Filed under: council

Annual Parish Meeting of Abingdon-on-Town Council (2019)

Annual Parish Meeting
Yesterday (12th March 2019) was the annual Parish Meeting of Abingdon-on-Town Council. It is not a council meeting but a chance for the electors to hear what the Town Council has been doing. Chairs of committees sat at the front of the Roysse Room in the Guildhall and reported back on what had been done by their committee, followed by questions from the public. There was also a short presentation by Ian and Sue Wiper, who now run the Abbey Cinema, and manage the other rooms of the Guildhall. About twenty five people had come to listen. The Mayor, Councillor Margaret Crick, introduced and chaired the meeting.

There were also some announcements about what the Vale of White Horse District Council (VWHDC) have planned for Old Abbey House, Upper Reaches, and the Charter. Anyway here is my typed up record of the meeting
Annual Parish Meeting
Amenities Committee – Thanks were given to the staff who go out in all weathers. The snow equipment got an outing on the Market Place. New Fishing Signs have been erected by the River and the effect will be monitored. New play equipment has been put in at Elizabeth Avenue, and Hill View play areas. More is planned for Box Hill and Masefield Cresent play areas. Abingdon in Bloom flower displays last year were a great success. Council staff also maintain cemeteries and bus shelters, one of which was knocked down by a car and needs reinstating. Christmas Lights were up as usual.

Community Committee – Grants worth £18K have been given to community groups and a list was read out. Fun and Music in the Park were a success, and will run again this year. The Council communicate mainly through their website. Asked about noticeboards in the town centre we were told that was being looked at. I did not hear a mention of the Community Led Plan but may have blinked.

Guildhall Committee - Councillor Dennis Garrett has been a star on this council and has put in a lot of hours in to get this project near completion. A little work still needs doing but that has to be done round cinema hours not to spoil the cinema experience. The old rooms have been reopened as reported in previous blog posts, and the cinema. Once the muniment room is ready, the town’s records can be brought back – currently in Berkshire Records Office. During the revamp money was spent future proofing as far as possible. For example, the new pavement has been built to a high standard and can take emergency vehicles. Hire Rates have been set at a level to encourage community groups. I asked what had happened to the Guildhall tables and was told they had been a finger trip hazard and were got rid of. Some of the smaller ones are now at the Beacon in Wantage. Chairs have been kept where they are usable. Somebody commented that the front of the Abbey Hall looks shabby and was told the Abbey Cinema will be seeking planning consent for improvements.
Annual Parish Meeting
Museum Committee – A Heritage Lottery grant helped finance the WWI propaganda exhibition. We were told the next exhibition will be ‘Rubbish’. People laughed at this point. It was explained this was about discarded household items and the story they tell. I asked whether a better site would be found for the Information Centre, currently in the museum, and was told that is being looked at.

Planning and Highways – We were given a description about the work of this committee. Objections to plans must be ‘material’ to succeed. ‘Material’ means that they are in line with the various local plans such as the VWHDC local plan and County Council mineral extraction etc. The town council agreed 95% of the time with VWHDC who actually make the final decision. If the Town Council does object to a plan then they ask VWHDC to call it in so it is discussed in public at committee, and a Town Councillor often goes to speak in such cases.

Finance & General Purposes Committee – This committee gathered together the needs of the other committees and set the precept at £1,549,607. (need to double check figure). It was also noted that the Town Council no longer gets the localisation grant, or funding from other councils towards the museum. Bigger grants are given by the Town Council for Citizens Advice, Abingdon Bridge, the 41 Bus Service (the council got a good price by using the Drayton School bus at  times outside the school run),  Children’s Centre (£90K over 3 years), town centre PCSO.

The Town Council has 17.4 staff: 6 officers. 5 outdoor staff. 4.1 museum staff. 1 residents parking warden, 0.9 Information Centre and 0.4 (gym? cannot read my notes). There is also an unpaid honorary Town Archivist, and Mace Bearer and museum volunteers.

Non Town Council Abingdon news:
A hotel operator is interested in taking over the lease of the Upper Reaches. If their offer is agreed by the current lease holder then the hotel could be re-developed and re-opened.
Old Abbey House is still intended to be used for affordable housing. Providers of Social Housing are  being asked whether they want to take it on.
Something was also said about the Charter area but I did not hear what. I expect that will appear in Conservative leaflets as these announcements are partly political. The Conservatives want to retain the control of VWHDC in the election on May 2nd.
Annual Parish Meeting
Ian and Sue Wiper – Abbey Cinema and Guildhall
There were over 1000 visitors during the Guildhall Open Day.  They have an events manager, marketing person, and caterer to help run the Guildhall. People seem happy with Community Rates and there are 150 bookings so far, and many enquiries.

Since opening there have been 11,000 visitors to the new cinema, which is in line with projections. They are now marketing it more strongly with leaflets to houses. Currently there are 164 seats, and that will rise to 174.

I did ask the council why there was no large room for public meetings in the town centre – one with over 100 people. The Council Leader, Cllr Mike Badcock, said that I was wrong. There was the Amey Theatre at Abingdon School.

14 Comments March 13, 2019

New Commemorative Benches at Abingdon Guildhall + announcement of Annual Parish Meeting

The front view of the Guildhall no longer has the silhouettes of servicemen from WWI. Instead there are two commemorative benches.
One bench shows scenes from WWII with the years 1939 – 1945 and a dove of peace.
The other bench shows scenes from WWI with the reminder Lest we forget and the years 1918 – 2018.

The annual parish meeting will be on Tuesday 12th March at 7 pm in the Roysse Room in the Guildhall. This is when the Town Council reports back on their work and achievements during the last year.

The annual parish meeting is also the opportunity for anybody living in Abingdon to ask questions of the Town Council. For more detail see the agenda at Annual Parish Meeting.

6 Comments March 4, 2019

Town Council meeting in North East Abingdon

Town Council
As work continues at the Guildhall, the Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council meeting was moved to another part of town.
Town Council
The council met at the North East Abingdon Community Centre, next to the Peachcroft Shops.

The meeting began with the presentation of grant cheques to community groups. Then members of the public were allowed to speak.

A business person gave an update about the closure of the BID (Business Improvement District) after a petition showed businesses overwhelmingly wanted the district council to wind it up. But questions remained about BID accounts and when businesses would see some of their money back.

Pat Bryden showed the maps she is a designing as a tribute to Alan Bryden, an ex Councillor. They will be the other side of the River and Rye Farm car park.

There was a question by Councillor Angela Lawrence, the one Independent on the Council, about progress on the Community Led Plan, something she is keen on. She was told that only 4 people turned up at the last meeting by the Chair of the Plan Committee, who is waiting for community groups to come back having made progress on their actions before calling another meeting. The Chair said it was a Community Led Plan not a Council Led Plan.

The Mayor announced forthcoming dates which include the Over 70s Christmas Party on 17th December, and a quiz at a yet to be decided date – due to uncertainty about the Guildhall.

There was some discussion about the Guildhall where refurbishment is over budget by over £300K due to 3 unforeseen factors: the need to remove asbestos, water ingress issues, and the biggest factor – changing regulations for fire detection and emergency lighting .

However the chairman of the Guildhall Committee said they had the money thanks to the £1.2M pot that the District Council gave to the Town Council to take over the building, and the money saved because the Guildhall has been closed for three years. The old and new parts of the building will be outsourced and run by the company who are going to open the cinema in the Abbey Hall, and that will mean reduced running costs for the council. The building will also be fit for the next twenty or thirty years. It had been neglected in the past under the previous owner – the district council.

It had been proposed that 3 flags be erected in the newly refurbished Roysse Court, at a cost of £5K, but the Council decided not. Councillor Pat Lonergan said the town was over-flagged anyway. The council are to purchase a WWI memorial bench and a WWII memorial bench for the Roysse Court.

Three silhouette soldiers have been given to the Council who wanted to find a good location where they would not be vandalised. They could go in Roysse Court or beneath the County Hall Museum.

The Council flicked through a lot more committee minutes with few comments. There are of course the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War Years events in Abingdon. They include a Bun Throwing on 10th November, and a special service on the same day with readings from the Roll of Honour.

11 Comments October 17, 2018

Report on today’s F&GP council meeting

The leader of the council, Councillor Mike Badcock, thanked those who had come to the Finance and General Purposes meeting on such an inclement evening. Snow like tiny polystyrene balls was being blown about on the road outside.

Councillor Mike Badcock also said it was nice to be back in the splendid Council Chamber. We got there by way of the staircase that some people have been trying to protect from the Town Council’s plans to install a lift. There were lots of empty chairs with only seven members of public in attendance in the Council Chamber.

Before the meeting proper, Hester raised a couple of points about the short term use of the Abbey Hall, and Jim Halliday asked for a breakdown on what had been spent in capital costs of the £1.2m dowry that came with the Guildhall.

Then we came to questions raised at the previous Finance and General Purposes meeting. The leader said that the replacement Ock Bridge would be coming on 23rd March, and installed the week after that – weather permitting. In answer to the question about the BID (Business Improvement District) which some traders have not been happy about and asked the Town Council to facilitate a meeting, we were told (and I hope my hearing is correct) that the management company running the BID had handed in their notice, and there would be a meeting with the district council later this week to discuss matters. He also announced a Bun Throwing ceremony to commemorate the end of WWI on Saturday November 10th.

The committee then considered the answers given to about half of the questions from the public meetings. The Guildhall Committee will consider those more appropriate to their committee on Thursday. When all are approved they will be formally published on the Town Council web site.

The committee then considered the architect’s report on reopening the Abbey Hall – in the short term. There were outstanding questions about whether all the works quoted as a minimum were essential. So when that has been discussed, and the agreed minimum cost clarified, the report will go to the Regal Evesham who can decide whether to move forward to a formal offer on using the Abbey Hall. There are also other short term possibilities for the hall such as the internal market suggested by one member of the public, and previous users such a ADFAS returning.

Anyway, I had to leave at that point…

13 Comments February 26, 2018

Mayor of Sint Niklaas, Town Council Meeting, and ‘I do not have 4 legs’

Mayor of Sint Niklaas visits
Thanks to Brian for this picture of the Mayor of Sint-Niklaas, Lieven Dehandschutter, with the Mayor of Abingdon, Jan Morter. During his time in Abingdon, Lieven spoke to about 300 children at St Nicolas School. It was the then headmaster of St Nicolas school who fifty years ago initiated the twinning between Abingdon and Sint-Niklaas. Lieven toured Abingdon with Jan Morter and had lunch at the Nags Head. He spoke as an invited guest to Abingdon and District Twin Towns Society on 800 years of Sint Niklaas. This was followed by frites with mayonnaise, waffles and Belgian beer. He also gave an interesting talk to Abingdon Town Council at the start of their meeting. He spoke on the subject of twinning.
Mayor of Sint Niklaas visits
This was followed by a talk by the deputy Director of the local Citizens Advice. She told members that the CA helped over 1700 people from Abingdon last year. The CA has very few paid staff – they rely heavily on volunteers and it is calculated that, in addition to financial savings for their clients, every £ invested in the service produces over £26 in public value (economic and social) and nearly £5 in direct savings to government.

As to the Town Council meeting there was a good turnout of members of the public.

Under Matters Arising from previous meetings they heard some good news: The X3 Bus will once again go to Oxford Station as from Monday 23 October – but only till 8pm and with variations to the route – it may not be possible to join it in St Aldates. Check before you travel!

The Town Council has now released its promised funding for the Family Centre at the former South Abingdon Childrens Centre.

The District Council have now approved the release of “S.106” money, their contribution, for the Lodge Hill slip roads so hopefully work will be able to start soon.

The matter which had brought most of the audience to the meeting was the discussion on the Guildhall and Abbey Hall. Over 1500 people had signed the online petition and nearly 300 had signed a hard copy. The two main issues of concern were the proposed loss of the Abbey Hall as a venue for community use and the plans to remove the 1731 staircase in the old part of the building to allow room for a lift and a narrower staircase. In response to these concerns, the Council agreed to look into ways of bringing the Abbey Hall back into use and to get professional advice on alternative ways to improve disabled access to the old parts of the complex, without causing irreparable damage

There may also have been a formal request for a public meeting about all of this. So that could be happening fairly soon.

After the Guildhall discussion there was a brief update on the Community-led Plan proposal. The results are still being analysed but the organisers were disappointed that more young people hadn’t taken part and that those offering to help with the follow-up work were mainly people already active in the community – they are keen to reach out much more widely. Hopefully they will find a way of doing that.
Mayor of Sint Niklaas visits
During the meeting there was a long discussion, followed by a vote, on whether the word Chairman should be replaced by Chair (or Chairperson) – which was was lost. Monica Lovatt was one of the opponents, and said ‘I do not have 4 legs’.

18 Comments October 19, 2017

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