FELPHAM PARISH COUNCIL CHAIRMAN’S REPORT MAY 2018 – APRIL 2019
The annual Parish Council meeting took place on Tuesday 1st May 2018 and I was honoured to be nominated and re-elected as Chair for the year 2018/19. Since then I have been fully committed to the role and responsibilities that come with the position.
Gloria Moss was re-elected as Vice Chair so my thanks to her for her support over the past year.
I would like to register my thanks for the continued support given to me by Richard, the Clerk to the Council, and his assistant Heather who have listened to, guided and supported me through the year. My thanks also to all councillors who continue to give their time and effort in trying to ensure Felpham remains the place we want it to be.
Lastly my thanks to Doug for his management of the Community Hall. It continues to go from strength to strength and provides a valuable asset to our community.
The past year has seen a number of councillors leave us and others join our ranks. It is clear that, nationally, filling councillor positions is becoming harder so when someone does put themselves forward we must offer them the support and guidance needed to allow them to quickly fit in to the role. A number of training sessions have been carried out, using SSALC as a resource to provide this training. However, there is still room for our more experienced councillors to share their experiences and knowledge as our newer colleagues find their feet.
I would ask that as we move into the next 4-year cycle following the May 19 elections that re-elected councillors, no matter how long they have served all recognise this and offer their support and guidance freely and constructively whenever it is sought.
The past year has been a busy one, the council dealing with a number of challenges and opportunities, some of which are still ongoing. A selection of the more significant ones are:
Working with Operation Watershed in trying to obtain a grant for works to the Binsted Ponds area.
Obtaining a conclusion to the issues with BT over the internet and phone access.
Resolution of the issues associated with the deeds to the Community Hall.
Resolution of the snagging works associated with the Community Hall.
Reviewing and implementing a restructuring proposal for the council and its committees.
Identifying potential improvements to the Community Hall.
Developing a 2019/20 “Project Hit List” identifying a range of improvements that would benefit the village.
Working to make the 2019 Fun on the Prom a successful event.
Filling vacant councillor positions.
Continuing to evolve the resilience group.
Updating and introducing a revised Neighbourhood Plan and a council design guide.
Producing a budget for the year 2019/20 that is mindful of the current financial climate but also ensures Felpham benefits from a series of projects designed to enhance the village. Looking at a few of these in greater detail:
This area has become overgrown and access, unless from a resident’s property, was not initially possible. The ponds themselves form part of a historical flood control measure for the area and come under Riparian Ownership laws. Over the past few years parts of the area, through general neglect and a build-up of silt, have potentially reduced the ability of these ponds to act as part of the natural flood defence of this area.
The Parish Council, in conjunction with WSCC and ADC, reviewed the problems. Operation Watershed, via a possible grant application, may potentially provide a solution. As part of this, the council approached the neighbours, who either have or may potentially have Riparian responsibilities to seek their support for us to apply for the grant. The works, if undertaken should restore the ponds to an effective flood mitigation measure. This activity is still ongoing at the time of this report.
Fun on the Prom 2018.
Councillor Gloria Moss once again pulled it out of the bag. The event in 2018 was held on Saturday September 1, a little later than usual due to tide times, and was a resounding success. The weather was good and over the whole day several thousand people enjoyed themselves.
A small working group, made up of councillors and members of the public, worked tirelessly in the months leading up to the event to ensure it went smoothly. There is no doubt that the planning and running of this event is getting harder as regulations and other safety requirements are tightened every year. Credit to the organising committee that they continue to resolve all of these issues and plan the 2019 event to be even better. All those involved can be proud of what they have and continue to achieve.
Without Gloria and a few other dedicated people this event would not happen so I urge all councillors to be proud of this event and to take part, especially on the day when we require site wardens.
I submitted a paper in June outlining proposals to change the structure and number of council meetings. All organisations, no matter how small, at some stage must review their performance, structure and effectiveness. These reviews do not set out to demonstrate something is wrong, but focus on parts of the organisation that with the passing of time might perform better with some changes to process or systems.
Research was carried out comparing our meeting structure and schedule with other similar sized parish councils in our area. This research identified that we had on average 30-40% more committees than any other council reviewed, and as a consequence held almost twice as many meetings. The proposals outlined in the paper were subject to discussion at a separate Chairs only meeting in August, with a majority recommending the council accept the proposals with a minor amendment. The proposal was then passed by majority decision at the September main council meeting.
The changes were implemented in January 2019. As agreed at the Chairs meeting this change will be reviewed after 12 months to determine if it has been a success.
It is a measure of the council’s diligence and the clerk’s adherence to fiscal control that the council once again remained within budget for the year. The annual audit also went well recognising this close budgetary control. This strong control has resulted in our reserves increasing above what was considered necessary and it was suggested that we should consider allocating some of our reserves towards a series of schemes or projects that would benefit the community. A wide range of ideas was put forward by councillors and by considering their potential cost and benefit to the community a final list of projects was proposed. The costs for these potential projects are from the council’s reserves and do not form part of the 3% precept increase. As the year progresses so these projects will be gradually worked through and hopefully introduced.
Late 2018 saw the council consider this year’s grants applications. Not everyone is successful and the council has to be mindful that when making any award there is a true value to our community. Agreement was reached and successful applicants duly notified. An awards evening was held on Thursday 25th April 2019 to present the cheques to the successful applicants.
Late 2018 also saw all committees propose a budget for 2019/20. This is always a challenging time as the council tries to balance the need for sensible, justifiable expenditure and allocating funds to projects benefiting the community, whilst also trying to minimise the impact of these on the precept. The final budgets were brought before the January 2019 main council meeting and passed. The parish council precept shows a 3% increase, which is well below the average council increase and continues to show sensible fiscal management. My thanks to all concerned.
The past year has continued to show an increase in the use of the community hall. With two OFSTED registered anchor tenants providing a steady income, supported by growing individual groups, such as dance/keep fit classes, karate, rugby tots and other sport orientated sessions, auctions, and other social meetings it is clear the hall is a real community asset.
The deeds were finally signed and the hall “officially” became ours in January 2019. This also resulted in the transfer of two significant sums of money associated with the hall use and maintenance.
Some of this money was earmarked for two hall improvement schemes; the provision of solar panels and the fitting out of the main hall with ceiling and wall mounted panels to absorb some of the sound generated by hall occupants. These two schemes demonstrate the council’s commitment to the environment and because they come from the funds mentioned above were implemented without cost to the residents of Felpham.
Following the installation of the solar panels, it was heartening to see the savings ramping up on the screen in the foyer. The calculations, which indicated that we would hope to have payback within 6 years, seem to be reasonably accurate which is an indication of the diligent work carried out by councillor Glen Hewlett. His experience and guidance helped inform the council ensuring we chose the right supplier and correct scale of fitment.
At the Main Council meeting on the 5th March 2019 a cheque for £1.00 was handed to councillor Paul English. This cheque, which councillor English received on behalf of Arun District Council officially marked the payment due from Felpham Parish Council to Arun District Council for the ownership of the Community Hall. So ends the long process of the hall finally being handed over fully to us.
Neighbourhood Plan and Design Guide:
Because of changes to the ADC Local Plan the council carried out a review of the above two policies during the latter part of 2018. A small number of minor changes were circulated to all councillors for comment and in December the final plan was approved.
Because of the limited changes guidance was sought regarding the need for public consultation and, if required, to what level this exercise should be undertaken. Advice received indicated that we needed to publicise the proposed changes and the council put forward its ideas to achieve this. This consultation took place in March 2019. The council’s website, social media, local papers, advertising, posters and word of mouth have all been used to raise people’s awareness of the survey. The results of this survey will be reviewed and changes, if necessary will be made.
2019 was the end of the 4-year term of office for councillors, with elections planned for May 2nd. For some of us, me included, who were co-opted within the last 4 years this is a new process.
Being a councillor places a high level of commitment on individuals. Being a voluntary role, the rewards are nothing more than the satisfaction that hopefully, you have in some way helped preserve, protect and represent the parish of Felpham and its residents as best you can.
That through your actions, both individually and collectively, the village continues to benefit from your hard work.
Not everyone will agree with our actions or decisions and indeed at times, it may feel as though we are under scrutiny and sometimes criticism but we all have a common and strong desire to do the best we can for all of the right reasons.
For the 2019 elections 13 of the 14 existing councillors put their names forward for re-election. Councillor Hilary Flynn decided that her commitments as a West Sussex County Councillor meant she could not fulfil both roles and she did not stand as a parish councillor. We wish her well in the future.
Felpham has 16 parish councillor positions, 8 in each ward. On April 4th 2019 it was announced that the only nominations received were the existing 13 councillors, 7 in the west and 6 in the east. As a consequence, there was no requirement for an election and these councillors are all re-elected uncontested. As we move into the next 4-year cycle I sincerely hope the council continues to serve our parish well and that over the coming months we are able to fill our 3 vacancies.
So, another interesting and challenging year. There is much that parish councils do that is rarely talked about. It is likely that many local residents do not fully understand the responsibilities and, in many cases, limitations of their parish council and in 2019 I hope we can help many understand what it is we do, have done and plan to do.
Several councillors left and we wish them well and we welcomed a number of new councillors. Given the challenges already mentioned about attracting people to the role of parish councillor I am pleased to welcome these new councillors on board and I believe they are already proving themselves an asset to the council and a valuable part of the team. Because of the May elections from early 2019 we were prohibited from advertising and filling the vacant councillor positions.
A number of our councillors also represent us at other meetings and I thank those councillors involved for their continued efforts in making sure Felpham’s interests are clearly heard. Our county and district councillors also continue to provide valuable insight into what is happening at higher levels within the county.
We hope to welcome members of the public to our meetings, which are always open and publicised on the parish notice boards and website. It is important to us that we hear and listen to your views and that we can offer advice and information when necessary. Felpham Parish Council exists to represent the interests of Felpham and its residents and that will need engagement, sensible realistic discussion, respect and sharing of ideas and views.
Chairman Felpham Parish Council 29th April 2019