Last week (4th August) I attended the Hednesford Town Council meeting at the Pye Green Community Centre as a member of the public and observe the business of the council. These are meetings open to the public and there was oppotunity to raise matters for the council at the start of the meeting.
We elected these people and they are accountable to us, we must get involved and be heard on the things which are important to us as a community.
There was only one other member of the public in attendance, the Chair of the Heart of Hednesford Restoration Project, David Wisehall. Mr Wisehall raised the great work being done by the Project to restore some civic pride with the monthly tidy up the town centre. Showing pictures, before and after, of the work the previous weekend which was welcomed by the councillors. Although appreciative of the good work a debate ensued about the reliance on volunteers to undertake tasks which are the responsibility of the Council and, in some instances, private landlords and traders in the town. The council resolved to write to the district council to understand what was being maintained in the town and what is not. This feels a little like an oxymoron as a number of the town councillors are both district and county councillors also. This will be brought back to the next meeting and we will see what the response is.
For myself I brought up three issues of information; Cannock Radio (for which I present a weekly local issues programme each Friday) is available to promote key messages and communications for the council and an open invitation presented to all councillors. Hednesford Town FC and the Supporters Association are working at a greater involvement in the wider community events and asked for the support of the Town Council to promote this. Finally talking briefly about the role of Hednesford in Partnership for 2016 and co-ordinating a cohesive approach to events across the community, possibly four celebration events across the whole community as weekend events encompassing the council, traders, the park, the raceway, the museum, the football club, schools and other groups.
You can also attend, listen and ask questions for issues of interest.
One interesting element of the evening was the unveiling of Nye Bevan’s desk which is believed to have been used draft the originating legislation to form the National Health Service. Our area’s links to important times and events are often overlooked and we should celebrate with greater pride
The main meeting proceeded and papers can be found here
A majority of the meeting prceeded without debate as committee and working group reports were accepted in to the meeting almost without challenge
A brief discussion about entering the Great British High Street Competition as suggested by our MP Amanda Milling. Although this is supported by all groups in the town, that this should be an aspiration for the year ahead when we have the community working more closely and following changes to the town through the water works and the park as well as the aforementioned restoration project works and Hednesford in Partnership.
An update was recieved regarding the Staffordshire County Council consultation on archive services and agreed that a combined response be submitted from the town council. This is open to everyone to submit their own responses by 14th August 2015. This is something I have not looked too deeply at but will be responding.
An interesting update to which I will be looking further in to is the West Midlands Combined Authority to which our District Council is looking to sign up as an associate member. There has been little consultation or wide debate in the community and again this is something I want to look further in to. The tone of the comments from the leader of the district council Councillor Adamson was that this was about jobs and employment and with our health services and communting links being towards the proposed combined authority area rather than Staffordshire we need to have a seat at the table. I do not know enough to be convinced either way as yet but there were clear divisions in the council members. Watch this space.
The final discussion in public touched upon the Staffordshire County Council proposals for the Countryside and an acknowledgment that there is a danger of privatisation through the agenda of County Councillors. As part of this discussion I was permitted to bring to the attention of the council our campaign to Save the Staffordshire Countryside and AONB and the petition with now over 9,500 signatures and the event to walk the Cannock Chase Heritage Trail on Sunday 16th August. Whilst sympathetic to the challenges there seems to be little positive action at this time.
The public were then excluded for what appears to be a couple of important agenda items and it is a shame we could not hear what the council has to say about the Library Review and Neighbourhood Plan – will see in due course I suppose.
All in all this was an interesting meeting and some important issues discussed that the public needs to be aware of and interested in. Further we should be aware that these councillors are volunteers for the Twon and working hard with the interests of the town and although I may disagree with some of the discussion that is the great thing about local democracy as better decisions are made when more of us get involved.
Come along to the next meeting 15th September