Chairman's Report for 2021 / 2022

Mick Gillespie, Chairman of the Parish CouncilThis annual report is just a snapshot of all the work the Parish Council does on behalf of its residents. Countesthorpe Parish Council is a terribly busy place with a huge amount of work involved in running the council by both our staff and our councillors.

Council meetings over the last year have mostly been with masked councillors, so it is quite invigorating to begin to see full faces again as Covid relaxes its hold over people’s lives and councillors have begun to grow in confidence again. Last June we also moved away from Zoom meetings as government rules forbade councils to meet remotely. However, to give more space and to continue safely, it was agreed council meetings would be held in the library allowing councillors to keep fairly well apart, although through the winter months we had the doors open and coats on! All of this has made the running of the council less than straightforward, but thanks to our staff, all requirements for running the council and the village amenities have been met. The council are also extremely fortunate to have outside staff whose capabilities continue to surprise us. Several years ago, much of our work had to be done by contractors, but now with the appropriate equipment and training, very few areas across the village need outside involvement.

Once again, I give my thanks to all the Working Parties and Committees for the time they freely give to enable the village to run smoothly and also to have been prepared to make tough decisions when required. The life of a councillor is interesting and fulfilling, but there are always people who complain, at the same time as others applaud. Sadly, through assorted reasons the council is down to around two thirds capacity. One of our councillors has designed a presentation informing ‘would be’ councillors of councillor’s duties; this is to take place on April 21st. 2022.

As you will be aware, last year we had a budget increase of 12.6% or around thirty-three pence per week for a band D property. For the 2022/3 year with prudent budgeting, we are pleased to announce we have managed to achieve a zero % rise. For several years now, when the budget allowed, the council has been putting aside money for a new lorry as we knew our present lorry was beginning to cost too much to maintain. The council decided to purchase a new lorry in March 2022 with a £5000 part exchange offer. A good all-round deal as the new lorry, in all aspects, is far superior to our old one.

Our new website has been a real boon this year and continues to grow with useful and up to date information for residents and councillors alike. Our deputy manager Joanne manages this site, along with our Meta (Facebook) area, which we also use information to the village.

Village Hall
The use of the hall and bar area has not reached full capacity yet, due to Covid restrictions, but it is pleasing to note that there is now a growing demand from organisations and residents alike.

Our Trustees are now actively looking for ways to transfer their role to the council as the Trustees, by their own admission, are becoming redundant.
We have recently changed brewers to get a better package on prices. To accommodate the new brewers, we have had to drop, or change, the drinks we offer. Due to this change of brewers the engraved name on the glasses will change leaving the existing ones redundant.

Highway Safety
The Parish Council has always been aware vehicles are travelling too fast through our village. When LCC gave our County Councillor a small fund for councils to use, we agreed to install a speed activated sign on Willoughby Road and posts, positioned in danger spots, to allow for the equipment to be portable. This will be happening after LCC Highways have agreed to our positional choices for the posts.

The overhead barrier in the car park at Central Street was damaged causing inconvenience to car park users as it was no longer safe. The council had no alternative but to close the car park for several days for safety reasons. This became an insurance claim as the damage was severe, however, it would have been interesting to see the damage done to the vehicle responsible.

To balance out the distribution of defibrillators in the village the council bought and fitted a new one at Countesthorpe Academy on Winchester Road. Other defibrillators located at the Methodist Church, the Village Hall, and our Health Centre (when open). There is also one at the Coop. We were pleased to run courses for residents in how to use a defibrillator.

All the memorial stones in the cemetery, found to be unsafe, are now safe, at the council’s part or full cost. A registered NAMM stonemason undertook the work. The council were incredibly pleased with the speed and quality of the work. The cemetery will have a regular inspection, following the shock when we found so many stones requiring attention. As a reminder the safety of the memorial stones is at the expense and responsibility of the families.
The closed churchyard has also passed its inspection with no safety issues.
We have now erected a large metal shed in one corner of the new cemetery allowing for storage as and when necessary. We do not intend to keep expensive equipment in the shed.

Earlier in the year the council paid for an inspection of the foundations, as we thought the chapel building was slowly moving, however we found nearby trees were taking moisture out of the ground. Regretfully, a nearby tree needed removal by our tree surgeon. Tie bars are to be fitted by our council staff to ensure no outward movement of the walls. The tie bars should be fitted to ensure no outward movement. If shown to be too expensive the council may decide to seek the views of the parish if large sums of money are involved.

The Pound
The Pound is situated on Main Street outside the church and was a place frequently mentioned by our late County Councillor David Jennings. Historically, a Pound was a place where pets or farm animals, which had strayed into other people’s property would be cared for, at the owner’s expense, until they were able to pay for the animal(s) to be returned. A vote, organised by L.C.C., took place to see if the Pound could be awarded a Green Plaque, allowing the area to be preserved for generations to come. Sadly, the LCC vote was unsuccessful, nevertheless to our village people and council it is still a place of unique importance.

Despite all the challenges Covid placed on the library, we were thrilled by the number of children who joined our summer challenge and even more so by the amount who finished it. The library continues to grow in its use and appreciation, with details found on our website and Meta page.
Sophie, who runs the library for the council, does a superb job along with the volunteers who help her. We offer them a huge thank you for keeping an especially important facility going and growing in the village.

We are always sad when a tree has to be felled for the safety of the public or because the tree is dying. The council run a three-year tree survey done by professionals, with high-risk trees surveyed every 18 months. The large beech tree in the Centenary Paddock has decay fruiting bodies at the base of the trunk, which will invade the roots. The two trees growing within its canopy will also have to be removed for safety. Due to its location, alongside the road, an Ash tree will also need removing to stump level, at Willoughby playing fields as it is also showing signs of decay.

The council continue to plant many more trees than they have to remove. The cemetery has now had five hundred whips planted with a further five hundred to follow.

Willoughby Playing field

The changing rooms foundations have moved with resultant damage to the whole building. An in-depth survey is required before further action can be agreed, but it is inevitable the changing rooms will eventually need replacing. We are currently exploring ways of funding this, as the cost will be high.

To celebrate the unique Jubilee event, to mark our queen’s 70 years on the throne, four separate events are being organised by our Events councillors, with help from people in the village, College, and St Andrews church. A huge amount of work has gone into this so my thanks to those councillors and residents involved and particularly to the scouting organisation for their continuous support and help.

Christmas Display
To go alongside the Christmas trees and lights a group in the village spent many hours making decorations for the beautiful Yarn installation on the Spinney. The council give thanks to anyone wanting to make our village a better and more attractive place to live in, so our thanks to the people involved.

We continue to support and fund two youth workers who meet regularly with some of our young people during the week apart from winter nights. We get monthly reports on their progress with our District Councillor Adrian Clifford providing a link between the council and their employers in Blaby.

Arriva buses have informed the council that due to fuel costs and the availability of fewer drivers the 85-bus timetable is to be reduced from 20 mins to 30 mins with some buses, at off peak hours, not running at all. Whilst this is understandable in the current climate it is still disappointing. Residents along with the council will find this unacceptable, particularly when Arriva buses are removed from service without foreknowledge.

Sadly, we are losing two of the council’s staff. John, a part time member of our outside team is retiring so we wish him a long and healthy retirement.
We are also losing our manager, again for retirement. Christine has been with the council for eleven years as deputy, then manager. She has done a tremendous job keeping the council running proficiently, professionally, and legally. Her diligence to detail and her expertise and experience have been a huge plus for the council, Christine leaves on May 31st, and we of course wish her well for her newfound freedom. We thank them both for their service to the village. We have now advertised both posts.

Many blessing for the future, Mick

Reverend Mick Gillespie, Chairman of the Parish Council