Councillors Present were: Mr N Braithwaite (Chairman), Mr S Fox (Vice Chairman), Mr M Pearce, Mrs W Pearse, Mrs E Byles
County Councillor Mr R Rose
District Councillor Mrs H Hibbert-Biles
In Attendance Parish Clerk Mrs A M Barnes
Also Present 12 Members of the Public
The minutes of the Annual Meeting held on 18th April, 2005 were agreed, dated, signed and filed.
3. CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
The Chairman reported on the main issues concerning the Parish Council over the past year and one major change in the early Summer of 2005 Margaret Ismail, who had been Parish Clerk for three years advised the Parish Council that she wished to stand down for personal and family reasons. The Parish Council had been fortunate in securing Margaret’s successor, Angela Barnes, whose Husband Shane had spent some years as a Parish Councillor himself. The Chairman used this opportunity to express thanks again to Margaret for the wonderful service she gave to the Council during her time as Clerk. It was reported that ongoing issues such as obtaining a bigger aperture in the post box, numerous highway issues including the excess water travelling down the Chipping Norton hill resulting in surface water lying on the river bridge to problems with flooding and the need to clear the culvert under the railway line by the signal box are still showing as matters arising on the Parish Council’s monthly agenda. Although these issues are ongoing and as yet are unresolved they are all moving in the right direction. Progress that has been made is in the Risk Assessment last year whereby the trees in the playing field were in need of attention. These have either been removed or pruned and further less urgent work has been commissioned for the year ahead. The Chairman reported that a “walk through Ascott” leaflet has been designed by Gerald Simper, the parish contact for the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens and it is hoped that this leaflet will have been printed and available in the village Shop by Easter. A presentation on Affordable Housing by James Alcock of O.R.C.C. was given to the Parish Council and a Housing Needs Survey will be done throughout the village and if there is a need for Affordable Housing this will be explored how it might be met. Vandalism continues to be a problem with complaints of dangerous driving and speeding through the village, intimidation of local residents and damage to community and private property. At the October Parish Council meeting PC Monks attended to listen to the difficulties faced by the villagers. In the Planning arena there was reference in the annual report last year to two contentious planning applications affecting the community, namely these being the re-development of 2A Shipton Road and the equestrian use at Crown Farm. Thankfully the situation at Crown Farm has been largely resolved, hopefully to eveyone’s satisfaction. However the controversy over 2A Shipton Road continues and is now to be determined by a Planning Appeal. The Parish Council have expressed the very strongest objections to the various schemes that have been submitted and can now only wait the outcome of the Appeal. The Chairman reported that during the year the Village Shop has flourished and needs no support from the Council.
We have been able to help the Tiddy Hall in the purchase of a new lighting system and have assisted the Pavilion with the provision of a new mains water supply. It was also reported that a presentation was made to the Parish Council by Nick Mottram and Jane Bowley last November on the Wychwood Project and the Parish Conservation Plan. This was followed by an Open Morning held at the Tiddy Hall with a very good display of historic and natural history items. It was confirmed that Grant aid is available to assist parish projects and the Parish Council are now in the process of seeking quotes and grant aid to re-build the stone wall round The Pound on the corner of Shipton Road and Church View.
Finally, the Chairman reported that this will be the last meeting of the Council in its present make-up and three Councillors will be stepping down after long service. Mike Pearce after twenty years on the Council, Wendy Pearse after 4 years as a Councillor and 3 years as Parish Clerk and himself. There has been a big change since the days when Harry Cook presided over Council meetings which were much more informal, when the workload seemed much lighter. In general the level of bureaucracy has increased enormously and in those days there were no Risk Assessment reports to prepare, no “model Council” rules to comply with and Health & Safety issues were far less regulated. How far the community benefits from the increased controls is very debatable and the financial costs of compliance are significant.
4. FINANCIAL REPORT
The Accounts to 31st March 2006 were circulated and Mr. Fox gave his report. The Parish Council’s main income consists of the precept, the deficit for the year was £1454.26 and this is the second year that the Parish Council’s costs have exceeded income thus leaving reserves at £2531.44, which was reported as too low to allow for unforeseen circumstances. One of the main sources of income rent was £305 for the Playing Field, this will now be lost as it will be paid to the Sports Club in the future. Mr Fox reported that the Precept had been set at £7554 for last year and the grass cutting fee from the County Council of £844.44. Also the grants received towards part of the cost of improving the Tiddy Hall lighting. The main costs that the Parish Council had to pay were for administration, clerk’s salary, grass cutting and general work to maintain the playing field. With this in mind the precept for this year had been increased to £8600 which will help to rebuild the Parish funds.
5. MR RODNEY ROSE – COUNTY COUNCILLORS REPORT
Mr Rose reported that his year at County Hall had been very busy and his political group had succeeded in gaining a good majority in the May elections thus securing 43 seats out of 74. Mr Rose reported that he was Chairman of the Oxfordshire Local Government Pension Fund, Chairman of the Democracy and Organisation Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Community Safety Scruitiny Committee. It was reported that the Pension Committee covers the Pension investments of some 20,000 county council employees plus the employees of the 5 district councils including the Museum Service, non-teaching staff at Brookes. This is a fund in excess of £800 million, which still needs more. The Democracy and Organisation Committee deals with the legal side of the County Council from boundary reviews to disabled access to Polling Stations. The Community Safety Scrutiny Committee consists of the Fire Service, trading standards, youth offending etc. In addition to this Mr Rose reported that he is Secretary/Treasurer to his own group responsible for 43 Councillors.
6. MRS HILARY HIBBERT-BILES DISTRICT COUNCILLORS REPORT
Mrs Biles reported that the last year had proved to be exceptional for the District Council, who were awarded the highest points in Oxfordshire for their Comprehensive Performance Assessment and received a “Good” rating. The Audit Commission say that West Oxfordshire has proved to be consistently performing above average, giving value for money services. It was reported that Council Tax had increased by 3% and that West Oxfordshire is the second lowest in the UK. Mrs Biles also reported on the introduction of 24 hour licensing and how this has affected the workload for the Council, as does a new Government initiative called “High Hedges”. The District Council must deal through their planners with legislation which states that hedges must be a certain height and not encroach on to a neighbour’s amenity. It was reported that last year the District Council met its target of 110 affordable homes and they are hoping to increase the number this year.
West Oxfordshire District Council are a Commissioning Partner in Oxfordshire County Council’s Supporting People which was also inspected by the Audit Commission last year. The outcome on this also proved to be good with the District receiving 2 Stars with promising prospects for improvement. It was reported that one area of major concern is the cuts being imposed on the Mental Health residential units in West Oxfordshire. The Government have already warned that there will be more cuts in funding over the coming years, fortunately West Oxfordshire have managed to make no cuts, but this will continue to get more and more difficult. It was reported that the Council had fulfilled the ODPM targets of 100% electronic service delivery by the end of March 2006. A major project for the remainder of 2006 is the Document Management and workflow system for Planning Services. All photos, plans, documents and forms relating to a planning application will be scanned and indexed in electronic form and will then be available on the website for staff and the public. Mrs Biles also reported that there is a new website that will pinpoint your house and give you information regarding Council Tax etc. It was reported that the planning delivery grant had just been announced and West Oxfordshire has been awared £478,000 which is the highest in Oxfordshire. The grant is made available annually to facilitate improvements in planning services and to assist in meeting the requirements of the new planning system. The Local Plan is nearing the last reading 28th April – there is nothing in the Wychwoods as far as development is concerned other than Ascott, which had been designated a larger village, which should not unduly affect it. Recycling is going extremely well and it was reported that later in the year there will be a District wide consultation on two weekly residual collections. Mrs Biles went on to report that last year she was asked to serve as the Cabinet Member for Housing which involves responsibility for housing in general, homelessness and affordable housing.
Mrs Biles reported that last May she was elected as County Councillor for Chipping Norton which does have its advantages for the Wychwoods as she is able to support our local County Councillor on issues affecting the Parish. It was reported that Shipton-under-Wychwood’s new Doctors Surgery looks wonderful and Mrs Biles took the opportunity to express her thanks to Dr Scott, who has recently retired, for his enthusiasm in pushing this project forward.
7. ORGANISATIONS REPORT
Chipping Norton Police
PC Dave Tustian introduced himself as representing Chipping Norton Police Station and is also the co-ordinator for NAG. PC Tustian reported that offences which had been reported throughout the Wychwoods there were 29 of which 9 were crime related, but then deemed not criminal. It was reported that Speeding continued to be a major problem. Milton-under-Wychwood had 68 offences, the majority of which were vehicle crimes and Shipton-under-Wychwood had reported 20 offences. PC Tustian reported that a “Pub Watch” scheme was being implemented throughout the villages and this was already operating in Charlbury.
Q : PC Tustian was asked whether the public were asked where SID machines would be best placed when operating speed checks?
A: PC Tustian answered “Yes” people were asked, but this was usually done at the discretion of the Police themselves.
Q: PC Tustian was asked how much a “Light-up” speeding control system would be?
A: PC Tustian answered between £2k and £5k, which would need to be funded by the Parish Council.
Alison McCormack introduced herself representing the Pre-School and reported that the total number of pupils attending has regularly increased and now stands at 42 and that the OFSTED inspection conducted last year was excellent. The weekly sessions have now increased to five two and a half hour sessions and two four hour sessions. Additionally the Pre-School is in the process of introducing an additional Monday afternoon cookery class. It was reported that the Toddler Group which was re-launched in May 2005 is held at the Ascott Cricket Pavilion on Tuesday mornings between 9.30am and 11.30am. A cash grant of £1500 had been received from FOX FM and this enabled the Pre-School to purchase and replace lots of toys. Mrs McCormack reported that a significant achievement for the Pre-School was receiving the Investors in People Award which was received in December 2005, this is a major triumph for the hard working staff, committee members and parents. It was reported that there were a few key concerns/issues, these namely being the erratic heating and hot water supply at the Cricket Pavilion, which is a particular nuisance for the Toddler Group in the cold weather. Mrs McCormack reported that there had been an attempted break-in to the toy shed, recently erected at the Cricket Pavilion, although nothing was taken. It was asked whether an “awning” for the astroturfed area outside the Tiddy Hall, which would provide crucial shade for the children in the Summer and could also be used by other hall users – this was going to be brought up with the Tiddy Hall Committee.
Roger Shepherd gave his report on the Tiddy Hall advising that vandalism continued to be a problem and they were actively vetting prospective users/hirers of the Tiddy Hall more carefully. Mr Shepherd reported that the licencing laws had now changed for anybody wishing to hire the Hall for a function and sell alcohol. Each and every function that wished to sell alcohol need to apply individually for a licence themselves. It was reported also that only 12 licences were allowed in any one year. It was also reported that providing food at a function had now become regulated which was proving more and more difficult and both this issue and the licencing issue was taking its toll upon the hiring of the Hall and indeed those who had to comply with the regulations. Nevertheless the hiring of the Hall was very good, with the Pre-School being one of its main users, but they could always do with more new customers. It was reported that expenditure was quite high, this mainly being due to the new lighting system that had been installed. Mr. Shepherd expressed his gratitude to the Parish Council for their financial assistance.
John Cull introduced himself on behalf of the Cricket Club Chairman, Mr Gary Doggett who was unable to attend. Mr. Cull gave his report and advised that on 2nd April, 2006 the Cricket Club held its Annual General Meeting and Mr. Gary Doggett was elected Chairman. The Vice Captain had been given to Michael Hornsby, a local 18 year old lad. It was reported that the Fixture List was looking good, showing 16 matches and the Team had been attending the Nets in Witney. Mr Cull reported that the gound was looking good and that Income this year was £2346 as opposed to £1900 last year.
Parochial Church Council
Mr Roland Stedeford gave his report and advised that during the Summer months the Parish and the Benefice was under the sole Ministry of Rev’d Mark Abrey with help from the part-time clergy taking simultaneous services in the Benefice. It was reported that last September saw the arrival of Rev’d Mary Crameri as House-for-Duty Priest who is now taking services each Sunday, providing pastoral care on 2 full days per week and is becoming a familiar and welcome presence in the Benefice. It was reported that the average attendance at services is 18 but it has been greater at the special occasions of Harvest Festival, Remembrance Sunday and the Carol Service. After the Harvest Festival there was a Harvest Supper which was held in the Tiddy Hall where there were over 100 present and the net income for the Church was £302. This was a repeat celebration similar to last year and very much looks to become a regular fixture. It was reported that the two Church Wardens Tim Lyon and Anne Braithwaite were re-elected at the last vestry meeting and continue in office. Mr. Stedeford went on to report that a sound amplification system had been installed in the Church on 24th November, 2005. The annual Summer Church Fete was renamed a Church Festival and was held last year in the Churchyard and the Village Green on Saturday 9th July 2005. The Windrush Valley School continues to use the Church on Monday mornings for school assemblies.
Mr Donald Barnes represented the Coldstone Angling Club and reported that membership was still disappointing, but efforts are being made to address this problem. The Oxford Mail newspaper has given the Club some favourable write-ups on several occasions, with the response from this looking good and several people having shown interest for the forthcoming season. It was reported that with some four competitions/matches the total money raised for the Club was £1238. It was reported that so far as matches are concerned the Club had enjoyed a very good season where they reclaimed the top weight ever recorded on the River Evenlode with a remarkable bag of Chub weighing 82lbs and 12 ounces. Mr. Barnes reported that the Club’s Annual General Meeting will be held at The Swan pub in Ascott on 21st April, 2006 and prospective members would be made very welcome and that the Club was looking forward to another successful season.
Mr Stuart Fox representing the Ascott Grapevine gave his Report and firstly expressed their thanks to the Parish Council and PCC for their financial support, which enables them to print and deliver, free-of-charge, to all the homes in Ascott. Mr Fox reported that funding is always tight and they do rely on a small number of advertisers and donations to bridge the gap between income and costs. It was reported that the Grapevine are happy to accept small adverts for goods for sale or local services such as baby sitting etc. Mr Fox thanked all its contributors and reported that they are always looking for new articles, ideas, photographs, poems and stories about Ascott past and present and requested that the Parish dont forget to let them know about local events that can be publicised.
Leafield C of E School
Mr Owen Green, the Chair of Govenors for Leafield School gave his report and advised that the long tradition of high quality performing arts continued at the School during the Summer Term 6 when the children undertook three performances of Annie in Leafield Village Hall for parents and visitors. During the Autumn Term the children raised money for the CLIC Sargent charity, which supports families and cares for children who suffer from cancer, participating in the nationally organised Big Sing. Mr Green reported that the School visits the Windrush Leisure Centre for swimming and have been very successful with the extension of this being offered to the younger children. It was reported that the School had had to say “goodbye” to the Class 1 Teacher, Dr Andrea Flear at the end of the Summer Term. A replacement had been appointed by the Govenors who is Miss Emma Ranger, but sadly Miss Ranger had decided to leave at the end of Term 4. A temporary replacement, Mrs Joanne Rudd has been appointed until the end of Term 6 when the post will be re-advertised for an appointment commencing in September 2006. Mr. Green reported that pupil numbers had levelled off last year with 83 pupils registered to start in September 2005 which expected to rise to 86 in January 2006. This compared with other small schools is 51 to 100. The school continues to attract a number of pupils from outside the catchment area and fortunately due to prudent budgeting staffing levels can be maintained at four class teachers and a Head Teacher. It was reported that the 2005 SATS results were excellent with Science seeing 8 of the children achieving Level 5, in Maths 6 children and in English 2 children achieved a Level 5.
Ascott-under-Wychwood Sports Club
Mr Roger Shepherd gave his report and firstly expressed the Club’s thanks to the Parish Council for their support, especially financially. The Heating system still continued to be a problem and this time last year the Sports Club was in a critical position. To date £700 has already been spent on the Heating System, with the problem still unresolved. Mr Shepherd also reported that the Club had been dogged with a mains water problem which was leaking from the Pavilion into a neighbouring garden. Again Mr. Shepherd thanked the Parish Council for their help and also wanted to thank Conner O’Brien for all the ground work which had been done free of charge – this was very much appreciated. Mr. Shepherd also thanked Tony and Lynn Collins for their fundraising efforts. £840 was raised at a recent folk night. Thanks also to Mary Barnes who had continually pushed for a Car Boot, this event did take place and raised £500. All this aside Mr. Shepherd was looking forward to a much better year with the amenties being used more and more bringing in revenue. It was reported that the Sports Club now has a signed Lease Agreement with the Windrush School hiring the facilities for 4 afternoons per week, thus generating an income of £3500. Vandalism continued to be a problem and Mr Shepherd thanked Gehard for all the repair work that he has done.
Q: Mr Fred Russell expressed concerns regarding the Windrush School’s use of the Pavilion and Playing Field as this is a public place
A: Mr Shepherd answered that there would be no change for the public or villagers wishing to use the amenities at the Pavilion or Playing Field. The times that the school wished to use the Pavilion were confirmed again and Mr Russell was advised that this issue had been debated at length at previous meetings, was put to a vote and agreed.
Mr Shepherd finished his report noting that the Burford adult football team using the Pavilion was now called the Wychwood Forest and their strip had been provided by The Swan Public House.
The Village Shop
Mr Stuart Fox gave his report on behalf of the shop management committee. It was reported that sales were up by 12% from £103,978 to £116,269. The net profit after interest and depreciation in 2005 was £1667 with other income of £1141 from fundraising, £1500 from Ascott Parish Council and Grants of £3820. Mr Fox reported that the Shop’s mortgage in 2005 had been reduced from £32,381 to £23,509 and it now stands at £22,311. It was reported that Sandy Markwell had stood down as Chair and Bridgette Crundwell is acting as Chair until the Annual General Meeting at the end of June. Some highlights of the year saw the Village Shop as runner-up in the Oxfordshire Community Village Shop of the Year, a radio interview for FOX FM, a two page spread in the Independent Newspaper, TV recording for Heart of the Country and Country File. Mr Fox expressed his thanks to the village for their continued support and to the volunteers who help in so many ways, however the shop does need more volunteers.
This concluded the Organisations Reports and the Chairman thanked all those who had reported to the meeting. The Chairman then expressed his thanks to the Clerk and the Councillors. Stuart Fox proposed a thank you to the three departing Councillors for all of their efforts. The Chairman closed the meeting at 9.55pm.