Thanks for joining us again for the council full session meeting notes, presented to you from 11th January. In the deepest of quite chilly winters, we await the first full council meeting since Lee Upcraft’s surprise resignation following the issues regarding the Greene King rent situation and upcoming budget. A new Mayor is due to be elected in May, if the local elections go ahead, and so for now we will be hosted by Rob McGregor, also known as the co-owner of the Keep.
While waiting for the meeting to start, a word on what we can expect: the highlights of co-opting a new councilor,quite a bit about allotments, as well as the timetable for next years worth of meetings. With 29 people in the meeting, we got started at just past 7pm.
An condensed reading of this article
Cllr Rob started the meeting with a discussion surrounding the Boat House financial situation: Two options were put forward for how to handle this during the meeting: keeping a statement in public, but removing discussion to avoid any legal issues, or to keep it confidential and allow councillors to discuss. The council moved to shift the discussion into public, and so we will bring you that statement when we come to it in the meeting.
We moved on to the public interaction: first up was Steve Holder and Mark Brett, speaking on the upcoming Litter Pick. With the last in September being such a success, with over 150 people turning up to assist, including the 1155 nautical team, they plan to move ahead with another pick in March – on Saturday the 30th. They are hoping to match or exceed their 15 bins from Grundons in September, so please do volunteer and help take care of your local area.
Both speakers were congratulated by the council, with a proposal to tie in with the historical ramparts and ditches in the future.
The next public speakers to come forward were Helen King, and Jacqualine Bradley. Helen spoke regarding training for councillors. She pointed out that the training policy for new councilors listed on the website was due to be updated in 2019, at which point that it specified that new councilors should be issued a ‘buddy’, go on a roles and responsibilities course, as well as to spend time in the office overseeing office roles. She put forward that training courses for councillors may help ensure their adherence to both statutory roles and add to their general experience. Cllr Katherine Keats-Rohan repsonded that training opportunities are made available, with training currently available online due to COVID. She confirmed that the office keeps records of training courses undertaken, and reassured that there is nothing wrong with the training currently available. Cllr Rob raised his own training – a day’s outing to Didcot Civic center. Helen also raised that it appeared the council was flailing around following the mayor’s resignation, with no clear steps moving forward in that occurance. Several other councilors spoke regarding a defense of the existing proceedures, inlcuding the need to make a choice regarding the options available once Mayor Lee resigned. Cllr Giles disagreed in general, suggesting that the training is setup to raising the profile of officers, not that of councilors, proposing that wariness suggesting the political slant of the training should be taken. Newly minted Cllr Marcus Harris praised the support provided by his fellow councilors during the start of his new role. Cllr Daniel Beauchamp stated his training has been very beneficial, and has found support among other attendees at them.
Bringing the public session to a close, it was found that Jacqualine Bradley was not in attendance.
Pete Sudbury of OCC presented his report next, reiterating his stances on school openings re COVID (pro-closure returning from Christmas). He also spoke regarding the 20mph limits, on which he is working to get introduced with a view to increasing road safety. He has put parts of Wallingford and Long Wittenham forward to potentially be part of a trial program in this regard.
He also reported an upcoming meeting with the MP regarding the 20mph limit plans, asking him to liase with the DoT as well as looking to open the Wallingford and Cholsey railway to commuter traffic.
He also applauded the lights on the bridge for Christmas – this not without some mild controversy, as the bridge is a monument and thus things should be done properly, not via ‘guerilla action’.
District Councillor George Levy next spoke, highlighting the refusal of planning permission next to the corn exchange, and also his assistance to wallingford railway about access rights.
He also spoke regarding the town planning committee’s work regarding the signage lighting times at some of the building developments, as well as SODC efforts to start a social housing vehicle – something he has been trying to understand and effect.
Chairman’s communications were next, mentioning that the representatives from site B are coming to the next planning committee. This is a public meeting, and memberrs of the public may attend if they wish. He also revealed propsals to put the council meetings on youtube, to host an online clinic, and also to resurrect the newsletter. These were all passed to the new communications working party. Tracey was also thanked for the increased output on the council Facebook page.
Following on, after some technical voting etc, we moved on to the statement on the Boat House situation.
The council statement in full, from the Responsible Finance Officer was incredibly quick. As such, a praice is as follows:
The update is that the £22500 has been received – a quarter of the due rent. Having checked the values and spoken to the solicitor, it is confirmed that is quarter two’s rent, not quarter one. The council are awaiting an update later in the week.
Next was NEW COUNCILLOR TIME.
Three people had put their names forward for the co-opted position, with councilors having received materials in advance. Each candidate was given time to present themselves to the council during the public meeting. Unfortunately George Newcombe could not be present tonight, and his statement will be read out be Cllr Rob. James Gibbs and Steve Holder however were present to speak, with James first up.
James spoke regarding his background of 8 years in Wallingford, including as an on-call firefighter. He wished to join to represent his community, and to allow them to have their say. He also spoke to hoping to improve tourism in the town, as well as a hope to increase communication to the public regarding the council’s work as that may currently be lacking. Cllr Rob asked for a specific change he would like to make – James’ response was his hope to get the Regal center finalised and functional for the local community again.
Steve Holder, he of the litter pick, spoke second, starting his statement with his lack of political agenda, 20 years of Wallingford life and his wish to represent Wallingford for all. He hoped that it was time to make a change, focusing on three areas. The first being a clear comms strategy, including the brand of the Council. Getting projects done – having clear business plans, and to do less and deliver more. He mentioned the changing face of the town, shifting from retirees to younger working families. And finally his hope for a transparent council, working for all. His background in the world of work was for 25 years as a brand and marketing director for an international company.
Cllr Rob then read the statement from George Newcombe. George is a new resident in the town, having lived in south Oxfordshire all his life. Having now made Wallingford his families’ long term home, he wanted to put himself and his experience forward with a view to keeping the town in good condition for both his children and for other residents. He is a partner and head of development of a planning and development consultancy. With a vested interested in developments coming forward to enhance their surroundings. A keen climber with a young child, he was delighted to assist and put himself forward to the council.
The council then voted, via text message to the officers, with the first round of voting resulting in the election of George Newcombe.
It was noted that another councilor position is available to be filled, this time via public vote in May. We will be covering all the local elections as we approach the date, be that May or later.
Following the election, we moved on to the timetable of meetings for 2021/22.
The addition of a budget meeting in early November 2021 is put forward, to allow councilors to have an initial input in to the budget, ahead of it being fully drawn up.
Cllr Dan was in favour of further input in the budget, and also suggested making a change to having a full council meeting every month, as opposed to existing 6 weeks.
Cllr Claire Holford asked if the finance meeting would be closed or open to the public. The response being that it would be public. This was met with general approval.
Cllr Marcus also spoke in support of a public meeting, and in the increase of council meetings. Cllr Colin Dalton also spoke in support of both ideas. Cllr Giles also spoke in favour of the meetings, and also a hope that the schedule of meetings would not be altered once agreed.
As the evening wore on to 20:20, Cllr Nigel Hughes was confirmed as the council rep to the Walter Bigg Trust Foundation. This is a pro-education trust, funded from the sale of Wallingford School’s upper site.
Cllr Rob then moved to ask council to make some decision regarding the Site B allotments. Having been promised 18 allotments, then negotiated into 36 half allotments, the situation is currently that they are not yet built. Once built, some of the allotments would need to be made available to new residents of Site B, while the council takes on full responsibility to administer them. This was a condition of the original planning permission.
Thus the allocation of allotments was the topic for discussion: fairness of priority access to the Site B residents being of primary concern. It was also noted that some existing local residents have already been on waiting lists since the end of 2019. There followed a debate, with the council moving in the direction of new residents possibly having a first round preference to a percentage of the plots, with the allotments then moving to general use. A motion was put forward to reserve eight of the plots for Site B, while 30 go in to general circulation, clearing the backlog on the waiting list. It was noted that reserved plots would need to be maintained, possibly at expense, until the new residents move in. It was then proposed that the developer pay for the upkeep of the 8 reserved plots to be reserved. The motion was passed.
A map from the neighbourhood plan, showing where site B is. Located to the left, towards Didcot, boundaried by the ring road.
Site B are also building a bridge, to be passed to Council ownership. The bridge and associated access road, to be near the allotment site, would be essential for access to parts of the allotments. Cllr Marcus raised the maintenance costs of the bridge and if the allotment income would cover this. It was expressed that a well designed bridge wouldn’t raise any large maintenance bills The council voted on accepting the bridge, subject to an adequate design life, which was passed.
It was also previously requested that automatic gates to be installed on the above access road near the bridge, to which the developer has refused. Normal manual gates are now to be introduced instead, with any extra funds being used to improve the front gates, extending their lifespan. A proposal to that extent was passed.
Continuing on the allotments, a request to the developers of making one of the allotments a toilet block via planning was rejected. The current councilors agreed that costs and managements now made this undesirable anyway, and so the council agreed to the toilet block planning request being removed. This was also passed.
It was discussed that allotment Plot 8 will be damaged by the new development, with the developers currently stating an intent to return it to it’s current state once development has finished. This may also affect a few other plots, however this is unclear. It is then revealed it would affect half of plot 8, with the developers suggesting moving plot 8 up a bit, making way for the access road and bridge previously discussed.
At this point, Cllrs were reminded to be muted on teams when not speaking, as someone’s snoring was impacting the meeting as a whole. It wasn’t immediately clear if it was a person or a pet. All councilors did however appear awake and alert.
///*** UPDATE – It has been releaved by highly placed sources in the council that it was in fact Tracey’s dog which was snoring. The breed and age of the dog is not yet known, however it has a a very loud snore. More details as we get them.
///*** Further Update – The snorer has been identified as Bella, a 5 or 6 year old Bulldog / Staffie cross, happily living with Tracey from the Council staff team.
It was discussed if the holder of plot 8 could be moved to a new plot, or to a different location, among other options. It was also agreed that if disturbed the holder would be at the top of the list for a replacement plot. Some form of financial recompense from the developer was also mooted, including a replacement shed as the existing one would not stand a move. The council moved to push back with the developers on this, in light of the plot owner’s distress and length of tenancy. It was noted that the preferred option from the plot tenant was to not be moved, however this would efffectively stop the development in that area moving forward and so was not an option pursued.
The adoption of the policies were requested, with Cllr Hughes pointing out a discrepancy in the first paragraph of the Investment policy which makes no sense with the numbers included – the policy contradicting itself within two lines. This policy adoption was deferred.
The pre-application protocol policy was passed and adopted. Whatever this is, I am unable to inform you, dear readers.
The external audit was received, with no issues. The voting on accepting the lack of issues was obviously passed.
It was proposed that a new chair be put forward for the Neighbourhood plan working group. Lee was the chair of the planning group, however obviosuly he is no longer available to the council. Cllr Katherine was elected to replace Lee as chair.
Cllr Colin then reported on the Historic Monuments group, with works’ estimated costs erring towards £3m. As the town council has a statutory obligation to maintain these sites, including the Grade 1 listed Town Hall, some way of raising the funds is required. If it was added to council tax, this would add roughly £96 per month per average house. This being obviously unacceptable, the suggestion is to launch the Wallingford Preservation Trust, to raise funds to cover the maintenance going forwards. The fund would raise money, while the council directed its expenditure. Several Cllrs spoke in support of the motion, as well as thanking Cllr Katherine’s work in investigating the types or charitable or otherwise structures available. It was highlighted that the new organisation would also be able to apply for grants, as well as being able to apply Gift Aid to and donations moving forward. Cllr Colin also reiterated that the state of the Town Hall is also detiriorating rapidly, and time is starting to run out.
The council voted to create the Trust, with the motion being carried substantially.
At this point, the meeting moved in to confidential matters, and we were asked to leave. The time being 22:40 we were happy to oblige.
This article is an interpretation of the council meeting held on the 11th January, and is not an attempt at official minutes. It is intended to be representative and informative. If you have any corrections, please contact us and we will correct them ASAP.
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Update 1041 12/1/20: The timetable image was updated, after a new calendar was sent through by the Council admin team.
Update 1042 12/1/20: Important info regarding the snoring added.
Update 1049 12/1/20: Added map of Town from Neighbourhood plan, showing location of Site B
Update 1218 12/1/20: Added name of snoring dog to article.
Update 1529 13/1/20: Removed name of Responsible Finance Officer and replaced with the title following request from Council Staff
Update 0542 14/1/20: Added the Condensed Audio reading of this article, as provided to us by Wallingford and District Talking News. If you are interested in learning more about this local charity, please visit their website www.wdtna.org.uk