Our Parish Council

The recent posts about the activities of our Parish Council may have obscured what I believe are the two fundamental issues:

  1. What is the Parish Council for, and
  2. How well does our Parish Council meet our expectations?

At this point, it seems reasonable to take stock of the situation.

An internet search of “What is a Parish Council” throws up, like most internet searches, a plethora of information.  I have come across two ‘general’ guides at:
http://www.nalc.gov.uk/library/publications/801-good-councillors-guide/file
and
http://www.cpalc.org.uk/about-parish-councils/

There are links to a shed load of others that have been produced by individual Parish Councils, for example
http://www.hebdenroyd.org.uk/news/2.html

Our Way Forward

The first question must be “What is a Parish Council For?” To which there can only be one answer:

“To serve the needs of the people it represents”.

To do this a Parish Council needs to have procedures which allow it to determine the views and needs of the residents it purports to represent.

What Next?

 Once these views and needs have been determined it is then possible to draw up a costed plan for consideration of where the priorities should lie for the ensuing period.

This should then be presented to residents for their approval.

Communication

 There are some pieces of information that a Parish Council is required to make available to residents, for example, Parish Council Minutes, Agendas and the Annual Report.

Other information, such as warnings of suspicious activity is less frequent but nonetheless important.

The existing methods of communication are clearly totally inadequate.

In May 2016 I did a presentation to the Parish Council on how electronic communication might work.  I was disappointed at the lack of interest shown by the Parish Councillors and ultimately the Chairman vetoed the idea.  Since then I have been surprised to see from the minutes that the concept has now been accepted but I am sadly disappointed, but not surprised, at the lack of progress.

There is a further complication in that the minutes of PC meetings approved by councillors are inadequate and in some instances far from clear.

Take as an example from the January meeting, admittedly these have not been approved and signed:

  1. Clerk’s report (matter’s arising) : Minutes sent to Lancaster City Council and available at

https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgParishCouncilDetails.aspx?ID=420&LS=3.

 Verges at Docker no longer require attention by Lancashire County Council.
 Response to parishioner’s comments

discussion took place regarding electronic communication, the village blog/website originally registered to Whittington Parish Council though current Cllrs, nor the Clerk, have any details of the registration and publicly disclaim any details that are published on the site, be it that it is not updated or added to, directly, by any current councillor or the clerk.

What comments did which parishioner make and can anyone explain the nature of the ensuing discussion?

“Where do we go from Here?”

 I recognise that the above is one resident’s personal views but whether or not you agree with them it would be useful to have your thoughts posted on the blog, preferably not anonymously.  I am sure that if you do not wish to be identified John Keegan could mark your post accordingly.

Graham Williams

(PS. I have told Graham that personally, I have no problem with anonymous contributions, they are a fact of Blogging, as they are in Twitter.   I will endeavour to apply the House Rules fairly whether the comment is anonymous or not.  Original Posts are a different matter because you cannot generate a Post unless I provided you with a Username and Password, which I will only do to a verified email address, therefore the User is not anonymous.
John Keegan)

21 thoughts on “Our Parish Council”

  1. All,
    I note the above comments and I don’t agree or disagree.

    Frankly as an educated woman if I was to sit on the PCC I wouldnt have a clue, someone has to do it…… Or is the fundamental fact that we don’t want a PCC because the way things are carrying on there won’t be anyone to do it. What then? John nobody is having a go at who does what and I can assure you I am aware of your contributions. The fact is the people who sit on the PCC could be like me, not got a clue but doing their best in their own time to make things work. What I am trying to erase is the negativity and I will say, the rudeness that comes through in some blogs. I am sure if MR Sole was thinking of moving to the Village he probably won’t now and that is a shame because it is a fantastic beautiful place to live.

  2. Morning

    Just a quick thought to throw out there, it is no longer the case that ‘someone has to play the role of Parish Cllr’. Indeed since Feb 2008 it has been law that the principal authority (In our case Lancaster City Council) has the right to dissolve the Parish Council. I understand that this may cause a sharp intake of breath amongst many, yet maybe the time has come to look at the pros and cons.

    Mark

  3. For some time Mark, my preference has been to negotiate with Arkholme and Gressingham Parishes, who after all also form the three parishes of the PCC, to try to agree to combine the three Councils into one.

    The borders of Arkholme Parish and Whittington are practically co-mingled. Whittington Councillor Stuart Close actually lives in Docker, not Whittington.

    Certainly, this would provide a much enhanced talent catchment and improve the employment/life experience profile.

    There has already been a concrete proposal for the PC to be scrapped and replaced, as they have done at Claughton, and as was recently investigated in the Yealand, by a “Parish Meeting, which gives a greater democratic participation for electors. Unfortunately, just as in Yealand, Whittington has too large a population for this proposal to be legally possible.

    John Keegan

  4. John’s comment above is interesting but I disagree because I believe that a Parish Council should be based on an area where the population has established relationships across the Parish.

    This is already a problem with Whittington and the PC shows no sign of even recognising it. I feel that expanding the Parish would make the PC seem even more remote and disconnected than it already is.

    Clearly the PC is failing to engage with the community it purports to represent and whilst they have raised the question of some form of electronic newsletter which might improve the position, there is no evidence that this concept is supported by every member of the PC and sadly even less evidence of progress.

    The existing PC has not been elected and if they wish to change, one option would be for members to resign, one at a time, with the oldest going first to be replaced by a resident who was more representative of the demographic structure of the village, had the time to be actively involved and recognised the need for change.

    Once the first new member had become established the next in line for retirement would resign and be replaced by another active resident and so on until we have a completely new PC.

    We should bear in mind that having a PC is not a legal requirement but there does not seem to be an established procedure for getting rid of one which is dysfunctional.

  5. John last time I checked Docker was part of Whittington parish as is Newton and the resident have just as much right to be on the parish council as people living in the village it’s self.

    Graham If you are unhappy with the parish council stand for election yourself. As others have said get involved don’t complain from the sidelines

    Please explain why you feel “The existing methods of communication are clearly totally inadequate.” and have you any evidence the pc is dysfunctional or is this just your opinion and not based on any facts

    1. I will post a more detailed response shortly. I agree with your suggestion that the PC needs new blood.
      Suitable people would be rather younger than me.
      I have been prepared to help but I was not convinced that the existing PC felt that it needs to change.
      A more pertinent question might be why is no-one coming forward to offer their service as a Parish Councillor.

    2. I am concerned at the post from “Newton Resident”, not because he/she raises two points of disagreement but because they do not have the courage of their convictions to do so publicly. One assumes that they are a resident in the Parish.

      As to the two points NR raises

      Are the existing methods of communication adequate?

      Simply, I am not aware of any formal attempt by the Parish Council to communicate with the Parish, let alone an attempt to consult the Parish about what the residents might feel should be included in a Parish Plan should the PC decide that a Plan might be helpful.

      The PC may argue that residents are always welcome at its meetings. A quick review of recent minutes shows that the average attendance by residents is about one. At the Parish AGM attendance by residents is at a similar level.

      As to communication, I gave a presentation to the PC about how some form of electronic communication might work in the Parish in March of last year. Only one Councillor participated in the ensuing discussion and the proposal was ultimately vetoed by the Chairman.

      The issue was raised again at the May meeting when the minute 1262 records:

      A proposal to formulate a questionnaire in order to produce a Parish Plan, with inclusion of a village Emailing contact list, is to (sic) initiated by Cllr Hall with support.

      Since then I am not aware of any further action by Cllr Hall nor have I seen any evidence of who is providing support.

      Now it may well be that “Newton Resident” feels that I am missing something and that his or her experience shows this to be the case.

      If this is the case I would be interested to learn what his or her experience has been and an indication of how many PC meetings they have attended.

      Is the PC dysfunctional?

      Unless I am missing something, on the basis of the points above I can only reach one conclusion.

      An examination of the PC minutes suggests to me that all is not well.

      Minute 1286 reads:

      1286. Clerk’s report (matter’s arising) : Minutes sent to Lancaster City Council and available at
      https://committeeadmin.lancaster.gov.uk/mgParishCouncilDetails.aspx?ID=420&LS=3.

      Verges at Docker no longer require attention by Lancashire County Council.

      Response to parishioner’s comments

      discussion took place regarding electronic communication, the village blog/website originally registered to Whittington Parish Council though current Cllrs, nor the Clerk, have any details of the registration and publicly disclaim any details that are published on the site, be it that it is not updated or added to, directly, by any current councillor or the clerk.

      Does this actually make sense? Bear in mind that these minutes are shown as having been approved without comment at the January 2017 meeting.

      A further example is provided by the PCs apparent determination to press ahead with the purchase, at an unspecified cost, of Speed Indicator devices.

      The approved minutes of the PC make no mention of

      1. Evidence, other than hearsay, that the existing speed limit is widely ignored.

      2. Expert advice having been sought from the Police, Lancashire County Council or any other body with knowledge and experience.

      3. An assessment of whether a lower speed than 30mph would be of benefit.

      4. The likely impact of the devices, I have heard it said from traffic police that the signs are taken as implying that 30mph is acceptable and safe.

      5. The cost of the devices, since they were minuted in July 2006 as costing £7100 for two. There was no indication of whether or not his figure included installation and VAT. There has been no discussion of maintenance costs.

      6. Despite this lack of information and no indication from this blog that residents think that it would be a good investment, the Parish Council seems determined to press ahead and in order to do so is increasing the Parish Council Tax by 10%.

      Given my albeit limited experience of the workings of the present Parish Council I see little point in waiting until the next election. Until the existing Parish Council shows that it is prepared to consider the guidance provided by CPALC and explain why it chooses to disregard it I feel that it is failing to meet the needs of the community.

      On this basis I would not even consider working with the existing Parish Council. From their performance I have doubts as to whether Whittington even needs one.

      Of course “Newton Resident” and others may feel that I, and others, are missing the point and can identify significant achievements of the Parish Council.

  6. You are quite correct about Stuart being on the Whittington Electoral Register, although his address is an Arkholme one. There is only one property in the LA6 1AP postcode area which, for some reason I cannot fathom, is classed as Whittington, all the others are Arkholme. However they all pay Whittington precept.

    I wouldn’t suggest that they shouldn’t serve as councillors. Someone has to represent that extreme of the Parish, just as Colin Hall represents the Biggins end.

    It has been my view for some time that, combining the three parishes could provide an enhanced pool of talent and experience although I can perceive some of the practical difficulties. Graham disagrees with me in this.

    We would, I think, benefit from an influx of fresh talent but the existing Councillors are having to manfully struggle on until others are prepared to step forward, which they haven’t been for a good many years.

    I will leave Graham to respond to the other issues you have raised.

    But I thank you sincerely for participating in the debate. With all PC meetings taking place in Whittington, and there only being six of them every year, participating in debates about the Parish calls for more commitment than people seem to be inclined to take.

    1. I live near to Stuart Close in the LA61AP postcode. He does not now, has never and probably never will, consult with me on any matter being discussed by the PC, even when it directly affects me. Example: I note that the PC has recently been discussing the sign on the road that passes our house that states the road is unsuitable for use by HGVs; this is because large trucks get stuck on the bridge outside our house. Does Stuart Close help stuck drivers get their vehicles off the bridge? No, I do, and ironically many of them are heading to his farm! Day or night, it is me and not Stuart Close who has to deal with this problem on a daily basis, but apparently my views and those of all the other residents of this road (of which Close is not one) are not worthy enough for this particular, unelected representative on the Parish Council to consider. He has not consulted with us, he does not represent our views. As far as I know, Stuart Close only ever represents his own views, which may or may not be the same as his neighbours, but which are certainly not representative of them. He doesn’t have to do anything else, why should he? He has the seat on the Parish Council for life apparently. This is not a democracy, it is an old boy’s club. Stuart Close is not a “representative of the people”, he is merely a representation of what is wrong with the Parich Council.

      1. Philip,

        You can always air your views on this Blog. If you want to bring the attention of the PC to something which has not been covered on the Blog please simply send me an email at: whittingtonvillage@btinternet.com.

        I will post your comments to the Blog with pleasure.

        John Keegan

  7. John I don’t know where you get your information from. Docker has always been part of Whittington parish. The parish boundary with Arkholme pretty much follows the railway from Beckethwatie Beck to the river Keer.

  8. Sorry, I think you aren’t following my point. I said that all the properties in the LA6 1AP post code are in the Whittington Parish however the postal town for one is Whittington, that is: Keerfalls, Whittington LA6 1AP.

    The other 15 properties in the same postcode have Arkholme as their postal town, for example Docker Hall, Arkholme LA6 1AP.

    If you look at the Post above titled Council Tax Bands you will see that the first 16 properties in the table are in the LA6 1AP postcode area. Every other property in the Whittington Parish has an LA6 2?? Postcode. Why Keerfalls is the only property with LA6 1AP and a postal address of Whittington, I simply do not know.

    1. I live at Keer Falls. It has always had the Arkholme address, because that is the way the postman comes. All the houses in LA61AP are in Whittington as far as I know.

  9. John

    I am confused as to exactly what point you are trying to make. Is it that residents of Docker should not be on the parish council because there postal address is Arkholme even though they are in Whittington parish!

  10. Can I point out that it was you, not me, that first mentioned Docker. I was suggesting that the three Parishes should amalgamate to produce a better talent pool.

    I have never suggested that Docker is not part of the Whittington Parish, I simply pointed to the split in postal town within the same postcode. The only other places (there are two of them) that this happens is when part is in Lancashire and part in South Lakeland.

    1. John

      No John it was you that first mentioned Docker. In your response to Mark Nelson, which was before I even commented, you said.

      “The borders of Arkholme Parish and Whittington are practically co-mingled. Whittington Councillor Stuart Close actually lives in Docker, not Whittington.”

      If you want to be taken seriously make sure you get your facts straight especially when it is something you have said.

      1. NP
        Stuart certainly lives in Docker, Ted in Newton and Colin in Sellet.

        Eric and Barabra are the only ones who live in Whittington therefore geographically the whole of the parish is represented.

        My reference to Docker was because it’s proximity to Arkholme suggests that combining the three parishes isn’t quite as daft as it seems.

  11. Graham

    I response to your concerns I am resident in the parish and I have posted anonymously as given the negative nature of a lot of the comments in this blog I don’t want my name associated with it.

    There is a report form parish council meetings in Wagtail, is this not communicating with the parish! If people want more information on items in this report they can contact members of the council and talk to them direct or go along to the next meeting. The fact that people don’t attend the parish council meetings may well indicate that the majority of residents are happy with the way the parish council works.

    I have not attended a parish council meeting myself because if I have an issue that i want to raise with the parish council I go and speak with a councilor direct rather than critising them on a blog.

    To be honest I have come to the conclusion this blog is a complete wast of time it could be a useful forum for providing information on what is going on in the parish but instead appears to be a forum for a few people who have had issues with the Parish Council or individual councilors in the past and want to cause trouble.

    The negative nature of a lot of the comments on here will only discourage people from getting involved with the council in the future and I will not bother wasting my time with it in the future

    1. It is the nature of blogs that more people use them to criticise than to praise. It comes as no great surprise that this is true of the Whittington Blog. If you take a look at earlier posts you will see that it is not only the Parish Council who have come in for criticism in the past.

      I know the name, address and telephone number of every Parish Councillor. However I am a rarity.

      Of the 11 houses in our cul-de-sac only the residents of three properties can name a single councillor. Some of the residents have lived in the village for 18 years and still can’t name a single councillor.

      In fact only the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Clerk release their contact details to the public. There are no contact details published for the two councillors who live, respectively, in Newton and Docker, or the other Councillor who lives in Whittington.

      I frequently receive emails asking for contact details for the Parish Council. One person who recently asked for details actually lived within 50 yards of two councillors.

      Wagtail used to publish the PC Minutes in full. However they take at least one full A4 page therefore I can appreciate that the Editor of Wagtail would find it difficult to justify devoting a minimum of 6 A5 sides to the three PC’s in the Wagtail area. As a result he publishes a précis of the minutes.

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