- Philippa Carter (Chairman)
- Mark Tribe
- Peter Rance
- Sandy Timms
- Liz Leffman (County Councillor)
- Tom Simcox (District Councillor)
Responsible Financial Officer:
- Stuart Fox
- Angela Barnes
Members of the public:
- Pete Moss
- Brian Leach
- Wendy Pearse
- Jim Pearse
- Elaine Byles
- James Burgiss
Chris George (Wychwood Day Centre), Rev’d Mark Abrey PCC and Christian
McGuiness Leafield CofE Primary School.
The recorded Minutes from the Annual Parish Meeting held on 24 April 2017 were agreed, dated, signed and filed.
Introduction of the past year’s Parish Councillors – Sandy Timms, Vice Chairman, Peter Rance and Mark Tribe who are longstanding Parish Councillors. Graham Ranson, who joined the PC almost a year ago, has sent his apologies. Mark is stepping down at the next meeting and we would like to record our thanks for his work, especially as in recent years his paid work has become more than full time. We are grateful to Brian Leach for volunteering to take his place and we look forward to working with him. My special thanks go to Sandy, Peter and Graham who have agreed to stay on and complete our number. Introduction of Angela Barnes, Parish Clerk; Stuart Fox, Responsible Financial Officer; many thanks to both for their support, advice and hard work over the past year. Also welcome to County Cllr Liz Leffman and District Cllr Tom Simcox who are regular attendees at our PC meetings and who support us with their specialist knowledge and their lobbying on behalf of Ascott-u-Wychwood.
Stuart Fox will cover the details of our Finances but I would just like to highlight the fact that more and more of our budget is used to pay for certain services which are essential to Ascott-u- W but which had been paid for by Oxfordshire County Council until recently.
This includes snow clearing and shared grant funding for the Wychwood Library, Villager and WOCT buses and the Wychwood Day Centre. Our grant for cutting verges within the village has also been severely cut. We are informed that many of these extra expenses have to be paid from the PC’s discretionary funds (S137) but we have asked OCC to investigate whether this ruling can be changed as these funds are now severely reduced. Only S137 funds can be used to support projects and organisations which are not our core responsibility Because the PC had been warned of severe County Council budget cuts we had in past years raised the Annual Precept to be able to support the services I have just mentioned. Now that the dust has settled (we hope) we are pleased to be able to reduce the Precept by 10% for the Financial Year 2018/9.
This year has been busy on the Planning front. There have been 8 applications for alterations to existing homes, 1 successful application for a development of 6 houses in place of the garages at the top of Maple Way and 1 application won on Appeal for a development of 5 homes on London Lane. The London Lane development has been a very controversial application and so the PC called a public meeting to give residents an opportunity to ask questions of the Head of Planning at WODC, Mr Phil Shaw. Feedback was mostly positive in that residents felt more informed and certain action points were agreed. In particular we plan to set up a database of photographs and maps showing weak points in drainage and sewerage – Sara Russell has offered to run this with Graham Ranson’s support. We are encouraging residents to be proactive and contact a Parish Councillor if they have photographs. These could then be used when commenting on future planning applications.The development of 6 houses on the site of Maple Way garages was negotiated and is making good progress after a difficult winter. Neighbours are having to get used to much larger buildings than the garages but it will give Ascott 6 more dwellings which are planned to be kept as social housing by Cottsway. We were disappointed that the hedgerow was pulled up and this was reported to the Planning Office. The contractors have promised to completely replant – as is instructed in the plans.
WODC Planning Dept are hoping that their Local Plan 2031 will be ratified by the Inspector soon and Tom Simcox will have more news of that.
Grounds and Property Maintenance
We have made good progress with keeping village property and grounds in better order. The 3 large projects have been: – the completion of a new drainage scheme to the Playing Field, refurbishment of the Pavilion and also of the Martyrs’ seats on the Green.
The extremely dry winter, spring and early summer of 2017 meant that a team of volunteers spent many, many hours sowing new seed, raking the drainage lines and hand watering the new grass on the Playing Field.
We owe a huge debt to that team, organised by Laurence Mellor and advised by Simon Gidman. By October the football teams were able to play their matches and they have been extremely pleased with the way that the pitch stood up to this past winter 2018, which has been so very wet. We would also like to thank Shane Barnes, our groundsman, for all the extra hours that he put in to nurture the new grass. We must also thank Richard Smith of Pennington Manches who has helped us with the legal work required to obtain a Sport England grant.The refurbishment of the pavilion included redecorating and a new boiler. Again we must thank another team of volunteers who spent many hours painting the main room and changing room area. The kitchen refurbishment will be completed this year. The Martyrs’ seats were refurbished last summer by their original suppliers. The success of the refurbishment led to a call for a solution to keeping the seats free of bird muck. Ascott Martyrs Education Trust (AMET) took up the challenge and made various suggestions, from relying on a team of volunteers to clean the seats to moving the seats completely. A village consultation was considered but this idea has been shelved and there are currently no plans to make any changes.
Cllr Sandy Timms
The Defibrillator Cabinet has been out of service for some considerable time of late.
I’m happy to report it is now repaired and glowing brightly. However the cabinet is currently not fixed to the wall and this needs to be resolved. It seems we were sold an old cabinet which is now obsolete.
Therefore the parts were manufactured to order which is why it took some time to be repaired. There are 30,000 cardiac arrests in the UK in a year and of those, 80% happen in the home.
If a defib is used within 3-5 minutes the survival rate jumps from 6 to 74%.
Therefore it is our intention to works towards purchasing a second defib and cabinet so that if the one defib is out of service we have a backup. So any fund raising ideas would be gratefully received.
A training session on how to use the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) and resuscitation will be arranged in the village for later on in the year..
There are around 80 registered borrowers of the library who reside in Ascott, which represents 8% of the total registered borrowers in The Wychwoods.
We have been financially supporting the Wychwood library since 2014 when The Library Service had to make drastic cuts. The Library is run by the Oxfordshire’s Library Service and has a paid part time Manager. Ruth, the Manager for many years has now retired and her replacement is Marianne Ferrero who is due to start mid May. The Library is manned by Volunteers under the watchful eye of the Manager and supported by the friends of The Wychwood Library.
The Library is involved with all sorts of activities in addition to the usual loaning of books including, summer reading clubs and challenges for children, coffee mornings, book clubs and even a knitting club! One Project Ruth started before her departure which will hopefully be continued and developed with the arrival of the new Manager is the Home Delivery Service. A service to deliver books to those unable to attend the library themselves. For some the volunteer merely delivers chosen books and for others, the volunteer visits the customer to discuss which books could be selected. This service works well throughout the county. Fairly recent reports state there are 150 volunteers in the county and 600 customers. Ruth’s concern was that this might be a very popular service in the Wychwoods and that volunteer’s might be hard to find. So, if you think this might be something you could help with then please do pop along to the library and offer your services. The Friends of the Wychwood Library are a very committed group of people and besides being involved with organising the volunteers on the rota they raise small amounts of money through running the coffee mornings. They pay for the Wi-Fi which is installed in the Library. This year there will be an upgrade of the Library Management software and computer system. This will give a more modern and efficient system for the staff to use, with more functions. It seems that Libraries are reinventing themselves, listening to its customers and accommodating changes to keep up with our fast developing world.
Cllr Peter Rance
Together with our other Wychwood PCs, Ascott PC continued an annually reviewed modest grant to the volunteer operated Villager service, calculated upon the number of our own residents who are regular dependent users. Whilst only a minimal service, it has proved a popular and important lifeline. However, from February 2018, the West Oxfordshire Community Transport (WOCT), a Community Benefit Society, has extended their original services to run seven times each weekday linking the Wychwoods with Chipping Norton and Witney, without conflicting with Villager. In response to their appeal, we have given them a one off grant to help them purchase the new bus for this service as this new service would provide much needed additional transport options for our dependent users. Both Village and WOCT 210 timetables are on the Ascott village website. Regrettably, WOTC have concerns that their new service has had disappointing passenger loads across the whole route, and have contacted all affected PCs to seek improved awareness of the service beyond those wholly dependent on buses. We will maintain close liaison with WOTC and fellow Wychwood PCs and give what support we reasonably can to improve custom.
Unlike bus services, this year, especially in the lead up over Christmas to the New Year timetable, and for two months afterwards, has been a dreadful one of cancellations, inadequate length trains and even taxis in lieu of trains. A great deal of the cause has been placed upon the migration to electrification of the GWR Main Line from Paddington, as its very delayed introduction has directly impacted GWR train sets on our line, coupled to slower driver training on the new diesel/electric sets. Our MP, OCC Local Councillor, Cotswold Line Promotion Group (CLPG) and our train dependent residents have all been involved in vigorously complaining to GWR, and pressing for a reliable service on our minimal provision. The GWR MD has personally responded with his apologies, excuses and thankfully the actions placed on his team to mitigate problems.
Slowly service appears to be responding, but there is no guarantee that we are completely out of the woods.An HMG public consultation on extending the GWR Franchise gave opportunity for users, CLPG etc to make representations on the local service, on reliability, fares and its minimal nature. Meanwhile GWR have no intention of improving our scant service. To end on a positive note however, at our request, GWR did provide a stop on a service train to London, and two returning to Worcester, on three Saturdays in early December, which again proved very popular with residents.
PARISH FINANCIAL REPORT
The Council’s total income for the year ended 31st March 2018 was £28,176 (including internal transfers of £2,500); this was considerably down on last year’s total of £107,825. The reduction relates to grants and donations of £67,134 in respect of the playing field drainage scheme and £819 grants and donations towards the cost of rebuilding the village pound wall. There was also a reduction in the annual precept from £31,000 to £25,000 a reduction of 19% in respect of the cost to the local ratepayer.
We reduced the precept based on our forecast expenditure for the year and our aim of eventually reducing the balance on the general fund. We did not achieve this aim in 2017/18 as a number of significant items of planned expenditure were not carried out and have been carried forward to the current year, for example work on the playing field roadway £8,000, parking area matting £3,320, additional drainage work £750, Church path £3,000 and signs in the pound £400.
There has been a further reduction in the precept for 2018/19 of 10% to £22,500.
Expenditure for the year was £25,020 (again including internal transfers to our various funds of £2,500) compared with £94,842 last year. The bulk of the reduction relates to costs of the playing field drainage scheme £69,353. There were also ‘one-off’ costs last year for instance we also spent £2,020 renewing the sport’s pavilion boiler, £748 rebuilding the pound wall and internal transfer were £8,150 compared to £2,500 in the current year. Against these reductions we have additional expenditure in the current year of £1,648 replacing our gang mower, improving the notice boards £480, renovating the martyrs’ benches on the village green £860 and we made a grant of £300 to the angling club towards the cost of otter fencing. Other costs remain similar to last year.
Overall the Parish had a surplus of income over expenditure of £3,156, bringing our total reserves up to £57,225 of which £55,519 is held as bank deposits, an increase of £5,215 over last year. Although, as explained earlier, we had budgeted to run at a deficit for the year, but have carried forward some of 2017/18 planned expenditure to the current year.
Our parish reserves at 31st March 2018 are made up as follows; snow clearance funds £4,087, railway station planting fund £617, playground maintenance fund £2,169, tree maintenance fund £1,000,and the playing field drainage maintenance fund £1,040. This leaves the Parish general funds with a balance of £48,312. The council considers that our current level of funding is sufficient for the future needs and in setting our budget for 2018/19 decided to reduce the precept from £25,000 to £22,500. If all of our budgeted projects and costs occur in 2018/19 we will see a reduction in our overall reserves and bank balances by up to £20,000 the end of the current financial year which ends on 31st March 2019.
COUNTY COUNCILLOR LIZ LEFFMAN
A short verbal report was presented to the meeting by CCllr Leffman.
DISTRICT COUNCILLOR TOM SIMCOX
No Report received.
Chipping Norton Police
No report received.
Cold Stone Angling
Pete Moss reported that; once again the club has had a satisfactory season regarding fishing and financial. We undertook the task of fixing the otter fencing around the whole perimeter of the lake and this is now completed. The river received a further stocking of fish this season from the environment agency which was much appreciated. Our fund raising evening was the most successful yet, raising over £2000 on the evening. Membership for seniors and senior citizens remains on par with previous seasons, but glad to say we have had an increase in juniors which is very encouraging. With this in view we are doing a teach in at the lake for juniors in July.
Ascott Pre-school has had a busy year with high numbers of new children and currently 45 children on roll. We continue to have a strong management committee run by parents who help to ensure the smooth running of the Pre-school.
The government has introduced a new 30 hour funding for children whose parents both work. Unlike the usual 15 hour funding which is for all children the new funding is means tested. Many families have been eligible and the take up has been higher than we expected. We have extended our opening hours to accommodate this and increased our staffing levels. We continue to work in partnership with Leafield Pre-school, sharing staff when needed.
The children have experienced a wide range of activities during the year including trips out in the community, local farms, village shop, the allotments and walks down the lane. In the autumn term, having watched an interesting programme on Channel 4 we began a link with the Day Centre in Shipton and have been visiting there with small groups of children. We take resources such as playdough, lego and books with us and the children and people at the day centre have enjoyed these visits very much.
There is always a lot of chat and laughter. Forest School continues to run every week though the year and we have visited a variety of different venues as well as our own approved site in Bruern Woods, kindly allowed by the Astor family who are the landowners.
We continue to run our other extra clubs – Little Dancers and cooking. Children cook many different savoury and sweet dishes. We encourage discussion around healthy eating and examine many types of vegetables and fruit. They learn how to use peelers, graters and knives under close supervision.
We have had the usual fundraising events during the last year including our very successful annual Sports Day and BQ at the Playing Field.
A brief verbal report was given by Simon Gidman.
Parochial Church Council
No Report received.
The team of the Ascott Grapevine would like to thank all our contributors, -advertisers and all those who have supported us through this past year. We would not be able to produce the magazine without you and we always welcome any new articles etc. so please keep them coming.
We are especially thankful for the donations we have received as we rely entirely on these to be able to produce the magazine and to deliver it free of charge around the village, enabling us to keep the villagers informed of events and happenings as well as including articles etc. which we hope are of interest generally.
Leafield C of E School
No report received.
The Village Shop
We have the AGM of our shareholders on 13 June in the Swan and I hope to begin serious discussions at that time, inviting comment from those most concerned with our future.
I want to invite comment, on a personal basis, from all our volunteers as well. If you have a point to make, I am open to any suggestions regarding shop services, stock, opening hours and the way we provide this vital facility to the village.
Today, though the shadow of the development plans hangs darkly over us, several things have changed already, concerning the future survival of the Village Shop and I want to address these other issues now.
- The number of people who have walked into the shop so far, this year is 25% fewer than in 2012.
- The Shop’s gross annual income has fallen by 20% since 2006.
- The margin for staying in the black on sales against costs (ignoring sudden and essential costs) is now less than 2%.
- Our cash reserves have fallen by 10% in the last year because of the cost of maintenance (largely for major items, and see para 3 above, bought over 10 years ago) and the replacement of essential equipment.
- Our volunteers are wonderful, caring, people who all want to provide a service and an essential facility to the Village. But there are too few of us to keep the seven day a week service going indefinitely.
- Only about 25% of villagers support the Shop – yet many dash to use us on the few occasions there is a snow-drift.
The main threat seems to be the enormous increase in on-line shopping but we are too small to provide a delivery service. Any ideas?
Please, if you want the Shop to continue, help us by turning up and using the shop. It needs your support, mainly as a customer – £3.00 per week from each house would keep us viable – and exceptionally as a volunteer.
The Village Charity
No report received.
The Wychwood Day Centre
The Day Centre is now in its twenty first year since incorporation and continues to provide much needed day care for the elderly of the area, where they can enjoy a chance to socialise, friendship of others, a varied range of activities and a hot home-made meal in happy and secure surroundings. It provides the opportunity for up to twenty two people from the Wychwoods to meet once a week in Beaconsfield Hall, Shipton and has been run for many years by our Ascott based coordinator, Katherine Gidman. Its operation continues to be entirely dependent on the support of a team of around 50 helpers, cooks and drivers who volunteer their time to help it run smoothly.
In addition, for the past five years a monthly meeting has been arranged of a larger group called Good Companions which meets in Milton Parish Hall and provides an afternoon of entertainment, including tea for around forty people, including carers.
Since late 2015, we have had the threat hanging over us of Oxfordshire County Council withdrawing its funding. As it represents half our costs and it cannot be replaced that easily, the Trustees have been working hard to find a solution.
Oxfordshire CC originally indicated we were likely to lose our contract in March 2016. Our contract was eventually terminated by them last August, so we have had funding for 17 months longer than originally planned.
Following on, we have been granted some one-off transition funds for the balance of last year and we have just been awarded a further sum, about half the old level, for this coming year. We also have to thank so many people and organisations locally for recognising the value of our service with generous donations. Together with the additional County Council monies it has allowed us to build up our reserves to give us time to put a plan in place.
The Council are not committed to providing any further monies, so we must assume that from next year it will cease completely.
To ensure the way ahead, the Board has now approved a 5 year Financial Business Plan which over the period replaces the lost Council grant and achieves sustainability without it. Currently the actions planned are forecast to be phased in over the period. It indicates that we are likely to have a deficit once the grant has ceased which eats into our reserves, before turning to a surplus in the later years. It obviously includes some risk, particularly generating the required level of grants and donations, so we will be continuing to seek them from as many sources as possible. The Board of Directors would again like to thank Ascott Parish Council for being so supportive of the Day Centre over the last year with an annual grant of £500 and the joint award of the Carols around the Tree collection. The year ahead will be a challenging one for the Day Centre, particularly maintaining its pool of volunteers to ensure its effective operation and is considered a greater near term risk to its survival. New offers of help to drive, cook or assist during the day would be much appreciated from Ascott residents.
Ascott Football Club
Mike Ody reported that the club had had its ups and downs this season with regards to the pitches. He reported that the club had 3 teams ranging from Division 1 and Division 4. The club also trained the Ascott Rangers and the ages varied from 16 to 18 years. He reported that the Youth Policy was going well and that training continued on a Wednesday night and that the Pitch is now brilliant.
With the Playing Field project complete and the return of Ascott FC and Windrush Valley School as regular users we plan this year to re-build a full committee to run the Sports Club independently from the Parish Council. Laurence Mellor has stepped down from being Chairman and we thank him for all the time and effort that he has put in since Roger Shepherd and John Cull retired and handed over the reins to the Parish Council. Philippa Carter is currently Interim Chairman as well as remaining Secretary and Bookings Secretary. Nick Carter has agreed to take over as Treasurer. Mary Barnes continues to clean the Pavilion and keep a watchful eye out for any problems.
Shane Barnes is our dedicated groundsman and Simon Gidman has agreed to join the team. From the very beginning of the Drainage Project, Simon has been supporting us with his thoughtful and good humoured approach to all the challenges we have had regarding the Drainage project. He will be able to advise us on how to maintain the standard but in a practical and cost effective way which suits the size of our budget. There will always be a representative of Ascott FC and a Parish Councillor so that the link is maintained (as is the case with the Village Charity). We hope very much that residents from the High St will join the team as they are so well placed to keep an eye on the area. Most meetings are informally arranged to discuss specific issues with certain members of the team. There is normally just 1 formal meeting, which is the AGM in June.
Cllr Carter thanked everybody for attending and for their continued support. The meeting was then declared closed.
Cllr Philippa Carter
29 April 2019