All posts by John Keegan

Parish Councils and Social Media

For the last four plus years Graham Williams and I have been fighting an uphill struggle to get our Parish Council to accept the changes in behaviour required from them by the; 2011 Local Government Act, the Lancashire Community Engagement Parish Charter, the Governments 2015 Briefing Paper “Parish and Town Councils: Recent Issues”, The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 and the 2014 Parish Council Transparency Code published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Their failure to respond to the wealth of criticism on this Blog resulted in the public meeting held on 20 March, being called following a message, posted on this Blog, by Colin Hall.  In his message Colin acknowledged the criticisms, predominant among which was the above mentioned failure of the PC to communicate with the people it is supposed to serve.  The meeting resulted in a PC controlled website which, unfortunately has not addressed the underlying problem, which is the need for the PC to have a bi-directional method of communicating with, and being contacted by, the parishioners whose views they are supposed to canvas and incorporate in their decision making process.

In their report for August the Organisation “Communities, Parish and Local Councils” Have once again drawn attention to this need to communicate with parishioners, their report contains the following statement:

In no particular order, here are the top ten reasons for Councillors to use social media.

  1. It boosts the number of people you can reach when talking about the good work you have done for your area. This includes the local press who can pick up on your stories without you having to press release them. “Social media is a good way to tell people what you actually do as a councillor.” Nick Bason, Waltham Forrest
  2. Unlike traditional media/leaflet dropping, it allows for two-way communication so you get immediate feedback on your plans or manifesto and can react accordingly. “Social media is an immediate, unmediated and two-way channel of communication with people we represent and need to engage with.” Steven Adams, Buckinghamshire
  3. It allows you to connect with a different type of resident-who perhaps can’t give up time to come to council meetings or surgeries. “My website had 1,000 visits in first 9 weeks after it was re-launched. I know that residents are being informed.” Ken Hawkins, Solihull
  4. With Twitter you can follow or create conversations on many different interest levels, so you might follow some people because they tweet about your party and others because they are involved in local issues. Some may talk about the issues faced by councillors generally, while another group might be based around your favourite football team. So depending on who you follow Twitter can become a one-stop-shop for the news and views you are interested in. “It’s the widening of the local government network. Councillors tend to be isolated into small groups, but social media can create larger groups.” Tim Cheetham, Barnsley
  5. Campaigns can ‘go viral’ with social media. If you are trying to save a local amenity from closure or hoping to prevent an unpopular planning application from being approved, these campaigns can grow exponentially if they are picked up on-line. A blog can help explain the cause and Twitter and Facebook will help you spread the word. “Twitter helps me keep in touch with what others locally are thinking and seeing. Broadcasting is one thing, but listening is more useful!” Tim Prater, Folkestone Town Council
  6. Help bring your community together and combat extremism. It is important that respectable politicians stand up against extremism in all areas of public debate including the social web. “Communication isn’t just about broadcasting information, it’s an exchange of information. Our new website is a vital tool for us to better engage with all sections of the community.” Antony Bull, Chairman, Southwater Parish Council
  7. The conversations are already happening without you. Many citizens are already using social media to talk about local issues – and they are often bemoaning the lack of a response from their council or councillors. This is an opportunity to become involved. Even if you can’t solve the problem straight away, you can acknowledge it and offer to look into it “In such a fast moving world, councils need to keep up or get left behind. Smart councils and councillors are now taking advantage of technology and social media to drive communications, innovation and improvement” Michael Chater, Chairman, National Association of Local Councils
  8. It’s simple and cheap to do. Using social media costs nothing more than time, there are no printing costs and you can do it from the comfort of your home or office, rather than out in the elements. “I’d possibly suggest twitter as being a good place to start, as essentially it’s asking you what you are doing – which is a question most people should be able to answer.” Anthony Mckeown, High Peak Borough Council
  9. It’s one of the best ways to engage with young people. Young people are increasingly using social media as a means of communication and entertainment and if we hope to get them involved in local democracy it is important to use the tools they use to speak to them. “By using the modes of communication young people are using then hopefully we can get them involved in campaigning and even becoming councillors themselves.” Andrew Palfreeman, Kirklees Council
  10. People will connect with you on a personal level. When handled properly, social media accounts are great at letting people get to know you a little better, allowing them to warm to you rather than just seeing you as an extension of the council. “When I started with my biog it was a little like firing an arrow into the sky. I was never sure whether anyone would actually notice. Then the local newspaper started to follow up some of my blog entries. Stories both personal and in my capacity as a councillor started to appear in print My bowling club colleagues started to comment on the frequency I was being featured! All in all, in my view, social media in local government have a clear future ahead. My advice is ‘pick up your bow and start firing the odd arrow or two!’.” Sean Brady, Formby Parish Council.

It is impossible to say exactly why the PC is reluctant to accept their responsibilities, and to amend their procedures accordingly.  I have my suspicions, chief among which is that there is a Luddite element on the PC which is resistant to any form of modernisation or change.  I encourage the Parish Council to respond to this post with their reasons for ignoring this issue, which is central to the Governments plans for Local Democracy.

John Keegan

The accompanying document by the Governments Improvement and Development Agency provides detailed information to help Parish Councillors: Connected Councillors.

In Memoriam – Helen Ridgway

Yesterday’s service at the unique St. John the Baptist church, Arkholme, was a touching and fitting remembrance of Helen’s life.

There was an exceptional contribution from Helen’s family including a beautiful poem, a remembrance of Helen growing up, her life in Lancaster and Morecambe, meeting Dave and raising her family, whilst working throughout.  This was culminated by a superb performance by Jason on the Church Organ, which brought the instrument, and the music, to life.

The interment took place in the family grave among the beautifully manicured lawns of St. John’s.

The family kindly provided a funeral breakfast at the Red Well Inn which proved the ideal opportunity to air memories of Helen, and of course Dave.  Needless to say people had enough memories to keep them at the Red Well for quite some time.

I heard the phrase “end of an era” a number of times.  It brought home to me just how big an impact and contribution the pair of Helen and Dave brought to Village life.  They will remain sadly missed.

John Keegan

SpID Trial

The Parish Council, on its website, have made the following announcement:

The Parish Council have arranged with the Lancaster City Council Speed Management team for the free trial of a speed indicating device, which will be fitted in Whittington within the next few days.

This is a temporary arrangement. The device will target one direction for a week and will then target the other direction. The exact mounting location will be determined when the device is installed.

Those of us who were sufficiently interested in our community to attend the Annual Parish Assembly on the 08th May 2017 will recollect the 15 minute discussion on this subject which took place that evening.

Eric Pelter, Chairman of the Parish Council, made specific commitments as to what would occur before this matter proceeded to the next stage.  The verbatim transcript of what was said is below. Form your own view as to whether the PC have complied with the commitments it undertook. – Or are we wasting time attending public events called by the Parish Council.

EP – Eric Pelter, GW – Graham Williams, JK – John Keegan, IA – Ian Atkinson, BA – Barbara Atkinson, DF – Duncan Foster, GH – Gerald Hodgson.

GW – First of all on the Speed Indicating Device.  I understood from the Minutes that the Council was going to consider the purchase of a speed indicating device and only go forward if it was warranted.  From what you have just said the Council is still hell bent on the purchase of a speed indicating device.  Can you confirm that?

EP – Yes, we are still looking into it.

GW – So even if it’s not justified you will still go ahead and do it?

EP – Who says it’s not justified?

GW – Who says it is?

EP – Well the point is, we put it forward to the village once we’ve got a statement that it can be done and we put forward to the village, do they want one?  It’s entirely upto them isn’t it.

GW – What evidence is there that traffic is going through the village to any extent above the existing speed limit.

EP – There’s quite a lot.  The point is Graham, if you live in Whittington, where your front door comes straight onto the road you’d know exactly how fast the traffic is travelling.

IA – I’ve seen them going through here too fast, the Police have said they go through here too fast.

GW – We have evidence from the County Council, who have conducted traffic surveys, none of which have shown that traffic speeds are grossly in excess of 30 miles per hour.  In fact they are very rarely  in excess of 30 miles per hour.

IA – It’s the bends that are the dangers in this village.

GW – So, what you’re saying is that 30 miles per hour might be too fast so what we should do, as a Parish, is look to reducing the existing level of 30 mph.

IA – Yes.

GW – In which case a Speed Indicating device is irrelevant. The first thing to do is to get the speed limit down to 20 mph.

EP- We’ve tried that. And it doesn’t work, we tried it a number of years ago, I think before you came to the village.

GW – About fifteen years ago the Parish Council decided to try to get a 20 mph speed limit.  Fifteen years later there is still a need for a 20 mph speed limit but there is no correspondence between the Parish Council and the Local Authority saying “how do we get the speed limit reduced to 20 mph.

EP – If we still had a school here we could get the speed limit reduced to 20 mph.  In every other Parish you go to it’s 20 mph where there’s a school.  If there was a school here you’d get 20 mph.

GW – They have a 20 mph speed limit in Arkholme.  In some places there is a 20 mph speed limit which is a general 20 mph speed limit which applies at all times.  In Arkholme there is a 20 mph speed limit which is only applied when the school beacons are lit.  So if you through Arkholme 7:00 o’clock at night at 30 mph your breaking the speed limit?

EP – If you go at 30 you are.

GW – But you said it’s 20 mph!

BA – It’s only 20 when the school is open.

GW – So, for about 20% of the year the speed limit through Arkholme is 20 mph. 

BA – When the school’s open, yes.

GW – But the speed limit in the village, here, is 30 mph, for 100% of the year and we need a speed indicating device, which would authorise speeds through the village of 30 mph, regardless of whether there is a school or not, and I propose that before the Parish Council embarks of spending our money they investigate in writing with the local authority the possibility of getting a 20 mph speed limit imposed in this village and possibly in conjunction with Arkholme and Gressingham, where there are similar problems.

EP – Yes. We can do that.

JK – I think I’m correct in saying, Mr Chairman, and I’m fairly certain in saying, that the conditions in this village do not enable us to introduce a 20 mph speed limit. We do not have the conditions that are precisely laid down in the regulations as to what is required.  A school is one of them, but it’s not the only one.  We can have a 20 mph speed limit under other conditions but I know that there is a Minute, in the last 14 years, because I’ve seen it, where the Parish Council have been told “you can’t have a 20 mph speed limit”.

EP – I’m glad you said that John.  That’s is as I understand it.

GW – So what’s to prevent the Parish Council writing to the County saying “we are still concerned about the speed of traffic through the village, what is the position related to a 20 mph speed limit?” which, by some bodies admission that 30 mph id too fast.

EP – Right Graham we’ll do that with pleasure, on your behalf.

GW – Second point.  You said that the “Parish Champion” would pay for a speed indicating device.  My understanding is that the Parish Champion will pay for a sign which indicates that there is a speed indicating device in the village.  There is a hell of a lot of difference between the cost of a sign and cost of speed indicating devices and again I think the Parish Council should establish the facts before going any further.

EP – Yes we can do that before we go any further.  We will put you point of view forward.

IA – Mr. Chairman, isn’t it possible to have one on loan from County.

EP – Yes we can have one on loan.

JK – That’s what Gressingham have.

EP – Have they approval yet?

JK – I don’t know but the bracket has been put up to support it.

EP – Yes.  They promised us one on loan and then, after that, it will be up to cost.  The trouble is you can have a battery operated one which has to be taken down to charge the battery, for health & safety reasons, or you can have a satellite one, but the satellite ones are a lot more dearer than the battery ones.

DF If we decided that 30 mph is too fast for the village, we I tend to agree with, what is the point of having a speed indicator that’s telling people that they are doing 30 mph when we want them to do 20 mph.

EP – That’s my point exactly, right.

DF – So I don’t see the point.

EP – Well the point of it is……

DF – If the maximum speed that traffic should be driving at is 20 mph what’s the point in putting up something telling people that driving at 30 mph is alright and they are legally entitled to?

EP – You will never, ever, see one at 20 mph, They don’t make them.

DF – So if we are to approach the local council about a 20 mph speed limit we have to provide facts as to why we need one, with no school, it seems to me you have no chance of getting one anyway.

EP – We will have to go forward with your ides and see what can be done.  But I don’t think we will get one, but there again we’ll put it forward and see what happens from there.  We’ll go down that channel and see what happens. – Right is there anything else?

GW – What percentage of traffic is known to be going through the village at speed in excess of 30 mph.

EP – I don’t know. I’ve got no idea

GW – So what is the point of having a speed indicating device if we don’t know how much traffic is going through the village at more than 30…….

EP – We’ve haven’t got speed cameras so we don’t know how fast it’s going.

GW – The local authority have had surveys and the last survey the did there was one vegicle went through at more than 30 mph.

JK – To be fair Mr. Chairman that was over 14 days.  There has been a recent speed survey done.  It’s been done within the last 6 months and it’s been done, and you can see it.  It was done in support of the Planning Application for the Dragons Head and in neither the North or South bound directions were there any recorded speeds in excess of 29 mph.  I’m telling lies, 29.4 mph.  There is evidence, and not only that you will find the evidence in your own minutes.  You have actually reported the tests that have been carried out.  The only place where there are confirmed excesses are actually in Newton.  And that has been true for the last seven years.

EP – Yes, but it’s totally different.

JK – Yes it is I totally agree, but that is where the Police have stopped people for speeding.

IA – Yes they do exceed 60 mph through Newton but nobody steps out onto the road straight from their front door.

JK – Yes that’s right but the fact is there is only Newton where the Police have recorded speeds in excess, sorry – speeds which the Police have considered to be in excess but not sufficient to prosecute.

IA – People driving at the national speed limit of 60 mph.  60 mph might be the right thing to do but people are perfectly legal doing it.  But 30 mph through this village can be dangerous at certain times and certain points.

GW – 30 mph can be exceptionally dangerous.

IA – People step out of their front doors nearly straight onto the road, and at some points the footpaths disappear altogether.

EP – Anyway, I’ll look into that one.

GW – So we are at a point Mr. Chairman were there is some doubt about the validity of the suggestion that a speed indicating device should be purchased.  And I move that no speed indicating device… no decision should be taken over the purchase of a speed indicating device until such time that the Parish Council is able to prove a). that there is a need.

EP – Yes, yes but I don’t take your point because the thing of it is – are you speaking for all the Parish of Whittington? have you seen them all and asked them?

GW – Have you?

EP – I’m not making the complaint, you are.

GW – You are suggesting spending a large sum of money on a piece of kit which probably is not going to make any difference at all.

IA – I think it does actually, where you’ve got this speed indicator people usually slow down to get a smiley face, don’t they, they do.

JK – That isn’t an, SpID though.

IA – I keeps people to the 30 mph though.  People go through it in excess of 30 mph, they do.

GW – If you go through Endmoor, you will find that people doing 25 mph will increase their speed so they are doing 30.  The indication of a smiley face at 30 mph people take as an indication that 30 mph is an acceptable speed.

EP – Yes, that right.

GW – But we are saying that it’s not acceptable.

GH – How much do these things cost a year and how much insurance would it need.  Because, I could see it getting pinched.  They did that at Kirkby didn’t they?

EP – If tit cost that much nobody would put them up would they?

GH – There will be an annual cost of maintenance and insurance, won’t there?  That one at Kellett has been off for months and has only just come back on.

JK – Can I just interrupt there Mr. Chairman.  There are two different types battery operated isn’t one of the.  One is mains operated, the other is solar, not satellite as you suggested.  The solar ones are dearer but they require less maintenance.

EP – Any way, can we move on?  I think we’ve talked the legs off that one.


The Minutes of the Parish Council Meeting of the 15th May 2017 reported on this discussion as follows:

1328.Proposals from Parish Assembly held on Monday 8th May, attended by 5 members of the public and 3 Parish Cllrs. SpID signage – obtain evidence for need of expensive equipment, Cost of maintenance and Insurance: Reduce present speed from 30mph to 20mph through village; Cllrs agreed that a SpID sign, nor an unenforceable, nor advocated by Lancashire County Council, 20mph zone, may not resolve the problem of speeding vehicles through the village.


The Minutes of the Parish Council Meeting of 07th June make no mention of SpID’s.

It is my understanding, based on the PC’s own Minutes, that they have failed to undertake the investigations that were promised by Eric Pelter at the time of the Annual Assembly.  Has he simply forgotten (hardly because it is minuted), or does he intend to ignore the wishes of his parishioners?

John Keegan

Helen Ridgway – RIP

It saddens me to have to announce in these pages the death of Helen Ridgway, on Tuesday 25 July 2017.

When I receive more information I will add it to these comments.  Most of you will know that Helen has been poorly for some time.  After a stay in Hospital she entered into a Hospice care program.

It is truly the end of an era.  Dave and Helen moved to Whittington in 1999, when they took over the Dragons Head.  Helen was born in Kendal and until recent times was manageress of the Spar shop in Kirkby Lonsdale.  Helen has lived alone in the Maltings since the untimely demise of Dave.

We all send our sympathies to her two sons, Jason and Andrew (known to all as “Stan”.)

John Keegan

P.S.  The service will be held at 12:30 on Tuesday 08 August 2017 at St. John the Baptist Church, Arkholme  followed by a reception at the Redwell Inn.