in respect of the extent to which it blends in with the natural screening behind it. There was a danger that it could've looked imposing, but I'd go so far now as to say that you could almost drive past it without realising that it was there.

TB Sports Fencing have done a great job installing it, particularly in respect of the lack of damage they've caused to the football pitches from the machinery that was required to install the posts and fix the netting. Two football matches were played last weekend before the works had been finished without any problems at all.

Particular thanks also needs to go to Ron Lissaman and Mike Randall. Both of them retired from the parish council in May, but have continued to project manage the scheme to ensure that the village gets the best job possible. Mike secured the 70% grant funding from the Football Foundation, and Ron has liaised with the contractor throughout, overseeing the installation works. The end result is a great credit to them both.

The more observant of you might also notice that the bench that was located along the eastern boundary has had to be moved to make way for the fencing, but is now relocated to a nice spot backing on to Wood Lane itself.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Casual Vacancy - Fact or Fiction?

Anyone who's heard anything of JK Rowling in the last few months will probably know that the plot of her latest novel, 'The Casual Vacancy', is set during middle of a by-election for the fictional Pagford Parish Council.

A by-election on a parish council? I'm not sure her fans will be able to swallow such a preposterous scenario!

That notwithstanding, it has been quite good fun to see parish councils having their moment in the media spotlight as a result of the publicity surrounding the novel. Most of this has been - unsurprisingly - negative, critical or dismissive. But, as the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity, right?

At the end of last month, Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph was not much taken with Rowlings' depiction of middle-class snobbery. And he suggests that she also misses the mark in her understanding of parish councils themselves:
For JK Rowling, on the other hand, Pagford is a vehicle, not properly imagined. It is southern, provincial, class-bound and “therefore” contemptible. As a result, the book is negligent about reality. The mainspring of the plot of The Casual Vacancy is, as the book’s title suggests, the space created on the parish council by Barry Fairbrother’s death. It is important for nasty Howard Mollison and his gang that they get the right person (Howard’s son Miles) in to replace Barry on the council so that they can sever the Fields from Pagford and terminate the lease of the Bellchapel Addiction clinic, which helps the druggies.

This is implausible, because the powers of parish councils are far slighter than Miss Rowling portrays. It is unlikely, for example, that the parish council would own the addiction centre building in the first place (the centre is a former church: I wonder if the author is muddling up parish councils with parochial church councils).

People seriously determined to do down the interests of the Fields would be much better off on the district council. And anyone who has had any association with a parish council will know that there is never hot competition to sit on it. Local politics can certainly be petty, but her notion that office-holding on the parish council can become almost literally a matter of life and death is preposterous. In Pagford, the chairman of the parish council wears a chain of office at meetings. I have never heard of any parish council with such delusions of grandeur.
His article has prompted a letter in today's paper:
SIR - Charles Moore is right that JK Rowling has overestimated the powers of parish councils in her new novel.

From four years' experience as a parish councillor, I have come to the conclusion that they are a sop to local feeling. In their present form, they are a waste of money.

Chairmen can be pompous, but the parish councillor's lot is a thankless one. Either more powers should be wrestled from county councils, or parishes would be better served by voluntary residents' associations.

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire
A waste of money? Thankless? Pompous? Mr Coles' Carlton & Chellington Parish Council probably aren't best pleased with that description. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

More New Fencing in Shilton Playing Fields

Following on from last month's post regarding a section of new fencing that had been installed by the parish council in Shilton playing fields, if you're passing the playing fields this week, you'll no doubt now see workmen and machinery along its eastern boundary, running alongside Bulkington Road.

Work is being undertaken to install 6 feet high chain link fencing along almost all of this side of the playing fields to address a continued problem of footballs and cricket balls straying onto Bulkington Road and causing a danger to both vehicles and pedestrians. In three sections along this length (behind each goal and adjacent to the cricket square), there will be additional higher netting to catch errant balls.
This is a significant project for the parish council, that has been in the planning stage for over a year. Part of the reason for this is that we were lucky enough to secure significant funding from the Football Foundation, who are meeting over 70% of the cost of the fencing/netting by way of a grant of £10,500.

Work is progressing well (despite delays earlier in the week because of the heavy rain) and it should all be completed by Friday, and therefore not impacting on the two football games scheduled to take place on the playing fields over the weekend.

From what I've seen so far, I'm confident that the fencing will do its job well, and without causing any significant visual impact in an otherwise open area of the village.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Free Computers for Community Organisations

At the Fosse Division Community Forum on 13 September, information was circulated regarding recycled computers that Warwickshire County Council was making available for community and voluntary organisations:
Warwickshire County Council is making 125 recycled desktop computers available free of charge to community or voluntary organisations, including town and parish councils, within Warwickshire. Each organisation can apply for up to two machines each, which will consist of a Dell desktop with Windows 7 and a 80Gb hard drive, a monitor, keyboard and mouse, with a number of licence free programmes and a three month warranty. No laptops are available.

Locally based community groups or small-scale groups with little or no IT equipment can apply, but will be asked to demonstrate how it will help their organisation to grow. The PCs have been reformatted by skilled ICT staff so that they are reliable with a good memory.

For an application pack, email Ali Mainey at or call her on (01789) 260134. Applications are invited by 5.00pm on Friday 26 October.
If you know of a local organisation that would benefit from one of these PCs, please get in touch with Alison.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

What's in a Name? - Part Two

As I write this, there's 12 days left to vote in this blog's first ever online poll, which is asking whether you support a move to rename Shilton Parish Council to Shilton & Barnacle Parish Council.

The poll was launched at the beginning of July, and the intention is to report the findings to the parish council meeting on 4 September. I shalln't rehearse the arguments all over again; suffice to say that if you haven't voted, and you'd like to, it's best that you read this post first.

The vote is current 10 - 4 in favour of changing the name to Shilton & Barnacle, so there's still everything to play for. And whilst the outcome of this online vote isn't the single determining factor on this issue, it is a useful tool to gauge what people think.

Of the four people voting to say that they didn't want to see the name changed, it was unfortunate that none of them gave a reason why they voted this way (the blog does allows comments, including anonymous ones). It would be helpful for the parish council to know why people didn't want the name changed - whether its a straightforward attraction to the status quo, or some other, more personal, reason. All views are equally valid!

My post on 9 July also contained something of a potted history of the parish council and its name. In response, I received an email from a resident of Shilton who was able to put me right on a few mistaken assumptions that I'd made, as well as adding more flesh to the historical bones of the parish.

I've reproduced the correspondence below for anyone interested:
The reason that the council is called Shilton Parish Council is because it is the council for the Parish of Shilton. The hamlet of Barnacle has been within the parish of Shilton for hundreds of years. When the Act of Parliament was passed in 1894 to form parish councils, Shilton parish decided to have a council and, of course, this included the hamlet of Barnacle, as it was within the Parish of Shilton. As you know, the first meeting of Shilton Parish Council was held in January 1895.

Most of the hamlet of Barnacle has always been within the Parish of Shilton. The part of Barnacle that belonged to the Parish of Bulkington was a small part in the Spring Road area. This was transferred to Shilton Parish in the 1930s.

I think I am correct in saying that it was probably mostly fields that were transferred from Bulkington in 1938. If you look at a map you will see that the there is a narrow strip of land which borders the Coventry Road which is still in Bulkington, the rest of the fields are in Barnacle. There should be something in the minute books about the 1938 transaction. There was a later exchange of land between Ansty and Shilton which I think was about 1980-ish. This should also be in the minute books.

The first meeting of Shilton Parish Council was held on the 2 January 1895 with six councillors under the chairmanship of William Birch of Barnacle Hall. William Birch represented the parish on the district council. His name is on Shilton Parish Council's chairman's chain of office as the first chairman, together with that of Sid Chivers who was chairman at the centenary.

Incidentally, the very old minute books were unfortunately put on a bonfire by the widow of Norman Ashman. He was Clerk to five parish councils and when he died, as she did not know which belonged to which council, she got rid of the lot. Such a shame because the original minute books would have made interesting reading.

Before Shilton Parish Council was formed, Shilton and Barnacle came under the auspices of the Foleshill Board.

The parish council first met in their new meeting room in 1924 when Josiah Bolton was their chairman.

I have a photocopy from a book about The City of Coventry and Warwickshire which says " 1649, too, Barnacle was being assessed for rates with Shilton, not with Bulkington".
Fascinating stuff!! If anyone else can add to the story, please do get in touch.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

New Fencing in Shilton Playing Fields

The next time you're in Shilton playing fields, you'll hopefully notice that there is a whole length of new fencing along that part of the field that runs alongside Wood Lane.

The parish council was aware that the existing fencing was looking broken and shabby due to its age, and so sought quotes to replace it. CJL Gates & Engineering from Clifton upon Dunsmore submitted the most competitive quote and were given the contract to supply and fit 60m of round post and half rail fencing. The cost to the parish council was £630.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Parish Council Meeting - 7 August

Last Tuesday night, I chaired the August meeting of the parish council.

The meeting opened with two members of the public wanting to raise the issue of the maintenance of land in Ash Tree Grove that was now under the ownership of the parish council. A number of hedges were becoming overgrown and some of the trees needed pruning. The council undertook to address these concerns, starting with the hedges being cut back in the next couple of weeks. It was good to see members of the public attending the meeting in order to get matters of concern to them resolved.

County councillor Phillip Morris-Jones and borough councillor Chris Pacey-Day then gave updates on local matters of interest. Phillip stressed the financial constraints that were continuing to be experienced by Warwickshire County Council, along with attempts to attract more members of the public to attend meeting of the community forums that met around the county, and the upcoming election on 15 November for the new Warwickshire Police & Crime Commissioner.

Chris reported that he has recently been appointed to sit on Rugby Borough Council’s new Gypsy & Traveller Strategy and Action Planning Group, which he hoped would provide a greater focus to the work being undertaken by the borough council to provide a satisfactory longer term solution to the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers in the area.

Streetlights have been a subject matter that’s exercised the parish council’s mind over recent months. On Tuesday, councillors received an update on the replacement of the damaged light in Church Road (which should happen in the next few weeks), and agreed to replace a unit in Hallway Drive that was reported to be flickering and buzzing intermittently. Both of the units will be replaced with more energy efficient LED lights, and so will look different to the streetlights that are currently there (this will be most obvious in Hallway Drive). The parish council was mindful of installing lights that had a reduced electricity consumption, and will be interested to hear the views of residents as to the quality and penetration of the light that the new LED bulbs emit.

New signs will also be ordered to designate the reserved parish council/cemetery parking outside the meeting room in Church Road after the existing signage was recently damaged.

The parish council has been formally notified that its clerk, Emma Raymont, will be leaving her post on 31 August, following her recent appointment to a full time job. Despite this being fully expected for some time, it is still disappointing that the parish council will soon no longer have Emma’s enthusiasm and dedication to call upon. In readiness for 31 August, councillors discussed the recruitment of a replacement clerk and what steps it needed to take to ensure that this key position was filled by someone willing and able to bring their own experience and ability to the role.

The remainder of the meeting focused on the regular financial matters, planning application consultations and other matters of correspondence.

The parish council will meet again on Tuesday 4 September at 7.30pm at its parish meeting room in Church Road, Shilton. Members of the public are welcome to attend, especially if they have matters/concerns they wish to draw to councillors’ attention.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Police Crime Report - July

Warwickshire Police has released its latest crime report setting out incidents it wishes to draw to the attention of local residents that have occurred in Shilton and Barnacle during the last month. One incident has been highlighted:
  • Sunday 15 July - Vehicle nuisance - Top Road, Barnacle
    Report that an unknown person was blocking the road, and when they were asked to move the vehicle the occupant got abusive. 
Warwickshire Police has asked that anyone with any information about these crimes should call them on (01788) 541111.

Monday, 9 July 2012

What's in a Name?

At last month’s meeting, councillors discussed the possibility of changing the name of Shilton Parish Council to reflect the fact that the council covers both Shilton and Barnacle villages. There was a unanimous view that the idea of adopting the new name of 'Shilton & Barnacle Parish Council' was something that should be looked into further, and in particular there should be consultation with the residents of the parish to see if they also wished the name to be changed.

It’s not completely clear why it was originally called ‘just’ Shilton Parish Council, although my suspicion is that when it was created in 1895, it only covered the Shilton village area, with Barnacle being included within Bulkington’s local government structures. At some point in the past (and my best guess is April 1938), Barnacle was merged into the parish, but the original name was retained.

The two obvious questions are: Why change now? And does it really matter one way or the other? For me, the reasons for formally including Barnacle in the name of its local council are about helping to raise the profile and awareness of the village amongst the outside world, and to give the residents of Barnacle more of an involvement and stake in their local council.

Whilst a name is only a name, it does indicate the community that’s being represented, and it’s right that Rugby Borough Council, Warwickshire County Council, Warwickshire Police and other official bodies know that the parish council is speaking on behalf of Shilton and Barnacle. It’s also hoped that a name change gives the people living in Barnacle more of a sense that the parish council is their parish council.

Changing from Shilton to Shilton & Barnacle isn’t going to change the world. It’ll still be the same councillors, trying to sort out the same problems, with the same amount of money available. But for me, it’s a further step in a process to update and improve the parish council, making it more relevant, responsive and representative of the area it covers.

Parish councillors now want to know what you think. Do you agree that the name should be changed to include Barnacle? There’ll be an article in the next edition of BASIS asking for views, and if there is no significant objection, the parish council will be asking Rugby Borough Council (who has the actual power to change the name of a council) to formally make the change requested.

It would be great if as many people as possible gave their views, so please vote on the top right hand side of this blog, leave a comment at the end of this post, send an email to or use the council’s Facebook or Twitter pages. The consultation will run until the end of August, and then the parish council will consider the matter again at its meeting on 4 September.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Participatory Budgeting - Ideas Needed!

This month, the parish council is calling on all residents of Shilton and Barnacle to come up with suggestions as to how they would like to see up to £1,500 of council taxpayers' money spent locally within the villages.

The principle is simple: the parish council puts up the money; local residents make suggestions as to what this money should be spent on; everyone gets to vote on what they think is the best idea; and the parish council then carries out the suggestion that is the most popular.

It's straightforward, but it does need people to come up with their own ideas as to where the money should be targeted, and the deadline for suggestions is Saturday 30 June. Contact the parish council however best suits you - email the Clerk at or ring her on 07961 834589, leave a message on the parish council's Facebook page, send us a tweet, or post your thoughts on this blog. It doesn't matter how you make your suggestion, but so long as you tell us by the end of this month, you could find that your suggestion is the one that's implemented!

There's more information about the participatory budgeting project in the current edition of the BASIS magazine, which I've also reproduced below.

Participatory budgeting is about giving members of the public more direct control over how taxpayers money is spent. It's my belief that almost everyone living in Shilton and Barnacle - if they give it some thought - can come up with an idea how to spend that £1,500. What we just needs now, is for people to make those ideas known!

(click on the image to view)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Spending Power of Parish Councils

For anyone who thought that parish councils are an insignificant blip on the local authority landscape, without the money to do anything worthwhile, might be interested to know that the total amount of money raised through the Council Tax for all of the country's parish councils for 2012/13 will be £384m, and increase of 4.6% on last year's £367m.

The average Band D Council Tax precept issued by parishes was £47.74 (this year, Shilton's was just under that at £45.52 for a Band D property).

Whether the parish tier provides good value for money for that £384m can wait for another day!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Participatory Budgeting in NYC

Anyone who's been following Shilton Parish Council over the last few months should hopefully be aware that it's looking to launch its participatory budgeting pilot project very soon. I spoke about it at the Annual Parish Meeting in April (which prompted sufficient interest that two people immediately submitted ideas as to what the £1,500 allocated to the project should be spent on!)

But June will see the official launch, with a feature in the upcoming June/July edition of BASIS (which I'll reproduce on this blog). I'm also hoping to generate some publicity in the local newspapers, but we'll have to see how interested they are in a local parish council trying out something different and innovative.

Until then, I thought I'd whet your appetite with a five minute video from a participatory budgeting project run by New York City Council. Now, Shilton may only be putting up 0.1% of the $1.5m that New York has, but I hope you see enough of the principle of participatory budgeting in action to get you thinking as to what you'd like to see local taxpayer money being spent on where you live.

What is evident from the film is the public involvement and engagement that participatory budgeting has generated in communities that might not otherwise have been interested in what their local council was doing. I'm hoping the same can happen in Shilton and Barnacle.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Parish Council Meetings - 8 May

On Tuesday night I attended two meetings of the parish council - its AGM, immediately followed by its regular monthly meeting.

The AGM was the first meeting of the 'new' year, and our first meeting following the local elections held on 3 May. As such, we welcomed Kelly Smith to the meeting as a new parish councillor (our other new councillor, Dave Redgrave, was unable to attend because of a prior work commitment). Kelly and Dave replaced Ron Lissaman and Mike Randall, both of whom had decided to retire from the council after many years service.

The AGM appoints the Chairman and Vice-Chairman for the parish council for the next 12 months, and it was a great honour for me to be nominated by fellow councillors to be our new Chairman. I have taken over from Bill King, who has served the parish council as Chairman for the past decade. It was fitting that councillors immediately paid tribute to the dedication and commitment shown by Bill over many years in what can be an onerous (and often thankless!) role. Councillors then voted for Stephen White to become Vice-Chairman of the parish council for the next 12 months.

We then commenced our 'regular' monthly meeting. Three residents from Church Road, Shilton had attended the meeting concerned at a decision the parish council had recently taken not to replace a street light near to the entrance of the public car park in Church Road that had been damaged following a road traffic accident. This had prompted significant concern from residents in the area, worried about pedestrian and traffic safety caused by the darker environment.

At the time it made its decision, the parish council had been concerned that the cost of replacing the street light (£1,000 - £1,500) would need to be met from taxpayers because the driver responsible for causing the damage had not been identified. However, further discussions with Warwickshire Police's Safer Neighbourhood Team had now identified the driver concerned, and a claim against his insurance was being pursued. This, coupled with the strong desire from Church Road residents for there to be a street light at this location, led councillors to reverse their earlier decision and now agree that it should be replaced.

This incident provided a reminder to us all of the impact that the parish council's actions can have on local residents, and the importance of improving the awareness and understanding of the decisions that we make.

Councillors then welcomed borough councillor Chris Pacey-Day to the meeting. Chris had been elected the previous Thursday to represent the new 'Wolvey & Shilton' ward on Rugby Borough Council, and although he's still very new to the role, it was pleasing to see him stay for almost all of the meeting and getting up to speed with the important issues locally. The parish council also took the opportunity to place on record its thanks to Tony Gillias and Rachel Watts for the help, advice and support they had both provided whilst they were borough councillors representing the area.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with our regular items of business: reviewing the correspondence received during the last month, authorising expenditure and noting income, considering a planning application at a business unit on the Kiln Way industrial estate, and receiving updates on other on-going projects that the parish council is involved with.

Finally consideration was given to the notice board in Shilton. This needs updating and replacing, and the Shilton Village Hall Committee had recently been in touch to ask the parish council to help. We will be talking to the village hall committee further about agreeing a better site to locate the notice board, as well as arranging for a more suitable cabinet to be installed.

The next meeting of the parish will be held on Tuesday 12 June at 7.30pm.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Planning Application Consultation

A new planning application has been submitted by:
  • Unit 2, Shilton Industrial Estate, Kiln Way, Shilton - change of use from office/workshop to vehicle repairs, external alterations including new workshop door and 2.4m high palisade fencing and gates (part retrospective).
Full details on the application (including site plans) can be found here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Wednesday 16 May.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Rugby Borough Council Election Results

Despite there not being any elections for Shilton Parish Council this year, elections were held yesterday for all 42 seats on Rugby Borough Council. These 'all out' elections were held because the borough council had recently re-drawn its ward boundaries and reduced the total number of members who sat on the council from 48 down to 42.

Shilton and Barnacle, which was formerly in the Fosse ward, is now part of the new 'Wolvey & Shilton' ward, and is represented at the Town Hall by just one councillor (rather than the previous two). The counting of the votes for all 42 of the new seats was carried out this morning, and by lunchtime it was announced that the Conservatives had won 25 seats, Labour had won 10 seats, the Liberal Democrats had secured 6 seats, and one seat had been won by an Independent.

This result means that Rugby Borough Council will remain in Conservative control until at least May 2014, when elections are next held.

The individual vote totals for all of the parties contesting the 42 seats (and the change in the share of their vote from May 2011) was:
The Conservatives will undoubtedly be both pleased and relieved to retain control of the council, given that the party lost a total of 328 councillors, and control of 10 other councils, in the local elections across the whole of the country. The lack of any significant change in their share of the vote may be partly explained by the fact that they were the only party to stand in all 42 seats (Labour stood in 27 seats, and the Liberal Democrats only managed to field 20 candidates), but it's a testament to the strength of the party locally - when others appear to be struggling for candidates and activists - and one which has reaped its reward.

Within the new Wolvey & Shilton ward, the result was:
Congratulations to Chris, who I know will take an active interest in Shilton Parish Council matters.

Finally, it was a mixed night for the two councillors who previously represented the former Fosse ward. Tony Gillias was re-elected as a member of the 'Revel & Binley Woods' ward, whilst Rachel Watts was unsuccessful standing in the 'Newbold & Brownsover' ward. I wish them both well for the future and thank them for all they've done for residents in the parish during the time they've represented the area.

Full election results for all 17 wards on Rugby Borough Council can be viewed here.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Shilton Parish Council Elections - 3 May

Well, actually there won't be any elections for Shilton Parish Council this year, as when the closing date came and went for residents to submit their nomination papers to stand for election, six people submitted their forms for the seven vacant posts. Which means that, much in the tradition of Shilton specifically - and parish councils generally - these six people will be elected unopposed on 3 May to sit as members of the council for the next two years.

To be fair, it was always going to be a stretch to hope that eight or more people would be interested, seeing as there hadn't been a parish election in living memory. Coupled with one existing vacancy on the council, and the fact that two current councillors (Ron Lissaman and Mike Randall) had decided to retire in May, it was a case of running just to stand still!

Fortunately, it seems that a leaflet through every house in the parish, and a well attended Annual Parish Meeting that was brought forward to give added promotion to the upcoming elections, did enough to encourage two new people to come forward and volunteer to stand as parish councillors. Tantalizingly, two other people had also expressed some interest in standing, which would've resulted in a contested election in May, but they obviously decided against it in the end for their own reasons.

So, the public-spirited six are..... Gary Brindley, Bill King, David Redgrave, Kelly Smith, Stephen White and myself.

Still, six parish councillors is a lot better than the four it could've been, and we must look at this as 'work in progress' towards Thursday 1 May 2014 when we will finally have a proper election!!

For anyone who is interested, this is the 'Statement of Persons Nominated', published by Rugby Borough Council, that confirms the nominations for Shilton Parish Council that have been validly received:

(Click on the image to view bigger)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Shilton Parish Council Chairman's Report to the Annual Parish Meeting 2012

For those who missed it, here is the annual report of the Chairman of Shilton Parish Council, Councillor Bill King, that he gave to the Annual Parish Meeting held last Thursday night:
  • Emma Raymont was appointed Clerk on 1 April 2011. During the year, she has done various courses working towards her qualifications necessary to help the parish council become a Quality Council.

  • Land in Ash Tree Grove is now owned by the parish council after many years of negotiation. We have drawn up plans for the maintenance of the area, in consultation with the residents. The hedge along the roadway has been cut back.

  • Ken Gupwell is now looking after the cemetery for the parish council and we are all very pleased with the care he is giving to it. Jackie Essex is now advising the parish council and looking after the records for the cemetery.

  • The netting along the road side of the playing field should be erected soon and work on the hedge will begin as soon as possible after that. Ron Lissaman and Mike Randall have been in charge of looking after this work.

  • Planning permission for travellers at Top Road was turned down by Rugby Borough Council, but they have appealed. There was a hearing in December, which was adjourned until February, and then this one was adjourned and will now be heard in June. 

  • CCTV is now up and running in the car parks at the village hall and the pavilion. This can only be accessed by the police at the request of the parish council.

  • Dan Essex, Stephen White and Emma Raymont have formed a committee which is working towards Shilton Parish Council becoming a Quality Council.

  • The Shilton & Ansty Trust, of which I am a trustee, has awarded a number of grants this year to people in the villages of Shilton, Ansty and Barnacle.

  • We have spent over £1,000 repairing the wall around the cemetery during the year.

  • The parish council is investigating what effect the Localism Act will have for the parish council.

  • Participatory Budgeting, where local people can suggest ways of spending some of the council's money, is one of the things we are looking at.

  • The parish council arranged a meeting with all the local organisations to arrange festivities for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. This committee is now called the Jubilee Committee, and is chaired by Pat Hemmings. Festivities will take place on Sunday 3 June at Shilton village hall and on the playing fields, which will include field games and a pram race, hog roast and tea for the children. There will be music and entertainment throughout the afternoon and early evening, and then on the evening of Monday 4 June in Barnacle village hall. Mugs, which have been paid for by the parish council, will also be distributed to all children aged 16 years and under who live in Shilton and Barnacle.

  • There will be an election in May to elect Shilton parish councillors and Rugby councillors. The boundaries have been changed for Rugby Borough Council and we will in future be Wolvey & Shilton, which will only have one councillor instead of the two we have now. A number of the present parish councillors are not standing for re-election, and we will therefore be looking for new people to stand for election to become parish councillors. The council will only stand for two years, and there will then have to be another election, after which we will be in line with other councils in Rugby and the council will then be elected every four years.

  • Dan Essex has been looking into various schemes that are available to improve broadband in the villages.

  • Thank you to all the parish councillors for all their hard work over the last year. Thank you especially to Ron Lissaman and Mike Randall, who have done a lot of work for the council over a number of years and are not standing for re-election, and to Jean Russell-Pattinson who retired from the parish council last year. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Annual Parish Meeting - Thursday 22 March - Final Reminder

Click on the image above to view full size.

Planning Application Decisions

Rugby Borough Council has recently reached the following decisions on planning applications in the parish:
  • Carbury Investments, Units 4 - 12 and 3 - 13, Shilton Industrial Estate, Kiln Way, Shilton -  refurbishment and external alterations to the building, including the demolition of existing flat roofed extensions, replacement of roof and wall cladding, windows, rooflights and vehicle doors - approved.

  • 38 Bulkington Road, Shilton - extensions and alterations to dwelling to include alteration to the roof, two storey extension to the rear (to replace existing outbuildings) and elevational alterations - approved.
The full decisions on these applications can be seen here and here.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Shilton Parish Council Election Leaflet 2012 - BLOG EXCLUSIVE!

As something of a present from me to everyone who visits this blog to keep in touch with what the parish council is doing, I've attached below the first public sighting of a new leaflet that every household in the parish will receive during the next week.

The leaflet is aimed at encouraging people to consider standing as a parish councillor in the local elections that are to be held on Thursday 3 May, as well as highlighting some of the things that Shilton Parish Council has done over recent years (and thereby encouraging more people to get involved). The hope is that this will raise some interest in people putting themselves forward for election, and help raise the awareness of some of the good things Shilton Parish Council has done.

The leaflet won't hit the streets until the weekend, so if you're reading this on Wednesday then you have a three day head start on everyone else! As always, feedback (both good and bad) will be most gratefully received.

Click on both of the images to see the leaflet in larger form (and remember that when the leaflet is delivered, it'll be folded into three, which will make more sense of the layout!)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Fosse Division Community Forum - 1 March

Earlier this month I attended the quarterly Fosse Division Community Forum in Ansty. This public meeting discusses matters of relevance and interest to the Fosse area, which includes Shilton and Barnacle.

The meeting started with PC Giustine Cree from the Rugby Rural North Safer Neighbourhood Team providing a report on local policing matters during the last three months. It is at this meeting that members of the public can suggest priorities for the local police during the next quarter. One of the priorities that was agreed was for the police to focus on the problem of speeding in Leicester Road, Shilton as vehicles entered the village from the Wolvey direction. It was agreed that a minimum of five separate speed detection operations will be carried out over the coming weeks, and you can read further about how these are progressing here. A report back from the police on this matter will be given at the next Fosse Division Community Forum in June.

The main focus of the meeting were presentations from Nick Gower-Johnson from Warwickshire County Council on the provisions of the Localism Act, and from Ian Davis from Rugby Borough Council on planning and development matters within the area.

Nick Gower-Johnson went through a number of the key aspects of the Localism Act that had the potential to impact on parish councils and local communities. The act is large and complex, but sought to have four key themes running through its aims:

  • freedoms and flexibility for local government
  • rights and powers for local communities
  • reform to the planning system
  • more decisions about housing to be taken locally
As Nick explained these themes in more detail, it was clear that the Localism Act would provide the opportunity for local communities to become more involved in the running of their own areas, but that this was invariably conditional on a range of different matters. It'll be interesting to see over the coming years whether parish councils are able to grasp these opportunities and become real community leaders and champions. What is certain though is that there needs to be a significant number of people prepared to get actively involved for the good of their area in order to realise these new rights and powers. A parish council that sits back and waits for things to happen to them is, more than likely, going to be bypassed.

Ian Davis took the opportunity to talk about local planning matters. Of particular interest in the Fosse area was the status with planning applications for a series of wind turbines in the Offchurch and Copston Magna areas, and the on-going matter of gypsy and traveller sites around Shilton and Barnacle. The parish council has long argued that the best protection against this type of development within Green Belt land was for the proper provision of sites across the borough, so it was pleasing to hear Ian say that Rugby Borough Council was finally beginning to start the process that would do this.

The first stage was to re-assess the total need for gypsy and traveller pitches that would be required in the coming years. Work was currently being undertaken to determine genuine housing need, and it was expected that the results of this work would be published in May. I shall blog more about this issue when the data is released.

The next Fosse Division Community Forum is scheduled for 21 June 2012 at a venue to be agreed.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Police Crime Report - February

Warwickshire Police has released its latest crime report setting out incidents it wishes to draw to the attention of local residents that have occurred in Shilton and Barnacle during the last month. Two incidents have been highlighted:
  • Thursday 16 February - Rowdy behaviour - Top Road, Barnacle
  • Reports that a group of males were gathered at the entrance to a travellers' site and there was concern that this was an organised event. The police helicopter was called and further police units. The group was dispersed.
  • Wednesday 29 February - Church Road, Shilton
  • Between 27 - 29 February, unknown offenders had taken a metal garden chair and table set. No CCTV was available and no house-to-house enquiries were undertaken.

    Warwickshire Police has asked that anyone with any information about these crimes should call them on (01788) 541111.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Planning Applications Consultation

New planning applications have been submitted by:
  • Carbury Investments, Units 4 - 12 and 3 - 13, Shilton Industrial Estate, Kiln Way, Shilton -  refurbishment and external alterations to building, including the demolition of existing flat roofed extensions, replacement of roof and wall cladding, windows, rooflights and vehicle doors.
  • Shilton Parish Council, Recreation Ground, Wood Lane, Shilton - erection of a 2m high fence and 4m high nets above.
Full details on the applications (including site plans) can be found here (Kiln Way) and here (Wood Lane). All comments on the applications must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Monday 5 March (Kiln Way) and Friday 16 March (Wood Lane).

Friday, 24 February 2012

Police Alert - Suspicious Vehicle WN51 JYA

Shilton and Barnacle have suffered their fair share of drain-cover thefts in recent times, and so whilst it's not directly in our area, this alert from the Rugby Rural Central Safer Neighbourhood Team is worth sharing in case you see the vehicle concerned:
Police are very keen to carry out stop checks on a vehicle which has been linked to several rural metal thefts recently. It is a white Fiat Ducato van, registration WN51 JYA. Please report immediately if the van is seen in suspicious circumstances.

PCSO 6169 Wilhelm Weininger

Rugby Rural Central Safer Neighbourhood Team
(01788) 853851