Monday, August 15, 2005

Chair in absentia

With a planning meeting this week, The Councillor has been doing his duty and reviewing the documents. Whilst doing this he realised the date of the meeting clashed with his wedding anniversary... and so has had to make his apologies and get the Vice-chairman to stand-in for him. Whilst he takes his civic duty seriously... he's sure you can fill in the blanks.

Sauce for the Goose

It has come to The Councillor's attention that the architect who managed to drive through the palns against all local wishes used to work on the District Council. The Councillor sniffs the air and wonders if he can smell the latest catch.

He goes on to observe that the District Councillor who, so forcefully, ensured said application was passed... is objecting to another development in a neighbouring Parish on the same grounds we used, and has advised the local Parishes to watch out for such developments. Mmmm, thinks The Councillor, "I wonder where he lives?"

Having the Chair

It would apear that during The Councillor's absence from The Chamber in July (due to pressure of work) he was unanimously elected Chairman of the Planning Committee. This has come as a bit of a suprise as he has only just found out.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Madam Chairman

Madam Chairman is upset by the outcome of the district development committee meeting. Too upset to talk about it at present. She has, however, dropped in a copy of the speech she gave prior to the meeting. Neighbours also spoke up. Comments were received that this was the best presented case thay had seen.

Depite these efforts, the vote went against democracy local opinion 6-2. This is a thrashing by any measure - it's not even as if it went to penalties!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Triumph of Local Democracy - Not!

Well checking the Distrct Authority's Development Control Site on the web, The Coucillor sees that permission has been granted for the dwelling discussed in previous posts. It is interesting. The Councillor must ask the Clerk to check back how many of the Parish Council's rejections have actually been overturned... and consequently whether they have any value whatsoever.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Community Spirit

The Councillor has witnessed a serious outbreak of community spirit.

The furore over the planning story has begun to foment revolt. Neighbours are actually out in the street debating the pros and cons of the expected decision. The Councillor expects that what has actually pushed things over the edge is that the neighbour requesting the planning permission is actually moving away from the area. He will not have to live with the outcome of the decision and the evident opprobrium of the neighbours.

The Councillor finds this whole thing rather distasteful.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Planning Concerns

The Councillor is concerned. The District Council held a site visit where a set of plans had been submitted to develop a new property in the garden of an existing house. Many letters of objection had been received, the local resident's committee had objected, the Parish Council had objected (though The Councillor had absented himself from that discussion), and the District Councillor had three times rejected it in the past.

The District Council are recommending approving the application. Why?

  • Has the character of the area changed? Previous rejections were based on the damage to the "amenity" of the area. Of course it hasn't.
  • Is the new development unobtrusive? Of course it isn't, and it directly looks across the gardens of 3 or 4 neighbours.

This smacks of inconsistency, at least. But more worrying was the comment from the leader of the group on the site visit, who thought it would be a good idea to develop further into the large gardens. This seems perverse.

So, The Councillor has to ask "What is the point of local democracy, if the views of the local community (who will have to live with this development) are ignored?"

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dispatch Box

The Councillor's Sunday was briefly interrupted by the arrival of a fellow councillor with the "dispatch box". This mountain of papers makes its way around the councillors for the information, education, and edification ensuring that they are all prepared for the next council meeting.
The Councillor hasn't ventured to said pile as yet, so has no idea of its import.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Chairman

The Councillor was phoned at the weekend to ask if he would stand as Chairman. The current Chairman was fulfilling the role under duress, and was unable to attend some of the external meetings. The Councillor expressed his thanks, but declined, feeling that his current work commitments would preclude him from doing a thorough job. He did, however, volunteer to try and coerce / cajole / bully a fellow councillor to accept the role.

The Councillor approached his colleague and won her over to the idea.

At the council mmeting The Councillor nominated said colleague, who was quickly accepted and took over there and then. The Parish's first female leader... then a debate started about what she should be called. All of the (spit!) Politically Correct (spit!) phrases were trotted out... Chair, Madam Chair, Chairwoman and so forth. Believe it or not, however, there has recently been a debate and ruling on this at national level. The correct form of address is, apparently, Madame Chairman. (And people wonder what goes on in the halls of government - you can rest peacefully in your beds knowing that there is national guidance on such matters).

Best of luck to our new Madame Chair. The Councillor thinks she will do a splendid job.

Neighbourhood Watch

This week The Councillor attended a full council meeting. This comprised:

  • A Planning meeting
  • A Finance & General Purpose Meeting
  • and the Parish Council Meeting

The parish meeting was of particular interest. The local coordinator for Neighbourhood Watch came to give the Council his review.
"Crime has been low. In The Enclave there has been but a single burglary, and several incidents of theft from vehicles in the last year. No crime has been reported at all in the last six months. Bayshore Drive has not been as lucky with several burgalries from houses, where doors had been left unsecured."

All of this he recited from memory, whilst delving through a pile of papers and and seraching through his box of bits.
"I'd typed all of this up in order to give to the Clerk"

But he couldn't find the report. The Councillor, soto voce, suggested that it might have been stolen. This caused a degree of mirth... but the chap just continued and bumbled his way through several further items culminating in the display of an illuminated house sign. This caused a degree of interest as houses in The Enclave do not have house numbers, only names - people often find it difficult to find a particular house.
"The sign comes on at dusk and switches off at dawn. Let me show you"

He proceeded to switch off the lights, and close the doors.
Nothing happened.
He then bent double and thrust the sign under the table.
"There, see." he said.

Moving along between each of the councillors he thrust the sign under the table... and they say cabaret is dead.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Planning, or not

Well your Councillor has just returned from a rather bizarre meeting. Avid readers may realise that the Parish Council Planning Committee was scheduled to review plans for a property that is close to your Councillor's home. So your Councillor turned up at the meeting to do his duty.
  • The meeting started with a statement from a member of the public regarding said plans. Having made his statement, said member was thanked and reminded that he could not speak again during the deliberations, but was welcome to stay.
    He left.
  • The Agenda started.
    Previous minutes were agreed.
  • Matters arising from those minutes were agreed (there were none).
  • Then the actual planning application bubbled to the top.

    • Your Councillor, being an upright citizen declared he had a prejudicial interest in the application and excused himself from the meeting.... took himself outside and watched the cars race by.
    • Some ten minutes later he was called back in.

  • The final item on the agenda was addressed... Any other Business. Again there was none.

And that was it. Your Councillor had done his duty, i.e. turned up, and agreed some minutes.
Your Councillor brings to your attention the stress of local government and wonders if he can stand the pace.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Another planning meeting has been scheduled. A pile of papers have been deposited at The Councillor's door.

The Councillor has a conflict of interest here. One of the plans to be submitted is for a new development in the garden of a neighbour. The Councillor feels strongly that this should not be allowed as it breaks the covenant under which the enclave is governed... and sets a precedent for infilling large gardens; however said Councillor will be unable to comment during the meeting because of the evident conflict.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

We had another meeting

Your Councillor has been remiss in giving details, but was away on vacation.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Planning for the Planning Committee

The Council conducts much of its business through its committees. The Planning Committee meets about 10 or 11 times a year. The irony is that planning the Planning Meeting has taken the highly-respected Parish Clerk (HRPC) nearly 10 days of phone calls and emails. Why? Well two councillors are away, and that means ALL the others must be present to be quorate. In this case The Councillor has made things difficult by having a business meeting at the other end of the country on the day of the meeting, and must endeavour to get back in time.

Over the weekend a fellow councillor and the HRPC both turned up with huge packs of reading materials. These included the minutes from District Councils, minutes from the Area Committee, minutes on Biodiversity, planning applications and architecural drawings..., and the plan that the un-elected quango of the Deputy PM have decided is right of the region (with no reference to the region's elected bodies)**.

The Councillor studiously worked through all of the documents, making notes and generally preparing for the upcoming meeting. Then he reads in the newspaper that the Government have actually funded a Helpline to aid Travellers in circumventing planning laws. It would seem that it would make as much sense for the various planning authorities to toss a coin.

** The Councillor with have more to say on this at a later date.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Public

The general public are welcome at meetings of the councils. We are a democracy after all, and we know from Central Governnment that it idoesn't matter who you ignore... so we welcome the public.

Let me tell you about a member of the public who attended the last council meeting. A robust woman of middle years made herself comfortable in the chamber. (Sounds grand doesn't it? It's room round the back, actually, but councils meet in Council Chambers... so it's a chamber). The room was freezing. She sat down with purpose (though gravity would have been having considerable influence) and wrapped her coat tightly about her ample frame.

At the appointed time within the proceedings, the Chair (remember in this new PC world, we do not have a Chairman or Chairwoman, just a Chair**) asked if there were any items that the public wished to add to the evening's agenda. She rose. Her chair groaned with relief. Her voice, at first steady, started on a litany of agenda items.

  • When is Summit Road to be re-surfaced?
    It's nothing to do with the Parish Council - we will raise it with the District/County
  • Theres some potholes in the footpath where it runs along Las Ramblas
    It's grass, of course it is uneven. Get a life, get a torch, choose a different route.
  • Does anyone keep the drain clear along the Spine
    Have you seen evidence that it is blocked? No.
    Is it draining away? Yes. Then it's being kept clear !!!
  • There are potholes where the footpath crosses an old cart track.
    It's an old cart track, of course it has potholes. Get a life. Get a spade and fill them in!

And as the litany progressed, she became more agitated, and started to speak faster, and faster. The slight scent of hysteria permeated the room as she got onto the subject of stinging-nettles and beach huts... but eventually she collapsed back into her seat.

The councillors shared a moment of relief. Nobody actually had to slap her. You could see that would have caused a problem as there would have been an unseemly battle to be given the honour.

**Please try add your own points of ridicule. The insidious scum of Political Correctness deserves all the opprobrium you heap upon it. And more.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

About the Parish - A quick sketch

Let me give you a thumbnail tour of our Parish. (I will, no doubt, provide greater detail at a later date).

The parish nestles by the sea, bordered by a river to one side, farmland on another side, the sea(and Las Ramblas), and an early 20th century housing estate. The parish council is responsible for the upkeep of the major infrastructure of the Parish not already managed by the District, County or Central Government. This leaves us with the heavy responsibility of a flagpole, footpath, and war memorial.

We are a Parish of less than 1000 souls. Most of these souls live in Alchemy Drive, Bayshore Avenue and The Enclave, though there are a few in scattered mansions bordering the farmland, and in Summit Avenue.
We are entirely residential. There are no shops, or pubs, or commercial premises within the Parish. We do, however, make extensive use of services from neighbouring parishes, particularly builders, plumbers, and funeral directors. The latter being the growth industry for the area.
Those who know the area will acknowledge that the Highway Code is considered heretical by the elders of the community, though they have been known to accidentally comply with its protocols. I will return to the subject of driving within the parish, at a later date.

The Parish Council and its sub-committees meet the statutory number of times each year in a hall in the neighbouring parish. (Our parish does not stoop to having a hall, nor a pub, nor a restaurant, nor a church, mosque, synagogue or temple). Over the following months I will tell you more of what goes on during these meetings.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

First Steps

Today saw my first official steps.

You cannot take public office without completing the Register of Members' Interests. This legal artifact makes sure that you have declared your interests so that you can be seen to be fair and un-biased in your dealings with and for the Parish.

Interestingly it deals only with financial interests, and memberships of organisations; not hobbies, football affiliations, favourite wine, or indeed any of the things that matter. It ocurrs to me that being and independent radical would not have to be declared, nor would being an anarchist, or even a terrorist (assuming you were an independent)... as in each case they imply no affiliations to groups. As it happens Councillor is none of these. The rebel in me is under control. For now.

I completed the register, correctly and obediently, and delivered it to the Clerk of the Council.

How did it Start?

Ahh, you may well ask.

I guess it all started several years ago when your correspondant started to think about doing something for the community, and at the time considered volunteering as a magistrate. This had several attractions:

  • I could hang people (e.g. violent offenders, Millwall supporters, BMW drivers... and similarly anti-social groups)
  • I could imprison people (e.g. motorists who push in to a traffic queue, old people who block the aisles in Sainsbury, and people with polyphonic ringtones)
  • I could send people to penal colonies (e.g. people from Essex, Chavs and so forth)
  • I didn't have to wear a silly wig

However, it also had several disadvantages:
  • A great deal of time would be needed to become qualified (and as I have a full-time job, this could prove difficult)
  • There is a clerk of the court who is there to stop you doing the right thing, i.e. hanging, flogging, shipping to penal colonies, imprisoning etc.
    Hey! what can I say, I would be firm but fair!!!

Having dismissed this idea, I wondered what else I could do. The Prime Minister's job was taken, and evidently I was under-qualified for that, being a) honest, b) logical, c) honest, and d) honest. Then a dear freind became a Parish Councillor and that gave me the trigger.

Time passed.

The Invisible White Rabbit dropped a letter through my door (and those of my neighbours.... I wasn't singled out!) explaining that a post had become available on our Parish Council, and asking for candidates. Galvanised by this, I ignored it for a week or two, then put myself forward. It became clear that several others had also volunteered so an interview process was convened. At the subsequent Council meeting I was co-opted... and so the story begins.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Council - in the beginning

So, your correspondant has been co-opted onto the Parish Council. Now there's interesting for you.
In this blog your unamed correspondant will keep you abreast of the machinations of local government in a seaside parish.