Alvechurch Parish Council Newsletter Spring 2016
NEW FACES IN THE PARISH OFFICEThe start of 2016 has been a difficult time for the Parish Council. Around Christmas both our office staff were suddenly taken ill and until early February were on extended sick leave. Thankfully Wendy is now recovered but Parish Clerk Yvonne will be off work until the Summer. So the Parish office was staffed for over a month by your Parish Councillors who did their best to sort out planning applications, allotment rents, hall bookings and residents’ complaints. I hope you didn’t notice too much disruption.
The PC has had to rapidly recruit an interim Clerk to handle all our financial business. We were lucky here to find one of our own Parishioners with the right skills and availability to step in for 6 months. Tammy Williams started in February and is already settling in well. February also saw our Lengthsman, Ron Rand, return from a back operation. Helped by assistant Adrian Perry, Ron’s been busy gritting roads like the top of School Lane, clearing blocked gullies and moving the mobile Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS) to Bear Hill, after resident requests to warn speeding drivers there.
The Parish Council staff are our best asset and the ones residents genuinely miss if they’re not at work. You may not feel quite the same about the Councillors!
SAD TIMESRecent months saw the sad passing of 2 longstanding former Parish Councillors. Firstly, David Matthews in December and, equally suddenly in late January, Roger Hollingworth. Both gave great service to this Parish and its local Councils (Roger being a former Chairman of the Parish Council). Roger was a key player in setting up The Lounge and even when Leader of the District Council, took a keen interest in matters Alvechurch, especially where planning was concerned.
MANAGING THE PARISH FINANCESJanuary and February are the key months when the Parish Council produces a budget for the next financial year (2016/17) and then sets its precept, the proportion of the Council Tax directed towards parish needs. After 4 years of keeping the precept the same, APC has decided to raise it by £4200 to just over £109,000, equivalent to around £2 extra annually for a Council Tax Band D property. All Councillors favoured a precept rise and all but 2 voted for the final proposal. Two Councillors favoured lower rises, repeated each year.
Increasing the level of the precept was a difficult decision, not taken lightly, and the increase is directly related to 2 additional areas of spending APC must take on. Our staffing position demanded the recruitment of an additional Clerk for 6 months (while still of course paying our existing one) but more important, the Council is starting a programme to upgrade our footway lighting round the Parish. Older concrete columns will gradually be replaced and lamps made more energy-efficient. With more than 140 columns, that will take some years and require significant investment. Wythall PC has recently completed a similar project over 15 years using money from its precept. Our aim is to fund the investment partly from the precept increase and partly from savings in our current budget.
ALVECHURCH RAILWAY STATIONMany residents are still angry at the flooded car park and tendency for drivers to park on surrounding roads. It seems Network Rail are close to breaking their promise to upgrade the car park as part of the new station. They have proposed a temporary regrading of the current surface (not guaranteed to succeed) but the original Planning Consent for the rail project included a completely resurfaced parking area with lighting, marked spaces and disabled provision. Network Rail also will not commit to any improvements on the roadside (the “concrete blocks”) for at least another 6 months. The Parish Council has already involved our MP and will now seek to widen media coverage of these issues.
- BT will attend the March APC meeting to discuss local broadband provision.
- Our Neighbourhood Plan is still on hold ….awaiting more comments from the Planning Inspection in late March on Bromsgrove’s draft Local Plan.
- A reminder about the annual Parish meeting on April 18th 7pm at Alvechurch Middle School. This is the time to come and ask your Parish Councillors some searching questions!
You can contact the Parish Council about any of these issues on 0121 447 8016 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The minutes of recent PC meetings appear on our website www.alvechurch.gov.uk and you can find us on Facebook under Alvechurch Parish Council.