Olney Council report for February 2015
Stan Wicks spoke first in this slot about the problems of congestion at the Coneygere and Church Street junction. He said that cars were regularly parked on both sides of the junction meaning that lorries very often had to back up. He asked that the council consider requesting double yellow lines to be provided on the junction. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) will be informed of the situation.
Next to speak was Donna Derby, Director of Transformation and Delivery for Milton Keynes NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), on the subject of the MK Healthcare review. Although Donna was subject to the strict three minute rule which Olney Town Council (OTC) imposes for public participation she managed to impart a huge amount of information and did not read a pre-written statement, so Mercury hopes that the information has been captured correctly. Donna explained that the review had been set up nine months ago to address the clinical and financial sustainability of Bedford Hospital and Milton Keynes Hospital and generate options for delivering high quality, sustainable health services for the residents of Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes does not have the same growth profile as other towns, she said. The population is growing (+15% by 2021) and ageing (+45% over 65s in MK from 2012 to 2020). The incidence of long-term conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, dementia, coronary heart disease is increasing as the existing population ages, but increasingly elderly people are moving in to the area to be closer to their families. Without change, Milton Keynes Commissioning Care Group and hospital could have a combined deficit of £56m by 2018. The next phase of the review will:
- Develop plans to offer more care closer to home, i.e. move services away from hospitals into GP surgeries or the home;
- Carry out further detailed work on the preferred options for the future provision of hospital services;
- Develop a detailed plan outlining the practical steps that need to be taken to prepare for public consultation. This plan would be delayed till the end of the year, due to the need to avoid any activities which could be deemed as publicly sensitive in the run up to the general election;
- Keep clinical, public and patient engagement at the heart of the Review.
The review of hospital services had generated two options, she said.
- Milton Keynes Hospital to retain its role as a Major Emergency centre and expand to include other services, while Bedford Hospital would lose some of its existing services and become an Integrated Care centre.
- The reverse of the above.
Joe Stacey said that the Neighbourhood Plan had already identified the need for expanded medical facilities in Olney and this made it more pressing. Donna agreed, saying that a way forward would probably be the multi-purpose health campus providing long term care for conditions such as dementia and diabetes. Steve Clark asked why chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) continued to be such a drain on services. Was it because of historic smoking, he wondered? Donna agreed, but said it was also down to a high immigrant population in Milton Keynes.
For further information on the review go to www.shapingmkhealth.co.uk/about/
Town Clerk Liam Costello reported that Olney Town Council’s (OTC) bid for funding from the MKC 2015/16 Capital Programme for improved parking in the area had been approved and a scheme would be produced for consultation. Rosemary Osbourne hoped that it would include repairs to the pathways as well. Deidre Bethune agreed, reminding members that MKC had already stated that the pathways met their generic safety standards, but OTC did not believe that this was sufficient for an area housing elderly residents.
Mike Hughes was present to discuss with the council any projects of a sustainable nature that might be appropriate to be paid for out of this fund. Tony Evans reported that the Recreation and Services Committee had suggested that a suitable use might be to replace some of the existing Christmas lights with energy efficient LED lights at a cost of about £5,000. There appeared to be no other suggestions and Mike was of the opinion that it would probably qualify, so OTC will make an application to the fund committee for funding.
Mayor’s Prize for Ousedale School
As reported previously, Mayor Steve Clark had attended the awards ceremony at Ousedale School and had been very impressed with the attainment of the students and the range of awards made. He had been in discussion with Mike Barry, the mayor of Newport Pagnell, regarding the award of a Mayor’s Prize for students at the campus within their respective parishes. Colin Rodden supported the idea, saying that anything that forged links with the school must be a good thing. Jeremy Rawlings suggested that the award should take the form of a trophy and a cash prize. Ex-Ousedale teacher Ron Bull expressed the opinion that the awarding of prizes did not actually encourage students to work any harder and Steve Clark agreed, but thought that it might be the ‘icing on the cake’. Steve said he would consult with Mike Barry and the Ousedale Head and report back.
Olney Library closure
Do you care if Olney library closes? Well it probably will do, unless you do something about it. A review of Community and Cultural Services is currently being undertaken by MKC in the light of unprecedented pressures on its budget. The review aims to save £2.75m by the end of March 2016 and will cover services such as libraries, services for young people and children’s centres. It will look at how the public and stakeholders can engage with MKC to explore ‘innovative and alternative approaches to service delivery’. This might include transferring assets such as buildings to community groups or parishes and joining with other local groups to pool resources. No services will be closed immediately as £1.5m has been set aside to fund them while the review takes place and MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary explained that in previous years a clear pledge had been given that no libraries would close. However, that was no longer the case and unless OTC ‘does something’ then there is a real possibility that the Olney library could close. He suggested a consultation with a sub-group to find out if the residents of Olney really want to keep their library. This was only the first of many similar requests that are likely to come from MKC, he said. Ward Councillor David Hosking was also present and he emphasised that the base budget was being replaced by the temporary transition funding, meaning that the library could close in 12-18 months if OTC does not assist.
The OTC purchase of the Olney Centre from MKC under the community asset transfer scheme is progressing and OTC would like completion by the end of this financial year, but OTC solicitors have some concerns which they have raised with the MKC solicitors.
Annual budget and precept
OTC is intending to increase the fees it charges in line with the Retail Price Index for the next financial year. Mercury assumes that this is to avoid accusations of unreasonable hikes when fees have remained the same for several years, as happened this year. This proposal was agreed on a majority vote with no declared abstentions but a few apparent ‘no votes’. The Council Tax Precept (i.e. the amount from the Council Tax allocated to OTC by MKC) will rise from £166,000 to £170,150, an increase of 2.5%. This will equate to an increase in the Band D Council Tax (commonly used as the benchmark) of 1.76%. This was again passed by a majority with one vote against.
Sports pitches and parking
As reported last month OTC has appointed David Smith Associates to investigate the feasibility of providing additional parking spaces in the car park adjacent to the Rugby Club, on the Club side of Doff’s Field and in the Nursery Field adjacent to East Street. Initial plans have now been received and it was clear that there is much disagreement between members on the various options. Ron Bull was of the opinion that the entire thing was money badly spent, when for 95% of the week the existing car park is empty. Why spend so much for 5%, he asked. Colin Rodden thought that OTC should be encouraging people to park in the existing car park and walk to the shops. Tony Evans disputed these arguments, saying that the improved parking would benefit everyone and not just the sports clubs. The plans had the potential to provide over 100 additional spaces, he said, and proposed that the next step should be to draw up a proper specification and get competitive quotes for the work. Peter Geary supported the proposed layouts and said that OTC should consult with residents once proper plans are available.
Ousedale School Admissions Policy
Although not part of the agenda, this was raised by Deidre Bethune under the item of Member’s Matters. Deidre said she was concerned that the school was intending to introduce a new admissions policy that would give priority to students attaining grade 2 in music for 10% of the places. The Neighbourhood Plan had already identified concern that the school was reaching capacity and local children might not get places and this latest proposal increased that possibility. David Hosking said the criteria seemed to be based on ‘aptitude’ rather than ability but because Ousedale is now an academy it is outside of MKC control. Peter Geary said he was not against the proposals so long as Ousedale intends to expand by 10% to cope with it, as local children will be disadvantaged. Colin Rodden expressed disappointment that the school had not consulted with OTC before publishing the proposals. Steve Clark noted that the consultation period ends on 24th February and proposed that a holding letter be sent requesting that the proposal is not implemented. A member of the governing body and a member of staff will be invited to the March OTC meeting to discuss the proposed changes
Odds and Sods
A request from Newport and Olney Lions to hold Motorama on the Market Place on 14th June was approved.
A request from John Scarrott and Sons to hold the annual fun fair on the recreation ground from 17th to the 20th of June was initially approved, until it was pointed out that the council had already given permission to Olney Town Colts to hold their annual BOTO on the same weekend. Liam Costello said he would discuss with the various parties involved to reach agreement.
The owner of 15 Kippell Hill has applied to MKC to purchase a plot of land to the front and side of his property. OTC agreed to support the request with the proviso that it is not used for building.
Three members of staff have now received Speed Indicator Device training. This includes correct ladder climbing techniques so they will be able to install the Speed Indicating Devices discussed last month.
Next Meeting - 2nd March
The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd March in the Council Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always welcome to attend and, if they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.