As I write this we are about to be the subject of another amber weather warning with snow forecast for Sunday and Monday – and by the time you read this we will all know the outcome…. but it sounds as if my third attempt to celebrate my birthday with a meal out with friends is going to be thwarted, such are the delights of living in rural Dorset in winter, but it does not happen often. Hopefully the Highways Department will perform as well as most people felt they did earlier in March. I was given a number of complements to pass on to our local Highways people for the efficient way they got out and gritted during the earlier cold spell, as opposed to the complaints I more usually get. They planned well and did a very good job, with staff working through the nights to keep us moving safely. One complaint I did get was from someone who could not understand why the schools planned to close before a single snowflake had dropped – by that afternoon it was very apparent why they had taken that decision, as the snow came relentlessly down. In the old days children may have walked three miles through the snow to school but many of our children live rather more than three miles away and the school transport was taken off because the warning was for only essential journeys to be made. Few parents would permit their children to walk three miles through the snow to school nowadays and we live in a far more litigious society if the school transport went wrong. I do have one real complaint about that snow… it was impossible to make snowballs out of.
Not only can our part of the world be a risky place because of the inclement weather but most recently it has been a dangerous place because of the outside world giving us a rude awakening. Sturminster Newton was shocked by an early morning armed robbery at the One Stop Shop which we now believe may have been committed by two local people. It must have been very frightening for the shop staff. A few days later a local hairdressers had their door kicked in overnight and I am told had shampoos stolen …. obviously someone who was so proud of their hair was concerned that they had run out of shampoo and could not wait until the shop opened. Then on top of that Gillingham was in a state of lock down with armed police, soldiers and firemen swarming over it when the recovery vehicle used to move the Russian spy’s car ended up there and was believed to have been contaminated with nerve agent. Our reserve firemen have been moved to cover for the Salisbury firemen who are involved in the clean up operation. When two unrecognised police turned up outside and then inside our medical centre and escorted someone out we had all added two and two together and made five before they had even got in their car.
During the month of March I seem to have had lot of 12 hour plus days of Councillor duties. As well as our normal meetings which involved a lot of pre-meeting reading, I sit as a trustee on several bodies. In one case in particular I found myself involved in a staff appointment which became more complicated and unpleasant than could possibly have been imagined. In the old days Councillors went onto Boards because they gave gravitas but really did not need to do anything except turn up every few months and issue words of wisdom. Nowadays we live in a very different world where Trustees are expected to really get involved by taking on responsibility for pieces of work in between times. It is all very time consuming if you want to do a good job and pull your weight but without volunteers to take these roles our community life would be much poorer.
When I wrote last month we were expecting a government announcement that the 9 local authorities of Dorset were to become two General Purpose Authorities, otherwise known as a Unitary Authority. That announcement has now come. Those of us who hope to be involved in the rural Dorset Council are taking part in the creation of the new body, whilst also being involved in the on-going work of the current councils. As I have said before the new Dorset Council we believe will consist of 82 Councillors rather than 206 which means financial savings to the electorate but more work for those individuals. Even so, if anyone is brave enough to feel this is something they want to do now is the time to make yourself known to your political party of choice or to get guidance from the Democratic Services section of the District Council.
One exciting new project I am pleased to support is the Community Shop in Sturminster, a charity shop with a difference, i.e.selling good quality pre-used goods, books, crafts and holding tourist and local information, aiming to be at the heart of the community. The intention is to raise funds to be used to improve the look of Sturminster, for example putting money towards improved floral displays in the summer, repainting those railings on the entrance to town (again), supporting the Christmas decorations; improving the signage in town…. all those things that the Town Council would like to do but cannot afford. The shop will open on Easter Saturday and thereafter be opened six days a week, 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Surgeries and door knocking in April:
Saturday 7th April 9.30 p.m. door knocking in Glanvilles Wootton; 10.30 a.m. Surgery and Coffee Morning Pulham Village Hall; 11.30 a.m. Surgery in The Exchange Coffee Bar, Sturminster Newton
Saturday 14th April 10.30 a.m. Hilton Coffee Morning
Saturday 21st April, door knocking in Hazelbury Bryan; 11.00 ish Mud Pie Cafe, Okeford Fitzpaine.
Preferred e.mail address – firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone – 01258 472583 Twitter @paulinebatstone Facebook Page – Councillor Pauline Batstone