Mayor's blog

Engagements & Activities

This is a time-line of some events I have undertaken. The comments are my informal response and are not the official opinion of Dereham Town Council.
19 December 2014
Christmas e-card
Christmas Cards
This year I have decided to significantly limit the number of 'official' Town Council Christmas cards, after all it doesn't really make sense to send one to 'Breckland District Council or 'Norfolk County Council'. In those big organisations who would received the card and where would it go? With the money saved I will make a donation to Prostate Cancer UK Open's in new tab, which seems much better use of the money.

I would like to extend to everyone in Dereham my very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year; be happy, fulfilled with goodwill and friendship.
Christmas tree
17 December 2014
Staff Christmas Lunch
Christmas lunch Christmas is coming ...

There seems to be a 'new' tradition that the Mayor attends (and helps fund) the staff Christmas lunch; who am I to go against such a marvellous idea? To be clear, a small contribution is made from the Mayor's budget and also everyone attending also makes a contribution. This informal event is great for getting away from the bureaucracy and legal stuff we have to engage with every day.

We enjoyed a pre-booked lunch at The George Hotel Open's in new tab. My wild mushroom pie was perfect, absolutely as good as it gets, but we did have to play that well known game 'find the vegetables' the Clerk and I fought over the limited Brussels sprouts. We returning to the Council office for a 'secret santa' session.

15 December 2014
Participatory Budget Funding Project 2015 (Breckland)
Participatory Budgeting project £10,000 has been allocated by Breckland District Council to each of Breckland's five market towns and their surrounding villages. Funding is available to support both start-up and running costs that fit with the Pride-in-Breckland aims of 'getting active'. The definition of 'active' is wide and could be volunteering, setting up a new group or starting something new.

The Town Council was approached to run the scheme on behalf of Breckland Council, but felt that we did not have sufficient spare capacity in the office at the moment. However, we could be 'administrators' while asking Rachel Leggett (who ran our play-area consultation) to do the actual organising, which will include a public vote to select the winners of for the funding.

This evening was the first meeting of the volunteer steering group who will oversee the delivery of the scheme with representatives from the local community as well as Breckland District Council. The main outcome was that while we were all enthusiastic to get this money out into use we were immensely disappointed at how complicated the form filling was to be. We have asked Rachel to discuss with Breckland Council and find a simpler approach.

This over complexity extends also to the name. The group decided that if 'active' was to be a key element in deciding the outcome "interACTIVE funding" would be a lot better name than "Participatory Budget Funding".

9 December 2014
Chaired: Plans & Full Council meetings
Dereham Town Council Plans
Five plans to consider, most are 'normal' extensions, but we are seeing more opportunist individual applications for new or house conversions in sites which would have previously been deems wholly unacceptable. For example where there is difficult access or shop frontage being converted into flats which involved obscuring a street facing window to make a bedroom, in an area adjacent to fast food outlets (smell) and a busy pub (noise). There are far more suitable places.

Full Council
Centenary remembrance: there were no Dereham WWI deaths since the last full council meeting.

We will invite the CEO of Breckland to a committee meeting to discuss some of the issues about operation of the Planning system, Neatherd management, the Local Plan, etc. Consideration of developing a 'Neighbourhood Plan' will be brought before the Town Council as soon as practicable. The remainder of the meeting was a the normal ratification recommendations from committees, including the extraordinary Local Plan consultation meeting; followed by the monthly overview of the Town Council's financial position and cheques to be issued.

This is our 'pre-Christmas' meeting and a drink and nibbles will be served after the meeting closes. All present are welcome to join us for informal chat.

3 December 2014
NALC conference
NALC 'Future Local: Larger Local Councils Conference 2014'

This all-day conference was held in London and consisted of an exhibition of relevant services for larger councils which we could return to throughout the day. The quality of offerings was variable from excellent to mediocre, which is better than can be said for the guest speakers ...

We heard from Annette Brooke MP, who spoke passionately about local government; Andy Sawford MP, who was somewhat off-topic preferring to concentrate on devolution which is not so local, he also overtly inserted a few party political campaign issues which didn't go down too well - not because there was anything wrong with them but they were simply inappropriate to the venue. Finally, we heard from Oliver Letwin MP, who was dire! In a nutshell he would prefer the 'big society' take on the function of Town and Parish councils and sited how he and his chums met in his garden and decided to take over the village shop when it was going to close down, he serves there once a month. How amazingly disconnected from how some working families struggle to make ends meet, while he plays at shopkeeper!

The afternoon was workshops, the two I selected were:
'How to shape the future of your area'
'Using our Place'

Both were interesting but the first was exceptionally useful, because it went through the process and advantages of developing a Neighbourhood Plan. I had previously thought this was not best use of time and resources, but it turns out a neighbourhood plan is a very powerful tool, so much so that the Secretary of State for Local Government has overruled the planning inspectorate a number of times because development is not in accordance with a neighbourhood plan despite the District Council not having a 5-year housing supply.

For the first time I can see a way to defend against hostile development and encourage appropriate development for Dereham, which could include a proper mix of employment and services, not simply make us a commuter dormitory for Norwich.
2 December 2014
Chaired: Extraordinary meeting - Local Plan
Dereham Town Council This evening we are holding a meeting to help form the response of the Town Council to the Local Plan. This is a process which will have an effect on all our lives. The local plan is produced by Breckland District Council and will take the place of the Local Development Framework (LDF) to determine planning policy for at least the next decade. It should have completed a year ago because without it defending our community from hostile planning applications is becoming extremely difficult. As a consequence of the way our housing market works in this country one rather astute person summed up the Local Plan as:

Deciding who to make very rich!