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Parish Council, Chairman’s Report 2012

THE UNCONTESTED election for the Parish Council held on 5th May 2011 resulted in the return of Jill Buck, Wendy Camp, Frances Luck, Jenny Miller and Ian Brett. Elections for East Herts District returned Mike Newman with the largest majority of any councillor; and Roger Beeching won the Hertfordshire Country Council seat. Both councillors routinely attend our Parish Council meetings and are of great help to us, for which we are most grateful.

Our allotment gardens continue to flourish. Almost all plots are now worked. The gardens are managed by a committee of two parish councillors and three allotments holders elected at the Allotments AGM. The annual fees paid by the gardeners pay for the water supply and upkeep of the grounds, any surplus being used for capital projects to improve the facility. Although owned by the council, the allotments are financially self- supporting. A “work party day”, with barbecue, last summer did much to keep the grounds in good order.

There was some doubt, due to current public finances, as to whether Parish Paths Partnership would survive, but it has and will now be administered by Groundwork Hertfordshire. We held our annual meeting with Herts Countryside Management Services in October and agreed a work programme for this year. We have also agreed funding for two more benches to be placed by our paths this summer.

The squeeze on public funds will seriously affect the budget for policing in the coming years. At a meeting in December to discuss rural policing, the new Chief Constable for Hertfordshire reported that his annual budget will fall from £220 million to £180 million in the next three years. While this will inevitably lead to cuts in service it is hoped that rural policing will continue to receive its current level of support.

East Herts Council is now half way through its Local Development Framework Consultation. The Issues and Options consultation is complete; the Council will deliver its Preferred Options document this summer after which there will be a brief consultation period before the proposals go before an independent inquiry. With the East of England Assembly abolished and its Regional Plan ended, planning will return to local government, so East Herts Council’s deliberations will have profound implications for us all, not least their decision on Harlow North. Our Parish Plan Survey, and responses to the LDF consultation, confirm the overwhelming local opposition to this proposed development. The Parish Council, a mandated member of Stop Harlow North, will continue to campaign on your behalf.

Changes in government regulations have necessitated changes to the remuneration and conditions of our clerk who is our sole employee. The additional costs are reflected in the increase in our precept for 2012/2013.

However, a great deal of the community work carried out in the village is voluntary. It is very encouraging to see Helen Giles’ brainchild, the Women of Widford club, thriving. Started in January 2011, WoWs meet monthly for a drink in the pub and arrange other interesting activities. Also thriving is Brenda Morrison’s Tuesday Teas. The Village Hall has a new, young and enthusiastic management committee. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will provide an opportunity for all of us to meet and celebrate in a day of fun and games on our Playing Field on Saturday 2nd June followed on Sunday 3rd by a church service of commemoration.

Finally, my thanks for all their help and support to my fellow councillors – Jill, Wendy, Frances and Jenny. And to our hard working clerk, Beryl Hollylee, who will celebrate this year forty years of service to our village.                                                              Ian Brett Chairman