The Annual Parish Meeting was held on Wednesday 20 March in Old Buckenham Village Hall.
The following notes are taken from the minutes of this meeting and, as the minutes are a few thousand words long, the report will be published in two or three parts during this week.
The meeting was chaired by Tim Ing, Chairman of Old Buckenham Parish Council, and James Watling, Parish Clerk, who took the minutes.
Also present were Adrian Joel in his role as Breckland District Councillor, David Spencer, Deputy Planning Manager at Breckland District Council, and 24 members of the public including other members of the parish council.
The minutes of the Annual Parish meeting in March 2012 were signed as a true and accurate record of the meeting and there were no matters arising from the minutes.
Chairman’s Annual Report. Tim Ing said that the year really got going in June with the Queen’s Jubilee party and it will live long into the memory of everyone who attended the events. All those who spent many hours of their own time planning and organising deserve a very big pat on the back. It was the best ever village gathering over a number of days that he can remember with some 400 people attending the street party. The size of the village has remained fairly constant in recent years and the Localism Act allows for the planning of growth should the village wish it. More on this subject would be heard from David Spencer of Breckland District Planning department later in the meeting. A start will soon be made on the social housing development at St Andrews Close and this will allow parishioners and dependants first refusal. Two more grit bins have been installed (opposite Oaklands and by Prince Harry’s wood) to allow parishioners to grit the footpaths. Year on year Highways are asked to grit the Hargham Road but to no avail. Parking around the schools remains a problem and it is intended to meet with the schools again to try to find a solution. A group of our parishioners have successfully formed a Speedwatch team and it has produced real dividends by slowing down speeding motorists, particularly at school times. Council members had attended the Shrublands public inquiry to put the Parish Council’s points of view forward and to give evidence to the inspector. It is expected that the outcome will be known within two months. The draft minutes of the parish council meetings are now going on the notice board outside the village shop, clearly marked as DRAFT (in red), as soon as is practical after the meeting.
Parish Clerk’s report. The Precept meeting for the financial year 2013/14 was held in October 2012 and the precept was set at £16,342 this is an increase of £1,817 on the previous year. The Parish Council awarded grants to local organisation of £2,425. It is hoped that forward budget proposals for financial years 2014/15 will be at the current level of expenditure for recommendation by the Parish Council. There will be changes to how Breckland Council will fund future precepts due to changes made by National Government which will result in a smaller tax base for precept funding. This may impact on future precept setting for parish councillors. The Parish Council are fully aware of the harsh economic times for a large part of the villagers who are on fixed incomes. The Parish Council will therefore ensure strict financial and monetary controls are affected at all times and that all expenditure is within budgetary limits. During the year ending 31st March 2013 the Parish Council received grants totalling £4,001for the Play Area and the Recreation Area. In addition Breckland also contributed approximately £1,434 towards the Community Car Scheme. Expenditure for the year so far totals approximately £18,027, net of VAT, from a total income of £20,815. All figures are subject to audit as the financial year end has not yet arrived. The Parish Clerk would like to thank the parish councillors for their hard work and commitment to their responsibilities as parish councillors and for the support they have given over the past year.
District Councillor’s report. The Chief Executive Officer retired earlier during the year and has been replaced by a shared chief executive. Therefore Breckland are only paying a third of his salary. Cuts in funding from central government means Breckland District Council needs to increase income streams or make more savings elsewhere. Last year a deficit of £3.6 million was announced by Breckland this has been reduced to £2.6 million as a result of efficiency savings and better use of assets. During 2012 public consultations were carried out and the majority of residents were opposed to introducing parking charges in places like Attleborough. A majority of residents said they would be happy with an increase in council tax in line with inflation or the maximum the government would allow. Breckland will be increasing council tax for the first time in five years. The District Council are also hoping to introduce a ‘switch and save’ energy scheme for residents which should enable them to make savings on their energy bills. Also, a Breckland-wide Local Plan is being constructed to replace the old LDF plan. Old Buckenham will soon be getting some much needed social housing. The Boundary Commission is undertaking a review of boundaries in Breckland with the aim of providing a fairer system of representation for residents.
(to be continued)