The February meeting chaired by Richard Roffe was held in the community meeting room of the bowls pavilion, with six councillors present and Hubert Warren, Clerk to the Council, Wing/Cdr. Paul McClurg, RAF representative and Pc. Andy Grainge, MOD Unit Beat Officer in attendance.
Apologies for absence were received from parish councillors Mrs. Sam Cooper and Geoff Dunkley. Ward councillors John Holdich OBE and Diane Lamb joined the meeting at a later stage.
One declaration of personal interest on agenda items was made by a member of the council.
MOD Pc Andy Grainge distributed an official printed report with bar charts detailing crime and anti-social behaviour in the village from 2002 to 2012 which show a very significant decrease in all recorded crime and clearly indicate the effectiveness of joint police initiatives over the past ten years.
2012 however had started disappointingly with eleven recorded incidents of criminal damage, theft and theft from motor vehicles reported to Cambs. Constabulary and MOD Police in January, on which appropriate action was taken.
Pc Grainge had received complaints regarding speeding in the village and had been using a speed gun to detect offenders. Unfortunately the gun could not now produce acceptable evidence that could lead to prosecution, but he would continue to use it and issue warnings as a deterrent until better equipment was available.
The council was very concerned to learn from PC Grainge and Wing/Cdr. Paul McClurg that the current joint policing activities involving Cambridgeshire Constabulary, MOD and RAF Police would shortly regrettably be no longer financially sustainable due to governmental cuts.
The chairman expressed fears that as a consequence, Wittering and surrounding villages are likely to be inadequately policed by part time officers with no powers of arrest and the clerk will expound these fears to the local police authorities and our MP.
Wing/Cdr. Paul McClurg reported that in response to complaints regarding litter problems outside the Spar shop, bins have been installed by the management, but as these have proved too small they will be replaced by bigger ones as soon as possible..
The bins are emptied twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays but it has been noticed that bags of dog fouling are being deposited and a notice is required to stop this unpleasant practice as dog refuse only bins are situated on the recreation field and the verge of St. Mary’s Avenue which are regularly emptied.
The chairman has since visited the Spar site and noted a great improvement.
Wing/Cdr. McClurg, in response to queries regarding the current and future presence of the RAF in Wittering, explained that the station is part of Air Command, with personnel levels the same as two years ago and flying activities 7 days per week including elementary training courses for University Air Squadron Cadets and visiting aircraft.
Meetings on the station have also been arranged for representatives of city and parish councils to be kept in touch with available information for the avoidance of doubt and inaccurate rumours.
The chairman attended the first of these meetings.
Minutes of the third meeting of the 2011/2012 parish council held on Thursday, 24th.November, 2011, were reviewed and approved.
The chairman reported that there had been no renovation work on the parish hall and sports & social club for fifteen years and following the completion of the 2010/2011 major projects (sports pavilion and bowling green building), the budget for 2012/2013 will include necessary expenditure to carry out interior decoration, improvements to toilet facilities and urgent attention to the sewerage system.
Hubert Warren will be retiring as clerk in later this year and two applications have been received to fill the vacancy. Procedural advice is being sought regarding the composition of a committee of the council to agree the appointment.
The financial statement and bank reconciliation as at 26th. January, 2012 circulated with the agenda was reviewed and approved.
The revised budget for council year 2012/2013 was circulated and discussed. As agreed at the last meeting, no increase in the annual precept has been applied for in view of the current economic climate and the main items of expenditure included are in respect of continuing service charges and necessary repair and refurbishment projects.
The clerk reminded the council that risk management is not just about insurance, but also very importantly about achieving the aims and objectives of the council within the financial parameters of the approved budget.
To this end all statutory security, comprehensive insurance policies, health and safety measures have been reviewed and upgraded to cover all risks for both established and new buildings from 1st. May, 2011 to 30th. April, 2012 and in the revised budget for 2012/2013, income and expenditure were calculated to safely finance the necessary works and maintain reasonable reserves.
As hire charges for use of the parish hall have remained at the present level for over ten years it was agreed that some necessary increases in the light of greatly increased running costs are overdue.
These will be formulated by the chairman and clerk and circulated to councillors for approval at the next meeting to take effect from 1st. April, 2012
The financial statement and revised budget were approved as presented
Robin Talbot reported that the fence surrounding the primary electricity substation adjacent to the A1 was insecure and the area polluted with rubbish. The Clerk will bring this matter to the attention of the responsible authority.
The Chairman had received a complaint from an elderly disabled parishioner regarding a silver birch tree on neighbouring land whose branches were blown against the wall of her house in windy weather which was very disturbing.
For this and several other matters and concerns to be discussed with the two Ward Councillors, a mutually convenient date for a tour of the village with the chairman was agreed.
The next meeting will be held on Thursday, 29th. March 2012 in the Bowling Green Community Meeting Room at 7.30 p.m.