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March 2011 Report

They said they were going to start on the 28 February and they… didn’t. The contractors employed by the Norfolk County Council Highways Department to install the new drainage system on the Fairstead finally arrived eight days later. As I had been running around warning nearby residents not to park on the works site I have eight days worth of egg on my face. Thanks guys.

When the contractors did finally turn up there was of course a vehicle parked slap in the middle of the site. It was moved and they then proceeded to dig a very large hole, deep into the chalk, into which they later inserted what looked for all the world like a pile of plastic milk crates but no doubt cost ten times as much, to form our new soakaway.

At the time of writing they have worked for one week and are scheduled to work two more installing the three gullies that will connect with this soakaway. This should mean that we will have a functioning drainage system by the time these words appear in print. Wow!

We have been campaigning for this work to be done for almost as long as I can remember so it is gratifying to see it being tackled at last – indeed a year earlier than originally scheduled. No doubt much of the credit should go to our County councillor so we can perhaps allow him his ill-disguised glee when he announced the work would cost £21,798. Is that with or without VAT, John?

Our District councillor announced that the council tax for next year had been frozen at 2009-10 levels, made possible by a new waste collection contract and “internal savings”. Presumably that means there will be several new faces in the queue at the Job Centre come signing-on day.

Unfortunately the district council’s share of the tax raised is only a small percentage – eleven percent since you ask – with the bulk of the money being spent by the County and the Police. The council tax doesn’t cover the full cost of the services the County has to finance so it also receives a grant from central government to cover the shortfall. This grant is also used to compensate poorer areas for their smaller tax base, at the expense of wealthier areas.

Thus it is that here in impoverished (but Tory voting) Norfolk our rate support grant is only to be cut by a couple of percent while those bloated plutocrats in the (Labour voting) northern cities are being hammered with 8.9% cuts to their grant-aid. Add in the effects of inflation, currently running at over 4%, and that will really make their eyes water. True Blue Dorset County Council are actually to receive an increase of 2% in their grant so goodness knows what privations those poor people must be suffering; probably down to their last Rolls-Royce. Some see the government’s action as nakedly ideological and vindictive; I couldn’t possibly comment.

The first tentative sign of the cuts to come in our Police force has been reported by our Safer Neighbourhood Team at Wells where two PCSOs have been transferred to the mean streets of King’s Lynn, Norfolk’s answer to Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night, their place being taken by one new PCSO. Next thing you know they’ll redeploy the bicycle.

On the subject of bloated plutocrats, the obscene sums of money thrown at a fistful of senior bankers, traders and other parasites at Barclays Bank recently make the paltry few thousands we are trying to extract from them seem like very small beer indeed. The council was required to set up a mandate with the bank which laid down who were the authorised signatories for cheques etc drawn on the council’s accounts. This mandate also stipulated that there must be two authorised signatures on all cheques, this being a legal requirement.

It now transpires that the bank allegedly allowed a number of cheques to be cashed with just one signature as it was the bank’s policy not to check payments under a certain, unspecified but obviously quite high, limit even though this was in breach of the terms of the mandate. They paid us back the money they erroneously paid out of our account last year but are refusing to pay anything for previous years. We are taking them to the Financial Services Ombudsman so watch this space. But don’t hold your breath: banks seem to make up their own rules.

The contract for the new Parish Council website has been signed and now there is just the small matter of coming up with the content – words and images – for our webmaster to put it all together. The primary purpose of the site is as a contact point for parishioners and visitors wanting information about what is happening in Cley – an interactive version of the parish noticeboard – plus background material. Better yet, they can tell us what’s going on…

The new timetable for the mobile library has been published. Actual times are much the same as usual – 3.05pm at the Fairstead and half an hour later at Chalk Pit/Newgate Green – but the frequency has been reduced to every four weeks, presumably for the benefit of slow readers. The dates are all available on the County council website but I’ll repeat them here for the benefit of those not online, otherwise known as ‘people with a life’. The dates for the rest of this year are Tuesdays 29 March, 26 April, 24 May, 21 June, 19 July, 16 August, 13 September, 11 October, 8 November and 6 December.

Just a quick reminder to all those proposing to stand for election this May: your completed nomination papers have to be handed in at the NNDC offices no later than noon on Monday 4 April. Thirty one hours later, at 7pm on Tuesday 5 April will be the next, and indeed last, meeting of this Parish council. Kleenex will be provided.

Richard Kelham

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