Covid-19 Archive

Podcast script - Thursday, June 11, 2020

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Good Morning Chelveston, Caldecott and Chelston Rise it’s Thursday 11th June and this is Adrian Dale with the daily podcast.

Well what a lovely reaction to yesterday’s podcast about our Clerk Mark Hunter. I had lots of public and private messages in email, WhatsApp and text. Some people hadn’t realised what Mark does behind the scenes. Others have known it for ages and were delighted to see this publicly acknowledged at last.

Let me tell you folks, for the 12 years that I was Chairman, I would stand at the front of the Annual Parish Assembly and tell all residents what a great asset we had in Mark Hunter. Unfortunately, Mark writes the minutes of those meetings, so none of my thanks and praise were ever properly recorded. Yesterday was my chance to set the record straight. And yes it was an ambush, my first chance to speak without Mark being able to intervene.

I was expecting a call or email from Mark at around 9am when he normally listens in. However, it was Sue’s first day back at work, so they didn’t listen in until lunchtime.

I eventually got a classic Mark email at 2pm.

“That was a bit OTT” he said , “a Clerk is only as good as the Councillors who set the policy and make the decisions. If the Councillors are set on being a "Vicar of Dibley" Council, no Clerk is going to get any changes made”

Let me tell you folks that we were once a Vicar of Dibley Council and I am happy to acknowledge that Mark and I worked really well together to change that. It was an interesting partnership (and still is to be honest). I like winging it and taking the big leaps, usually in public without thinking. Mark has always paddled furiously to provide the legal framework that made things happen.

We did have a few run ins. In 2010/2012 (I can’t remember which) the Council was seeking to become accredited as a Quality Parish Council. This scheme aimed to mark out those Councils with the highest levels of governance and competence. If you achieved accreditation, then new powers and possibly new funds became available. We were going for it.

Mark produced a huge and detailed dossier of evidence, showing our policies and procedures and demonstrating the positive impact we were having on the Parish. Mark and I then had to attend an inquisition at Litchborough, on the other side of Northampton, by the Local Association of Local Councils.

The examiner quickly picked up that I had received no formal training as a Councillor. When I started in 1996, this training didn’t even exist. When it was introduced, I rather arrogantly refused to attend. I had looked at the materials and decided that it would drive me nuts to sit all day listening to it.

So the examiner grilled me incessantly on Council policies, procedures and on the law pertaining to Councils. Even I was impressed with the responses I gave. I hadn’t realised quite how much I had absorbed over the years, especially after Mark came along and formalised things.

The examiner was satisfied and commented on our successful partnership, and how lucky our Parish was to have such an active Council.

It was at that point that I opened my big mouth and jumped right in. I told the examiner that the best thing was that Mark worked for free. This made the whole job of running a Parish so much easier for the Chairman.

Oops – the temperature of the room seemed to drop instantly. Mark gave me a sharp kick under the table, it was the first and only time he has physically assaulted a Councillor.

Fortunately, I am very quick thinking on my feet and I realised that something was wrong.

I reached across to the finance records in the evidence folder and said “Let me explain” . . .

I showed him that the Council properly accounted for the true salary that the Clerk should be paid, but that each quarter the Clerk donated his salary back to the Council.

More questions followed and we eventually established that the Council wasn’t behaving illegally, it was simply a Clerk behaving in an extraordinary manner.

The examiner was relieved and convinced. As we shook hands (wow do you remember those days folks) he told us that he would be recommending our accreditation to be at the highest level possible.

Can you imagine the journey home if my loud mouth had cost us the accreditation?

So on the National stage, we are by no means at the end of this epidemic, but the economic data is becoming clearer. The UK is sliding inexorably towards the worst recession in its history. Stark choices now face the Government, save lives or save futures.

To be clear, in my view, this should not have been the choice we were facing. However, we are where we are and nothing can change that now.

Yesterday was a good performance by the Prime Minister. He certainly has the oratory skills to talk to us well, but sometimes the planning behind the messages leaves something to be desired.

From Monday, big changes have been made. Non-essential business can re-open if they are covid-19 secure. This is excellent news. More importantly, social bubbling has now become part of UK government policy. I shall certainly be following these new rules to the letter. I will be social bubbling with one other covid-19 secure household, and that’s Helen’s.

The future for pubs, restaurants, hairdressers etc, is still on hold until 4th July. But if the data continues to show improvements, then this is the date we should expect these all to re-open in some form.

Michelle and the team are working hard to plan the re-opening of the Church for private prayer, but this won’t be next Monday as the Government announcement came too late.

So as we move towards the end of our emergency provision, there are a few loose ends to tie up in the Village. I have contacted most of the households being supported by volunteers and we are sorting out a safe way forward for them.

I’ve had two volunteers to administer the WhatsApp group from next Monday, one from Chelveston and one from Chelston Rise. Both of these people are well respected and I am happy to hand over this responsibility. But if anyone else has a burning desire to share the load, then please let me know.

Sarah has announced the winding up this weekend of the book swap facility she’s been running on Water Lane. She’s happy for anyone else to take in on, but otherwise will donate the books to 4 charity shops once they re-open.

Similarly, I have a large pile of puzzles in my office. If anyone would like their’s back, please let me know. If anyone would like a puzzle or puzzles, let me know. Otherwise, they’ll also go to a charity shop.

In tomorrow’s podcast, I’ll be announcing the arrangements for our scarecrow festival. Carol and the team have been working hard to plan a route around all the registered entries. Meanwhile, Pete the Worzle Rawlins has bought a new tractor and will be touring the Village entertaining us all in aid of charity.

Only in Chelston-cum-cawcud would there be such dedication and such characters.

Thank you