As the dust settles after our Annual Parish Meeting the council looks… just like it did before with Muggins still in the hot-seat and Siemon as Vice Chairman. We had a full house of councillors with Stanley Moore taking up his rightful place at the table – good to have you back, Stan – which I am assured had nothing to do with the bar being open. We also had our District Councillor David Young, PC Jason Pegden and half a dozen parishioners. What we didn’t have was a county councillor but it’s early days yet. The Chairman’s Annual Report was read, silently, and adopted though our accounts were still being audited so will have to be formally adopted at the next meeting.
PC Pegden’s report was succinct: when asked how many crimes had been committed in the parish he replied ”none”. It seems the fleshpots of Wells more than make up for it though. To be realistic the outboard-motor-nicking season hasn’t really started yet – and yes there are some more of those special outboard covers available from the Police for those who want them. Call 101. Our stolen letterbox has been replaced – it seems likely that the old one will not have contributed to the scrap metal industry as they are worth hundreds of pounds to collectors judging by the prices asked on eBay – and very smart the new one looks. Our old parish Liaison Officer has been posted to pastures new, or Sheringham as they’re called these days, and his replacement is PCSO Keith Clarke – to whom we extend a warm welcome in the hope he might turn up occasionally.
There was also a warning about a new scam being perpetuated in the area: a couple of likely lads in a white van knock on a door and inform the householder that their tree was in a dangerous condition so they have lopped a couple of branches off and that’ll be £150 if you please. They usually pick on the elderly of course, but whatever your age I recommend pointing out to them, as forcefully as you can, that doing anything to a tree in a conservation area without the permission of the Tree Officer is a serious offence and you will have to report them to the Police.
Chopping things down without consent seems to be the prerogative of the Environment Agency who have just given all the sea banks a short back and sides – “so they can better judge their condition”. While we are all in favour of preserving our sea defences some councillors are of the firm opinion that keeping the vegetation short will allow the clay banks to dry out too much, not to mention the effect on wildlife. Such discussions are a bit beyond my comprehension so I’ll move swiftly on.
The recent elections caused much frothing by the commentariat particularly given the rise of the UKIP vote – our new County councillor Mike Baker is, famously, of that persuaion – such that it seems life within the Westminster ‘bubble’ will never be the same again. After a few conversations with voters the implication seems to be that people vote for UKIP for the simple reason they are not Conservative, LibDem or Labour – an expression of dissatisfaction with the main parties more than an endorsement of UKIP’s policies. If nothing else this election has shown that, if the tide is flowing in your favour, you can put out a ridiculous leaflet full of spelling mistakes and policies that are nothing to do with county councils and still be elected. Thought: if Westminster really is a bubble just one prick could burst it, yet it’s full of pricks and it hasn’t burst yet.
I’ve been travelling around a bit lately and wherever I go in England I see phone boxes in a similar state to our own. It seems the policy of malign neglect is general; except I did see a handful of sparkling, freshly painted boxes, complete with the cast-in crown picked out in gold, and all of them within a hundred yards or so of, er, Windsor Castle. Fancy that. By the by, Post Office Red paint is available from eBay for £10.99 a litre…
The High Street has been top dressed as planned – and with minimal disruption. The news on the quay road is less happy. The county presented us with a quote for the work which was roughly twice what we had been led to expect. Notwithstanding this shock, the Council decided that the work was too important to be neglected any further – and the opportunity to have 75% funding from the County too good to miss – so we agreed to fund the 25%, less contributions from the main beneficiaries, the money to come out of our reserves so that there would be no impact on this year’s works programme. No sooner was the ink dry in the Clerk’s notebook than we discovered that we actually had to compete for the funding with various other projects in other villages as the money comes from some sort of community fund. Divide and rule. It is now anybody’s guess as to whether this work will go ahead or not. The Parish cannot afford to fund the full cost – and nor should we as it is the County Highways’ road, not ours – so if the contest doesn’t go our way we are back to square one. More pricks to kick against.
Prick-kicking probably won’t be on the agenda of the next Parish council meeting, to be held on Tuesday 4 June in the Clubroom behind the Village Hall, kick off 7.30pm. Will he be there?
As a postscript to the piece some months ago about child poverty in North Norfolk, BBC East make a film about the work being done by the Holt Youth Project to try to alleviate some of the resulting problems. It is available on YouTube and I urge you to watch it if you missed it the first time around.