Report to the Parish (Assembly) 30 April 2020

We expected this year to be different from usual due to the impending Local Government Reorganisation. In fact it has proved to be very different, but not for that reason, so this report which ordinarily would have been presented to the Annual Parish Assembly is instead being made available on-line and via the notice board.

I'll return to covid-19 and the lockdown later on but going back to the start of the year we were aware that the parish council would have to remain in place for an additional fifth year and in that time we would learn more about the likely impact of Northamptonshire's Local Government Reorganisation on our role and responsibilities. With all local government elections now postponed from 2020 to 2021 our term of office is extended to six years and we are still assessing the likely impact of change. We raised £1500 towards possible associated costs in the year just ended and that is being carried forward untouched to 2020/21.

The parish council began the year with one vacancy and that was carried throughout. In addition Cllr Dalton resigned at the end of the year and we are grateful to her for her contribution over the past few years. Following a campaign to raise awareness it does now look as though we'll be able to fill both those vacancies by co-option for the extra year, bringing us back to full strength.

Some of the things which happened before current events -

The Council met its statutory obligations, meeting as per schedule (recently remotely) and filing its Annual Return and Accounts. No queries were raised by the auditor.

Work has started to improve the village green and the maintenance thereof.

The Good Neighbour Scheme has been established and is now operating to provide support particular to the current lockdown. As restrictions are eased we plan to develop this further with an extended range of services in line with the original proposal.

We (Cllr Willatts) have been working with Kettering Borough Council to improve the lighting in the village, repairing where necessary, updating to LED and in a couple of sites installing new columns to light up dark corners. At the moment the parish council is not responsible for the lighting and all supply and maintenance costs are met by the borough council. That is one area which could well change when the county reorganises so it is in our interests to make sure the equipment is in the best possible condition now.

The multi use games area lighting was refurbished and a token system introduced for those wishing to make use of it. That has not been well used and we need to think further about how to get the best out of our outdoor activity facilities. At the moment ownership and responsibility are shared in different ways with Kettering Borough Council and that is something else which may change with reorganisation. Discussions were started with a local football club about future use and care of the pitch but those are now on hold.

We were very pleased to see The Fox re-opened and re-energised. Its registration as an Asset of Community Value, which can at least delay any move to sell it off for other purposes, expired in February and the parish council had applied to have it re-listed. We still await the response but we have been advised by the borough council, who maintain the register, that its status is unchanged pending their reply. We have no reason to expect it not to be renewed.

We have continued to take the lead in the group of parishes supporting the Welland Wanderer bus service. Numbers had been gradually rising ,with the bus full on some occasions, and we had contributed £700 as our parish share to the next funding stage. Unfortunately this has been a casualty, for now, of the lockdown restrictions meaning that aside from any other arguments it was no longer financially viable with the sort of resources at our disposal. It was agreed that the service would be suspended until it would again be supported and the funds are held untouched in a separate bank account ready for future use. We are grateful to Lawsons of Corby Ltd both for the quality and reliability of the service they provide and for their flexibility in agreeing to freeze the contract.

A new solar powered pump is to be installed at the Church Street allotments to draw water from underground, still using the existing storage tanks and pipes but doing away with the need to pump water from the stream with an internal combustion engine.

Wilbarston has been a regular user of the portable vehicle activated sign drawing motorists' attention to the speed limit. To date this has been loaned and managed by our county councillor but this also has to change. We have agreed to take over responsibility on behalf of the parishes in this area which make use of it. There will be a small charge to them to cover costs.

We had decided to enter the Northamptonshire Village Awards this year but this is another activity which has been at least delayed, and may well be cancelled this time, due to the lockdown restrictions.

The final weeks of the year could not possibly have been predicted but the response in Wilbarston to the 'new way for now' has been magnificent. The timing of the last Chronicle was such that we were able to give out information about services being offered by the shop, the pub and the good neighbour scheme in anticipation of restrictions but since then it is the community which has risen to the challenge. The good neighbour scheme was only lightly used at first and it appears that many of our more vulnerable residents are already supported by family and/or friends. The shop is offering a range of goods and services, support and information and the pub is there as a source of good cooked takeaway food. Some residents are coming together to provide tangible support to the NHS in the form of scrubs and other items and we should not forget those living in the village providing care on the front line and working in other essential services. At the moment plans are being made to bring out a special summer edition of The Chronicle to feature all the good things which are going on and to provide up to date contact details and information.

I usually finish this report by thanking those who have given their time voluntarily during the year to keep making Wilbarston a good place to live. I think this year the thanks have to be to everybody.

If this were the Assembly there would now be the chance to ask questions. Please do so, either via the website or to me at or on 770351.

Nick Richards

Chair, Wilbarston Parish Council

Posted: Fri, 01 May 2020 14:39 by Becky Jones

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