Informal notes from Houghton Parish Council’s Annual Assembly

Philip Page Chairman of Parish Council reported on Parish Council work over the past year, including: the successful handling of Planning Applications; the purchase of the telephone box for the village; the contribution of £2500 that was granted to the very successful refurbishment of the village hall cloakrooms and internal decorations; general village maintenance (verges, footpaths, bus-shelters) via the Lengthsman Project; grants to All Saints of £500 for churchyard maintenance; no increase to the parish precept (tax) ; the public consultation and subsequent submission to TVBC about the village settlement boundaries. Philip thanked all Councillors for their hard work and Bev Barker for her excellent job as Parish Clerk.

The accounts at 31 March 2013 show a healthy balance of £6,117.65, which is appropriately, approximately the same as the Precept.

The Community Police Support Officer, although unable to be at the meeting, submitted a report that recorded there were 20 incidents of various crimes over the past year in the parish. Villagers were asked to report any suspicions of crime promptly on 101. Crime updates will continue to be circulated on the village e-mail group. Oil thefts in the area are still occurring but the thieves have not yet been identified.

HCC Cllr Andrew Gibson reported that despite large cuts to funding, services had been maintained through efficiency savings but there are more funding cuts to come. A thousand Apprenticeship places will be created, which will help youth employment opportunities; funding to enable 90% of Hampshire (including Houghton) to received Broadband has been agreed; the Village Hall benefited from HCC funding and £1000 will be available to continue the Lengthsman Project. A new system of preventative highway maintenance with a budget of £100m over 5 years should improve road and pavement surfaces.

TVBC Cllr Peter Boulton said there TVBC has increased Council Tax by an average of £5 pa per household and will need to deliver savings of £3m. Efficiency savings are being implements, such as shared IT & telephone services with other authorities; waste collections will be the same each week across the Borough and drivers have been taught ‘fuel reduction’ driving skills. Small grants continue to be available for community projects. Housing needs continue to rise, including in Houghton. Peter said he was impressed with the responsible way in which the Parish Council has handled Planning issues;

The Village Hall Committee reported an exceptional year and thanks to all those who have helped in so many ways: the Working Weekend, supporting events, sponsoring chairs, securing grants to support the £25,000 cloakroom refurbishment; to The Boot which purchased the clock and will ‘caretake’ it for the village; and for its generosity in donating all proceeds from a Fishing Auction to the Village Hall. Monthly Coffee Mornings are growing in popularity; the summer fete and a bonfire night are to come; projects for the coming year include a new boiler. There was a note of concern about the level of vandalism to windows and tiles.

Richard Burnett-Hall, a Church Warden at All Saints, explained that a current challenge for the church is identifying a role for it (and the building) when, currently it is relatively little used other than for weddings and other family occasions, Christmas, etc.,). There are a number of projects, all fairly expensive, that either need or could be delivered ( eg: roof repairs, replacement bells, loo/kitchen, an Audio Visual System, removal of pews). To help find out how the village would like the church to contribute more to village life and to identify how this could be effected and the sort of projects that should go ahead, a committee has been formed, which includes Ingrid Burt as a representative of the Parish Council, to look at potential uses of the church. Reps from the village as a whole are also needed. Grants are available for agreed projects and all monies will be held by Friends of All Saints for the fabric of the church. The church does not wish to compete with the Village Hall but be a integral part of village life. Richard would welcome your thoughts and suggestions. (His full discussion paper—’All Saints: proposals for the future’ is available on the village website on the All Saints page).