Mayors Annual Report 2017-18

 

 

MAYOR of PONTELAND

ANNUAL REPORT 2017-18

 

 

 

 

5th April 2018

Alan Varley


 

CONTENTS:

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

 

  1. SUMMARY

 

2.1   Vision and Aim

2.2   Partnership Working

 

  1. WHAT WE DO

 

  • Councillors and Staff

3.1.1 Ponteland Town Council Status and Role

3.1.2 Website

3.2    Government Consultation and Legislation

3.3    Youth Work

3.4    Community Cleaning

  • Community Halls

3.6    Ponteland Park

3.7    Environment Working Party

3.8    Britain in Bloom

  • Pont News & Views
  • Ponteland Neighbourhood Planning Steering Group

3.11  Grants

3.12  Play Areas

3.13  Highways Working Party

3.14  Planning Committee

3.15  Development in Ponteland

3.16  Meritorious Service Award

3.16.1 Lucinda Porter

 

  1. THE BUDGET

 

  1. PRESTWICK CEMETERY

 

  1. EVENTS

 

  1. 7. CONCLUSION

 

7.1 Complaints and Support

7.2 Thanks

 

Appendix A    PTC Councillors and Staff

Appendix B    PTC Committees/ Working Parties

Appendix C    PTC Representatives on Local Organisation

Appendix D    PTC Budget for 2017-18 and 2018-19

 

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

 

In this tenth anniversary year of the formation of Ponteland Town Council, I take pleasure in presenting the Mayor’s Annual Report for 2017-18.

 

The annual report to the electors provides the opportunity to summarise the work over the last year. The report will be on the website and printed copies are available.

 

Ponteland Town Council (PTC) has 12 Councillors, 3 for each Ward of North, South, East and West. Elections were held on 4 May 2017. Six members of the last Council retired, five new Councillors were elected and, to fill a vacancy, a further Councillor was co-opted.

I was elected Mayor by my fellow Councillors in May 2017.  It has been a great honour to be Mayor.  It is a busy role.  You meet many nice people and deal with a variety of issues.

 

Town Councillors are unpaid volunteers and they all have the interests of Ponteland at heart. Councillors ensure that decisions are taken democratically by consensus or by vote.

 

Council decisions are implemented by paid staff and Ponteland benefits from having excellent and loyal Town Council staff. There are four staff – one is full time, 3 are part time and their combined hours equate to 2.6 full time equivalent. The staff action a range of tasks within an overall financial responsibility of around £500,000. During the year, PTC transitioned (in a financial sense) to the digital age.  Monthly cheque signing is now extinct and all transactions are conducted ‘online’.  A new computer system has been introduced meaning all documents are securely stored on the ‘cloud’ and this is working well.

  1. 2. SUMMARY

2.1 Vision and Aim
To provide support and value for money services for the residents of Ponteland. The Council promotes pride in Ponteland and encourages the residents of Ponteland to take part in making Ponteland a place where we all want to live.

 

2.2 Partnership Working

 

Much of our work is carried out with others. This includes work in Ponteland Park (with the Friends of Ponteland Park), Community Cleaning (with the County Council), Youth Work at the High School, with Ponteland Community Partnership (on Pont News &Views) and with the Darras Hall Estate Committee (for the bridle path and speed monitors).

 

We continue to take a collaborative approach on replies to major consultations with the Civic Society, Ponteland Green Belt group, the PCP and Ponteland’s County Councillors.

 

We also give small grants to several local organisations that are listed in Section 3.11.

 

A major involvement for PTC is the Northumbria in Bloom competition.  Ponteland won a Gold award again in 2017 for the sixth successive year. Ponteland was invited to take part in Britain in Bloom in 2017.  An enormous amount of work ensued and great credit should be given to the team which yielded a silver gilt award.  Congratulations to our Environment Working Party and best wishes for Ponteland in the Britain in Bloom competition in 2018.

 

Some residents plant flowers and shrubs at corners and junctions. Thanks go to those residents who have brightened up the landscape and we appreciate the support of local businesses too.
3.WHAT WE DO

 

3.1 Councillors and Staff
The Town Clerk and staff carry out mandatory functions required by law such as the production of agenda, minutes and public accounts. Added to these functions are the daily tasks which make Ponteland a good place to live. A few examples are:

 

(i)        Maintenance of Ponteland Park
(ii)       Public Conveniences at Thornhill Road

(iii)      Prestwick Cemetery

(iv)      Allotments

(v)       Gritting of Merton Way, Broadway and other key paths.

(vi)      Play areas and skate park
(vii)     Some grass cutting (on Coates Green and the Park),

(viii)    Christmas Lighting

(ix)      Environmental activities (such as removal of graffiti and repair of damage)

(x)        Litter picking/Dog waste bins,

3.1.1 Ponteland Town Council Status and Role

 

Northumberland has 148 Parish and Town Councils and Ponteland is one of only 5 Councils in the County to have achieved Quality Approved and Accredited status.

 

Ponteland is one of the bigger Councils serving approximately 11,000 residents. During the year we have over 60 meetings through our Committees, Working Parties and Council.  Meetings require agendas, minutes and working documents as well as the implementation of decisions. There are also a number of ad-hoc meetings. In addition, the Council tries to send a representative to outside bodies that influence life in Ponteland such as the Airport Consultative Committee, Merton Hall and the Memorial Hall. The organisations are listed in Appendix C.

 

The Town Council holds a full meeting of Councillors on the second Wednesday of every month. Before the meeting starts there is a public question time where written questions are answered. The public are welcome to attend meetings of the full Council, our Planning Committee and Cemetery Committee.

 

Quite often, residents ask for clarification on what is a Town Council responsibility and what is a County Council responsibility. PTC is not the decision maker on Highways, Schools, Health, Education and Social Services. These services plus many others are the responsibility of Northumberland County Council (NCC).

 

3.1.2 Website

 

The PTC duties are listed on our website and the address is: www.ponteland-tc.gov.uk

The site includes Councillors details, minutes and agendas, copies of Pont News and Views, a list of local organisations, budgetary details and news.  There is also a contact page which is well used. Thanks go to the staff for their work on updating the website.

 

3.2 Government Consultations and Legislation

 

Ponteland Town Council is a consultee on planning matters and replies to all consultations and we always meet the deadlines.

 

PTC supports the prioritisation of developing brownfield sites. PTC and thousands of Ponteland people had objected in particular to three outline planning applications for housing development in the Green Belt.  The change in administration at NCC and their stated commitment not to build on Green Belt sites has brought welcome relief.

 

3.3 Youth Work
Whilst youth work continues in Ponteland and activities are arranged, there have been some cases of anti-social behaviour in Ponteland that have necessitated increased monitoring by the Police.  PTC remain committed to closer involvement with the Police and other organisations in Ponteland to tackle such unwelcome behaviour in our community.  PTC has agreed to spend in excess of £7,000 on repairing and updating the CCTV system and, furthermore, purchase a mobile CCTV camera for use on Thornhill Road initially although this can be moved to different locations.

 

3.4 Community Cleaning
The main responsibility for the general cleanliness of the Community (grass cutting, litter removal, graffiti removal, etc) lies with the County Council. However, in order to augment this work PTC has spent over £15,000 on litter, dog waste collection and additional grass cuts from NCC.

 

We have a working relationship with the NCC Neighbourhood Services Team but litter is a recurring problem and we need help to reduce its impact. The assistance of several residents in picking up litter is greatly appreciated. PTC has increased the number of litter picker volunteers to around 16 and this helps to improve the quality of life in Ponteland. More volunteers are still welcome.

 

Fly Tipping is a problem and there is a contact on the NCC website home page called “Fly Tipping”. Please report any dumping of bags, commercial waste or rubble to this website.

3.5 Community Halls
Village Halls provide cohesion to the community and there are a number of Community Halls such as Dalton and the Memorial Hall which are supported financially by PTC.  Councillor Alan Hall is a member of the Committee of the Memorial Hall.

 

Merton Hall is self-financing and continues to grow its income. Trustees include Councillor Greenwell who is the Treasurer and Hall Manager, plus Councillors Ahmed and Mrs Johnson. Merton Hall has a Committee that runs day to day operations and the Hall has around 50 volunteers.

 

Ponteland also benefits from four self-funding Church halls – St Mary’s, the URC, St Matthews and the Methodist Church.

 

3.6 Ponteland Park
Maintenance of the Park has continued to benefit from the help of the Friends of Ponteland Park (FOPP). Ponteland Park is our major asset and continual investment is required to maintain this much-loved facility.

 

 

 

3.7 Environment Working Party (EWP)
The Environment Working Party improves Ponteland’s appearance. Great efforts are made with floral displays and the 2017 display was special leading to a Gold Award in Northumbria in Bloom – for the 6th consecutive year. Thanks go to our contractors, Iain Clough, Michael Champion, Jim Scott, Derek Sherlock, our Town Clerk Kath Mavin and the Chair and members of the Working Party,

 

Stepping stones have been laid across Coates Green and an art project (by pupils at Ponteland High School) is displayed in the lovely sensory garden.

 

PTC has agreed to site a plaque given from the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust in front of Merton Hall’s conservatory.  This plaque commemorates the use of Ponteland Airfield between 1916-19.

 

Some of you may have noticed that PTC has finally updated its tractor which has been well received by our contractors.

 

3.8       Britain in Bloom

 

As previously mentioned, as a result of a silver gilt award in Britain in Bloom 2017, Ponteland has been invited and accepted the challenge for 2018.

 

3.9 Pont News & Views
Pont News and Views (PNV) is a popular publication. It is self-financing and distributed to all residents. We congratulate Chris Jennings, the Editor who runs PNV.

 

3.10 Ponteland Neighbourhood Plan

 

This Steering Group has been meeting for 5 years and it has consulted residents in order to develop a Neighbourhood Plan for Ponteland. PTC thanks all the volunteers in the Steering Group especially Alma Dunigan and Will Moses, the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Group.

The Neighbourhood Plan was presented to the Ponteland electorate in September 2017 and was overwhelmingly accepted with more than 96% voting in favour.  The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group was formally disbanded in December 2017.
3.11 Grants
Each year PTC allocates a small amount of money to help local organisations in their work in Ponteland. Recipients of the grants in 2017-18 include:

 

Holy Saviour Church Milbourne

Community Action Northumberland

Ponteland Rugby Club

Ponteland Rotary Club

Ponteland Lions

Dalton Village Hall

Great North Air Ambulance

Ponteland Memorial Hall

Ponteland Community Partnership

Darras Hall Estate Committee

Sport Tynedale

New Year’s Eve firework display

3.12 Play Areas
PTC is responsible for Play areas at Callerton Lane, Twizell Place and Guardians Court.  The Town Council holds a long lease with NCC for the land where Callerton Lane play area and the skate park is located.  NCC needed that land back to use as the entry point for the construction vehicles to the schools and complex which is currently delayed.  It will then become part of their parking facilities.  In negotiations with NCC, the Town Council has agreed not to replace the skate park due to the many problems of vandalism and anti-social behaviour that have taken place there since its opening.  NCC will provide a new location for a play area but has also agreed to provide a temporary area further up Callerton Lane until construction is completed.  This area will only contain 6 pieces of smaller equipment but will provide a facility during the construction of the sports and leisure complex.

 

3.13 Highways Working Party (HWP)
Poor road surfaces remain a main area of complaint by residents and the Highways Working Party continues to lobby NCC to implement measures to improve roads in Ponteland.

 

A highways consultation has taken place on a restriction on speed limit to 20mph on Jackson Avenue and a temporary road restriction on Dunsgreen.

 

In addition, a very real concern about the low levels of lighting on Callerton Lane, North Road and some of the car parks was forwarded to NCC.  Levels were checked and found to be inadequate.  As an interim measure, the existing columns would be fitted with higher-powered LED lights and a new 8 metre column at the junction of North Road and Main Street would better illuminate that area.

 

We continue to monitor traffic movement via the CCTV system which is used regularly by the police and is currently being reviewed, updated and improved by new contractors. We also have Speed Indicator Signs to remind motorists that there is a speed limit on local roads. The HWP has increased the focus on speeding in Ponteland through the installation of additional Speed Indicator Display Signs (SIDS).

 

Car parking is an issue of increasing concern in Ponteland. It is clear that additional building in the village area has not been matched by additional car parking provision. Furthermore, Ponteland’s proximity to Newcastle Airport has led to some abuse of our free parking spaces. The HWP monitors abuse of parking in Ponteland and is liaising with NCC over enforcement.

 

There are major plans to improve parking in the Merton Way area and Councillors Richard Dodd and Christine Greenwell are heavily involved in the project.  This should come to fruition during the summer of 2018.

 

All will have noticed that Darras Road bridge has been painted after tree works were undertaken.

 

The HWP is an active group and it benefits from the attendance of an NCC officer at meetings. Thanks are due to Councillor Christine Greenwell for chairing the HWP and to Jeanette Dodd, the Deputy Clerk for administering the work.
 

 

 

 

3.14 Planning Committee
The PTC Planning Committee, chaired by Councillor Mrs Johnson, meets every two weeks. The number of planning applications that the Town Council is consulted on is increasing as the amount of development in Ponteland grows. Ponteland has a high number of planning applications averaging 201 per annum over 7 years. Our Planning Committee examines each application seriously, only making objections with material planning considerations.

 

 

YEAR APPLICATIONS CONSULTED OBJECTIONS BY PTC REFUSED BY NCC
2011 183 16 5
2012 194 9 3
2013 185 12 6
2014 205 21 5
2015 210 10 3
2016 216 22 9
2017 214 29 2
UPDATE AVERAGE PER YEAR 201 17 (8.4% of applications) 5 (4.7% of applications)

 

 

Residents are reminded that Ponteland Town Council is a Planning Consultee and it is not the Planning Authority. PTC does not make the planning decision. PTC observes comments and sometimes objects but NCC decides.

 

3.15 Development in Ponteland

 

As previously mentioned, the schools and leisure complex application remains delayed.  It is supported by NCC, PTC and parents of those children who will become users.

 

The development of the Police HQ site for housing is imminent.  Both of these developments will have an effect on the traffic in Ponteland and it will not be favourable at certain times of the day.  Please be aware of this and I would like to encourage you all to think about whether your car journey is really necessary.

 

3.16 Meritorious Service Award
The effort required to make Ponteland a success cannot be achieved by the Council alone. PTC thanks all those residents who put in time as individuals or through organisations to enrich the quality of life in Ponteland. Each year a meritorious service award is made. In the Council office, there is a board that lists the recipients of the Council’s Meritorious Service Award and it is time to add a new name for this year.
3.16.1 Lucinda Porter

 

This year the Council’s Meritorious Award goes to Lucinda Porter for her outstanding work with the Guiding movement for over 40 years.  It therefore gives the Town Council great pleasure in presenting this small token of appreciation to Lucinda Porter.

 

 

 

 

  1. The Budget

PTC works hard to minimise the increase in local precept. The percentage increases in the last seven years have been limited to: 2.9%, 3.0%, 2.8%, 2.0%, 2%, 2% and 2% again. These low percentages have been achieved despite some responsibilities such as cemeteries and toilets being transferred from the County to the Town Council.

 

For a band D household, the PTC part of the precept has moved from £63.17 to £72.43 – an increase of only £9.26 since 2012-13. This demonstrates our commitment to delivering value for money services.

 

The budget precept for 2017/18 was £394,517 and for 2018-19 will be £404,383.

Details of the budget breakdown are included in Appendix D.
 

  1. PRESTWICK CEMETERY

 

The running of Prestwick Cemetery became PTC’s responsibility in 2013. PTC pays NCC a service level agreement for some work in the Cemetery but in addition, certain activities such as hedge cutting and minor improvements are carried out by PTC. Since PTC took over responsibility we have had good reports from residents and we monitor the service and pricing offered by other authorities.

 

For information there are on average 14 burials a year at the Cemetery and 5 burials of cremated remains.  There are also on average 5 burials in the woodland section each year.

 

The cemetery is self-financing and it is run at no extra cost to Ponteland precept payers. A significant improvement in the design and layout of the cemetery has taken place during the year including a landscaping project and the installation of a columbaria.

 

 

  1. EVENTS

 

There have been a number of memorable events during the year and these ranged from prize giving events for gardeners and students to fund raising concerts.

 

It is evident that Ponteland people are turning out for events and in record numbers too.

 

  • On New Year’s Eve, fireworks in the village pulled in the numbers and on 1 January, Ponteland’s annual wheelbarrow race was witnessed by a large crowd and the winner’s name was added to the Display Board in the Council office.

 

  • In April, the Beer Festival, now over three days attracted around 3000 people.

 

  • Big attendances were reported for Party in the Park and Music in the Park in June and at the Rotary’s Duck Race in September.

 

  • This was followed in November by a Remembrance service and refreshments in the Memorial Hall for around 500 attendees.

 

 

 

 

  CONCLUSION

 

7.1 Complaints and Support

 

There are a number of issues that recur as complaints. We ask local residents for their continued support please in avoiding:

 

  • litter, speeding, inconsiderate parking, parking on verges and pavements and unauthorised overnight parking

 

and, we thank and ask for the continued support of residents please in promoting:

 

  • greenery in frontages and hedges and colours in borders

 

 

7.2 Thanks

 

In summary, what we achieve is the result of work by all Councillors, particularly those who chair a committee or working party and I would like to thank all our unpaid, volunteer Councillors.

 

A big acknowledgement must go to our dedicated office staff, namely, Kath Mavin our Town Clerk, Jeanette Dodd, our Deputy Town Clerk, Caroline Thompson our Administrative Assistant and Bev Wales, our Receptionist.

 

Last but not least are our Contractors, Iain Clough, Michael Champion, Jim Scott and Derek Sherlock whose work is appreciated by everyone in Ponteland. We are often told by residents how nice the displays look.

 

I speak for all the Councillors when I say a very big THANK YOU to everyone for all your hard work and dedication.

 

 

 

Alan Varley

5 April 2018

 

 

Appendix A  PTC Councillors and Staff

Appendix B  PTC Committees/Working Parties

Appendix C  PTC Representatives on Local Organisations

Appendix D  PTC Budget for 2017-18 and 2018-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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