The, fifteen minute duration, Public Access session prior to the commencement of Whittington Parish Council Meetings, are developing into quite a vibrant and instructive precursor to the formal business of the PC.
At last nights meeting (14 January) there were four members of the community present, in addition to our five Councillors and Peter Williamson, our District Councillor. Duncan’s report on the new bus service culminated in a ten minute discussion on this achievement and actions to be addressed in the future, particularly to encourage a take up in the use of the buses.
Graham Williams raised some interesting points surrounding the discussions which took place at the Parish Annual Assembly, in May 2017, regarding the introduction of a SpID (Speed Indicating Device) to the Village.
He said that the PC had agreed to set up a working party to discuss ways of reducing speeds through the village and enquired if this had “died a death”. The Clerk outlined the present status of the PC’s enquiries into this and Colin Hall amplified some of the actions and correspondence that had been entered into, including the lack of response from Alan Cox, head of the County Speed Management Team.
On another matter a discussion took place about the value of having crimes reported at PC Meetings, some two to four months after the event. Colin referred to questions he had asked villagers, about these crimes, and nobody seem to be aware of them. There was a view that the local PACT team now made little contribution to the community.
Graham suggested that the PC write to our County Councillor, Susie Charles, asking for her assistance in getting a response from the County Speed Management Team and greater support from our PACT (Police & Community Together!!) team.
Graham raised a further issue in connection with emails he sent to the PC in November 2017, to which he suggested he had not received a reply. The Clerk said that these had been dealt with at the November meeting to which Graham disagreed claiming they had not been discussed. Colin recollected reading the emails out at the November meeting and both he and the Clerk believed that an email had been sent to Graham as a result.
Subsequent to the meeting I researched exactly what had transpired in connection with the discussions at the 2017 Assembly regarding a SpID. In fact the undertakings given at the Assembly were discussed at length at the PC Meeting on the 17 May and the Minutes of the November meeting, which were circulated and approved at last nights meeting confirm the correspondence with the County Team. In addition they show that the issues surrounding the emails, to which Graham referred, were also discussed at the November meeting.
The interesting thing (in my mind) that has come to light following this public participation session, is that the status of Parish Assemblies, whether a special Assembly or the Annual Assembly, have a totally different status to meetings of the Parish Council or the AGM of the Parish Council.
Assemblies, in essence, are advisory events. They can be called by members of the public as well as by the PC. The discussions which take place can be used by the PC in their deliberations on actions to be, or not to be, taken in the future. Nothing said at an Assembly is binding upon the PC.
However, I would argue, that if matters of public concern are raised at Assemblies then the PC would be best advised to take increasing cognisance of the “will of the people” so expressed.