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Chairman's ReportSat, 30th May 2020

Chairman’s Reports  »  Annual Report 2012/13

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Chairman’s Report #2  »  Annual Report 2012/13    (March 4, 2013)

2012/13 is not proving to be an easy year for anyone, your parish council included.  We seem to have spent much time and effort facing up to a succession of problems in defence of the interests of our residents, particularly significant planning and financial issues, as you will be aware from the Boxley Parish page in the Downs Mail, distributed to all residents, and from our website.

At the same time we have continued to support, both financially and otherwise, the Vinters Valley Nature Reserve, the Walderslade Woodlands Group and the recently formed Friends of Boxley Warren, as well as village halls and local and national charities and organisations serving our communities.  Most of these bodies were represented at the opening last May of the Weavering Diamond Jubilee Orchard by TRHs The Earl and Countess of Wessex – possibly the first royal visit in Kent hosted by a parish council and certainly ever-memorable by the 1500 or so residents who were present.  Thank you all.

While many people tend to relate the parish council to planning applications and the built environment, we are also dedicated to protecting the rural surroundings that make all parts of the parish such a pleasant place to live.  It was therefore pleasing to learn last month that we have at last achieved Village Green status for the main surviving area of woodland in Walderslade, protecting it from development in perpetuity.  Earlier in the year we purchased a plot of land south of Boxley village to protect it from possible development.  No decision has yet been made on how this plot will be used and legal formalities are incomplete, but we hope to make an announcement shortly.  Also, in the extreme south-west of the parish, we are assisting local residents preserve Cuckoo Wood.

The numerous recent changes, proposed and actual, in legislation have been reflected in frequent consultation documents from ministries, KCC and MBC, and ranging from speed limits on rural roads to parish councils’ access to internet banking.  Drafting a response to MBC’s consultation on its Core Strategy occupied a great deal of time, as well as a well-attended public meeting and we have a major and on-going exercise in preparing Neighbourhood Plans for each of our communities as required by the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). At a more local level, we have, with a varying degree of success, expressed our views to MBC on a vast number of planning applications ranging from the very large down to front-porches and individual trees. The parish council may be a small voice in the overall scheme of things, but it has a statutory right to be heard – a right we shall continue to exercise in whatever way thought to be best the general interest of our residents.

All this extra work, and the ever-growing popularity of Beechen Hall as a venue for community, commercial and family events and activities, has over-burdened our hard-pressed Parish Clerk, Pauline Bowdery, and the Assistant Clerk, Melanie Fooks.  We have therefore recruited a temporary office assistant and two assistant caretakers, all part-time.  This is a necessary expense if we are to continue to provide the service level of a Quality Parish Council and as expected by our residents.

This leads me into financial matters.  Setting our budget for 2013/14 has been dominated by the loss of the MBC Concurrent Functions Grant (CFG) which, in three years, has shrunk from over £50,000 to zero (albeit now mitigated by an award of £12,000 from the Parish Services Scheme) and the assumption that residents would not want a consequential diminution in service if it could be avoided.  Considering it imprudent to draw down from unallocated reserves now when worse could be waiting round the corner, we decided to make what savings we could to meet the accumulated effect of three years of inflation and a higher wage bill, and filling the remaining shortfall by increasing the precept.  This increase, the first in three years, will be approximately £5 per year (10p per week) for an average (Band D) property.  This would match precisely the reduction in funding received from MBC and, while regrettable, will probably still leave Boxley with one of the lowest precepts in the borough.

These past ten months as a new Chairman have been one continuous learning curve.  That I have managed to negotiate safely (most) of the dangerous bends is entirely due to the help and support I have received from the chairmen of the Environment and Estates Committees, Wendy Hinder and Vic Davies, the vice-chairmen, other fellow councillors and, of course certainly not least, the staff.  To them and to all our residents I extend my best wishes for an ever-better Boxley.

Ivor Davies
4 March 2014

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