Back at our posts after a brief work-related break, we once again joined – this time in person – Wallingford Town Council for the Full Council Meeting.
Gathering in the town hall, the Councillors and staff were joined by 14 members of the public. Cllr Dan Beauchamp brought the meeting to order at 19:02.
Starting with Mayor’s comms, Marcus’ thanks regarding the remembrance parade were relayed.
Following the normal formal minutes and notes, we first move to take contributions from the public. Speaking first was a contribution from John Jenkins on behalf of the Accessible Boat Club. (He was unable to attend in person due to being a wheelchair user). He asked if the Wheelchair accessible boat club were able to make use of the mooring at the Boat House for their accessible boat. Delivering a brief summary of their activities, he outlined an intention to find a long term base within Wallingford, having approached SODC, who are providing a location which unfortunately does not include a mooring.
Second were three ladies from the Wigod Family Centre, who presented separately. To begin, Maureen presented an outline of the work of the Family Centre, including a request for an increase in funding from Town Council. While having received national Lottery Funding, their fundraising over the pandemic had been massively curtailed – requiring £33k but currently having only £20k of funding.
Sonja spoke second, highlighting the need for the service locally in providing therapeutic support for the local residents, especially those under 5 children who may be at risk.
Finally Celsea, the manager of the centre, also highlighted the good work of the centre – again stressing the support given to the local community, including offering a food bank and having daily mid-wife led clinics.
Cllr Lester asked if the centre could look at other charities if the Town Council couldn’t meet the total required, and it was confirmed that these options have already been looked at. Cllr Cattermole asked why the Town Council should be funding Wigod Way at all, given the overall level of national funding for the Health Service in general.
The next item on the agenda was the Councillor vacancy, through which Cllr Dan announced there were five members of the public standing. Three were present, with two providing written statements.
Dan gave a presentation from Amanda Abslem, who works at Wallingford School. She believed that working with the school she could help bring the youth of the community in to focus as part of the councils’ work. She expressed an interest in bringing some energy to the council.
Christopher Green submitted that as a long time local resident, working as a Civil Engineer, he has lived locally again since 2014, has been part of 1155 and assisted Style Acre. He is keen in community matters and wanted to offer his experience in the highways sector to the council.
Our first in person applicant was Sue Hendrie, who highlighted her work at the farmers market, and experience in local conservation works. She worked for 6 years on the neighbourhood plan and sits on the Historic Buildings committee, including working successfully for grant funding for the St Nicholas College ruins. She further noted the adoption of the neighbourhood plan, including many sections which she authored, and hoping that as a member of the council she could help the body to adopt the provisions within.
Secondly in person was Craig Simpson, who spoke that being a representative of the community would be a great honour. Having been born locally, he expressed that his time growing up in the town was of greater safety and support. He expressed a wish to help bring the town back towards that vision. He spoke about his work supporting Bunkfest, Fireworks, Car Rally and other local events. He further cleaned signs locally during the pandemic, including cutting back foliage.
Finally was Susan Tabor, who has recently moved back to Wallingford following her Civil Service held in the Town Hall. She expressed her love of the vibrancy of the town, and her desire to assist the town in whatever way was possible, including her previous town council experience while in Wiltshire. It was found that due to not being a resident for the requisite twelve months that Susan may not be eligible.
The vote was taken by the councillors, led by Dan, with Sue Hendry being elected to join the Council.
Next up was the reports from the District and County councillors. These were not read out to the public.
The estates operation review was presented by the Estates Officer. He expressed a desire to draw a line in the sand in order to move forward more clearly with a plan for the estates as a whole, including moving to a 2/6/10 year plan schedule (to fit with election cycles). He aimed to take the next few months to generate plans to that end.
Cllr Rob asked if the Estates portfolio was too big. The answer came that under the right use nothing should be disposed of without due consideration.
Cllr Cattermole asked who was responsible for the council being in this position, with no answer being forthcoming.
Moving on to 19:46, the exciting and necessary topic of renaming and reshuffling the committees came up. This would lead to the Finance and Properties Committee becoming the Finance General Purposes Committee, allowing the Parks, Gardens, Allotments and Open Spaces Committee to amalgamate in to the Estates Committee.
Marcus being unavailable at the previous Parks and Gardens, and also unavailable tonight, it was suggested that the decision should be deferred. Cllr Rob spoke in support of moving ahead. A view held by Cllr Claire suggested that it may be impossible to split the committees financially in the short run. This was widely supported. After some discussion, the decision to defer this motion for the time being – possibly six months – was supported.
Cllr Dan spoke next regarding a potential volunteer event. This stemmed from attending the Wallingford Volunteer Centre AGM, a group who support people attending GP appointments and the same. Following the impact of COVID, they as well as other volunteer organisations have been heavily affected. Having spoken to Mark Brett of 1155, Dan suggested a volunteer organisation event in the town hall, allowing local organisations to meet and recruit new members. Giving the access restrictions at the Town Hall, it was suggested another venue may be of benefit. Cllr Nigel suggested that a venue closer to the new developments may help the new residents integrate in to the town.
The next major motion was regarding the Site B allotments, with an update given by the Town Clerk and Rob the Estates officer. He relayed that the council will need to sign two agreements to widen the footpath as well as to adopt the allotments. The developer wishes these to be concluded before March, as the works need completing before a set number of residents move in.
It developed that the footpath is currently not wide enough to be adopted. The widening of the footpath will require Town Council land, hence the agreement being required. Cllr Cattermole enquired regarding a northerly path and the possibility of it being upgraded by the developer.
Cllr Holder has developed a new councillor induction guide. This was widely supported, but it was suggested that it requires further work. The adoption of this was deferred for further work, and for Cllr Holder to be present to speak.
Next up was the discussion of the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue service’s Community Risk Assessment Plan. Cllr Rob spoke that it didn’t seem to cover plans for recruiting new volunteers. No further observations were given.
The Estates manager had found that property valuations had not been assessed for Building Re-instatement insurance purposes for the last five years. As such, he has requested quotes from four companies who may be able to complete the reassessment. A quote of £5650 has been received. It was noted that this should also be budgeted for every 3-5 years, as suggested by RICS. Cllr Cattermole suggested that insuring the ruins may be unnecessary given their 600 years of standing. Cllr Keates-Rohan spoke that the maintenance of the schedules is a legal requirement. It was voted on to assign the money, which was passed.
It was discussed that a CDM (Consultant Design Management) consultant is required to assess progress for the St Nicholas College Project. The Estates officer gave a report outlining the current state of the project. As such, Wallingford Town Council current keeps some responsibility for the initial portion of the project. This include a Fire plan, Construction plan, COSHH plan, etc etc. He had taken a CDM course previously, however notes it is not currently in force. He has received three quotes, the most promising being ~£2000, which will cover the provision of the above. The ‘professional fees’ budget contains funds to cover this amount. Cllr Cattermole spoke again regarding the perceived unnecessary expenditure. It was questioned why this had come to council if it was already budgeted. This appears to be a minor clerical distinction. The motion to allocate the funds was carried.
The report regarding the war memorial railings was received. A design by A-level students for some railings had previously been submitted (pre-covid). The Estates officer noted that the war memorial is listed and in a conservation area. He questioned the status and permissions required before moving forward. It was confirmed that the flower beds are part of the listed ‘listing’.
It was suggested that the listing advice would cost in the region of £200.
A Climate Emergency update was circulated internally. Cllr Steve noted that climate related deaths are at their lowest since the 1920s. He noted that the council’s use of Octopus Energy made little sense given their financial standing. He highlighted possible errors in the text of the report, which may be misleading. Cllr Cattermole noted his concern regarding previous actions listed as taken by the council ass not having been correctly done. There was a discussion regarding the actions in question and their level of support. Cllr Cattermole made several points regarding potential unauthorised actions possibly taken in the name of the council.
Cllr Rob spoke regarding his concern regarding political views coming through, despite his overall support of the measures. He confirmed his outlook that an independent council should act in concert.
It was discussed weather to support The Wallingford Accessible Boat Club and their application to moor their wheelchair accessible boat on the upstream end of the Boat House forecourt from April – October 2022 and onwards.
Cllr Cattermole gave support to the application. It was noted that Green King would have to be involved in finalising access to the space.
It was suggested that were the space to be provided, that a rent and matching grant be given in order to make the process transparent and not tie the council to future decisions.
The motion was proposed and carried.
Passing 9pm, the matter of the Locum Town Clerk contract was suggested to be wrapped up by the 30th November. Michelle will be continuing in her role as Town Clerk. The recommendation, having been brought to council, was passed.
It was then moved to adopt the new staff organisation chart, now including Rob the Estates manager. As the chart had not been dispersed, the matter was deferred.
Beyond covering some possible future agenda items, the meeting concluded at 21:01
This article is a summary of the events which took place, and not intended to serve as or replace official minutes. The article is based on our being in attendance at the meeting. Any mistakes are those of the author, and corrections may be submitted to liam at wallingford radio . co .uk