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Chairman's Statement

21st October 2020

The Council Meeting in September 2020 opened with statements from two Councillors. No warning or prior advice was given as to the content of the statements which turned out in fact to be statements of resignation as Councillors. Theatricality managed to create maximum effect.

Despite declaring prior to our July meeting that he would be carrying on until May 2021 our long serving Chair proceeded to resign as a Councillor. With a swirl of his Cape, metaphorically speaking, with his finger hovering over the Zoom exit button, delivered his statement, pressed the button and disappeared into the ether.

A temporary period of bewilderment was followed by the Clerk quickly advising on the addition to the agenda to include the appointment of a Chair. With a degree of resilience the meeting resumed, and after canvassing the remaining Councillor’s views, resolved to appoint myself as Chair and Cllr Neil Scoresby as Vice Chair. We both willingly accepted the challenge. The appointments are until the next Annual Meeting, which under current Covid regulations will be May 2021.

With the resignations the Council lost 2 long standing Councillors both with their own reasons. Coddenham Parish lost a chair who had been in post for 18 years and with his predecessor had jointly been in post for over 30 years! This fact alone will inevitably bring about a change of style as legacy problems are tackled.

My definition of “Chairman" is that I will control Council Meetings, promote new ideas and create initiatives. All decisions will be for Council to resolve. This may may produce some delays but Councils are sometimes cumbersome and bound by their own rulebooks. We are no different. I will not exercise any “executive decisions" as the Chair does not have any, except, of course, in emergencies.

Elsewhere on our web site, coddenhampc.org.uk, you will find items under the banner of CURRENT ISSUES. You will read of a rating demand. A bit of a bizarre situation where one local authority is pursuing another one. Brought about by previous dubious advice to the Council but being vigorously contested. We are hopeful of a conclusion that will, at the very least, negate the request for an immediate payment. At this time of the year the Council begins to collate its thoughts to the precept for the new financial period starting next April.

For a Parish of our size we have a disproportionate level of debt and support to our Community Centre. The new Charity created to accept the previously Council owned assets has many hurdles to turn itself into a self sufficient organisation but is putting down firm foundations despite the unprecedented conditions in a generation and continues to deserve our support. When the assets were transferred to the Charity a little published fact is that the Council retained the debt that was used to acquire the assets in the first place. This has to be repaid with the last payment in 2030.

For the last 3 years we have been fortunate to receive support from the Day Foundation to help with the burden. This has enabled the debt to fall below £100,000, for which we are very grateful. But due to the current crisis and the pressure imposed on their finances they are unable to carry on with this support. Whilst on this subject it has been apparent that whenever the costs of the Community Centre have been discussed in the past this loan repayment of £13,152 per year has never entered the equation. We will, of course, use all of our endeavours to contain the precept but please bear in mind that miracles are the preserve of a much higher authority.

Resignations due to their very nature produce vacancies on the Council. We now meet every 2 months, currently by Zoom. Training is considered essential and we retain a budget to pay for this. If you feel able to contribute please contact our Clerk on clerk.coddenhampc@gmail.com to start the process of cooption.

My thanks are due to Sue, our Clerk, whist still recovering from the shocks of the 17th September continues to guide us into clear waters.

Allan Fowler. Chairman Coddenham Parish Council. 21st October 2020