Contrary to the impression given by statements made on a local social media site, Pinewood Parish Council has not as yet made any decisions regarding the precept for 2021/2022. It is unfortunate when inaccurate statements are made and reported in such a way as to raise concern and anxiety for readers in these difficult times. This is not only disappointing for the Parish Council but it could mislead our parishioners particularly when a number of statements are not made from a position of knowledge about Pinewood Parish Council. The person making some of these statements has only having been living in the parish since December 2019 and therefore could be unaware of the various issues that this council has pursued on behalf of its residents in recent years.
The Parish Council is now in receipt of all the relevant information needed from the District Council and it will meet on 25th January to discuss how we will then fund the various projects and services that we currently provide for the parish. We may well then also have to consider providing additional services that we may be required to take on from other council authorities who have had to make cut backs and so need to pass them over to us without any additional funding. It should never be assumed that raising the precept is the default position, this council takes its responsibility very seriously when considering budgetary matters.
We are always reluctant to increase the precept as we are very aware that this impacts upon our residents. However we have to factor in raised costs from those from whom we contract services and also the likelihood of our funding being lowered as the number of households able to pay council tax is likely be reduced as a result of the Covid pandemic. This means the Parish Council may well be faced with the challenge, if it is possible, to fund services without impacting our residents.
Contrary to what was reported about our last meeting on 14th December, we discussed only the delay in the information being provided to us by Babergh District Council in order to make a decision about the precept and also possible outcomes if funding is lowered. At no point did we agree any increase or set any figures as that was just not possible without the relevant information.
It was also incorrectly reported that the council has underspent its budget over the last two years. The figures of £15,000 in 2018/19 and £20,000 in 2019/20 which have been quoted are in fact our reserves. These are small amounts for a parish of our size, a fact commented on by the auditor at the annual mandatory audit.
References to the council’s bank balances were also misleading; the majority of this sum is in fact the reserves of the Community Hall which have been built up during the 12 years since it was opened. It is certainly not money accumulated from the precept and it is hoped that these reserves will help fund a new car park for the Community Hall without any financial impact to residents.
The council tax is made up of contributions to Suffolk County Council, Babergh District Council, Suffolk Police, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner and the Parish Council. This council does not have any control over levels raised by other bodies and our precept is a very small proportion of the total amount. We will do our best to minimise the effect on our precept, but it may well be that the other organisations will have no option but to increase their requirements.
This council wishes to address other comments which have been made about it in recent weeks on social media platforms as these have been not only misleading but as a result may possibly cause harm to its reputation.
A statement was made that this council is made up of 'unelected councillors'. This is disrespectful to the councillors. Members of the council are only unelected in the sense that there have not been enough candidates for the last 3 Parish Council elections to warrant an election. We are all in fact volunteers and unpaid. Though the council does not as yet have its full complement it is important that we are able to have a full and frank exchange of ideas and at the same time it is also important that we have a team who can work together in the public interest.
It is also particularly disappointing to read “As such I can understand an inward looking council rather than one that has its roots grounded in the needs of an electorate.” This does not stand up to scrutiny of our record representing our residents.
A great amount of time is spent outside of council meetings in correspondence and meetings with other councils and public bodies on issues that affect and concern our residents. This has included meetings with our MP, The Regional Director of Highways England and other officials of that agency, the leadership team of ‘One’ Sixth Form College, officials of Suffolk County Council and representatives of developers involved in local building projects.
During the past few years the issues covered have included the proposal for a wind turbine on a site in Belstead Village which would have severely impacted our residents as a result of noise pollution, the developments at Belstead House and Belstead Meadows and the Wolsey Grange Development. We mounted robust objections at the written planning stage and also spoke at the meetings of the Planning Committee when these proposals were discussed and voted upon at both Outline and Reserved Matters stages. Well publicised public meetings have been held on contentious matters as these so that the council can both inform residents of up to date information and so that residents have the opportunity to tell us of their concerns about them.
Pinewood Parish Council has been represented for a number of years on the Hadleigh Police and Parish forum. As a consequence it has been possible to raise issues affecting our residents with the result that the problems of boy racers at Tesco and illegal motor bike use on the bridleway from Bobbits Lane to Bobbits Hole, Wherstead have been made for fixed periods, the Hadleigh SNT priority targets. Some positive outcomes for our residents have been achieved by these measures.
This council has been represented at meetings to discuss the noise levels caused by the concrete surface on the A14 and discussions about the chaos caused by closures to the Orwell Bridge and was in early discussions with SCC as to measures which could be taken to amend the decision making regarding closure of the bridge in high winds. New criteria for closure will be in operation later this year.
This council has taken SCC to task over the footpath closure at the back of the Bridge School. We are being kept informed of the initial discussions on the proposed significant changes to the Copdock Mill Interchange and will be part of the local consultations hopefully in the Spring of next year. We have continued to work through lockdown and only this week a meeting was held between representatives of this council and those of SCC to address issues raise by the closure of Footpath 6, both in the short term and for the future. The purpose of taking part in these meetings is always to further the interests of our residents. We have always been open to receive the concerns of our residents and done our best to act upon their concerns. It is not always possible however to achieve the outcome that we and our residents would wish. We therefore refute the statement that we are inward looking and the implication that our roots are not grounded in the needs of our electorate.
Closer to home, Pinewood Parish Council has purchased a SID device to monitor speeding in the parish because of concerns about excess speed, we have purchased and renewed dog bins, bus shelters have been painted, shrubs and overhanging trees have been trimmed and a defibrillator has been purchased. This would have already been put in position at the Community Hall were it not for the Covid situation. Great efforts have been made to solve the parking problems in the parish caused by vehicle users not resident in the parish and as a result Parking Enforcement measures are now in place. A new initiative is now also being explored. Residents are kept informed of issues we are tackling via our newsletter.
Whenever appropriate or necessary we involve and seek the assistance of our District and County Councillors.
Problems which residents sometimes assume are within our remit to solve are often the responsibility of Babergh District Council or Suffolk County Council and although we do our best to raise issues it is not always within our power to solve them. Examples are recent comments about bin collections. Pinewood parish Council is not responsible for refuse collections, it is the responsibility of Babergh District Council. An online complaint usually results in a quick reply. This council is also not responsible for drain clearance and the use of gully suckers or street lighting and other highway issues, these matters are the responsibility of Suffolk County Council.
We hope the explanations contained in this statement have eased residents’ concerns, which may have been raised by misleading statements by others, as to the working of their council.
Our meetings are open to the public so why not join one and see what we are doing. Meetings are currently being held via 'Zoom' check the web-site for meetings dates and see contact details for the parish clerk who will be happy to give you the link to each meeting.