The Annual Chairpersons statement provides an opportunity to reflect on the past and to look forward towards new opportunities and challenges. However, as this is an election year the opportunity to look both backwards and forward is much greater, and we can consider the previous 4-year Council period as well set the strategic direction for the next 4-years.
The past 4-years have seen unprecedented political change and social division. Whether its Brexit, austerity, immigration or religious-based conflict, many people are angry, disillusioned, frustrated and animated for change. Every day seems to bring more finger-pointing and more blame which sadly involves verbal and physical attacks on individuals or groups in our society.
Despite this division, we must never forget that there is much more that brings us together than separates us. We all live together in communities, we interact, we share common space, we share common standards. We are reliant on each other, and we must all recognise our responsibility to maintain respect, tolerance and civility to each other and ensure the place we live remains a pleasant and enjoyable place.
For Romsley Parish Council the last 4-years has represented growth and progress with the Parish Council playing a much more active role in making Romsley a better place to live.
We have introduced flower planters, planted trees, replaced and repaired dilapidated bins, sign posts, benches and bollards across the Parish. The introduction and subsequent hard work of our Parish Maintenance person along with our Parish Lengthsman are making a noticeable difference to our built environment.
In the Park, we have installed new equipment such as the gym and picnic tables, planted wildflowers and improved security in the carpark. Whilst the community defibrillator not only offers our community an important benefit to their health, but it also secures the future of our much-loved traditional phone-box.
Through initiatives such as Smart Water, we have avoided the crime increases that have occurred in other areas despite the massive cuts to Police resources.
Whilst around planning we have challenged orthodoxy and given the community a focussed voice from which we achieved meaningful change to planning applications such as the Severn Trent aqueduct and Rolling Hills development.
The many events we now organise throughout the year bring our community together to celebrate Romsley and strengthen the bonds between us. 2018 saw record numbers attend the St Kenelm’s day celebration, The Christmas Carol Concert and the centenary of the ending of the Great War.
Romstock goes from strength to strength, last year seeing nearly 2000 people attending. I am particularly pleased that the quality and organisation of Romstock has improved year on year and it now contributes significant funds to benefit our community.
Despite these many positives, all this has been done against a backdrop of diminishing support from the tiers of local government that sit above us.
District and County Councils face unprecedented challenges on their budgets and have had to make tough choices over the services they provide. However, time and again they fail to consider the needs of Romsley residents properly. Too many times decisions are done to us and not with us.
Throughout the past 4-years, the most challenging issues for the Parish Council have involved a lack of active dialogue and joined up thinking with the tiers above us. From grass cutting and litter picking to highway maintenance and planning we expend far too much energy fighting to be heard and correcting the poor choices of Council Officers who all too often fail to engage and understand.
Early, meaningful and sustained engagement with the community, however challenging this may be, will reap the rewards in better and more effective services, reduction in bureaucracy and the avoidance of costly mistakes.
Going forward our society has many challenges to overcome. The political and societal upheavals are far from finished and whatever the outcome of Brexit the impacts will be felt for generations.
Regardless of the statements claiming the end of austerity, the pressure on District and County budgets will not reduce in the foreseeable future. Council Budgets are unlikely to increase significantly, and the pressure to fund social care will take an ever-larger percentage of the available funding.
As a result, more and more responsibility will lie with local communities to protect, provide and improve where they live and the services on offer.
For this reason, I would like to propose 6-core areas that I believe the Parish Council must focus its efforts on during the next four-year period.
- Sustainable planning that protects and directly benefits both the current and the future residents of Romsley.
- Safe and effective roads supported by efficient public transport.
- Strengthened in-community provisions for health, educational and wellbeing.
- The protection and enhancement of our natural environment.
- Improving our Civic amenities to make Romsley a better place to live.
- Maintaining a strong, active community that emphasises respect, tolerance and civility.
If accepted by the Council, I would propose that in the coming months we develop a clear and transparent plan for residents and stakeholders that describes our ambitions for each of these areas during the next 4-years.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to the many people across the Council and the wider community who work tirelessly to make Romsley better for everyone.
I want to offer my thanks to the many community groups and volunteers such as the Guides, Scouts, pre-school groups, Art and History society who give up their time to benefit their fellow residents. I would also like to thank the friends of Romsley for their efforts to improve our community.
Despite the challenges we face from the tiers of Government above us we are fortunate to have the active support of our County Councillor and District Councillors I would especially like to thank Karen May and Margaret Sherry for their interest and support towards our community and its residents.
I would like to thank Ruth Mullet, the Council Clerk, for her advice and efforts throughout the year and I would also like to thank the members of the Parish Council for their active involvement and commitment
Finally, I would like to offer special thanks to the departing Councillors Louise Bestwick and Derek Tilt for all their hard work on behalf of Romsley during the past years.
Romsley Parish Council