Parish Matters by Peter Bird

Have your say

Town action plan

If you want to know how the shoe fits, ask the person who is wearing it, not the one who made it. So goes the saying.

Which is why, In February 2008, my council called together the people of the parish to say, “this is your chance to say what you want. Form yourself a steering group, question the residents, and tell us what the people of our parish want”

This parish plan wasn’t our idea, it was floated down from somwhere in the bowels of central government. We as a parish council were to provide facilities for the steering group, and help it secure a grant, money to help it do the survey. Twelve of our parishioners stood to form the steering group, soon reducing to six, as members left, for a variety of reasons.

By mid 2008, having secured the grant, the group got under way, and asked its first questions. Later, not surprisingly, only 20 per cent, (one fifth) of the homes in our parish bothered to answer the final round of questions, resulting, in my belief, to a distorted set of answers.

Finally in 2012, the parish plan was made available to the parish council. A beautifully bound, spiral backed document, presenting the results of 114 questions.

Surplus money from the grant was presented back to the council, to spend on community projects, at the official handover towards the end of the year.

Our council of course had sight of the document before the handover, and was able to determine which parts it needed to deal with.

Of the33 separately identifiable items that our parishioners required us to take action on, six we already do, one is in hand, three we give support to when needed, 11 were not our remit, but we will help those responsible when we can, one we will carry out a feasibility study on.

So the outcome for my parish council is virtually, no action required, and I can already see the plan gathering dust under a pile of other paperwork.

Do I think the plan a waste of money? I hate to say yes, because I know those that worked hard to compile it will be disappointed, but the truth is, little will come of it, those that thought it the motivator as a time for change will also be disappointed. I see it as another jobs for the boys, from central government, wages for civil servants to administer yet another government initiative. Just like the two young women I encountered in our library the other day, one of whom was employed to ask us not to blow cigarette smoke while other people are around. Err... don’t we know that already? In any case, I don’t smoke cigarettes.

At the time of writing, we have decided to publish notices in our local journal, and perhaps elsewhere, asking for volunteers from all those that wanted, a pageant, sports events, music events, picnics in the park, farmers markets, open air theatres, kite flying competitions, caravan and camping rallies, car boots, etc, because we the councillors already offer our time, free, by running the council, and have no capacity to do any more. I doubt if anyone will bother to reply.

l Next month, a final roundup.