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Annual Report of Ilkley Parish Council

27 March 2013

It is a great pleasure to present the Annual Report of Ilkley Parish Council. This is the third occasion that I have presented a Report to you, the second time in consecutive years. I was honoured to be asked again to take on the responsibilities of Chairman for 2012-13, and the civic year has been both an interesting and a challenging one.

The past year has seen much activity on the part of Ilkley Parish Council and I believe it has resulted in a number of positive developments which will benefit the people of Ilkley. A significant amount of work has fallen to the project managers of the Council, in addition to our Awards and Plans Committees. The Plans Committee, headed by Councillor Andrew Walbank, has dealt with almost 138 planning applications, plus numerous amended plans, Appeals and Area Planning meetings. Contentious applications considered included proposals to develop the former IlkleyMiddle School site and more recently, plans for a residential development on Parish Ghyll Drive. In addition, the most significant planning discussions during the past year were those held by the Ilkley Futures Group in relation to the proposed Local Development Framework and the Neighbourhood Plan for Ilkley. These discussions covered a wide range of topics, from environment and heritage, to education and health. Other interested parties have been consulted and councillors will be debating the final document formally in May. While the outcome of that debate is yet to be decided, the work of the Group is seen as being very important and will hopefully assist the Council in developing the Neighbourhood Plan. I would like to thank Councillors Mann, Kitching and Perry for their diligence and hard work in bringing these proposals to fruition.

This year, 23 grants have been made by the Council to local groups and organisations, totalling £41,000. Projects and grants from a wide range of bodies around the town have been considered, including requests from Ilkley Flower Show Society, Keighley and Ilkley Voluntary Services and Churches Together in Ilkley. A grant of £4,000 was made to restore the steps and memorial stone in the RiversideGardens, in commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and substantial awards were made to a number of our regular events, including the Ilkley Summer Festival and Ben Rhydding Community Fete. In response to comments from residents, councillors updated the criteria for Awards and tightened up the requirement of applicants to attend committee meetings to speak in support of their applications. However, the principle of the Awards remains constant, with local groups and organisations being encouraged to apply for funding for specific items or projects that they have identified as necessary for their own purposes and the betterment of the wider community.

Following extensive working discussions, the precept for this financial year was set at £131,300, which equated to an increase of 6 pence per week per Band D property. From this total, £50,000 was allocated to Awards and Projects and £15,000 to Community Events. The latter is regarded by councillors as very important, as the various Festivals in the town bring much pleasure to Ilkley and its many visitors. Furthermore, councillors believed that the unique occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was an event worth celebrating, and set aside £7500 from the Community Events budget to cover the costs of holding a Street Party in June and supporting the many groups in the town wishing to celebrate the Jubilee in their own way. In addition to the modest amount to pay for the Jubilee celebrations, additional funds were raised to invest in the Christmas Lights and to cover the increased costs of election provision. By the end of this financial year, our uncommitted reserves will stand at approximately £44000, well under 50% of the total budget. Our committed reserves will be around £25,000, most of which is allocated for election provision. Given the challenges faced in implementing the Government’s Localism agenda, and the possibility that the Council might be called upon to contribute to major projects to secure assets in the town, councillors believe the policy of maintaining reserves will be shown to be a prudent one.

Councillors are actively involved as representatives on organisations around the town and the wider community, for example the various Friends groups, Tourism Partnership and Wharfedale Activity Group. Members take their work on all community bodies very seriously and I know that this involvement is well-respected by those groups. Of the ones that I am involved in, our attendance at Parish Liaison Group meetings is important as it provides a conduit for information and debate between parish and town councils and Bradford Council. Additionally, our membership of the Yorkshire Local Councils Association enables the Council to gain advice and support on a wide range of legal and other matters relating to parish council work.

Our Project Managers have been busy this year, carrying forward specific schemes and initiatives such as the Allotments, Concert on the Grove and riverside pathways and the Cemetery. This year, much effort has been focused on the Christmas Lights, with the Project Manager, Councillor Marshall, heading a small team of councillors to organise the annual switch on, which is a very substantial undertaking. The increased investment in the Christmas Lights and all the efforts made by councillors and contractors meant that the finished effect of the Lights was superb, with a great many positive comments being received from residents and visitors alike. My thanks go to all our project managers for their hard work over the past year.

Ilkley Parish Council currently manages the allotment sites on Castle Road, Bridge Lane and Leeds Road. Presently, there are 130 allotments, with 179 residents patiently waiting to be allocated a plot. A vigilant eye is kept on plots that appear to be un-worked and holders are reminded if plots are not being managed according to the tenancy agreement. The allotments are self-supporting and not a cost on the Parish and good working relationships are maintained with Bradford Council, particularly the Tree Officer who has assisted with maintenance work above and beyond the priority Health and Safety areas.

After a period of relative inactivity, the Darwin Gardens Trust has received funding of £4500 from the Parish Council to complete major restoration work to steps and antique railings, which will complete the main schedule of works left by the former trustees. Application has been made for the Green Flag Community Award organised by Keep Britain Tidy, and a judgement is expected in June. The maintenance contract has recently gone out to tender and three potential contractors were interviewed this week. Thanks are due to our current contractors, Down to Earth, and also the AreaParks and Landscape Service of Bradford Council for helping to maintain the area for the benefit of residents and visitors.

As always, civic involvement in the community has continued apace and genuine efforts have been made to involve the Council in the life of the Parish wherever possible. Despite poor weather all the events planned for the year were held, foremost amongst which was the street party in June to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of HM The Queen. The Concert on the Grove at the end of August was again a tremendous success, largely thanks to the efforts of Councillor Mike Gibbons. The Concert is the main contribution of the Parish Council to the annual Ilkley Summer Festival and is now a popular fixture in the Ilkley social calendar, having been running for ten years. As is traditional, the Parish Council took its place alongside the Royal British Legion, churches and other groups in the town to attend the annual Remembrance Day parade and service. Large crowds gathered to watch Father Christmas switch on the Christmas Lights at the end of November. The Carols on the Grove in December, organised jointly by the Parish Council and Churches Together in Ilkley, went off well despite the damp weather. Members of the Wharfedale District Scouts visited the Town Hall to take part in a mini debate and to learn more about local government. With help from Councillor Gibbons, the scouts appointed their own chairman for the meeting and had a lively debate on whether the drinking age should be reduced.

Throughout my year as Chairman of the Parish Council I have been pleased to represent the town at many events and occasions, both within the parish and in the wider district. These have included the Prize-Winner’s Concert of the Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts, the Westville House Speech Day and Prize Giving, the judging and trophy presentation at the Ilkley Flower Show, the Over 90s Party, the Soroptimist Annual Dinner and civic services in Bradford and Keighley. My consort, Councillor Lexa Robinson, and I were pleased to attend productions by the Upstagers and Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society in the Kings Hall. It was a particular pleasure to attend presentation evenings for GCSE and A Level students from IlkleyGrammar School earlier this year, and to present a Certificate of Merit to Mr Jim Bray at the BaptistChurch. A special event was our Civic Service at St Margaret’s Church in September, the theme of which was public service. Sadly I cannot list all the events that I attended, but I wish to thank the many groups and organisations that have invited me to functions and made Councillor Robinson and myself very welcome. It is greatly appreciated and I see it as a very important part of the Council’s year.

The implications of the government’s Localism agenda will continue to effect the Council’s decisions in the near future, particularly the Power of General Competence and the Community Right to Buy. Close liaison between the parish and town councils in the District will become increasingly important, as legislation is enacted and the impetus grows for the management of services and assets to be devolved to a more local level. Questions over the on-going provision of medical services at the CoronationHospital will also offer many challenges to both the Council and local residents in the year ahead.

In closing this report I wish to offer my sincere thanks to all my fellow councillors who serve in a voluntary capacity and do not receive any allowances for attending the many meetings of Council and other bodies. My thanks also go to Councillor Mike Gibbons for all his advice and support and background information during the year. Also, particular thanks must go to the Committee Chairmen, Councillors Mike Gibbons and Andrew Walbank, for all their hard work and commitment throughout the year. I have certainly found it immensely beneficial to be able to discuss problems with them and to ask their advice regarding local issues. I wish to thank those members of Council who serve as members of our committees, and also to our project managers who continue to develop their areas of responsibility with dedication and enthusiasm. Mrs Carolyn Pearson and her staff at the Town Hall, particularly the caretaker, Max Bee, must also be thanked for their co-operation during the year. Finally, I wish to thank our Clerks, Alan Draper and Fiona Birdsall, for a year of fine service to the Council and the community. Without their diligence, expertise and hard work, the Council would not operate as efficiently as it does at present.

I would like to wish Councillor Mike Gibbons all the best for the year to come as your Chairman of Council.

Councillor Heathcliffe Bowen    

27 March 2013