The trouble with living in our part of the world is that there is just so much going on you cannot go to everything….or if you did you would get very fat. We seem to be going through a phase where every village is starting up a coffee morning or similar event, plus the occasional breakfast. Okeford Fitzpaine has its weekly “Mudpie Cafe” on Saturday mornings in the village hall, Pulham is having bi-monthly Saturday coffee mornings, Hilton has a monthly Saturday coffee morning in the church, Hazelbury Bryan is doing a Monday morning Coffee morning monthly, Ansty does one on the first Thursday, Tea and Chat Groups meet monthly in Pulham and Hazelbury, and Lydlinch and Glanvilles Wootton do the occasional full English Breakfast. Okeford Fitzpaine also did a “Welcome” event to newcomers to the village for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon where the village organisations had stalls to publicise themselves. Its really good that so much social activity is going on in our rural area, bringing communities together for a pleasant hour or so whilst raising money for the village and offering social contact to some who may be lonely. From a Councillor’s point of view it is a very good way of just meeting people and learning about life in their village and hamlet, rather than only being contacted when there is a crisis. And the home-made cakes are always plentiful and excellent. Thank you to all those reliable local volunteers who work so hard to make the cakes, run the raffles and serve the refreshments on the day.
This winter has been a bad one for colds and ‘flu’ with vaccination seeming to have had no preventative effect. It is important we keep an eye on our neighbours, especially the ones of more mature years who may be alone, to see if they need any groceries, or yet more paracetamol, or just cheering up.
As I write this the local authorities are still holding their collective breath waiting to hear from the Secretary of State for Local Government whether the local government reorganisation will go ahead in 2019. The situation has been made complex because of Christchurch Borough Council and their MP’s determination to fight the proposal that they should merge with Bournemouth and Poole. Whether or not that happens there will be elections in 2019 either for a new authority or the same old one. As Chairman of a Constituency political Association I am concerned that we should recruit people to stand as Councillors who have the energy to move local government forward so that we don’t just have “the same old” bunch of people. I am sure the other political parties are similarly occupied. I have been a councillor in Dorset now for almost 23 years and I still enjoy it so I will also be throwing my hat into the ring again, but it does rather take over your life. We need people who are committed to promoting the wellbeing of their local area as well as able to take a strategic view across Dorset (and also to read a tremendous amount of material). Training is given and expenses paid. If you, or someone you know, has been thinking that they would like to be a Councillor then this is the time to make yourself known to your political party of choice who will help you through the process, or to talk to Democratic Services at either County Hall or the Dorset Council’s partnership for more information. It is likely that there will be 82 Wards under the Rural Dorset Unitary authority rather than the 200+ Councillors serving the same area currently. Those Wards are likely to be half the size of a current County Division but that one Councillor will be operating alone, without the support of District Councillors as now. Fortunately we do have hard working people at Parish level to spread the load.
One minor triumph in my life as a councillor is seeing that the Sovereign Housing Association have finally made an extra parking space for their tenants at Mead Corner, Glanvilles Wootton. This is a long going saga involving inconvenience for those tenants and also danger for drivers using that road who may find cars parked just round a blind bend. This has come about as the result of on-going nagging on the part of a number of people including the tenants and the Parish Chairman. So thank you Sovereign. We do have a similar problem in Ibberton but that currently seems even more intractable.
In Sturminster Newton we are about to start planning for next Christmas. Each year we have tried to do a bit better, as far as our Christmas events are concerned. I am calling a meeting of all those who have played a part previously, and a few new ones, to see what we can come up with for this year, to make Stur. sparkle even more in the festive season.
All the local authorities have now fixed their Council Tax precept for 2018-19 and it is no surprise that the major bodies have all gone for the maximum increase in Council Tax which they are allowed without calling a referendum. As I have said before, the biggest consumer of your County Council Tax payments is Adult Social Care followed closely by Children and Families Care. I accept that our rural roads are in a sad and sorry state from potholes. Highways have had their budget severely cut because of the money going into social care. However, I still urge you to ensure you report potholes either via phone or the dorsetforyou website because repairs will be done once the Highways Department know about them, prioritised in accordance with size and position. That data from reporting is valuable as information to support Highways requests for more financial help from central government.
Surgeries and door knocking in March:
Saturday 3rd March – 9.30 door knocking around Glanvilles Wootton; 10.30 surgery in Pulham Village Hall, 11.30 surgery in The Exchange, Sturminster Newton
Saturday 17th March – Hazelbury Bryan door knocking
Regrettably I cannot visit the Hilton or Okeford Fitzpaine Coffee Mornings this month because of other commitments.
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