This is a time when banks are universally reviled, and bankers despised, so it was that one of the more pleasurable duties arising from the last meeting was the signing of an agreement, brokered by the Financial Ombudsman Service, whereby Barclays bank will pay us an additional £2371.98 (plus interest) as recompense for their failure to enforce the mandate that was supposed to govern the operation of our bank account with them. It was this failure, presumably repeated for all the other Parish Councils, that enabled the previous Clerk to steal money from this council and her various other employers. This payment, together with a previous payment from the bank and the £10,000 repaid by Mrs Crowe, leaves the Council in a strong financial position and only a few thousand out of pocket taking the figure put forward by the Police at the trial. Unfortunately the previous government, in its mania for cutting regulations (a mania that seems to be shared by the present lot), seriously undermined the audit regime for Parish Councils which, coupled with banks not doing their job properly, has resulted in a number of cases of theft or embezzlement by clerks who, finding the treasure chest wide open, have been unable to resist dipping their fingers in. Lessons have been learned, by councils if not by government.
I have been asked to remind those Allotment holders who have not yet paid that their rent is now due. Please dig deep – in your pocket – and find the necessary as soon as possible please. It seems there are a few plots vacant so anyone who fancies a bit of back-breaking labour – oops, sorry – gentle horticultural relaxation should contact Di Dann (01328 878196). One other thing: while the Council was obtaining permission and making arrangements for a tree surgeon to raise the crown of a certain sycamore tree on the Allotments, some cowboy jumped in and unofficially had a go. Unfortunately he made a right pig’s ear of it. Damaging mature trees, even sycamores, in a conservation area is an offense.
At which point we segue neatly into the Police report provided by a virtual Police-person (they sent an email). Two crimes had been reported, one case of criminal damage and one of theft, both involving the church. It used to be said of the old lags that they had a code of honour under which those who steal from charity boxes are considered the lowest of the low and were to be shunned by all decent criminals. So, on a par with phone-hacking tabloid journalists then? The Police added that they would be paying particular attention in the coming weeks to cars parked too close to the junction of High Street and New Road, so if you’re one of the people who habitually park there, be warned.
Word came to us from on high (the trickle-down effect it’s called) that there would be major revisions to the refuse collection schedule starting on the 3 October. So far we’ve heard no more about it but presumably something will leak out before the end of September. The intention is to improve the ‘efficiency’ of the collections which could mean they do it once a month instead of alternate weeks. How efficient would that be? Whatever, they have apparently taken on extra staff to handle calls to the special ‘helpline’ phone number 0300 123 1163 so they are clearly expecting a period of chaos – they didn’t say whether the staff were on short or long term contracts – and a lot of angry householders. Could it be they bid too low for the contract? Could it be the promised savings are proving elusive? We’ll be the last to know, of that we can be certain. By the way, that phone number is also the one to use when you spot the bottle bank is overflowing, preferably before Brian Singleton rolls up with his camera…
Despite representations from your Council through our County Councillor the road from Cley to Holt via Swan Lodge remains Priority 3 when it comes to winter gritting. That means it gets done only when all the P1 and P2 roads are clear. During the snows of last winter it was done, but only after a week or so and just in time for the thaw. We tried. The way the government is threatening to squeeze the guts out of local government budgets we’ll probably be lucky to get any of the P2 routes gritted if the snow comes again.
The cuts are probably behind the failure of the government to properly reimburse the County for the cost of pensioner bus passes. This is a particular concern here given that our wonderful, and extremely popular, CoastHopper service is usually populated almost entirely by card-carrying geriatrics like me. Unless the government coughs up, which it is morally if not legally obliged to do, we will have to kiss goodbye to many of our rural bus services and say hello to a massive increase in traffic from those of us still able to afford to run a car. Our MP, fresh from voting through the privatisation of the NHS (Boo! Hiss!), has taken up this issue on our behalf with the relevant Minister. Don’t hold your breath.