Coronavirus ~ March 2020
We have been advised by the Government that Parish Council meetings can take place virtually during the time that the Coronavirus so-called 'lockdown' is in force. See here for more detail.
I am delighted to report that Melody England has now joined the Parish Council in the role of Clerk with immediate effect. Tammy Heavens has agreed to continue in the role of Data Protection Officer to ensure that the Parish Council meets the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulations. You can read more about our Data Protection Policy here.
Although I will obviously continue to be available, I would ask that any matters relating to the Parish Council are sent to firstname.lastname@example.org from now on.
All the Councillors would like to join me in welcoming Melody to the team.
Chair, South Leigh Parish Council
News about the Solar Farms - there's a planning application for a new one at Tar Farm - has been moved to a page of its own here.
South Leigh which is the Parish that the South Leigh Parish Council represents has a population of 336 at the time of 2011 census – the recent census figures are not currently available – however the number of electors at the time of 2021 parish council elections was only 278.
The total number of electors in the Eynsham and Cassington ward of which South Leigh is part is 4797 - in other words South Leigh is a mere 5%.
South Leigh Parish Council has had regard to the Boundary Commission criteria that constituencies must have no less than 69,724 Parliamentary electors and no more than 77,062. The retention of South Leigh within the Witney constituency would make an insignificant difference to that aim given the electorate of the Witney constituency in 2019 general election was 83,845.
South Leigh Parish Council has also had regard to Schedule 2 of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 (as amended)–and also accepts that the Boundary Commission has a wide ranging discretion as a result of the introduction to paragraph 5 of that schedule.
South Leigh Parish Council submits that the relevant local government boundary is that formed by the boundaries of West Oxfordshire District Council and that South Leigh is and should remain within the Parliamentary Constituency which overlays the majority of the administrative area of West Oxfordshire District Council.
We urge the Boundary Commission to have regard to the boundary of the existing Witney constituency not least because of the provision of paragraph 5(1)(c) but also because the pre-existing relationship that the Parish and South Leigh Parish Council has with the current and past MPs.
By the separation of South Leigh from the Witney constituency there would be a breaking of significant local ties and a democratic deficit which would amount to more than “inconveniences attendant” upon the proposed changes.
Further we submit that if these representations are rejected we suggest the new constituency name should be 'Woodstock and Bicester' or 'Evenlode and Cherwell' or 'Blenheim and Bicester'.
In the event there are public meetings and oral representations South Leigh Parish Council would seek to make oral representations.
South Leigh Parish Council
30th July 2021
The Boundary Commission is reviewing the Parliamentary boundaries - it is not reviewing the local authority boundaries.
The Boundary Commission is due to report by 2023 and before the next general election. It is charged with equalising the numbers of electors per constituency (between 69,724 and 77,062 to the nearest whole number).
There is an initial consultation process ending on 2nd August 2021. The Parish Council will be looking at the issue on 13th July at their next meeting - if you want to contribute, please advise the Chair or me.
You can also give your views directly to the Boundary Commission here.
South Leigh is currently in the Witney & West Oxfordshire Constituency. The Boundary Commission is proposing a new seat called 'Bicester'. Representations can be made to the Boundary Commission about the proposed name of the constituency, which might currently be misleading and / or unappealing - perhaps if it were to be called Woodstock and Bicester for instance.
What do the Boundary Commission consider in coming to a decision? That is laid down by Schedule 2 of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 (as amended) - paragraph 5 and those topics include local government boundaries, boundaries of existing constituencies, any local ties that would be broken by changes in constituency and the inconveniences attendant on such changes.
Please express your views.
Since last November your Parish Council has continued meeting remotely every six weeks via Zoom with the meetings publicised on the website, via Facebook and the village email list. If you would like to be included on these lists please do let us know. As always the public are invited to observe our meetings and if there is anything in the Parish that is concerning you, please let us know and we will do our best to help. There is also a slot at meetings for members of the public to speak. Full minutes of our meetings and agendas for future meetings are available on the South Leigh website.
We have only had two meetings since the end of last year, both in January, which is unusual. One was specifically to agree the level of the precept for the coming year. This is the amount that the Parish Council feels it has to charge parishioners to look after the Parish. It's collected through the Council Tax system and then distributed to us. The main items of expenditure are the various insurances / leases for the public places within the village, grass maintenance, the village hall loan, paying our Clerk and a small amount of sundry payments. Again, details can be found on this website. At the meeting on 5th January, it was deemed necessary to raise the precept by £3 per household per annum.
The other meeting, on 19th January, handled our normal agenda. Matters included a 'change of use' planning application at Church End Farm, progress on Shores Green junction and the A40 updates, the possibility of an anaerobic digester being sited within the Parish, the flooding and the pollution that possibly occurred in Lymbrook Close, how to increase biodiversity with the Forest Restoration Group undertaking the planting of young trees on allocated sites, the improvement of mobile phone reception and finally the possibility of creating a Conservation Area to protect our Parish.
We were unable to hold an AGM last year because of Covid but we are hoping to be able to hold one in May this year. We will have to keep you posted on this! (See below).
I hope you are all bearing up in these really tricky times. I always find January and February a bit depressing in a normal year and this one has been a nightmare – but with the vaccination programme going so well we will hopefully all be able to meet up again soon. If you do need some support or help in any way please get in touch - there are loads of people out there who would be more than willing to help. Good wishes to you all.
Nicky Brooks, February 2021, 01993 701137 or email@example.com
I wish I had something spectacular to tell you but nothing is like that and any time frames are extended, but…
I have asked that the issue of rural mobile connectivity be highlighted to the All Party Committee of MPs dealing with rural affairs.
Nicky Brooks and I are still due to have a meeting with Robert Courts in the village on 19th March and we will have a list of inquiries which we will send him in advance.
I had a helpful telephone conference with Tom Corcoran, Lead Political and Parliamentary Affairs Manager of ‘Three’ - much the most helpful of all the mobile providers. I urged him to try and get greater cooperation between the four suppliers as I readily accept that it is not economic for four companies to make separate provision for a community as small as South Leigh - I personally can’t see why South Leigh could not be a ‘Three’ village say whilst Cassington is, say, a ‘Vodafone’ village and, indeed, in a recent industry newsletter the penny seems to have dropped.
“Until recently it was widely accepted that network competition was key to getting the operators to build out with urgency. Clearly collaboration and competition are two very different things, but the consensus now appears to be that a blend of the two approaches represents a sort of ‘third way’ depending on the circumstances.”
I also asked him to send me a confirmatory email of the telephone call which he has done. The most helpful parts for South Leigh are, "We expect the improvements in South Leigh will be delivered via the PNS programme, which we expect to make an announcement about soon.” And, "The full SRN (PNS & TNS) is supposed to be completed by 2025, however it is our ambition that the PNS programme is completed within two years of it starting.”
I have various concerns as a result of my conversation with Tom Corcoran about Ofcom monitoring but that is a matter for Ofcom and the minister and again I have raised the issue with Robert Courts. As for ‘Three’, I am far from clear that their four proposed masts, even with overlaid frequencies, will do the job for South Leigh I asked Tom to seek information from his technical team and he has undertaken to do that.
Dick Pears, 12th February 2021
South Leigh Parish Council is a statutory body operating as the lowest level of local government. Its powers are very limited but it is entitled to be consulted on many matters that are actually the responsibility of a higher local authority (witness planning and the District Council or Highways and the County Council).
The Parish Council is elected by all qualifying voters in the Parish and its elected members in turn appoint a Clerk to the Parish Council.
The Parish Council has the power to tax by, adding a regulated charge, called a 'Precept', to your Council Tax bill.
The Parish Council has regular meetings (approximately every six weeks) which are advised to the Parish by a notice on the notice board by the pub and on the village website. These meetings are open to the public to attend.
No Parish Councillor is paid. The Parish Council operates through volunteers and with the good will of the public. However, certain activities are delegated by the Parish Council which operates through various sub-committees and appointed officers, viz:-
Village Green Committee - Dick Pears
Playground Association - Karen Wilson
Football Pitch Committee - Martin Wilson
Neighbourhood Plan Committee - Ken Brooks
Forest Restoration Group - Martin Spurrier
Each sub-committee operates independently but under the aegis of the Parish Council and with a Parish Councillor or Officer as an ex-officio member with all relevant accounts of the sub-committee being consolidated within the accounts of the Parish Council itself at the year end.
The Summer Fayre Committee is not a sub-committee of the Parish Council. It operates as an independent fundraising venture and thus it is not the responsibility of the Parish Council.
In addition to these sub-committees, the Parish Council has appointed the following officers:
Footpaths Officers - Ann and Russell Cherry
Traffic Monitoring Officer - Lysette Nicholls
Litter Collection Co-ordinator - John Ashwell
Newsletter Editor - John Ashwell
Data Protection Officer - Tammy Heavens
NEXT COUNCIL MEETINGS
The next meetings, which take place at 7:30pm usually in the Village Hall, but are by ZOOM until further notice, are on the Tuesdays listed below. If you wish to discuss something, we always have a slot at the beginning of the meeting for this purpose, but it is important that you advise the Clerk beforehand about what you'd like to speak about.
Please also note:
These are provisional and dependent on ‘lockdown’ arrangements. The Parish Council doesn’t normally meet in August due to the holiday and the date in October is half term and so may well need to be moved.
• 5th January 2021
• 19th January 2021
• 2nd March 2021
• 13th April 2021
• 18th May 2021 AGM & PC
• 24th May 2021
• 13th July 2021
• 16th August 2021
We have been waiting for notification from Government about how we should run our meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic. It hasn’t been quick in coming but I guess they’ve had more important things to do!
Anyway, we now have definite guidance - please see the guidance points in bold below.
Regular Parish Council meetings should not take place in person but can take place by video call where possible and members of the parish should be invited (again - where possible).
We tried a video call meeting via ZOOM for our March meeting and although not as good as face-to-face, it worked very well, so we are inviting members of the parish to join the May meeting if they would like to. We will email all those that we have contact details for before the meeting with joining instructions. You will have to download the ZOOM app beforehand. We’ll put a notice on the village Facebook page too but we are aware that doesn’t necessarily cover the whole parish - perhaps you could alert any other parishioners who you feel may be interested.
For anyone feeling uneasy about any of this but would like to join we are happy to set up a practice session.
I'm afraid that during the meeting we will have to be strict about public intervention because it really doesn’t work if people speak at the same time - we are therefore requesting that you don’t intervene during the meeting but please do contact us afterwards with thoughts and ideas - it would be most welcome. (Strictly speaking, this is how Parish Council meetings should be run but we normally like to be more inclusive.)
If you do have any issue(s) that you would like to raise at the meeting please do let us know well beforehand and of course we will offer you a spot to air your views.
AGMs are postponed until such time as public can attend. The current chair will remain in place until an AGM can be held once the current situation is rectified.
Our AGM is the one meeting in the year where parishioners are allowed to raise any questions they like about the last year's actions of the Parish Councillors; it is the parishioners' meeting. It is of course where reports from the various sub-committees are presented along with the Parish Council annual report and the year-end accounts. Finally - it is the time that the councillors vote for the chair and deputy chair positions. We will still publish the reports and accounts and any questions from parishioners will be answered.
Notice of meetings should be via web site not posted in a public place.
We should make the written record and background papers available on the website.
Minutes of the meeting held on March 31st are now available here together with all the attendant papers - please get in touch if you have any queries and we will publish all papers going forward on this website until normality is resumed.
Thank you for your patience in this matter - we are trying to be as transparent as possible in these trying times.
Nicky Brooks, Chair of South Leigh Parish Council, March 2020 firstname.lastname@example.org
Code of Conduct for Members and Co-opted Members
Below is the Code of Conduct to which all Parish Councillors have signed up.
Produced by WODC, it is also followed by all District Councillors.
At the initial meeting of the newly elected Parish Council on 18th May 2021, it was decided that we would adopt the so-called 'Nolan Principles' (named after the judge who formulated them).
In many ways they are obvious but always good to have them out there as a touchstone. We want to publish them as the seven guiding principles for us as Parish Councillors.
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Holders of public office should be truthful.
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
GUIDANCE ON THE DECLARATION OF INTERESTS AT MEETINGS
There has recently been an increase in the number of members of the public attending our Parish Council meetings, which is fantastic. We are really pleased that people are interested in the actions of the Parish Council which is, after all, your representative in matters pertaining to our Parish.
However, given the increased numbers, I thought it would be a sensible idea to restate the relevant rules...
Strictly speaking, the public is there only to observe and participate by invitation. Just as with OCC and WODC, these are meetings of the Council held in public and not public meetings.
As is recommended, we have adopted 'model rules' as set out by WODC for the conduct of meetings of the Parish Council - a summary is set out below. They are fairly strict rules but some latitude is allowed at the discretion of the Chair with the consent of the Parish Council.
I, as Chair, have always felt that public participation should be encouraged wherever reasonably possible and so have run our meetings in a much more open way. I am not suggesting that this changes. I continue to support the idea of public participation but I would ask that we remember that meetings of the Parish Council are not meetings of the public.
When issues have arisen, such as Gladman or the Neighbourhood Plan, I have ensured that a full public meeting has been convened so that parishioners can express their views. While I remain Chair, I will continue with this policy. In the meantime, members of the public are encouraged to notify myself, the Clerk or any Parish Councillor of any matter of concern as we purposefully maintain a running Agenda item for such matters. However, whilst we will normally allow matters to be raised at relatively short notice, it would be appreciated if reasonable notice is given of a wish to speak or raise a particular matter as that enables the Parish Councillors to have researched the relevant subject beforehand to ensure an informed debate.
Finally, we, as your Parish Council, are appointed to make decisions on the behalf of the whole Parish. Whilst we will endeavour to hear all views and to take them into consideration, the final decision on any matter is down to the Parish Councillors themselves. In that regard, no councillor entitled to vote has to give a reason for their decision on how to vote.
Council Meetings: Public Participation Procedure
Nicky Brooks, Chairman of South Leigh Parish Council
South Leigh Community Speed Watch
Speeders: Slow down or lose your car!
26th March 2020: South Leigh Speed Watch managed to do five weeks of monitoring before we stood down and during that time clearly established that speeding was an issue. This was also covered by the Witney Gazette.
We captured over 150 speeders during this period and the average speed was 39mph. Letters were being sent out by the Police as even if we haven’t captured speeding motorists three times in the village, data is consolidated and taken from the whole of the Thames Valley Police region.
We have been asked to stand down currently as the Police are focusing their resources to deal with current issues.
I would like to thank all those that are helping and those that have asked to be trained in the future.
Issued by South Leigh Speed Watch Team. For further information please contact:
Lysette Nicholls ~ email@example.com 07766 251125
Thames Valley Police's Robb Webb instructs South Leigh's Speedwatch team in the use of the speed camera.
DOGS AND THE LAW
Dog owners are reminded that it is now compulsory to have their four legged friend microchipped. Any dog that is found not to have been microchipped could see the owner facing a fine of £500.
West Oxfordshire District Council picks up about 100 stray dogs every year, many of which are not microchipped, making it difficult for them to be reunited with their owners.
The animals are taken to council-appointed kennels with owners charged for accommodation and other costs until they are returned. If unclaimed, the stray is usually re-homed through an animal rescue centre.
The responsibility for collecting stray dogs has changed from the Police to West Oxfordshire District Council. The Police will still deal with dangerous dogs.
Anyone who has lost or found a dog should telephone the council on 01993 861020 during normal working hours or 01993 705056 after 5:00pm and at weekends, or online by clicking here.
People interested in re-homing a stray dog can apply by logging completing the 'Application to re-home a dog' form found by following the link on the same web page.
COUNCIL TAX SCAM WARNING
West Oxfordshire residents are being warned to guard against bogus callers telling them their council tax bands maybe too high.
Several residents have been in touch with the District Council saying callers from the ‘Claims Review Bureau’ have contacted them offering to work on their behalf to obtain a reduction in exchange for a fee of about £80.
But staff have emphasised that anyone wanting to appeal against their band can do so for free by contacting the District Valuation Office.
Cllr. Toby Morris, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “This is a scam and residents must ensure they do not pass on any financial or personal details to these callers. Appealing against a council tax band does not require a third party and is free. Anyone receiving one of these calls should end the conversation as quickly as possible.”
Residents wishing to appeal against their council tax banding can do so by contacting the District Valuation Office on 03000 501 501.
To report a suspected scam, contact Oxfordshire County Council Trading Standards on 0845 051 0845.
The District Council has also reminded residents that staff would never ask for a customer's bank details via email.
The Parish Council asks that cars should not be parked half on pavements and half on the road. We understand why this practice has developed but unfortunately it has the effect of breaking down the pavements and verges.
Approximately 21% of our Precept pays for cutting the Village Green, the rear garden of the Hall and assisting the church with the cost of cutting the churchyard.
Please be aware that if you extend your property by incorporating part of a field you will need planning permission for change of use from agricultural to domestic from the local district council.
The Parish Council is concerned that grass cuttings and other garden waste is being deposited on roadside verges in a couple of localities within the village. We hope this practice will stop immediately as it is regarded as Fly Tipping and the District Council will prosecute when and where necessary. It is suggested anyone wishing to dispose of garden waste should ask the District Council for a green wheelie bin which they will supply free of charge.
CODE OF CONDUCT
To conform with the law we must state that the Code of Conduct adopted by West Oxfordshire District Council has been adopted as the code for members and co-opted members of South Leigh Parish Council with effect from 1st July 2012 or such other date as may be specified in regulations, to replace the current code of conduct.