It is two years since the last Annual Parish Meeting, so this report is a brief summary of what the Parish Council (PC) has been doing since then. Clearly, the COVID pandemic has changed our behaviour, routines, work practices, family relationships and community involvement.
The PC has been no different from any other organization and has had to look at new and creative ways of communicating and working. In this context, I should like to record my thanks to all councillors who have shown admirable commitment to their voluntary PC work – often whilst juggling the exhausting demands of work, home schooling, or caring for elderly or sick members of their families and the community. We have managed to maintain a full complement of Councillors throughout the pandemic although some colleagues have needed sabbatical time in order to respond to their primary family and employment commitments. During this time, our new intake of councillors has also refreshed and galvanized the ways in which we work. Thanks to the ingenuity, efficiency, and permanently good cheer of our Parish Clerk we have been able to keep up to date with developments outside the village and we have also learnt how to cope patiently with Zoom meetings.
Following the closure of The Pill Paper, the PC was delighted to support the launch of its cousin, The Village Voice. The first edition was delivered in November 2019 with an online version on the PC website. This was the first sign of our new digital approach and we were grateful that some of our new Councillors brought their knowledge, skills, and confidence to improving things. We now have a radically redesigned and user-friendly PC website which has up to date links to our Facebook page and The Daily Pill, thereby creating a wider interest group – particularly amongst the 16-40 year olds. The website has also links to the several consultations which have taken place in the last two years on such matters as The Neighbourhood Plan, Metro West railway developments, The Community Land Trust proposals, mud dredging from Hinkley C, and new traffic restrictions through the village.
The PC has also established some different working practices which have resulted in fewer sub-committee meetings and more action. We have ten monthly PC meetings (where planning is always a separate agenda) and four Finance and Personnel Committee meetings a year, with the rest of the work undertaken by groups which have a small budget and often work with other people outside the PC who have the skills and some time to offer. These PC groups, which report their progress at full PC meetings, include:-
The Climate Emergency Group.
The rewilding programme for several spaces in the village.
A group looking into widening the play opportunities for younger children. The footpaths group committed to keeping paths open rather than becoming “lost ways.”
The cycling groups exploring a harbour-to-harbour cycle path from Portishead to Bristol.
All these groups have made constructive links with similar groups in the village so that sharing ideas ensures that makes for a better understanding of what people want.
In addition to these groups, the PC has been quick to support any initiatives in the village which have been of benefit to people during the pandemic. Of particular note here has been the way in which the PC has worked with the village Covid 19 group and the churches; supported the Pill and District Food Bank and the incipient Community Fridge; liaised with the Heywood Practice and local pharmacy to ensure that the most vulnerable members of the village were supported; and agreed to redirect much of the PC contingency fund of £10,000 to hiring portable toilets for Crockerne School for most of the school year 2020/2021. This last decision brought considerable relief to children, parents, carers, and school staff as it made it possible for Crockerne to stay open for a longer period of time whilst adhering to the social distancing regulations.
Other imaginative initiatives have followed with the recycling of donated computers for school use, additional patrols at school start and closing times, and volunteers for looking after planters which should become part of the traffic calming plans in the near future.
It was extremely uplifting during those interminable days of lockdown to know that so many people were doing so much to make their neighbours feel safe and not forgotten. Many of the older generation have shown their appreciation for such kindness. I know that my PC colleagues have also done their best to ensure people are not forgotten and have made special efforts to reach out to different age groups – with many young people feeling vulnerable and dejected – knowing that the pandemic has affected all of us, regardless of age.
Finally, I hope that the Annual Parish Meeting in 2022 will take place in the familiar surroundings once again but in the meantime, you will be able to read the contributions and reports from members of the parish on the PC website.
Paul Kent Chair PEIGPC 1/04/21