Hothfield Parish Council

...in the rustic heart of Kent


2015 ANNUAL PARISH COUNCIL
MEETING MINUTES

Minutes of the Annual Parish Meeting, held in the Village Hall on

Friday, 17 April 2015, at 7.00 pm

The Chairman opened the meeting and welcomed everyone.  There were 9 Members of the Public present, 4 Parish Councillors, County Councillor, Mr C Simkins,  Borough Councillor, Mr D Robey and  Mrs J Batt, Parish Clerk

 

1.   APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE:

An Apology for Absence was received from Parish Councillors, Mr D Parker.

 

2.   TO APPROVE THE MINUTES OF THE LAST PARISH MEETING

      These were unanimously approved and signed by Mr Krause.

 

      Proposed  Mr Simkins   Seconded  Mr Patten

 

3.     REPORT FROM COUNTY COUNCILLOR, MR C SIMKINS

The pressure on local Government finances remains acute as a result of the continuing decline in financial support from Central Government which is expected to last until 2019.  Over the last five years KCC has delivered savings of around £350M with the majority of these savings being delivered through a sustained focus on service efficiency and good business practice whilst maintaining front line services. KCC welcomed the positive response to the budget consultation with over 2700 residents taking the time to express their views on the priorities the Council should select for the future. It is encouraging to note that the public has recognised the extent of the budgetary challenge facing KCC with the majority of residents supporting a small increase in Council tax. However, even with this, the Council will need to find around £90m of savings to balance the books in the coming year.

 

Going forward it is going to be even harder to make savings which is why the process of transformation is gathering pace. This encompasses all areas of front line services as well as a reorganization of the back office. The main emphasis is on the gradual move to a Commissioning authority which will involve the outsourcing of a number of activities to private suppliers in an attempt to reduce costs and raise efficiency. This in itself is a complicated task and there are risks involved in this approach, not least the selection of the provider. However it is likely that the structure of KCC five years on will be quite different.

 

There have been several important consultations over the past year, probably the most controversial of which involved Community Wardens where a significant reduction in numbers had been planned. I am glad to say that following the voicing of considerable public concern the plan was amended to ensure that cover is being maintained at a similar level although some administrative changes have been made. This is a demonstration of how ‘people power’ works and I would encourage you all to respond to consultations where you feel strongly about local issues.

 

Turning to street lighting, following a consultation in 2013 in the spring of last year KCC switched off around 100 street lights on a trial basis. Additionally around 60,000 street lights were converted to night operation. This provoked a high degree of concern particularly in urban areas although there is no evidence that crime has risen as a result of the switch off. These changes have reduced annual energy costs by about £1m and carbon emissions by 5000 tons. A similar programme has already been adopted by a number of other Shire councils. Looking ahead KCC is pursuing funding to convert and upgrade all its street lights to LED equipment. As well as reducing costs this will enable lighting to be restored to all-night operation. KCC is in the process of developing the scheme and conversion works will begin in late 2015/early 2016.

 

Children’s services is an area which faces a number of challenges and is due an Ofsted inspection in the near future. The Council is striving hard to reduce the number of children in care and to keep children safe in Kent.  One of the challenges relates to the increasing number of young asylum seekers particularly over the spring and summer months as a result of Kent’s position as the principal gateway into the United Kingdom This raises practical and financial problems, not the least of which involves negotiating with central Government the degree to which Kent is entitled to financial support in tackling what is a national problem.

 

No report would be complete without reference to Highways where understandably a high level of concern exists over the state of Kent’s roads particularly in rural areas.  KCC has an annual programme of maintenance and improvement and is attempting to find headroom in the budget to invest in additional road maintenance.  It is currently delivering a spring ‘pothole blitz’ and I would encourage all of you to report potholes on the automatic service.

 

Please continue to voice concerns through your Parish Council or to me directly.

 

Mr Rogers asked what the current position is regarding the Youth Project and was told that the Youth Workers visit Hothfield a couple of times a week, although they do not use the hall because of damage done on a previous occasion.  The young people have been told that they will not be allowed back into the hall until their behaviour improves.  The current project is being funded by KCC and ABC.

 

Mr Krause asked about the Community Warden scheme as although the response to the recent questionnaire was overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the wardens, there was a query as to the size of the reduction in numbers.  Mr Simkins said the numbers had been reduced by about 20%. 

 

Mr Patten thanked Mr Simkins for all the work he did to ensure that Hothfield was able to keep Dave Beckley as its warden.

       

4.     REPORT FROM BOROUGH COUNCILLOR, MR D ROBEY

Councillor Robey was in attendance and gave his report which can be found in the April edition of the Hothfield News.

In addition to items mentioned in the Hothfield News, Councillor Robey told those present that he recently attended a meeting to discuss the possibility of ABC purchasing the Park Mall Shopping Centre with a view to improving the facilities offered in the town centre. The lorry parking in the areas surrounding Ashford has improved due to an impromptu lorry park being set up at the rear of the Matalan Store. The government needs to work with all councils along the M20 and M2 Corridor to find a solution to this problem.

 

There were no questions for Councillor Robey.

 

Councillor Simkins wished Councillor Robey well for the future as he moves back to Hampshire.

 

Councillor Krause also thanked Councillor Robey for all his help and support over the last 4 years.

 

5.   ANY OTHER MATTER RAISED BY AN ELECTOR THAT IS OF INTEREST OR CONCERN TO THE PARISH

A resident asked what the position was regarding Plan-it-Ashford.  Mr Robey said that he would find out how far the planning department has got towards the next stage of consultations.

 

A complaint was raised regarding parishioners who allow their dogs to foul the pavements around the village and Mr Robey said he would try to arrange for extra dog bins to be installed prior to the election.

 

A Craft Fair is being held in the Village Hall on 19 April and the Village Fete in aid of the Air ambulance is due to be held on 12 July.

 

Parishioners reiterated that Hothfield is a lovely place to live.

 

There being no further business the meeting closed at 8.00 pm.

 

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  07.10.2016 ~ Updated
 2015 Hothfield Parish Council