The proposed housing development beside the allotments is one of the most significant issues in the village at present. It was not on the November agenda since the planning application had not yet gone live or been sent to us by the District Council for comments. It is likely however that it will come up at the December meeting (this can be ascertained from the Agenda, which is always published on the website and the PC notice board) in which case members of the public will be free to voice their thoughts beforehand. Please note that the date of the meeting has been changed to Tuesday December 11th, same time and place as usual.
One thing we did discuss was the PC’s policy for keeping the community informed about all the various things that come before us. As well as these monthly summaries that appear in the Parish Magazine and on the website (and the quarterly version in Stoke News), we put out some information, especially about road closures, via an email list. We use the local social media network Nextdoor for farming announcements and other short-term information. We have also recently set up a PC account on Facebook, since many people are on Facebook but not Nextdoor (and vice versa). The email list has not been particularly popular, though the emails are infrequent and should always be relevant. Nextdoor reaches four times as many people in the parish, but, as with Facebook, the messages can be lost in the general chatter.
On all subjects, we aim to make the village website the fullest and most reliable source of information, but sometimes getting a message out quickly to as many people as possible is the main priority. We are keen to keep people in touch, but at the same time anxious not to duplicate messages in an irritating way. If you have views on how we could improve in this respect, we would be happy to hear from you.
On a related subject, where the information provided on the website is out of date or incomplete, this is often because we have not been informed. The Contacts section for instance is supposed to provide reliable contact details for all the organisations in the village, but it can only do so if we are told when these change. Please check and pass on corrections. Likewise, please send any news items or event details that you would like published.
The main item at the meeting was beginning to set the budget for next year. It is probably not generally understood why the Parish Council needs money and what it is spent on. Our finances are very small beer compared to other branches of local government, but in these times of slashed budgets and reduced services, more and more things which were formerly the responsibility of the District and County Councils are being passed on to us. So as well as keeping the footpaths clear, looking after the burial ground, paying our clerk’s salary (all other members of the Council are unpaid), maintaining the clock, paying annual insurance and a host of other outgoings which we have always had, we are now for instance having to maintain the signposts and think about the gritting of icy roads.
This trend is likely to continue, added to which we may well find ourselves with some major expenditure in the near future if we want to support a community shop. Just as the PC helped the new village hall in the early days, and more recently the allotments, any community enterprise would require considerable help before it was able to become self-sufficient. For all these reasons it is important that we try to keep in credit before we too have our wings clipped and are forced to limit what we can do.
The money for the PC “precept” is paid for by parishioners, but considering that it accounts for less than 2.5% of Council Tax, and currently amounts to between £27 annually per household for the lowest band and £82 for the highest, we do not consider it bad value.
Finally, appreciation was expressed to the organisers for the very successful events during the Remembrance weekend, from the exhibition in the Village Hall to the bonfire on Sunday evening, and not least the very well-attended outdoor service. This was a heartening reminder of what Stoke can achieve when we put our minds to it.