|Chairman's Annual Report 2011-12|
Annual Report of Ilkley Parish Council
19 March 2012
I am pleased to present to you the Annual Report of Ilkley Parish Council. It is the second occasion that I have presented this report, the first time being exactly four years ago today. I was greatly honoured to be asked to take on the responsibilities of Chairman for 2011-12, and the Council year has so far been an interesting and challenging one.
The 2011/12 Council year has once again seen much activity, with eight new councillors being elected in May and a new Clerk to the Parish Council joining us last month. The Council has been very busy, holding twelve Full Council meetings, thirteen meetings of the Plans Committee chaired by Cllr Andrew Walbank, and three meetings of the Management and Staffing Committee chaired by Cllr Mike Gibbons. The latter committee has been particularly busy following the retirement of Dr Jean Yule as Parish Clerk last July, setting up a small Sub-Committee to recruit Jean’s replacement. Members were pleased to appoint Mr Alan Draper as the new Clerk and to welcome him to the Parish Council team.
Last June, the Council was saddened to receive the resignation of Gerald Goldsbrough due to ill health. Sadly Gerald was unable to enjoy his most recent term of office and his death at the beginning of October was a great loss. January saw the departure of Richard Reed after only seven months as a councillor, and also Andrew McKie, who felt he could not continue as a councillor following the recent judgement of the Bradford Council Standards Committee. We thank them both for their contributions to the work of the Council. As no poll has been called by electors for any of the seats vacated, the Council is in a position to co-opt electors from the parish to fill all three vacancies. Following consideration of the first round of applications for the original seat vacated in the Ben Rhydding Ward, councillors agreed to seek additional expressions of interest to widen the pool of potential applicants.
Last October, Bradford Council published its Local Development Framework (LDF) plans for Wharfedale, covering the period up to 2028. As a large number of new homes are proposed for the Wharfe Valley, including 1300 to be built in Ilkley, the Council felt it was important for residents to have their say on this matter and organised a public meeting in December. More than 120 people attended and a wide range of topics and issues were discussed, from parking and transport, to the lack of jobs and shortage of school places. All comments received were submitted to Bradford Council and we await the draft LDF report, anticipated in June 2012. Once this is published, the Council will arrange a similar opportunity for Ilkley residents to express their views.
Earlier this year, the Council convened a meeting to co-ordinate and develop plans to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. About 100 people attended, representing schools, churches and voluntary organisations active in the town. Following a presentation on the civic events for the Jubilee year, those attending gave details of their plans for the Jubilee, many of which are well-advanced. A diary of events is being compiled by the Visitor Information Centre, and a follow up meeting to see how plans are progressing will be held later in the Spring.
The Awards and Projects side of Council too has been eventful this year, with over 20 applications discussed and over £35,000 being awarded for this financial year. The Council has considered projects and grants from a diverse range of bodies around the town, including requests from the Ilkley Good Neighbours Community Transport, the Olicanian Cricket Club and the Friends of Ilkley Lido. On a slightly bigger scale, a £3,000 grant was made to restore the pathway near Beanlands Parade and substantial awards were made to a number of our regular community events, including the Ilkley Summer Festival. The guiding principle of the Awards remains that of being a focus for local groups and organisations to apply for funding for specific items or projects that they have identified as necessary for their own purposes, rather than councillors judging what the needs of the local community are and allocating monies accordingly.
The Council appreciates the efforts of the internal auditor, Keith Pickles, whose scrupulous approach to the auditing of our accounts inspires great confidence. Keith’s assistance in supervising the Deputy Clerk in entering financial data on the electronic accounts system has proved invaluable, helping to provide councillors with information on budget spending throughout the year.
This year, the precept was set at £16.10 per annum for a Band D property, and together with a subsidy of £5700 from reserves this gave an operating budget of £115,643. Roughly half this figure was spent on administration and operations. From the total budget, some £62,000 was allocated to Awards and Projects and Community Events including Christmas Lights. All the money spent is scrutinised and approved by Council, in public, with full transparency. The parish precept is the only tax that is spent entirely in the town and secures the services of fourteen volunteer councillors to represent Ilkley residents, to manage projects on behalf of the community and to raise issues of concern with the principal authority. Councillors and we hope, residents, believe it is a price well worth paying.
Almost all members of Council are actively involved as representatives on some 26 groups and organisations within the community, for example the Business Forum, Ilkley in Bloom and Coutances Town Twinning Committee. Members take their work on all community bodies very seriously and I know that this involvement is well-respected. Our membership of the Yorkshire Local Councils Association is invaluable for the advice and support on a wide range of legal and other matters relating to parish council work. In addition, working with members of parish and town councils in the district through Parish Council Liaison Meetings has also proved beneficial, highlighting a number of local and national developments including e-planning and changes to the Standards regime for England.
This year has seen a continuation of the Council’s policy of using members with particular abilities to carry forward specific schemes and initiatives as project managers. In addition to Councillors Walbank and Gibbons who are Project Managers for the Allotments and the Concert on the Grove respectively, Councillor Robinson looks after the riverside pathways and the Cemetery and Councillor Mann maintains a close eye on benches around the town and works with Bradford Council on parking and traffic issues. Councillor Mann also heads a small team of councillors which organises the annual Christmas Lights Switch On, which is a very substantial undertaking. My thanks go to all our project managers for their hard work over the past year.
It now almost five years since Ilkley Parish Council took over the management of the allotment sites on Castle Road, Bridge Lane and Leeds Road. Despite a substantial waiting list, local residents are still applying to join, although attempts have been made to reduce the waiting list by offering two half plots when one is released. The intention has always been that the allotments will be self-supporting and not a cost on the Parish, which has been the case so far. Each year some improvements are made to the fencing, water points and pathways as funds will allow, so that tenants can concentrate on cultivating their plots. It is hoped that an application for grant funding will enable more to be improved in the coming year.
Last summer, the Darwin Gardens Millennium Green won the Community Award for being one of the best community-run green spaces in the country. The Gardens joined 1288 parks and green spaces across the country receiving the Green Flag Community Award organised by Keep Britain Tidy. Our thanks go to former trustees, Ken Cooke and Peter Harnett, for their assistance in supporting the application, and also to our contractors, Down to Earth, and the Area Parks and Landscape Service of Bradford Council for helping to maintain the area for the benefit of residents and visitors.
The past year has seen a high level of civic involvement in the community and a genuine effort has been made to involve the Council in the life of the Parish wherever possible. The Street Party to celebrate the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton last April was blessed with fine weather and good crowds. Coverage of the event on the BBC Six O’ Clock News gave the town much good publicity. Despite heavy showers during the day, the Concert on the Grove at the end of August was again a tremendous success. The Concert is the main contribution of the Parish Council to the annual Ilkley Summer Festival and was ably masterminded for the ninth successive year by Councillor Mike Gibbons. The Christmas Lights Switch On at the end of November was also blessed with good weather, with the switch on being admirably performed by Matthew Lewis, of Harry Potter fame, and much enjoyed by the crowds, particularly the large crowd of adoring fans who came along to see Matthew. The annual Carol Concert on the Grove in December, organised jointly by the Parish Council and Churches Together in Ilkley, was also well-attended by both parents and children despite the damp weather. As part of the celebrations to mark the anniversary of the Accession of HM Queen Elizabeth II, the Parish Council hosted a civic concert featuring the City of Bradford Brass Band, the Steeton Male Voice Choir and Margaret McDonald, mezzo-soprano. Members of the 1224 (Wharfedale) Squadron Air Cadets visited the Town Hall to take part in a mini debate and to learn more about local government. With help from Councillor Gibbons, the Clerk and myself, the cadets appointed their own chairman for the meeting and debated a number of issues of interest to them. It was certainly a lively debate and a valuable two-way learning process to both councillors and cadets.
Throughout my year as Chairman of the Parish Council I have been pleased to represent the town at many events and occasions, both within the parish and in the wider district. These have included the Prize-Winner’s Concert of the Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts, the Westville House Speech Day and Prize Giving, the judging and trophy presentation at the Ilkley Flower Show, the Over 90s Party, the Soroptimist International Annual Dinner and civic services in Denholme and Keighley. My consort, Councillor Lexa Robinson, and I were pleased to attend a number of productions by the Upstagers and the Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society in the Kings Hall. It was a particular pleasure to attend presentation evenings for GCSE and A Level students from Ilkley Grammar School earlier this year, and also to represent the parish at the service to mark the start of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Halifax Minster. Whilst thinking of services, I was proud to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Ilkley at the annual Remembrance Day Service. A special event was our Civic Service at St Margaret’s Church in September, the theme of which was public service. Unfortunately it is not possible to mention all the events attended, but thanks go the many groups and organisations that have invited me to functions and made Councillor Robinson and myself very welcome. It is greatly appreciated and I see it as a very important part of the Council’s year.
Looking to the future the Council faces a number of challenges, in particular Bradford Council’s LDF proposals and the Government’s new Localism agenda. The latter could mean that the Council is called upon, in the not too distant future, to contribute some of its reserves to major projects to secure assets in the town. The participation of young people in civic life is becoming increasingly important, as they represent the future of our hard-won democracy and hopefully will build on the legacy we leave behind. Our Parish Plan is due for review and close liaison between the Parish Councils in the District will become more necessary, particularly around planning issues and the Localism agenda. Continued threats to the Green Belt and the on-going provision of medical services at the Coronation Hospital will offer many challenges to both the Council and local residents in the year ahead.
In closing this report I should like to offer my sincere thanks to all my colleagues on the Council, who serve in a voluntary capacity and do not receive any allowances for attending the many meetings of Council and other bodies. My thanks also go to Councillor Mike Gibbons for being a very able Vice-Chairman. He has provided much advice, encouragement and support during the past year. Also, particular thanks must go to the Chairman of the Plans Committee, Cllr Walbank, and to our Project Managers, who continue to develop their areas of responsibility with a high degree of dedication and enthusiasm. Finally, I would like to thank our Deputy Clerk, Fiona Birdsall, for keeping the administration of the Council functioning efficiently after Jean’s retirement last summer and ably supporting the work of the Council throughout her first year in post.
Councillor Heathcliffe Bowen
19 March 2012