new welney sign

an unofficial look at Welney Parish Council


details provided by The Welney Website


page created September 2006, amended/updated Wednesday, 04 February 2015




Why unofficial?

  • Because Welney Parish Council would not want anyone reading this to think it has been provided by the Council.
  • Because The Welney Website does not want anyone reading this to think it has been provided by the Council.

Why do we need to 'take a look' at the Council and its activities?

  • The Council does not have a mission statement and does not review its annual performance.
  • It seems to apply the Standing Orders (which set out how its business should be conducted) either very rigidly or not at all to suit its own purposes. If they don't like a rule they change it, but do not minute details.
  • It consistently refused to make available a document regarding their finances despite the fact that they are obliged to provide it under the Freedom of Information Act..
  • It has caused offence to our MP in a letter written to him by the Parish Clerk.
  • None of the Councillors have ever been elected by Parishioners yet some seem to believe they have a mandate to do just as they like.
  • In 2006 the Council increased the Parish rates by 15% without giving a reason, and even though they didn't need the extra money.
  • Meetings are conducted in such a way that it is often difficult for the Public to know what it being discussed. Minutes of the previous meeting are only available to Councillors so members of the Public attending a meeting do not know what was discussed at the previous one. It is therefore difficult to follow or comment on matters arising.
  • The Council refused to renew the children's play equipment at the playing field despite being given nearly £4,000 by the Gala 2004 Committee in Oct 2004. The old equipment was removed in 2006 leaving nothing for children to play on.
  • Subjects raised during Public Participation are rarely minuted (but see Update Note on right).
  • The Council (like all parish councils) does not work on a party basis so there is no official opposition to question decisions or policy.
All these matters (and more) have resulted in considerable dissatisfaction in the Parish regarding the Council's activities during the last few years. One Councillor at least does seem to realise some of these shortcomings having urged the Council to be pro-active rather than re-active, and having raised the matter of the Council's standing in the Parish, but with little noticeable effect.

That is why we all need to 'keep an eye on' them.

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Welney Parish Council, the internet and openness

In February 2005 the Webmaster of this website suggested to Welney Parish Council that to comply with the Government's desire for easier access to official papers, the Council's minutes and accounts ought to be available on-line. To assist the Council (whose members and Clerk had little or no IT skills) the webmaster offered to provide the Council with its own official section on The Welney Website.

The Webmaster designed five web pages with suggested text and gave a presentation to Council. After a good deal of debate the Council agreed to accept the offer for a 3-month trial period. That period was followed by two six-month agreements for The Welney Website to host the Council's pages. Agendas and minutes of meetings were added as were the 2005 accounts, but Council did not ask for any other pages.

In April 2006 the Council announced that as part of its attempt to become a so-called "quality status" council it was going to start its own website. In June 2006 the Council stopped further postings on this site, and in September 2006 we learned (from a non-Council source) that the Council had launched its own website. It contained a page of information based originally on that provided by this website but presented in an unattractive and muddled manner; the agendas and minutes of Council meetings from May 2006 onwards; and the dwindling number of meetings of its 'WASH' committee. It did not publish its accounts on-line, something many parishioners wanted to see. The Council 'ticked the box' (regarding its application for quality status) by having a website, but it has not really embraced the internet, and it seems to reject the concept of openness.

Parishioners comments about the Council's site included the dearth of information, it was often inaccurate or long out of date and the peculiar haphazard list of minutes and agenda (note that 35-40% of Council funds, that's our money, goes on "administration"!)

In spring 2011 the Council launched a new and much better presented website (provided by Norfolk CC). However there is no re-direction from the old site and the only minutes available are for the current year. Fortunately, all their published minutes from January 2005 to date are on this site with easy to follow chronological listings.

This website provides three links to the Council's site (on this page, on the 'local government' page, and on the 'links' page). The Council has not reciprocated, nor has it posted links to other local sites (e.g. school, church, etc), but it does carry an advertismernt for a business run at a Councillor's home.

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PLEASE NOTE.
If you have visited this page before you may need to "refresh" the page to see the latest version. Also, please "allow blocked content" (if prompted) to view correct layout & features.
(Both notes apply to all pages).

UPDATE NOTE, 2011
These comments and criticisms were written in 2006 based on close observations since May 2003.
Sadly it seems they are nearly all just as applicable in 2011 except that points raised during public participation are now usually recorded.
 

Function and role

The Parish Council is the first tier of local government, and serves the civil parish of Welney.
In England the boundaries of a civil (government) parish may differ, sometimes considerably, from that of an ecclesiastical (church) parish of the same name.
The civil parish covers 2056 hectares (5080 acres), and at the 2001 census had a population of 520. The electoral roll for the same year showed 415 people over 18 were registered to vote, occupying 208 dwellings in all, 161 in Welney village and along the Wisbech Road, 20 in Tipps End and 27 at Suspension Bridge and scattered along the Hundred Foot Bank. There were also a number of dwellings that were either unoccupied or the occupants had exercised their right not to register.
Tipps End is unusual, not only are there at least 3 alternative spellings for the area, but it is divided into 2 counties and three parishes. Of the 56 dwellings in 2007, 27 were in the county of Cambridgeshire, in the parish of Christchurch, and 29 in Norfolk - 3 in the parish of Upwell, and 26 in Welney parish (note, only 20 shown on the 2001 electoral roll). Welney Parish Council has no jurisdiction over or responsibility for the residents and premises outside its border, and has no influence on the other authorities, although it does meet some adjoining parish councils to discuss matters of mutual concern..
The Council has responsibility for the following:
  • Welney Playing Field, and the Pavilion and children's play equipment at the playing field - payment of all expenses including grass cutting and insurance, and overall responsibility as trustees. (note, Welney Playing Field Association is a registered Charity number 1035795
  • Welney Parish Hall - overall responsibility as lessees and trustees.
  • Street lighting - costs of electricity, insurance & all maintenance of 29 or30 (one is disputed) lamps and posts.
  • Bus shelter
  • Village sign
  • Notice boards - maintenance & insurance.
  • Dog-waste bins - provision & emptying of 4 bins. This is contracted out to the Borough Council who have the necessary disposal facilities.
The Council also has other functions and duties, such as to:
  • consider and comment on local planning applications. The Borough Council has to take into account these comments, but is not bound by them.
  • appoint a representative to the Governors of William Marshall VC Primary school.
  • appoint representatives to certain local charities, such as 'Marshall's' and 'Bishops Land'.
  • pass on the opinions of parishioners to higher levels of local government and to other statutory bodies and organisations.
The Council can also spend money (up to £3.50 per elector) on other items and initiatives for "any purpose which in its opinion is of direct benefit to its area or to the inhabitants".

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Composition

  • The Council comprises a maximum of nine councillors, all unpaid, who can be elected by the Parishioners (every four years but only if there are more than 9 candidates; if 9 or less candidates are deemed "elected unopposed") or simply 'co-opted', i.e. appointed, by the Council to fill vacancies.
  • To qualify, a person must be over 21, and have lived or worked in the parish for at least 12 months.
  • Parish Councils are the only form of government not organised on a political party basis. There is therefore no 'official opposition' - it is up to Parishioners to voice alternative views or ideas.

Meetings

  • 'Ordinary' Council meetings are held on the first Tuesday each month in the Parish Hall, starting at 7.30pm.
  • The AGM is held in May half an hour before the ordinary meeting
  • Additional meetings are held as necessary.
  • Agendas are displayed on the Council's website and notice-boards. Iin 2011 the only one is outside the Parish Hall.
  • The public may attend all meetings and have an opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns during 'Public Participation'.

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Administration

The Council is administered by a paid, part-time, Parish Clerk whose responsibility is to:
  • ensure the Council conducts its business properly and lawfully.
  • deal with correspondence.
  • call Council meetings and prepare agendas.
  • provide newly appointed Councillors with a copy of the Council's Standing Orders.
  • take minutes of all meetings, and to circulate them to Councillors and the public as directed.
  • maintain financial accounts, comply with VAT and auditing requirements, and submit annual return.
  • prepare the annual budget, and complete and lodge the annual precept request.
  • maintain registers of property (assets) and Councillors ('members') interests.
  • ensure that meetings are conducted properly, and to advise the Chairman as necessary.
  • implement decisions and oversee projects.
  • provide independent, objective and professional advice and support.
  • keep up to date with legislation and ensure compliance.
The Clerk is also (from April 2005) the licensee of the Parish Hall and presumably the Pavilion ?

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Finance

  • The Council is financed by raising a 'precept' or levy on all residential properties in the parish.
  • In January each year the Council prepares a budget of expenses for the financial year beginning on 1st April. The details are sent to the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, who calculate the amount required from each rate-payer to raise the precept, and collects that money for the Parish Council along with its own rates.
  • There is no limit to the amount that may be requested by precept, provided the expenses are lawful - the Borough Council has to honour whatever is asked for. However, the work and expenditure of the Parish Council is open to scrutiny by all parishioners and the only real limit is what taxpayers are prepared to pay.
  • A small income is received from the re-cycling facilities on the Lamb & Flag car-park. The Council appears to have been unsure about which facilities (paper &/or glass) they receive money for, and unclear about what the money should be used for.
  • Another small income is from interest on bank deposit accounts.

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Training & advice

The Council subscribe annually to the Norfolk Association of Town and Parish Councils (NATPC), who in turn are members of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC); the Norfolk Association of Village Halls (NAVH); and the Norfolk Playing Field Association (NPFA). A wide range of advice and publications are available from those organisations.

Of particular interest to all existing and potential Councillors is the Councillor's Guide, and maybe the Training Strategy document. Those and many other pages can be found on the websites of NALC and/or the Society of Local Council Clerks.

Grants or 'Bursaries' are available to Welney Parish Council to cover some training costs.

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Parish Action Plan

This project started in late 2005 to ascertain the views of residents on a range of matters affecting the the parish, present and future. The plan was formulated by a group comprising a number of Parish Councillors and various parishioners, and was published in March 2008. The Parish Council will use the findings as a guide for the future. The Plan was circulated to all households within the Parish, plus a number just over the border in Cambridgeshire.

You will not find any details of the Plan on the Council's site, but luckily the full version is available in PDF format on this website.

The plan was reviewed late in 2012; an update will be posted soon.

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other pages about the Parish Council
Clerks & Councillors current & past
minutes index 2005 to date
attendance records 2007 to date
Council hide Auditor's report
lack of Freedom of Information
huge increase in 2006 rates
Refusal to renew play equip
Councillors Guide (Word doc)
Parish Action Plan 2008 (PDF)
Council's proposals for a New Hall
related pages on other websites
Welney Parish Council official site
NALC (Nat'l Assoc Local Councils)
Society of Local Council Clerks
NATPC
NAVH
 
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