Each year the Town Council holds an Annual Town Assembly at which the Chairman gives a report.
This was held on Saturday 2nd March, as part of the Community Day.
Following the Report, the Annual Community Awards were presented and an Open Forum / Q & A session was held for all residents.
THE REPORT IS REPRODUCED HERE IN FULL:
Firstly I cannot be more honoured than to have been selected as Town Council Chairman and Mayor for a second term. It really has been humbling. I said a year ago that this year would be challenging and it certainly has been.
Platform for accessibility and transparency
I hope, as Chairman and Mayor, I have provided a platform for improving the accessibility of the Town Council and developing a true honest transparency where all residents can expect to be treated and listened to as equals in our lovely community. That above all is what personally drives me.
In addition I dislike behind closed door deals or any failure to listen to residents concerns whatever they are. Even though Councillors are unpaid volunteers giving their own free time and skills they must remain accessible and approachable.
To me that is paramount and I hope that the Council will continue that theme into the future.
Progress can sometimes be difficult
Those who know me better will also know I question party-politics at our local level which can affect progress on matters that are important to local residents.
I think many, whatever anyones’ views on Europe, many will agree that Brexit in parliament has not shown the political system at its best! I am pleased that the Town Council remains devoid of such issues. An effective Town Council, in my opinion, needs to be free of such matters; to be independent, and to put local people first.
A changing town
There is also no doubt the town is changing and there are of course differing views on that. We have our Neighbourhood Plan which has put constraints on development but to many even that seems too much. That is understandable. However, pressures are sure to increase and I hope the spirit of transparency will allow all to be kept informed of and involved in any further changes.
Financial planning leads to benefits
Finance has again been to the fore and we continue to benefit from a clear strategy of planning ahead. Reserves are in a good state although it needs to be stressed that these are mostly allocated for future commitments and cannot just be dipped into, a common misconception.
Through careful planning we increased our Town Council budget by 2.5% to take account of inflation and future projects. However the very good news is the end figure – which is that the amount local residents will pay has been reduced – yes reduced – a rare but very welcome situation, due to the increase in the number of properties in the town.
Reduction in the Precept by 3.9% for 2019/20
Band D properties will now pay just £61.34 pa to the Town Council – a reduction of 3.9%.
That means Allotments, Recreation Grounds, some Street Cleaning and Lighting, the Cemetery, the Town Hall, support for the Community Bus, plus local grants are all available through the Town Council for a little over £1 per week per household.
The list of responsibilities is extremely important to highlight as the Town Council’s remit is quite limited in scope.
The Town Council receives the blame for many things outside its remit. It does not have any statutory role in matters such as potholes, highways and roads, police cuts and crime figures, missed refuse collections, waiting times for surgery appointments, pressures on education places, or even roundabout reconstruction, the latter as many know caused massive frustrations to all as HCC failed in their communications.
However the volunteers on the Town Council can, and do try, to use their influence to lobby on problems when they arise, hence I come back to its need of being approachable. Here I must also register the utmost thanks to the Clerks Karen and Sharon who take the brunt of the enquiries and to fellow Councillors who meet with, talk to, and respond to local residents’ concerns and wishes.
Some of the projects undertaken
The Town Council has also undertaken several additional projects to improve our town.
2018 was the 100th Anniversary of the end of WW1 and the Council installed new commemorative seats in the Recreation Ground at Alliston Way, while our Winchester Road Allotments were renamed Harry Gilbert Allotments in recognition of the soldier who planted the willow trees there at the end of the War.
We have also ordered a new outdoor gym for the Rec, due to be installed after Easter, provided new litter bins in the town centre, had new gates put on the Alliston Way Play Area to reduce noise, obtained Asset of Community Value registrations for two of our public houses (The Red House and the Kings Arms) as well as on Parsonage Meadow (the Cricket Ground), and provided grants – for Lantern Making at the Silk Mill and for the Princess Royal Trust for Carers. We are also planning a wildflower area at the Cemetery as well as looking forward to the provision of three new sports pitches.
There are many many other activities undertaken too – too many to mention here.
Please always raise concerns
Above all I must stress that Town Councillors are simply unpaid volunteers who have undertaken to serve the Town, the Parish and its residents. And I must doubly stress that anyone can and should not hesitate to raise any issues or concerns they have over matters within the area. We all do need to work together in creating a safe, enjoyable and prosperous community fit for both ourselves and our children.
Hence I have introduced something to this year’s meeting.
I do hope that you will stay to chat at the Open Forum Question & Answer session at 8.00pm and to raise anything you wish relating to the work of Whitchurch Town Council. (If you are reading this after the meeting please send any questions or points to the Town Hall or message me directly).
We cannot guarantee to give immediate answers, but we will definitely listen.
Cllr John Buckley
Chairman Whitchurch Town Council
Email: Town Council Chairman