PARISH COUNCIL MEETING
Held in Village Hall on Thursday 22 March 2012 at 19.30.
- Chairman of NPA (New Forest) addresses Council
- Bunting to celebrate Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
- Controversial end to clerk’s tenure.
Present:- Cllr C Gates (Chair), Eric Woodcock (Clerk), Cllr Gulliver, Cllr Dance, Cllr Tarling, Cllr Langford, Cllr Cripps, Cllr Rickman (from 19.45) Apologies; Ken Thornber Leader of County Council, Ted Fleat on holiday. Also in attendance : Julian Johnson Chair NFNPA, Lymington Times (from 19.45), Sway News, John Warden, Ted Watts plus 12 members of the public.
An eventful meeting held in the overcrowded small classroom indeed one member of the public had to sit on a tiny tots chair.
- New Clerk Selection. The Chair moved that this complete subject should be discussed in private at the end of the meeting. Cllr Tarling and Cllr Cripps were unhappy that there had been no transparency or prior discussion (about the process involved) and that interviews had taken place and a number of Councillors had been excluded from any part in the assessment/selection and were seemingly being presented with a fait accompli). This was undemocratic and did not follow established legal and local government guidelines. Cllr Gates said that there was nothing sinister in excluding Cllr Tarling, Cripps, Langford, Dance but she felt she had to get on with urgent selection and appointment as it was Mr Woodcock’s last meeting that night and she wanted to save time. Cllr Cripps pointed out that he and Cllr Tarling had long careers in Human Resources so surely their input would have helped? Why could not all Councillors have been involved (why leave out just four, Cllr Fleat had been involved in two ‘interviews’ apparently) and why set up an un-constituted sub-committee which had not been discussed or agreed? Cllr Cripps had asked what process would be adopted as long ago as Jan 26. The reply was that it would be fully discussed at the Parish Council meeting on March 22 after the closing date for applications. Mr Woodcock in a heated and unpleasant exchange (on his part) said that nothing illegal had taken place in his view. Some Councillors may not have liked what happened but it was not illegal. Cllr Gates also added that Sway Parish Council was not a million pound organisation and she was just getting on with things. Cllr Tarling and Cllr Cripps supported by Cllr Dance re-iterated that there are clearly laid down local government and legal procedures over appointments which had not been followed and the process had been taken over by a self-selected group including an unelected person authorised by Cllr Gates. Cllr Tarling asked if interviews had actually taken place – “Compliant applicants have been spoken to” was the reply from Cllr Gates. Discussion became more heated and the Chair asked that any further debate be left to the end of the meeting and held in private between all Councillors including Cllr Rickman who arrived at this point. (Cllr Gulliver left the main meeting at 21.20 so was not involved).
- Chair of NPA (New Forest). Julian Johnson brought some calm to proceedings by introducing himself and explained that he had been Chair for one and a half years. The New Forest NPA was settling down after a rocky start. He had a good new management team who wished to work with the population and local Councils, all of which he was visiting. He outlined a number of projects, one of which was the New Forest in World War II (it played a huge part) which had received Lottery Funding of half a million to tell the interesting story. In fact Mr Johnson recalled that he was actually in Sway when war was declared – just a few hundred yards from the village hall so he felt he was coming home… He was thanked for his visit.
- Roads and Hedges. A fervent plea from Cllr Gulliver. Will landowners please cut back hedges and dig ditches where they affect the public.
- New Bus Shelter. “A rough drawing” was handed around among Councillors, which was liked. It was traditional in feel but Cllr Tarling believed there should be windows or at least an opening on each side for security and visual needs. The latter was agreed to avoid glass breakage. One quote had been received within Cllr Thornber’s budget a further quote was awaited. Mr Woodcock also asked if planning would be required?
5.Planning. A very long discussion took place over some seven applications outlined by Cllr Gulliver. Interested parties made up part of the public ‘gallery’ and they were invited to add further details to their applications – all very democratic and welcomed by Cllr Cripps. The applications ranged from dog training to stud farm, via removal of agricultural ties and UPVC windows. Most were referred to NPA with recommendation from the Parish Council where appropriate. There were three tree applications too.
- Village Design Statement. Ted Watts said he had no full interim report to offer at present but hoped to have one for the April PC. He said the NPA staff were offering superb support and that five steering groups were out gathering information in the village which will help create a village questionnaire.
These groups were led by Ted Fleat (History), David West (Economic Viability), Tracey Law (Amenities), Alan Cracknell (Transport), Stephen Tarling (Land Use). Mr Watts also said a 16 year old female had joined the team so a wide age range of 16 – 72 had been covered. Cllr Gates was impressed with St Luke’s Church project and wished to send a letter of congratulation on official council paper congratulating the children on their suggestions which would be taken into consideration. This was agreed. A grant of £600 was confirmed and Mr Woodcock handed Ted Watts a cheque.
- Station Adoption. Cllr Cripps confirmed some new hanging baskets had been procured at a good rate.
- Playscheme. Cllr Gates confirmed 6 – 17 Aug. 2 sessions 09.00 – 15.00 (Ex last Friday) Age range 4 – 11. She had booked the Village Hall. If it is registered with OFSTED lower income families can be helped. Otherwise prices would be £4. Family group £5.50. Villagers (outsiders) £5.
Flyers would go out after Easter. Cllr Rickman favoured the Recreation Roadshow at the village hall.
- Allotments. Request for skip agreed (£185.75 + VAT) for 2 weeks. Cllr Cripps reported vandalism in school holidays seemingly to make a ‘den’ on Memorial Field. Whilst this may be considered by some to be ‘enterprising’, wanton damage to netting and produce was not.
Cllr Gates urged allotment holders to report ‘break-ins’ to the police themselves.
10. Recreation grounds. Cllr Gulliver gave a report on behalf of Cllr Fleat.
Jubilee Field – A wall mounted chart showing revised tariffs and useage was suggested.
It was agreed there would be a 10% rise in rates which had not been increased for over 2 years.
Pitch maintenance – Junior football finishes on April 8. Handover to cricket on 1 May. Refurbishment, seeding etc £7K quote received was agreed. “We need to protect our investment”.
Refreshment signage – not supported. Mole eradication agreed.
Fencing – next phase with Last Post holding last year’s quote was agreed.
11. Memorial Field, Pitmore Lane. Eric Woodcock said again that a work group needs to be established to co-ordinate activity and a shared approach. Members of Junior football had waited patiently (until 21.35) to get to this point. Eventually Cllr Langford agreed to Chair a group led by he and Alex Vaughan and they will report back to the Parish Council on a regular basis.
Alex Vaughan hopes to address the Verderers Court. 200 children could be affected. He hoped a compromise could be worked out with goodwill. . .
12. Increase Number of Councillors. On population figures, Sway could have 11 Councillors (we have eight). There had been interest from one member of the public. Cllr Cripps “Why wouldn’t we wish to share the load?” Cllr Rickman “applauds the theory but where are the applicants?… Many shouted their mouths off over the Forest Heath Hotel but did not step up to the plate.” (Hmm!?). Cllr Tarling believes we should expand the number of Councillors and although elections were some way off “we should look at the whole process. Sway has the smallest representation for our size in Hampshire.” Cllr Gates “Something to think about.” Cllr Rickman “Perhaps time to look at the whole workings of the Parish Council..” Cllr Cripps “Let’s encourage participation in all areas of village activity. Let’s make ourselves approachable and welcoming. We may then get many willing volunteers..” Mr Woodcock reminded all that any separate committees formed will need to conduct their business in public…
16. Diamond Jubilee. Diane Platt-Higgins had written to the clerk to ask for bunting in Station Road and perhaps a commemorative gift for all school children to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (which is not far away June 2). Councillors agreed it was a good idea and the Carnival Committee will be asked to help (they have new bunting).
The public meeting closed at 22.20.
Councillors then went into private closed session to continue the debate on the new clerk position. (Rumour has it that an hour later several weary Councillors were seen wandering away from the Village Hall holding their foreheads…)
Keys found in Mead End Road. John reports finding a set of keys on 19 March; owner please call 682993.