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Ron Hall Editor of Phonebox Magazine

Phonebox Magazine send a reporter to the Olney Town Council Meetings on the first Monday to each month. We have our report of the meetings here. Earlier ones are available.

Mercury's reports in our 2019 editions

  • Mercury issue for January 2019

    Mercury issue for January 2019 (December 2018 meeting Report)

    Public participation
    Martin Allen was fi first to speak, with a request that Olney Town Council (OTC) spend some of the Section 106 monies from the development adjacent to the East Street car park on resurfacing the area on the recreation ground between the children’s play park and the MUGA
    (Multi-Use Games Area). Jeremy Rawlings passed this request to the Recreations and Services Committee for consideration.

    Apologies for absence
    Steve Clark was unwell so could not attend this meeting.

    Declarations of interest
    This is the part of the meeting in which individual Councillors can declare their interest in various topics on the agenda. Normally pretty dry, the Mercury report tends to skip this bit. However, this time it was more interesting.
    After all interests had been declared, Jeremy Rawlings stated he’d been advised that Des Eley should declare an interest in an agenda item to ‘approve costs of mediation process’, Joanne Eley already having done so, while she should declare an interest in an item to ‘consider recommendation from HR Committee regarding Job Evaluations’. Both these items, while on the publicly available agenda, fell in the part of the meeting where public and press were excluded. Des and Joanne chose not to declare these interests. Jeremy concluded the discussion noting that this was what he’d been advised but the decision was up to them.

    Car parking and dropped kerbs
    Local resident Debbie Whitworth had passed a 230 signature petition to the Council, asking it to take a long hard look at the appalling car parking situation in the town. In a note to the Council, she took particular issue with poor parking around the Market Place and, as a wheelchair user, felt acutely the effects of selfi sh and inconsiderate parking. She cited an example where carers were attempting to push two elderly patients in wheelchairs across the road near McColls but, with a car parked blocking access to the dropped kerb, had to lift the chairs down a high kerb risking tipping the patients out. Asking where the traffi c wardens were, she requested a meeting between residents and Council so the former could air their views.
    Peter Geary reported that he’d inspected the site very recently, had seen a vehicle parked adjacent to the dropped kerb outside the old NatWest building for some of the time he was present, and vehicles parked on nearby double yellow lines for all that time. So, he felt that double yellow lines adjacent to the dropped kerb would not help – something more physical was required. He hoped that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) offi cers would draft a proposal to address the issue. Deirdre Bethune noted that the two dropped kerbs near McColls should also be considered. Peter and Jeremy plan to present the petition to the next MKC Cabinet meeting, adding weight to the request. Peter concluded by saying that he hoped a scheme would be drawn up by February.

    Goosey fireworks
    Jeremy Rawlings reported that, on Saturday 17th November, a substantial fireworks’ display had been held on the Goosey. The Council was concerned about this primarily because it was fi red from its land without its permission. The land in question is leased to Brian Reynolds, a farmer who grazes sheep there. He wrote to the Council to explain what happened: Brian learned of the event at around 2.30 that afternoon, receiving a text from a dog walker concerned about fi reworks being set up in a fi eld near his sheep. He was then called by the fi reworks company, Illusion Fireworks, noting they were setting up ‘a few fi reworks’ and were concerned about sheep nearby. He agreed to the display, as there’d be only a few fi reworks and the sheep would move away. To shorten a rather involved story, as he learned more including the large scale of the display, Brian moved the sheep to a further fi eld, then got to meet the organiser, Joe Wheeler, sometime after 7.30 that evening and, ‘after a few strong words’ they settled that the display could go ahead.
    Kevin Viney was concerned both about the lack of valid permission and the proximity to the sheep. Peter Geary noted that Brian was a very experienced sheep farmer, so Councillors shouldn’t necessarily be more concerned than he about the welfare of his sheep. But, he felt that in any case the display should not have happened. Joanne Eley didn’t think Brian had willingly given his permission – it felt like he’d been ‘strong-armed’. Deirdre noted the display had been fi red from a similar location for the last few years but the Council had only just realised. Councillors agreed to write to the organiser and fireworks company, stating the display was fi red from private land without the landowner’s permission, and that it was very unlikely the Council would ever grant such permission. Finally, and independently of the display, MKC is already looking at siting a stile and locking gate to restrict access to the fi eld from which the display was fi red.

    Tony Evans explained that their current chipper was old and incapable of dealing with thin, bushy material, which therefore had to be burned on his farm – not ideal. A replacement chipper had been chosen, the Recreations and Services Committee proposing the Council purchase it for £9,950. This would be part paid for by the part exchange of a, now almost unused, triple gang Hayter mower for £4,000, plus £500 for the old chipper. Paul Collins noted that the Hayter mower, purchased in 2014 for £17,000 was now to be exchanged for very much less. Tony noted that the mower was bought when Olney took on more landscaping work and, while some found it useful, others did not and, with the Council’s rotary mower more manoeuvrable and able to do everything required, was now rarely used. Peter Geary noted that machinery tended to depreciate quickly after purchase and, as the ground staff’s method of working had moved on, there was no point in leaving it idle in the shed. Des Eley asked why the cost of the Hayter hadn’t been depreciated in the accounts, Liam Costello replying that Council account guidelines are not to depreciate. John Boardman, noted that, with Tony and Peter best qualifi ed to take the decision and in favour, would it not be sensible to vote on Tony’s proposal? After a surprisingly long discussion, Councillors voted in favour of the proposal, eight for, none against with six abstentions. Paul Collins explained that he’d never normally dream of abstaining, but wanted the Council to learn the lesson not to incur big losses due to short term thinking.

    Football Clubhouse
    Olney Town Football Club had agreed to hand back the clubhouse building to the Council, and planned to sign the deed of surrender in the few days after this meeting. Later in the meeting, having voted on whether to exclude press and public, Council was to discuss who the building would then be passed to.

    Standing Orders
    Standing Orders are normally agreed annually during the May Council meeting when the Council re-forms. For various reasons, the Standing Orders due to be agreed in May still haven’t been, with drawing up of ones on which Council could agree having been delegated to a working group – Paul Collins, Des Eley and Peter Geary. The agenda item for this part of the meeting was ‘Standing Orders – To agree a process for reviewing changes, and request that a schedule of proposed changes and reasons be supplied by the working group.’ Liam introduced this item, explaining that the planned agenda item, essentially to adopt the Standing Orders produced by the working group, had been changed to give more time to consider them.
    Des Eley explained that the Council was meant to adopt the Standing Orders in the May meeting but, with a hard copy of the Orders provided to Council only three days earlier and with no detail of the changes made, there were various queries and they were not adopted – so there were currently no adopted Standing Orders. Jeremy Rawlings interrupted to say that the previously adopted Orders remained in force, Des Eley noting this was ‘possibly’ the case, the minutes not noting a Council decision to adopt the previous ones. Des continued that the last few meetings’ minutes noted the working group would draft the Standing Orders, which were then supplied for review in this meeting. He felt slightly disappointed that they’d not been adopted today, and asked Councillors to put forward their views on the proposed Standing Orders. Jeremy replied that the Council would have the chance to adopt them in the January meeting.
    Peter Geary felt the way this had worked fell outside the Council’s constitution – the agenda item should have remained unchanged with Councillors able to vote to defer consideration until the next meeting if needed. Liam disagreed noting that, having consulted with Jeremy (the meeting’s chair), he had the right to change the agenda under certain circumstances. Specifi cally, he felt that some of the changes were not legally sound and noted ‘other concerns’. Following up with Liam after the meeting for clarification, he felt that other changes were not consistent with recent Council decisions, and that the information the working group provided initially did not make clear what the changes were (later rectifi ed). He also cited two of the previously adopted standing orders, 4(d) and 4(e), reproduced below:

    ● 4(d). If the wording or nature of a proposed motion is considered unlawful or improper, the Proper Offi cer shall consult with the Mayor or, as the case may be, the Councillors who have convened the meeting, to consider whether the motion shall be included or rejected in the agenda.
    ● 4(e). Having consulted the Mayor or councillors pursuant to standing order 4(d) above, the decision of the Proper Offi cer as to whether or not to include the motion in the agenda shall be fi nal.

    Back to the meeting, Paul Collins stated that, given views had been expressed re certain changes lacking legality, he wanted to see a paper detailing why. Des Eley noted that he wanted the working group to take on the feedback and provide a revised set of Standing Orders. Peter Geary said that Council needed to see the revised Standing Orders. Jeremy concluded the item, stating that the Standing Orders will be available, with tracked changes, to be discussed and voted on in the January meeting.
    There was clearly a range of views expressed in this part of the meeting and, in the usual way, it is the Town Clerk, Liam, who Mercury calls on with post-meeting questions, requests for context, etc. This is part convention and, reading the Standing Orders relevant to relations with the press/media, presumably also the Council’s intent:

    28(b). In accordance with the Council’s policy in respect to dealing with the press and/or other media, councillors shall not, in their offi cial capacity, provide oral or written statements or written articles to the press or other media.

    Dickens of a Christmas
    This was part of an agenda item where the Council receives minutes from various subcommittees such as Planning and HR. Again, it’s normally pretty dry but at times more interesting. Joanne Eley reported that the draft minutes of the Dickens of a Christmas meeting did not refl ect the meeting accurately. Liam asked her to submit her concerns, which she said she’d do in writing.
    Children’s play areas
    Colin Rodden was frustrated that, while he regularly raised issues related to broken play equipment, such as zip wires and basketball hoops, it needed to become an agenda item in order to ensure ongoing focus and action to resolve the problems. Liam replied that he appreciated this, but the responsibility was with MKC. Peter Geary suggested Liam contact Phil Snell at MKC. If it turned out that equipment was not being repaired because MKC couldn’t afford it, Liam should ask what OTC was meant to do. Either way, it would require OTC to keep raising the issue.

    Milton Keynes Eastern expansion
    Peter Geary explained that Milton Keynes Council is looking to apply for £75 million of Government funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) towards the Eastern expansion. They’d originally planned to do this in December but now plan to do so in March. Noting that, back in October, he and David Hosking had called in the decision to apply for the HIF bid, he felt that had resulted in the detail behind that bid becoming available for inspection. No decisions will be taken on the design of the development itself until it’s known whether the HIF bid has been accepted – infrastructure must come fi rst. If and when the HIF bid is accepted, and Plan MK insists on the development being required, only then will an implementation plan be drawn up. The bid has been delayed because it’s become clear that Government are scrutinising the value from such bids very carefully, so MKC is working to make a good case. Peter had put forward a motion asking for the HIF bid to be put on hold, but didn’t receive MKC support.
    Peter concluded by noting that, in parallel with the HIF bid issues above, Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart had been concerned by the housing deal, which MKC was planning to sign without any corresponding firm Council decision to approximately double the size of Milton Keynes. They’d noted that this could not happen without proper Council agreement, which has resulted in a pause while MKC worked out how to proceed.

    High Street trees
    A High Street resident has contacted the Council because a tree has pierced their sewer and, while Anglian Water has agreed to fix the issue, presumably by lining the pipe, they felt the Council should be aware. Following up with Liam after the meeting, he explained that the Council has for some time been raising issues with MKC about trees on the High Street affecting adjacent properties. MKC hasn’t taken remedial action due to budgetary constraints, but their latest stance is they’ll survey all the trees along the High Street, prioritising the worst for remedial action.
    Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Arc
    Des Eley reported that he and Graham Harrison had attended an informative presentation on the Arc, where Des asked for and was promised data on the anticipated extra traffi c fl ow on the A509 due to the forthcoming expressway.

    Pollution monitoring
    Kevin Viney reported that the air quality monitoring equipment near the Church Hall would shortly be replaced, the new equipment measuring NOx levels more frequently, but no longer particulates as they have thus far tracked levels already measured in Milton Keynes. He noted that NOx levels had reduced significantly, now only around half the threshold at which concern would be raised – diesel engines have become cleaner, Jeremy noted. Kevin also noted that the number of cars passing through Olney each weekday is approximately 17,000, North and Southbound combined.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs
    Chris Tenant noted that over 200 young people had undergone heart screening by Cardiac Risk in the Young in the Football Club building over the weekend of 10th to the 11th November. This was made possible by fundraising following the untimely death of Alden Leuan Price in May 2017 due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Chris said that this had been a big success, and he hoped it would be part of an ongoing legacy. Tony Evans explained that Yardley Road would be closed near Olney for periods over the next 18 months for works related to the new housing development near the Industrial Estate, one which OTC had recommended against. He felt that light controlled one-way traffic for the affected section of road would be achievable, significantly less disruptive than the closure. Peter Geary noted that requests for such closures are always scrutinised by MKC, but recommended OTC question this one to see if the closure times could be reduced with, for example, the road always being open at weekends.
    Des Eley proposed replacing the dog bins with ones of a larger size, thus avoiding the need to empty them as often. He believed this would cost around £2,500 and pay for itself in the fi rst two months or so. Jeremy referred this to the Recreations and Services Committee for a decision.

    Peter Geary reported that, in the next few weeks, there would be a solution proposed for the One Stop crossing issues, for example illuminated columns for the lights to improve visibility. John Boardman reported that he, a group of Councillors and two representatives from the MKC Highways department had visited East Street. He felt sure that progress had been made towards resurfacing and noted that MKC would consider how best to address the pedestrian safety issue on the ‘S’ bend to the rear of The Two Brewers.

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th January 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.

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  • February 2019 edition - January 2019 report

    Mercury issue for February 2019 (January 2019 meeting Report)

    Public Participation:

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent:
    Susan Warren
    was the first to speak on the ongoing subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. She said she was disappointed and disgusted that having emailed all the recently elected members of Olney Town Council (OTC) regarding a letter sent to all residents of Weston Road telling them that they would lose their tenancy if they parked in Oakdown Crescent, not one had had the courtesy to reply or comment. They were supposed to ‘be there’ for the residents according to the OTC web site, she said.
    At this point, Graham Harrison interjected to say that he had certainly replied. A recent article in the MK Citizen reported on how the Fenny Stratford ward Councillors had obtained £22k to sort out a parking issue for their senior citizens, and Susan asked why OTC could not do the same. Although Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had published a draft proposal plan which includes provision for a reserved ambulance parking space it did not meet the needs of the residents as it was too far away from the majority of properties and should be located more centrally, she felt.
    Sue concluded by saying that it was now two years since she had applied for a residents’ parking permit scheme so she was now able to start the process again, which she would be doing the following day. This matter was discussed later as a formal agenda item.

    Olney Town Colts Football Club
    Next to speak was Ian Stokes, on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC). Ian said the colts now comprised 26 teams, including an adult team and he had on two occasions stated his interest in acquiring certain assets from the now-defunct Olney Town Football Club (OTFC) and taking over the lease of the building. He said he had been in discussion with members of OTC, OTFC and was keen to work with BodyForce, current occupiers of the premises to reach a mutually agreeable solution. He explained that he wanted to retain the town’s 115-year footballing heritage and ensure that the football club, which was originally built by its members, remains a community asset primarily for the benefit of local non-profit making sports clubs.
    This matter was discussed later in the meeting under Confidential Items after the press and public had been excluded.

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    Market Place Surface

    Changes to Standing Orders

    Standing Orders:
    Standing orders are the written rules of a local council. They are used to confirm a council’s internal organisational, administrative and procurement procedures and procedural matters for meetings. They are not the same as the policies of a council, but they may refer to them.
    As reported last month, Standing Orders due to be agreed in May still haven’t been, with drawing up of ones on which Council could agree having been delegated to a working group – Paul Collins, Des Eley and Peter Geary.
    At last month’s meeting, it was agreed to defer the review to the January meeting, due to the complexity of the changes and the short notice councillors had to review them.
    During the section of the meeting to approve the minutes of the previous meeting, Des Eley asked for the recording of the previous meeting to be reviewed as he did not think the minutes accurately reflected what was said. He introduced the item this month saying that a working group had reviewed the existing Standing Orders and produced a revised set.
    Peter Geary said it would be necessary to review the document line by line as the majority of changes would not cause any problems, but some might. Des was clearly frustrated and said that the document had been widely circulated in advance and should not contain any surprises if councillors had read it. He said it had been produced using the model produced by the National Association of Local Councils, rather than basing it on the existing OTC Standing Orders to reduce the risk of ‘errors and inconsistencies’.
    Mayor Jeremy Rawlings expressed his opinion that the council were mainly interested in the differences between what previously existed and what was being proposed. The tone of the meeting was becoming considerably heated by this stage, and Tony Evans reminded members that one of the existing Standing Orders stated that only one person should speak at a time and members should abide by it! Peter Geary suggested that it should be put to the bottom of the agenda and discussed if time allowed, but Kevin Viney thought that a separate meeting should be held as it would take too long to debate, given the time constraints of regular OTC meetings. Joanne Eley pointed out that the item had been pulled from last month’s agenda and needed addressing.
    Eventually, a vote was held as to whether to defer to a future meeting with seven for and seven against. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings used his casting vote, and it was agreed to hold a separate meeting on January 14th.

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    Barclays Bank in Olney

    Traffic Regulation Orders

    MKC have completed the required 21 day consultation period for two Traffic Regulation Orders in the town. The first is ‘To introduce ‘no waiting at any time’ restrictions (double yellow lines) in front at the crossing point on Market Place, Olney (opposite the war memorial)’.
    This will have the effect of making it an enforceable offence to park in front of the drop-down kerb by McColl’s. Colin Rodden observed that there are a number of other broken yellow lines which need to be repainted. Deirdre Bethune noted that the hatching outside the old Nat West Bank is widely ignored and thought that the installation of bollards was the only Solution. Peter Geary said that this was being investigated.
    The second Traffic Regulation Order referred to the location of the ambulance space in Oakdown Crescent. Although it is not in the position that Susan Warren had requested MKC advised that it is the most central to service all properties in Oakdown Crescent, being less than 50 metres from any property and adjacent to a drop-down kerb. Peter Geary said it would be completed this financial year, assuming weather conditions permit.

    Planning Matters

    At the recent meeting of the Planning Committee concerns were raised about the advertising on the new Smart Gents Turkish Barbershop in the Market Place. As the shop is in a conservation area it was felt that a planning application should have been submitted to MKC. The matter was referred to the MKC Enforcement Officer, but no response had been received.

    Milton Keynes Eastern expansion

    Desmond Eley said that the MK Eastern expansion is ongoing and in the latest plan Olney and Woburn are identified as ‘Key Settlements’ for expansion, although all expansion will be via Neighbourhood Plans (NPs). There is no further expansion planned for Olney outside of the current NP as MK now has a Five Year Land Supply.
    Chris Tennant was certain that Plan MK, the new Local Plan for Milton Keynes, will be adopted so it essential that the existing Olney NP be reviewed in 18 months’ time as the National Planning Policy Framework published in 2018 will take precedence. Desmond Eley said that any modification to the NP must include growth and would need a further public referendum so funding would be required. Town Clerk Liam Costello replied that it depended on the nature of the modification.

    Connie’s Colander – The Human Story Theatre

    A request has been received from Michelle Herriman of MK Libraries asking for the council’s support in staging a short play entitled Connie’s Colander which explores the subject of dementia, in the Olney Centre in May or June 2019. The 50-minute play would be followed by a 20 minute post-show Q&A session with a dementia expert. More information can be found by searching ‘Connie’s Colander’ on YouTube. The council agreed by a majority to support the production.

    Olney Rugby 7s

    Olney Rugby Club has informed the council that they will be running the hugely popular 7s festival on Saturday 22nd June. The council agreed that the football pitch can be used for parking, like last year, and also the strip of land outside the clubhouse itself, subject to weather conditions.

    Silent Soldier benches

    Following considerable interest on The Olney Noticeboard Facebook group, the council have purchased two Silent Soldier benches, which will be placed adjacent to the war memorial. There were many offers of funding support from members of the public, so that a JustGiving page is to be created.

    Market Place surface

    Tony Evans reported that the surface of the Market Place is in a bad state and sooner or later OTC will need to ‘bite the bullet’ and repair it. This could be in the form of:
    ● Patching up
    ● Digging out the worst parts and resurfacing
    ● Resurfacing the entire Market Place

    Steve Clark agreed, noting that it was a trip hazard and, in wet weather, deep puddles were forming. He suggested the council obtain rough costings so that the work could be budgeted for in the future. Joanne Eley reminded members that the council was still in dispute with EON over the poor quality of the workmanship when the new electric posts were installed, and they should wait until that was resolved before rushing into any repairs.

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    Broken play equipment in Johnsons Field

    Odds and Sods

    The CCTV in the Market Place is now working again. If it proves to be stable then the council will consider moving to a centrally monitored system, rather than the on-request retrospective access to footage that is currently in place.

    The resurfacing of the footpath between the tennis courts and the council compound came in considerably over budget due to the inaccurate information shown on the marker posts installed by Anglian Water. Des Eley suggested that Anglian Water should be asked to make up the difference.
    The footpath between Olney and Weston Underwood is once again navigable since MKC cut back the bushes. However, it was noted that the footpath is getting progressively narrower as soil spills down the banks.

    Colin Rodden asked what was happening about the damaged play equipment on Johnsons Field, which is the responsibility of MKC. Peter Geary replied that MKC had suggested that Section 106 funding could be used, but that was not appropriate since it is supposed to be used for new locations.
    Kevin Viney noted that the repairs to Barclays Bank seemed to be taking a long time. Liam Costello said he had written to Barclays asking about their plans but had received no response. The contractors on site have been told that the bank will reopen.

    Malcolm Messenger said he had received a complaint about the configuration of the baby changing facilities in the Olney Centre toilets which could result in a baby being knocked off by an opening door.

    Next Meeting - Monday 4th February

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th February 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.

  • March 2019 Issue - February Meeting

    Olney Council report for March Issue 2019 (February 2019 meeting)

    Public Participation

    There were 11 members of the public present for the public participation section of the meeting this month, with six of them wishing to speak. Normally this section of the meeting is restricted to five participants, each being permitted to address the council for a maximum of three minutes, but Mayor Jeremy Rawlings agreed to make an exception this month.

    Stuart Dorrill
    First to speak was Stuart Dorrill, owner of Bodyforce who have used the Olney Town Football Club (OTFC) premises for the last nine years and are now looking to take on the full lease on a permanent basis since the demise of the Football Club. Stuart presented letters of support for the work he is doing from a number of organisations and individuals, including Cobbs Garden Surgery, Ousedale School, Dr Ian Fletcher (Principle Lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire School of Sport Science & Physical Activity), and Phil Pask (Consultant Physiotherapist England Rugby). Stuart said he had asked his members to send emails of support for his application to OTC but had not anticipated that around 150 would do so, which he said he found humbling to read and sent a powerful message of what is possible with commitment and vision. He finished by saying he was looking forward to working with other sports clubs and the wider community for many years to come.

    Danny Whitington
    Next to speak was Danny Whitington. Danny said that seven years ago he was recently divorced, leading an unhealthy party lifestyle and was very unfit. With his responsible and stressful job, he said his life could easily have imploded, but after meeting Stuart and starting to train with him within three months he’d had a drastic change in body and mind and changed his entire lifestyle and diet. Three years later he and his partner trained until she was 34 weeks pregnant and after an emergency C Section at 42 weeks was back training three months later, under Stuart’s careful guidance. The clubhouse was not just a training facility but a home to 650 members of the Bodyforce family, he said. Danny then handed over to his son Tom, aged 13. In an at times emotional speech Tom said that he enjoyed Caveman (a Bodyforce class) because it made him feel more prepared for a rugby match and more confident in sport. Without Caveman he wouldn’t have achieved his current athletic abilities, now being the fastest 100m sprinter at Ousedale and playing in the rugby A team. Caveman and Stuart mean a lot to him and his family, he said.

    Steve Price
    Next was Steve Price who explained that his son, Alden, had died suddenly in May 2017 from Young Sudden Cardiac Death. Subsequently, Stuart and the Bodyforce family had raised over £11k for the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and organised a heart screening day in Olney where 211 young people had been screened for the condition. As a result, one of them had been referred to their GP, potentially saving their life.

    Peter Gage
    Next was Peter Gage who spoke on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC) and their application to take over the lease of the clubhouse. He explained that he had been a keen supporter of the colts for many years and they had started with just three teams and now had 26. He said the colts would like to retain the history and legacy of football in Olney and lease at least part of the building. If this didn’t happen it would be akin to ‘air-brushing’ out the history of football in the town, he said. The likes of Denis Timpson and the final committee members, which he named individually, had devoted their entire lives to the club would be ‘air-brushed’ out, he believed. He concluded by going around the table, naming councillors and asking them if they would be prepared to meet those individuals and tell them of such a decision.

    Ian Stokes
    Finally, on this matter, Ian Stokes spoke on behalf of Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC). Ian said he was ‘wearing three hats’: First as Chairman of OTCFC, secondly as a life member of OTFC but thirdly, as someone who is passionate about local sport. Ian said he wanted to work with Stuart and Bodyforce to build and maintain a legacy (of football) and suggested the matter ought to be opened to form a wider debate. It was not right that the matter of the building lease was only discussed by OTC in the confidential items part of the agenda when public and press had been excluded, he said.

    Mike Totton
    Mike Totton spoke on behalf of the Allotment Association regarding the educational cabin on the Community Allotment Plot. Mike said that at the November OTC meeting the council had agreed to provide 50% of the funding for the cabin, which was assumed to include installation of electricity and water. However, the cost of installing electricity had turned out to be an extra £13,000, for which a £10,000 lottery grant was being sought. The association wish to push forward with the erection of the cabin as soon as possible so Mike asked if the council would sanction handing over the funds to build the base and cabin alone, which would amount to approximately £10,000. The association will then take responsibility for raising the funding for the rest of the work, he said.

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    Olney Town Football Club

    Closure of Barclay’s bank

    Barclays Bank have informed OTC and customers that the Olney Branch will not re-open following the ram-raid on the cash machine last year. Kevin Viney said that the letters had said that the decision was made on the single criteria that fewer members of the public were using it. However, all banks have signed up to a code to fully consult with communities should they propose a closure for the ‘last bank standing’ and a robbery should not alter that prior sequence of discussion. OTC had written to Barclays offering any help it could after the raid but had not received a reply, he said. The nearest branch would now be Milton Keynes, but many small businesses in town need cash facilities, he added. A meeting will take place in March between Kevin and Deirdre Bethune on behalf of OTC, Barclays, and MP Mark Lancaster, where the case will be made to save the bank from closure by reminding them of the future growth and wealth creation in Olney, with new houses and businesses that have already received planning permission. Peter Geary said it was important that the council’s standpoint was clear, otherwise Barclays would simply walk out of the meeting. Deirdre Bethune said the bank provided an essential service for the elderly, some of whom do not use ‘plastic’ or on-line banking.

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    Last Bank Standing

    Proposed charge for use of Market Place

    The council is considering making a charge for events that use the Market Place, such as The Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF), Motorama and Dickens of a Christmas. Town Clerk Liam Costello noted that the charge for commercial events, such as the special food markets is £400 per day. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that there is usually an actual cost to the council in hosting these events. The fact that a new electricity distribution system has recently been installed and that the surface is now in urgent need of repair or replacement is seen as justification. Peter Geary pointed out that this might impact the rates that OTC pay (presumably to MKC) for the Market Place and Kevin Viney observed that most of the events mentioned were community events which also raised money for charity. Steve Clark noted that such events bring people into the town and a charge in the region of the commercial cost of £400 might make organisers think twice about the viability of the events. It was agreed to discuss with the organisers of these events before making a decision.

    Closure of Emberton School

    Emberton School currently has no pupils on its role, and the Governing Board have asked MKC to consult on closure. This eight-week consultation is currently underway and will end on 17th March. After this, the necessary Statutory Notices will be published followed by a representation period before a final decision is made. Birth data indicates that a small number of children in the catchment area are due to start school in 2019, but there are sufficient places at other local schools to accommodate them and parental choice in recent years has shown that the school is not a popular choice for parents. There is currently no demand expected from new housing in the local area.

    Budgetary matters

    Paul Collins reported back from the Finance Committee, summarising the draft budget proposals and proposed increase in the precept (the element of the Council Tax collected by MKC and paid to OTC to provide certain services).
    A number of factors such as increased staff costs, essential refurbishments and lower than predicted income from various sources meant that to avoid a shortfall it would be necessary to increase the precept by approximately 20%. This equates to a £15 increase per year on an average Band D property. It was also agreed to increase the schedule of fees that OTC charges for allotments, market stalls and venue hires etc. in line with CPI. A vote on the budget proposals was taken and passed unanimously.

    MK East Local Stakeholder Group

    Steve Clark reported that he had recently attended a meeting of the MK East Local Stakeholder Group where a presentation on Traffic Modelling had been given. The (obvious) context was that the existing highway network is not and will not be sufficient to accommodate the MKE expansion without new strategic infrastructure investment. Minimal infrastructure investment would lead to massive and unacceptable delays to journeys, so a number of options have been considered:
    ● Improvements at Junction 14
    ● Enhanced capacity through A422 Corridor
    ● Widening of the Willen Road Corridor and bridge over M1
    ● A new Bridge over the M1
    Of these, a new bridge is considered the best option and six possibilities have been considered, although all but one ruled out and that is subject to a bid for Housing Infrastructure Funding. Modelling of all schemes predicted ‘tidal flow’ rush hour traffic increases through Olney of 5%.

    Stacks Image 1181

    Roundel painted on the Road along Aspreys

    Odds and Sods

    The amended Standing Orders, discussed at length in previous meetings, are being drafted and will be discussed at a future meeting.

    The Lions will be holding Motorama on Sunday 9th June in the Market Place.

    The ‘One-Stop’ pedestrian crossing is due to be improved with illuminated posts and improved street lighting but no confirmation from MKC that it will be in this financial year.

    The 30mph ‘roundel’ painted on the road along Asprey meant that police could not legally enforce the speed limit since that is no longer legal signage. It has recently been removed, meaning that enforcement will now be possible.

    Next Meeting - Monday 4th March

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 4th 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.

  • April 2019 Issue - March report

    Mercury issue for March 2019 (February 2019 meeting)

    Public Participation

    For the first time in many a year there were no members of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting. A reminder that any resident can choose to address the council at the start of each meeting, by giving prior notice to the clerk, and will be given three minutes in which to speak. Officially there should be no discussion on matters raised in this section and any items requiring further discussion would be added to the formal agenda of the next meeting. In reality the mayor will often apply common sense and allow a limited response, if appropriate.

    Minutes of previous meetings

    Standing Orders of Olney Town Council:
    There has been considerable debate at previous meetings on proposed amendments to the Standing Orders of Olney Town Council (OTC). The minutes of the January meeting document these changes in considerable detail and approval of the minutes of that meeting would presumably be deemed as acceptance of those changes.
    Paul Collins said that he had many comments on the revisions and felt that the council would have benefited from a meeting between the dedicated working group and Liam Costello, the Town Clerk, before this meeting.
    Peter Geary thought that there was a need to listen to the audio recording of the January meeting to ensure that the minutes were an accurate reflection of what was discussed and agreed.
    Liam said that in his opinion the minutes were an accurate record of what was agreed, and he had advised members that some of the proposals were not legally sound, but his advice had been ignored.
    Deirdre Bethune asked that her displeasure that the Clerk’s advice on the legality of the amendments had been ignored to be formally recorded.

    Closure of Emberton School

    As reported last month Emberton School currently has no pupils on its role and the Governing Board have asked MKC to consult on closure. This eight-week consultation is currently under way and will end on 17th March. OTC have decided not to comment on this matter, the feeling being that the school is going to close, anyway. It was noted that the Emberton Neighbourhood Plan includes new housing on the existing School playing fields.

    Closure of Barclays Bank

    Kevin Viney reported back on the meeting between OTC, Mark Lancaster MP and representatives of Barclays Bank. He felt it had been constructive but Barclays definition of what constituted ‘a customer’ when determining the amount of business, and therefore justification to remain open, was rather suspect. Barclays had claimed that the Olney Branch had only 140 active customers, but their definition of a customer is someone who is dependent on that branch alone and has no access to an alternative branch. By definition, even if you are a regular user and your account is registered elsewhere or you have the ability to travel to another branch you are not a customer. They claimed there had been only two complaints about the closure.
    Deirdre Bethune said it was clear that Barclays had no intention of reopening in Olney but might consider setting up an office where they could assist customers by providing advice on alternative ways to access their accounts, but there would be no transactions of any type. Peter Geary said that 800 ‘customers’ had used the bank in the month previous to the closure and there had been 23,000 transactions in the previous year. He was also concerned about the state of the building and said pressure must be maintained to ensure that Barclays comply with their obligation to repair the frontage.

    OTC Communications Policy

    The first draft of a document setting out OTC’s Policy for Internal and External Communications was presented for discussion. It sets out the council’s commitment to use a multi-channel approach to communications including public announcements, email alerts, their website, printed material and social media.
    The policy is based 90% on the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity issued by central government and 10% bespoke additions from OTC.
    Peter Geary questioned the statement that ‘Any public communication from councillors or staff (in their official capacity) should reflect current council policy and not a personal view.’ The job of a councillor, he said, is to represent people not council policy. OTC is not a cabinet with collective responsibility.
    Steve Clark agreed, using the example of OTC charging event organisers for use of the Market Place. Until a decision on that matter is made, he is free to express his personal opinion, he said.
    responded that even after such a decision individual member have the right to express their own opinions. Council staff have a responsibility to back council policy but councillors do not, he said. The document lists examples of face to face negative body languages which may be viewed as undermining the council’s compassionate workplace cultures including eye rolling, tutting, sighing, glaring, finger tapping, finger pointing, and aggressive gesturing. Peter asked that excessive sarcasm also be included.
    Mercury can only hope that once this policy is adopted we will see an end to the difficult atmosphere that has been apparent at some OTC meetings in recent months.

    Riverfest and Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF)

    Requests to hold the following events were received and granted:
    Riverfest on July 6th and 7th.
    Big Olney Food Festival on 14th and 15th September. Deirdre Bethune, as a member of the BOFF committee, reported that the exact nature and duration of this year’s event was still under discussion.

    Olney hanging baskets

    Each year the lampposts through the centre of the town are adorned with floral hanging baskets, which are erected by a team of volunteers. This popular feature was initiated many years ago by the Floral Fiesta committee and continued by successor groups, including The Olney Group (TOG) and Olney Events helpers. The baskets have always been provided by C.T. Wilson and Sons, who have now offered to fully fund the provision of the baskets. Previously this funding was obtained by offering local businesses, groups and individuals the opportunity to sponsor a basket, but the cost of watering and ongoing maintenance fell to OTC. This sponsorship will still be sought but it will be used to fund the ongoing maintenance.

    Olney Development Group

    This is the sub-committee that has been set up to implement the proposals set out in the Neighbourhood Plan. It was confirmed that the ‘Site R’ (corner of Lavendon Road) will be occupied by Sainsburys with completion due in September/ October. The future of the remaining two acres is uncertain, since it is earmarked in the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) for retail use but the developer, Angle, has been unable to find a retail tenant to occupy the site. As a result, it has entered into a partnership with McCarthy and Stone to develop the site for age-restricted and assisted living accommodation use, contrary to the NP. A public consultation event will take place at the Olney Centre on 27th March. Deirdre Bethune expressed the opinion that such a development would not provide much in the way of employment since there would be very little care support. Steve Clark said it was obvious that Angle had set up the relationship with McCarthy and Stone in order to push through the development and members should be careful when expressing an opinion on the matter. Kevin Viney agreed, saying that there was an element of ‘railroading’ taking place and he was disappointed that one Ward Councillor had already posted information on social media without stating that it was in violation of the NP. John Boardman was concerned that Angle might use the event to take an unofficial ‘straw poll’ to gauge public support which might be used in support of their application. Peter Geary said regardless of this the public had voted for and adopted the NP which allocated the site for retail and that McCarthy and Webster were proposing a large development on a small plot of land. They would not have come on board unless they were reasonably confident of success, he thought, and any planning application would test Milton Keynes Council’s (MKC) planning policy with regard to NPs.

    Liam Costello

    It was announced that Town Clerk has tendered his resignation and is currently working out his notice. Deirdre Bethune said she would like to record her gratitude for his work with OTC, a view that was echoed by other members.

    Recycling sacks

    Since the sacks have ceased to be obtainable from local outlets many residents have experienced difficulty in obtaining new sacks.
    Peter Geary said it was clear that some residents were managing to obtain supplies, but others were not.
    Clerk Liam Costello said that when the sacks had been obtainable from the council office in the Olney Centre it had caused considerable disruption to the staff. He felt that a better solution would have been for the sacks to be held in the library, which is open and weekends and is staffed by MKC employees.
    Steve Clark
    was of the opinion that MKC is employing an element of rationing.
    Deirdre Bethune said she had observed sacks that were not being filled efficiently because large items such as cardboard boxes were not being broken down. There was also evidence that people are using the bags to take donations to charity shops, since they are considered to be ‘free’.

    Odds and Sods

    Malcolm Messenger said that he had noticed many examples of bad parking on the High Street with large vehicles sticking out into the road or overhanging the kerb, and felt that the police and PCSOs should be ticketing such vehicles. John Boardman reminded members that some years ago a similar approach was proposed but MKC had advised that overhanging the kerb was permissible due to the wide pavements in Olney.
    The ‘One-Stop’ pedestrian crossing is due to be improved with illuminated posts but there is still no confirmation from MKC that it will be in this financial year. Peter Geary said that additional lighting will be provided by ‘turning up’ the brightness of the adjacent street lights. It appears that when the new LED street lights were installed, they were deliberately ‘dulled down’ to avoid causing annoyance to nearby residents.

    Next Meeting - Monday 1st April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st April 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.

  • May 2019 issue (April report)

    Mercury issue for May 2019 (April 2019 meeting)

    Public Participation

    Elaine Herniman was first to speak, following up her November 2018 meeting contribution about creating a communal area within the allotments. The plan is to remove two old sheds and replace them with a modular cabin building. She was unclear what kind of grants and support Olney Town Council (OTC) could offer towards the project, and asked if a discussion on this could be added to the agenda of the next Recreations and Services Committee meeting.
    Nigel Birrell was last to speak. He’s planning to hold a silent vigil in front of the War Memorial starting at 1pm on Thursday 27th June and ending 24 hours later on the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles signing. He asked the Council’s permission to do this.


    Des and Joanne Eley were absent from this meeting.


    The minutes of January’s meeting to consider the proposed changes to Standing Orders were, following a significant number of amendments, finally approved.

    Silent Vigil

    Council quickly agreed to Nigel’s request, thinking it an excellent idea.

    One Stop zebra crossing

    The safety of pedestrians using the zebra crossing near One Stop continues to cause concern for Councillors and the Public. Kevin Viney, noting that he was still receiving residents’ complaints on the matter, started the discussion by showing Councillors a picture of one large lorry overtaking another parked lorry, which was delivering to One Stop. He explained that delivery lorries parking there meant that pedestrians crossing from the One Stop side were unable to see Northbound traffic, with that traffic also unable to see them, until they started to cross. A Facebook survey conducted by OTC, and with around 800 responses, saw about two-thirds in favour of a traffic light controlled crossing, the remainder preferring improvements to the existing zebra crossing. As noted by David Hosking on Facebook, these improvements would amount to “a high performance illuminated post system featuring a robust high-strength design with low energy and low maintenance light sources, available with either a post-top beacon or a mid-post beacon with a post extension enabling floodlight fitting.”
    Steve Clark explained that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) was not prepared to install a traffic light controlled crossing, but would install the illuminated post system and increase the brightness of the surrounding street lights. He felt it would be silly to lose this opportunity, so OTC should agree with MKC’s proposal, reserving the right to ask for an alternative if safety problems persist.
    Councillors noted a number of problems associated with the crossing: Delivery lorries parking near One Stop causing overtaking and reduced visibility, excessive speed of traffic, the curve of the road naturally reducing Northbound drivers’ visibility, a nearby tree further obscuring visibility, and the presence of a number of perhaps distracting vertical bollards installed to stop parking on the pavement immediately South West of the crossing.
    Some Councillors including Chris Tennant felt OTC should fight for the traffic light controlled crossing, others feeling it should accept the illuminated poles then fight for the traffic lights if needed. Peter Geary noted that, on zebra crossings, most pedestrians don’t cross until the traffic has stopped, unlike on traffic light controlled crossings where they cross the moment the green man illuminates. Neither can be completely safe, he said. He explained that MKC’s decision was not driven by cost, but instead by its safety audits that found the zebra crossing safer than a traffic light controlled one. The Council decided to agree with MKC’s recommendation for illuminated poles and associated works, reserving the right to ask again if those improvements didn’t help.

    Human resources

    The Human Resources Committee had met twice since last month’s full OTC meeting. Colin Rodden felt that, in the interests of transparency, the minutes of those meetings should, like those from other Committees, be available for all Councillors to read. The Committee was happy for that to happen, he explained. Jeremy Rawlings disagreed, offering to discuss another time, perhaps during the busy programme of confidential items covered later in this meeting after exclusion of Press and Public. These items included the Town Clerk’s finishing date, recruitment of a new Town Clerk and staff grievances.

    Olney Centre office changes

    The Olney Centre office is being reconfigured, with plans prepared and quotes sought by the Olney Centre Management Committee. It had not proved possible to obtain three quotes, so just the two received were discussed. Councillors preferred the first quote and voted by majority – seven for, two against and one abstention – to accept it. Colin Rodden felt unable to express a preference without seeing the plans and, again noting lack of transparency, was one of those voting against.

    East Street

    As reported before, pedestrian safety on the narrow section of East Street immediately South of the Recreation Ground gate continues to be a problem. Chris Tennant reported that he and John Boardman had attended a site visit with a representative from MKC, and the following options were considered:

    Installing priority traffic signs (one way has priority) – not viable due to limited visibility;
    Installing traffic lights – not viable due to dwelling exits on the affected stretch of road;
    Add speed cushions along the affected stretch, and a zebra crossing adjoining the path from the High Street – viable;
    Change the whole of East Street to one way Northbound with associated traffic calming, and add a new 1.2m wide footpath along the affected stretch – viable, but a very significant and likely unpopular step.

    As a short-term measure, MKC plans to install ‘pedestrians in road’ signage in the next month or so.

    Stacks Image 1285

    East Street

    Speed Watch

    Colin Rodden reported that various concerned residents had contacted him to ask if Olney Community Speed Watch could target specific roads in the Town. He explained that resourcing these extra requests would require additional volunteers, which he’d be happy to have trained to perform the checks. Feeling that the community needed to ‘own’ the Speed Watch effort to an extent, he planned to encourage interested residents to assist.

    Dickens stalls decision

    The Dickens of a Christmas Committee had decided and minuted that there will be no stalls to the shop side of the road along the South side of the Market Place; a controversial issue with last year’s event.

    Market Place lines

    The South and North East sections of the Market Place road will be re-lined, yellow lines conservation yellow, to see if parking improves. As reported before, this has been causing concern, particularly where it blocks dropped kerbs installed for those with reduced mobility. This is expected to happen soon.

    Stacks Image 1301

    Market Place Road Markings

    Olney Town Football Club Lease

    One of the confidential items discussed after exclusion of Press and Public was related to the Football Club. Although this news came after the meeting, it was likely discussed during that item: OTC has unanimously decided, subject to successful negotiations, to lease the entire Olney Town Football Club building to BodyForce, the new Northern extension remaining with Olney Town Colts.

    Stacks Image 1309

    Olney Town Football Club

    Next meeting - 13th May

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 13th May 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.

  • June 2019 Issue (May report)

    Mercury issue for June 2019 (May Council Meeting 2019)

    Public Participation

    One person spoke in this slot. They’d been informed that family decorations made to a close relative’s grave fell outside those allowed by the rules, but had discovered those rules only on being told of their breaking them.

    Election of roles

    Each May, the Council’s various roles and responsibilities are decided. This year saw two candidates for Mayor, Jeremy Rawlings and Des Eley. Jeremy won the resulting vote seven to six, and is thus Mayor of Olney for a third year. Thanking those present, he told those who voted for Des that this would be his final year as Mayor. On to Deputy Mayor, Sally Pezaro was elected unopposed for another year. She thanked those present.

    Apologies for absence

    During the review of last month’s minutes, Joanne Eley asked they be amended from noting “Absent: Desmond Eley and Joanne Eley” to state that these absences had been apologised for in advance. The minutes will be changed accordingly. Last month’s Mercury report covered this in a similar vein to the minutes, and the Phonebox Magazine regrets any concern caused regarding the wording.

    Standing Orders

    Last month’s minutes were also challenged by Des Eley, who felt the wording “Standing Orders – are finished with” conflicted with three clauses having been referred to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for advice. While that advice had now been received and the opportunity to discuss and conclude the wording had become available, the clauses had not yet been resolved, he said. The minutes will be amended to reflect that these clauses remain outstanding.

    Crossing near One Stop

    Colin Rodden raised the issue of the High Street crossing near One Stop. Work is due to be performed to improve safety, but Jeremy Rawlings noted this would not be the whole solution. He’d seen a person with three children start to cross while traffic was flowing in both directions. Education on safe use was also required, he felt.

    Remaining annual business

    This part of the meeting centred on reviewing the Scheme of Delegation, the membership of the various committees, the Council’s representation on various external organisations, the Standing Orders and the Financial Regulations. Sometimes mundane, it was at times chaotic, reflecting a Council on its way through a period of significant change and with much to do, and with the vacant Town Clerk position expected to remain unfilled until August or September.
    Summarising a lengthy discussion, the key points were: The Human Resources (HR) Committee will be disbanded and replaced by full Council, with Standing Orders updated to match. In theory, the Public could attend these HR
    meetings but, given the content, much of the discussion would be after exclusion of Press and Public so there’d be little to hear. Peter Geary noted it had been a turbulent year for the HR Committee, due to its failings over the three or so previous years – missed appraisals, etc. Joanne Eley suggested a rota be arranged for HR training to fix some misunderstandings apparently brought out by a report which had been conducted.
    The Standing Orders were approved, bar the pending changes for the HR Committee and the three clauses noted earlier. This represents an important step forward, it having taken many months to get this far.
    Des Eley noted that Standing Orders require that a review of Olney Town Council (OTC) land, other assets and insurable risks be conducted in this meeting, yet it was not on the agenda. Jeremy said it would be added for next month. Finally, the Council representatives attending the Milton Keynes Eastern Expansion meetings, Steve Clark and Des Eley, will be included in its list of representation on various external organisations.

    Receiving minutes of committee meetings

    The Council often spends significant time discussing the minutes of its subcommittees, under a recurring agenda item to ‘receive’ them. This will change, minutes of future meetings remaining in Councillors’ briefing packs but their reception no longer
    appearing as an agenda item – so they’d no longer be discussed. This month, they were discussed briefly, a couple of amendments being requested including one by Paul Collins to the Finance Committee meeting minutes, the content of which was not expressed.

    Bits ‘n’ pieces

    Section 106 agreements are arrangements made between local authorities and developers that can be attached to a planning permission to mitigate the impact of development on the local community and infrastructure. For example, new houses imply more use of local parks. Chris Tenant has prepared a Section 106 Contributions Tracker, to allow Council to keep an eye on the money available to draw on, and how it would be spent.
    Certain events happened in Emberton Park over Easter Weekend which will result in the resurrection of the currently defunct Emberton Park Liaison Users Group (PLUG) as a body to better manage such problems. Councillors felt this a welcome move.
    Following a couple of break-ins to the tractor shed over the last few months, Councillors discussed various security measures and will obtain quotes.

    Citizen’s Advice

    Each year, Councillors decide whether to continue to fund the Olney based Citizen’s Advice community outreach programme. Deidre Bethune felt it an easy ‘yes’, while Joanne Eley disagreed. An interesting debate followed. Joanne felt it was a pure duplication of services also available from MKC and for which Citizen’s Advice is bidding. Peter Geary disagreed. Noting it was a difficult issue, he said the service was crucial for those who receive the benefit, the alternative being a bus trip to Milton Keynes, a few hours queuing for the service, and a bus trip back – the best part of a day. He felt it a real benefit, MKC having cut all funding to Citizen’s Advice and saying the Parishes could support it. Joanne asked if MKC had changed its tack, Peter noting it had cut funding in October 2018. Des Eley questioned this, claiming that MKC had a duty to provide these services, and Peter responded that perhaps that was relevant to homelessness prevention rather than the outreach being discussed here. The decision went to a vote, in favour by majority of continued funding.

    Olney Middle School parking

    Colin Rodden raised the issue of parking on Yardley Road near Olney Middle School at pick-up and drop-off times, noting the context of a recent lively discussion of the topic on the Olney Noticeboard. Jeremy Rawlings explained that parents’ parking was a tricky issue for many schools, having direct experience of it at Olney Infant Academy. Joanne Eley felt the nearby bus stop had to be safe for bus drivers to use, a topic raised by one of the drivers in a recent Council meeting. Jane Brushwood noted that MKC had been asked to look into the issue.

  • July 2019 Issue (June Report)

    Mercury issue in July 2019 (June 2019 meeting)

    Mercury issue in June 2019 (May 2019 meeting)

    Public Participation

    Amanda Molcher
    First to speak was Amanda Molcher, volunteer and trustee at the Cowper & Newton Museum. Various local walking routes have been created and, if you’re interested in local history, surf to http://www.mktrails.org/olney.html to see a couple of them.

    Catherine Rose
    Catherine Rose spoke next. In January, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) had declared a climate emergency as part of its new Sustainability Strategy, promising to make Milton Keynes carbon neutral by 2030. She encouraged people to join the Olney Sustainable Futures Facebook group, and asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) was willing to host a discussion to see what action it could take to help save the planet. Des Eley suggested that the Olney Ward Forum might be the best place to discuss it.

    Two members of the public spoke regarding decorations they’d placed on their families’ graves. These had apparently fallen outside the usage rules for the Cemetery, and each criticised OTC about the rules themselves, their lack of visibility, and how the subject had been communicated to them.

    Brian Rice
    Brian Rice was last to speak, on the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent. Noting it’d been two years since he last spoke about this, he said parking had reached saturation point, with ever more vehicles competing for the same space. He said it was affecting property values and quality of life, yet appeared to have dropped from OTC’s agenda. He said that, if the Council was doing nothing about it, he and other affected residents would initiate legal action against OTC and MKC due to the impact on their property prices. Joanne Eley noted that he needed to take this up with MKC, it being the responsible body. Brian claimed that when he’d spoken with MKC, it’d put the ball back in OTC’s court. Jeremy Rawlings noted this was not an agenda item, could not be discussed in this meeting, and reiterated that MKC was the body responsible. Brian walked out of the Council Chamber.

    Cemetery rules

    This item was brought forward due to the significant number of the public attending to hear it. It was a tense, awkward part of the meeting. Jeremy Rawlings opened the discussion, noting the strength of feeling and explaining that OTC had two broad choices – to implement the rules as they were or to change them. He’d recently visited three other cemeteries in the Milton Keynes area and seen no evidence of similar decorations. Des Eley drew Councillors’ attention to a notice on the cemetery gate which stated it was an offence to remove anything from the site, and he noted there appeared to be a change in how the public viewed grieving, so maybe a review of the rules might be appropriate.
    Peter Geary suggested to Jeremy that this was not the right forum for such sensitive discussions – a smaller, less time constrained meeting would be more appropriate. Jeremy agreed, Colin Rodden noting that he’d made a similar suggestion previously but seen it rejected. Colin explained that the individuals concerned had talked with him about the issue, that it was very raw and perhaps personalised. Tony Evans spoke in support of the Deputy Town Clerk – she had correctly pointed out the rules as they currently exist, he said.
    The members of the public who’d spoken on this topic appeared a little happier that their concerns would be listened to, and agreed to a subsequent private meeting with a smaller set of Councillors.

    Rugby Club purchase

    Stacks Image 1408

    Olney Town Football Club

    Fireworks on the Goosey

    Joe Wheeler, organiser of last year’s display on the Goosey had contacted Brian Reynolds, the farmer working that land, to ask his permission to hold the display again. Brian refused the request then contacted the Council. After a brief discussion, Councillors agreed to write to both parties refusing permission for any fireworks display on the Goosey.

    Aspreys parking permits

    Residents of 1-12 Aspreys, the two cul-de-sacs to the Northern end of that road, have applied to MKC to implement a residents only parking scheme for their cul-de-sacs, optionally plus the nearby Flaxlands Row. As per procedure, MKC will start an informal consultation with nearby residents and, provided at least 50% respond with 70% or more expressing support, they will implement it. MKC had asked OTC for its view, so it was discussed. Joanne Eley was concerned about how such a scheme would be enforced, and Deirdre Bethune suggested OTC not support the application. Colin Rodden, agreeing, felt that Olney residents instead needed to work as a community – people had to park somewhere. It went to a vote, Councillors voting by majority to object to the scheme.

    Amazing Grace 250

    Paul Collins reported that, on 1st January 2023, it will be 250 years since the hymn Amazing Grace was written. Starting this year, a mix of organisations, businesses and residents had come together to explore how to raise the profile of Olney’s unique international heritage story as ‘The home of Amazing Grace’. He asked for, and was given, the Council’s support for this initiative.

    Standing Orders

    As the Council inches towards creating Standing Orders it can approve, Des Eley introduced the latest round of discussions. First, he noted that the previous meeting had agreed that a set of clauses from the Orders be reviewed at this meeting. While their wording was from the ‘model’ clauses, he asked if any background information was available so a considered review could take place. There wasn’t, and Jane Brushwood asked if this review could be left until a new Town Clerk had been appointed, as she was unable to devote much time to it until then. Des replied that would be ok if Council agreed to the delay. Jeremy Rawlings said this discussion should be deferred until this meeting’s Confidential Items slot, during which they’d also be discussing the new Town Clerk’s recruitment.
    Second, he referred to various other clauses concerning access to staff records. During the 14th January meeting held to discuss Standing Orders, these had proved controversial and were referred to MKC for feedback. Its report concluded that their original proposed wording was correct and, finally, these clauses were agreed. That being so, it appears that next month OTC can attempt to sign off the resulting Standing Orders – something of an important moment, pending since its annual meeting of May 2018


    The Council is compiling the information required for it to approach EON in connection with the quality of its work installing the electrical points on the Market Place.
    As reported before, OTC paid for the resurfacing of the path leading from the toilet block, past the tennis courts to the next field South, the work having been completed some months ago. Des Eley noted that plans for the path had included a drainage channel down its middle, yet this had not been installed. Tony Evans replied that, as work started on site, it became obvious it would be better not to fit this channel, replacing it with kerbing on one side to guide water to drain. This kerbing accounted for the £700 increase in cost, he said. The work had been completed and approved – OTC had not overpaid for the work. Des said he’d look further at the detail, then raise the issue again if required.
    Colin Rodden again raised the issue of broken play equipment remaining unrepaired, citing various basketball hoops and the zip wire on Johnson’s Field. It would be great to get these fixed for young people to use over the Summer, he said. Jane noted that OTC had three replacement boards for the hoops but no time to install them, and that the rest of the equipment was MKC’s responsibility. Peter Geary suggested OTC write to Stuart Proffitt at MKC requesting the remedial work be done.
    Peter Geary noted the equipment required to improve the crossing adjacent to One Stop should have been installed by the end of June. It would take something over one day, with temporary traffic lights required.

    Schedule of payments

    Towards the end of each full OTC meeting, Councillors review the schedule of payments – a list of the Council’s outgoings during the previous month. Often passing through unchallenged, more recently the detail of individual payments has been requested. This month, Joanne Eley asked if the £4,320 payment to MKC concerning a grievance was the end of the matter: Were there any outstanding Human Resources costs? Jeremy replied there were none as far as he knew, although there were related matters to discuss. A payment of £630 to the Tennis Club was also questioned, Tony explaining it was for the Club performing certain maintenance tasks.

    Bits ‘n’ bobs

    Next Meeting - 1st July

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 1st July 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.

  • June 2019 Issue (Town Meeting)

    The Annual Town Meeting

    Annual Town Meeting - Nothing appearing yet!

  • August 2019 Issue (July report)

    Olney Council report in August for the July 2019 Council Meeting

    Public Participation

    Catherine Rose
    Catherine Rose spoke first in this slot on the subject of OTC considering whether to declare a Climate Emergency. She started by placing a bowl of flowers on the Council table as a symbol of the beauty of Olney and the surrounding area. Feeling that Olney was somewhat cocooned and ‘climate privileged’ she thought it beholden on the town to make climate-friendly changes. She knew that people wanted to make these changes, but didn’t know how – Olney needed a plan to guide families, schools, community organisations, etc. She asked Olney Town Council (OTC) to commit to two or three headline activities, for example reducing waste and planting trees. Finishing with a plea to ‘listen to our children’, she asked OTC to act.

    Jane Varley
    Jane Varley spoke next, representing Extinction Rebellion. Continuing with Catherine’s theme, she felt OTC had a moral duty to lead in this area – that Olney as a community had the power to make change happen. Like Catherine, she felt the next step was to plan. She also had a set of steps OTC could follow if, like Milton Keynes Council (MKC), it did choose to declare a climate emergency.

    Sarah Williams
    Last to speak was Sarah Williams. Continuing in a similar vein, she noted that individuals look to local government to facilitate change, but that there were huge contradictions between current policy and climate change. Declaring a climate emergency would give the Council a framework for change. While the UK has committed to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, she felt we didn’t have 30 years to wait – people needed to act quickly.

    Approving the minutes

    A few items from the previous meeting’s minutes caused discussion. Desmond Eley explained he had not researched the Rugby Club purchase item, but merely stated that in order to proceed with the sale OTC should engage a solicitor. Colin Rodden was concerned about the brevity of the minutes, Jeremy Rawlings explaining that things should ‘get back on track’ in September, presumably when the Town Clerk post is filled making the office once again fully staffed. Joanne Eley had GDPR concerns about members of the Public being mentioned in the minutes. Jeremy explained that he understood her concerns but did not agree with them. Joanne Eley requested he take advice on this topic.

    Climate Emergency

    Steve Clark generally appeared in favour of declaring the Emergency, noting that other Councils had done so recently, and citing the hole in the ozone layer and associated reduction of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as an example of what could be achieved if people worked together. Deirdre Bethune felt OTC should look at what it could start to do, for example litter picking and installing water stations to discourage the use of single use plastic bottles. Paul Collins, first explaining that he respected the integrity and sincerity of the speakers, noted that the world’s greatest polluters are China, India and the USA, the UK being responsible for 1% of emissions globally. While the argument was to lead by example, he felt it naive to assume others would respond in kind. This was gesture politics, he said.
    Other Councillors spoke in favour of declaring, Colin Rodden noting that the required change would cut across many things OTC does, such as leisure, managing its land estate and making purchasing decisions. Peter Geary noted that MKC was delivering a Climate Emergency plan, perhaps around the end of the year, which OTC would need to review and mesh with. The Council is setting up a small working group to report back to full Council with recommendations of what should be done.

    Annual accounts

    Paul Collins reported that the Council’s accounts have passed their annual audit, though he was surprised the auditor didn’t comment on its low level of general reserves.

    VE Day 75

    Celebrations for the 75th anniversary of VE Day will be held on 8th – 19th May 2020, the first of those days being the shifted early May bank holiday. OTC supports this and will track the arrangements as more information becomes available so it can assist as required.

    MUGA marking

    The MUGA will shortly be marked out with new lines for netball, five a side football and basketball.

    Emergency Plan

    This item was to discuss OTC developing an Emergency Plan, a topic which was discussed a number of years ago but never came to fruition. Peter Geary explained that the Plan would be designed to apply in the event of local emergencies such as gas leaks or fires, rather than large scale ones such as plane crashes. It would, for example, note an emergency centre and a list of its key holders to allow access should the need arise. Jeremy Rawlings will open discussions with MKC, which had offered help if OTC didn’t already have a plan.


    Jeremy Rawlings noted that Wildleaf has started selling tea, coffee and sandwiches from a shed behind the Rugby Club previously used as a store. Jane Brushwood explained that the business owner had visited the OTC office a few days before to tell the Council he was doing this. She had asked if he’d obtained planning permission, but he didn’t appear to know whether it was needed. The Council agreed to inform MKC of the situation, explaining to Wildleaf its concern that planning permission may be required.

    Amazing Grace pilgrimage walk

    The 240th anniversary of the publication of Amazing Grace in the Olney Hymns is being celebrated on Sunday 15th September, with a walk from Central Milton Keynes to Emberton Country Park, taking in various Churches en route.
    Walking distances of 11, seven and five miles are planned and, if you’d like to be involved as a walker, marshal or musician, surf to
    www.amazingpilgrimage.co.uk for more information.

    Cemetery rules

    Following on from the public participation and subsequent discussion in last month’s meeting, this was more of an update on progress. The Recreations and Services Committee had reviewed the rules and recommended the removal of the sentence “No artificial wreaths, flowers, crosses or articles of a similar nature will be allowed to be placed on any grave.” Councillors voted unanimously to accept its recommendation. Jeremy Rawlings noted that he’s continuing attempts to organise meetings with each of the families who’d spoken at the previous meeting.

    Standing Orders

    The recently adopted Standing Orders will be uploaded to the Council website.


    As well as litter in the area near the Rugby Club being discussed, Graham Harrison noted that the bin adjacent to Timpson’s Row was too small. Colin Rodden, frustrated, felt the real issue was that people should take their litter home.


    Milton Keynes Council has announced the availability of a £100,000 Supplementary Fund 2019-20, for which it was inviting applications. The fund had come into being due to problems with the way the Community Infrastructure Fund 2019-20 had been communicated with Parish Councils. The time remaining to apply being surprisingly short, Councillors decided to apply for monies to install water stations.


    Colin Rodden noted he’d recently seen two lambs in the river near the Goosey, with someone trying to fish them out. Having previously mentioned the poor condition of the field fences there, he again raised the need to contact the tenant farmer to request they be fixed. Peter Geary
    pointed out that lambs tend not to fall into rivers, being good at navigating slopes, but are more likely to be chased into them by dogs. Colin felt it more an issue of good animal husbandry. The Council will write to the tenant to request the fencing be repaired.


    Steve Clark reported that changes to the payment system to enter Emberton Park were being discussed, including the provision of a chip and pin terminal on the entry barrier, and a reduced fee to visit only the cafe. Desmond Eley noted there was an ongoing debate between those wanting to make the Park more commercial and those wanting it to function as a nature reserve as originally intended.
    Desmond Eley asked if this month’s £950 spend on diesel fuel was typical for a Summer month, Tony Evans replying that when the diesel tank needs filling, it gets filled up. Quotes have been obtained to improve the security of the tractor shed, one of which has now been accepted.
    Colin Rodden noted that the £2,000 of MKC community funding applied for in connection with Oakdown Crescent had now been
    awarded, matched funding raising the total to £4,000.
    Nigel Birrell had written to OTC to thank it for allowing him to perform his recent 24-hour vigil on the Market Place. Separately, the Armed Forces Day lunch at the Carlton House Club was successful and much enjoyed by those who attended.

    Declarations of interest part one

    Joanne Eley spoke briefly on the subject of her and Desmond Eley’s declarations of interest in December’s full Council meeting where, as reported, Jeremy Rawlings had advised they each declare an additional interest, which they chose not to do. For reference, these interests were in an agenda item to ‘approve costs of mediation process’ (Desmond), and in one to ‘consider recommendation from HR Committee regarding Job Evaluations’ (Joanne).
    Joanne explained that after seven months, her legal advice was that the declarations her and Desmond had made were perfectly correct. Jeremy and Liam Costello, then Town Clerk, had been given incorrect advice, having sought it from the wrong person at MKC. Mentioning a significantly longer time period of two years, she noted that nothing had been found other than her having full personal and professional integrity. Jeremy apologised, and Joanne said she wished to declare an end to the matter.

    Declarations of interest part two

    Desmond Eley spoke about the same declarations of interest raised earlier by Joanne. He noted that OTC’s Proper Officer at the time, ex-Town Clerk Liam Costello, had complained to the unitary authority (MKC) that Joanne and Desmond had breached the code of conduct. But they had not. Desmond stressed that he and Joanne had been investigated for two years and stated that he wanted a proper apology from the Council in writing. Jeremy Rawlings said he’d be happy to arrange that and would make sure it happened.

    Next Meeting - 2nd September

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd September 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.

  • August Town Council Meeting - Council Notes as in the October Edition

    Olney Council report for August 2019

    There is not normally a Council Meeting in August:

    August Meeting

    There is not normally a meeting of Olney Town Council (OTC) for the month of August. However, this year a meeting was convened at short notice and The Phonebox was unable to send a reporter. Therefore, the only records of the meeting are contained in the official minutes which are available on the OTC website but summarised below.

    Tony Evans presented a comprehensive report on the progress of legal papers concerning the lease of the former football club building to Body Force, where it was noted that OTC have paid £4000 for the surrender document for the Football Club and also that Body Force have engaged their own solicitors.

    Olney came home second in the Buckinghamshire Best Kept Village Competition with 90 points, losing out to Winslow with 93 points.
    Most of the meeting appears to have been to discuss HR issues, from which the public and press would have been excluded.

    August Meeting

    Minutes for the August meeting cannot be found at the Council at the moment!

  • October 2019 Edition: Olney Council report for September 2019

    Olney Council report for September 2019

    Public Participation

    Catherine Rose
    Following on from last month, Catherine Rose once again spoke in support of OTC declaring a Climate Emergency. Catherine said that she appreciated living in a beautiful town and surrounding countryside and knew that many people were concerned about the environment, both at home and in a broader sense. She said there was already great work being done in Olney, particularly Barnfield where the meadow is being regenerated, and the Climate Emergency Plan (CEP) working party originated at last month’s meeting had met. She quoted recent examples in the news such as the decline of the Great Barrier Reef, the hurricane in the Bahamas and the fire in the Amazon – the ‘lungs of the world’. Our own forests were cut down in the Industrial Revolution and ‘we’ have been polluting for 250 years and are still in the top 15 polluters worldwide. Blaming China, India and South America for all the pollution that is happening now simply will not wash, and much of the pollution in the continents is being generated for us as consumers. It was not necessary to make massive changes to make a massive difference, she said, and finance is available for various schemes which the council could explore. She said she was aware that some people, even on the council, see environment campaigners as ‘swivel-eyed disaster-mongers’, but they like to think of themselves as ‘clear-eyed disaster preventers’ and prevention is better than a cure.

    Sarah Michalik
    Next to speak was Sarah Michalik on the same subject. In an impassioned speech, Sarah explained that last year she decided to do more to fight climate change in our town. Since 1970 wildlife extinction rates were at a level never seen before, with climate change affecting one-third of our UK species. As a parent to two young children, she said she needed to be able to look them in the eye and say she did everything she could to secure their safe future. She started the Olney sustainable futures Facebook page that now has approaching 300 members who share ideas about reducing the impact on the planet. She runs the Eco-Schools programme at the infant school to teach the next generation, but we need to act now she said. By declaring a climate emergency we are saying ‘it matters’ and the dozens of willing volunteers (some of whom were present) want to work with the council and put Olney on the map and secure its future. Sarah finished by saying, let’s do something and get everyone part of the conversation to achieve carbon neutrality inline with UK targets by 2030. There was considerable applause from the audience and some council members around the table.

    Climate Emergency

    Chris Tennant
    Chris Tennant reported back on the first meeting of the CEP working party to discuss the way forward and presented a recommendation that OTC declares a Climate Emergency, as 200 local councils around the UK already have, covering 64% of the population. It will raise the profile of the issue and provide leverage in obtaining the extra support that OTC needs to achieve the necessary reductions to meet the plan. Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has published its own sustainability strategy running to 2030, many of the elements relevant to what OTC can do to become carbon neutral by then by reducing carbon emissions, increase energy security and improving air quality. OTC could look at how it runs its own estates such as heating and insulating buildings, more use of solar energy and moving from diesel to electric vehicles. Biodiversity could be enhanced across the estate and landowners could be encouraged to do the same. Green events could be run or supported in collaboration with the schools and businesses to encourage them to reduce their own energy costs and carbon emissions. The CEP can be developed to enable the wider community to become more resilient in the face of extreme weather conditions. There was real enthusiasm in the working group, he said, and he implored the council to support the proposal.

    Steve Clark
    Steve Clark supported the proposal and noted that OTC already supported energy efficiency and conservation by using low energy lighting and the work that is done at Barnfield with trees and wildflowers. It was important to note the contribution that young people are making all over the country, he said.

    Paul Collins
    Next to speak was Paul Collins, reading a prepared statement. A lot of the items being proposed were essentially good housekeeping, he said. He did, however, object to the term ‘climate emergency’ because he did not believe there is one. The earth’s climate has always varied over time and to have a true appreciation of climate you either need to be a geologist or a historian. Eco-guilt is a first-world luxury and is the new religion for urban populations who have lost faith in Christianity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is their bible and Al Gore their prophet. Man’s contribution to the thing we now call climate change was, and probably always will be, quite negligible. Terrifying because you cannot help but be appalled at how much money has been wasted and how much unnecessary legislation drafted because the problem does not actually exist. There is now a powerful and very extensive body of vested interests, governments that intend to use global warming as an excuse for greater taxation, regulation and protectionism plus energy companies and investors who stand to make a fortune from scams like carbon trading. Charitable bodies like Greenpeace depend for their funding on public anxiety, and environmental correspondents constantly need to talk up the threat to justify their own jobs. Finally, said Paul, he’d like to say a bit about consensus. If you’d asked any scientist or doctor 30 years ago where stomach ulcers came from, they would all have given the same answer: Obviously, it comes from acid brought on by too much stress. All of them apart from two scientists who were pilloried for their crazy, wacko theory that it was caused by bacteria. In 2005 they won the Noble prize – the consensus was wrong.

    Jo Eley
    Jo Eley asked what research into the costs and targets for OTC council taxpayers were likely to be, even if it only extended to a single electric tractor. Consensus would need to be obtained from them because there was a cost involved, and she would prefer it to be called sustainability, not climate emergency. Mayor Jeremy Rawlings said money would be available from grants. Chris Tennant replied that at the moment, the ‘nitty-gritty’ detail was not available, and the proposal related to setting policy objective. The IPCC had stated that there was less than 12 years to act to avoid the worse impacts and that, despite what Paul Collins had said, constituted an emergency.

    Responding to Paul’s statement, Steve Clark said that the effect of carbon emission had been measured over millennia through rock and wood samples and the science behind those measures was absolutely proven and there is no doubt that climate changes have been accentuated by mankind’s activities. He accepted that there has always been climate change, but whereas it was in the range of one or two degrees over thousands of years, those changes were now happening in a generation.

    Desmond Eley
    Desmond Eley noted that MKC had declared Climate Emergency and therefore OTC had no choice but to follow their policies as part of the unitary authority. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that he was on the working group for the MKC sustainability strategy which was due to be adopted in March 2020. Much of its work concerned the environmental impact of cows, he noted.

    The proposal for OTC to declare a Climate Emergency was passed by a vote of 6 to 2 with several abstentions. Desmond Eley stated that the reason for his objection was insufficient information and felt that a document should have been available to support a decision of such magnitude.

    Safety of bathing at Olney Riverside

    A request has been received from a group called ‘Slow Swimming’ wishing to hold a ‘mass participation social swim’ in the river next year and seeking to use the recreation ground for registration. Also, a letter had been received from a member of the public, drawing attention to a recent article in The Times concerning the hazards involved in wild water swimming in countryside rivers.
    It stated that no river in the UK could be considered safe for bathing due to inadequate testing in compliance with ecological standards. 86% of those that were tested fell short of the minimum threshold for healthy waterways, an increase from 75% ten years ago. The letter suggested that OTC might be liable for any death or illness caused by swimming in the river by holding and actively promoting the raft race, although the event is fact organised by The Olney Group, not OTC.

    Jeremy Rawlings
    Jeremy Rawlings said that his view was that the safety of bathing in the river was down to the individual as he personally swam there and has done so for many years.

    Steve Clark
    Steve Clark said he had no problems with organised groups or competent adults swimming in the river, but the newspaper article was complete nonsense and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Sally Pezaro
    Sally Pezaro said she wasn’t comfortable with the existing sign that says swimming is at ‘own risk’ and would prefer the council to officially advise against swimming but noted that it could not be policed.

    Peter Geary
    Peter Geary said the council do have a responsibility as they own the land and need to follow due process. He suggested investigating the MKC Parks Trust policy to ensure that OTC can be seen to have considered the risks. He said that the river in Olney was the cleanest it had been for 150 years, and in the past the sewer from Emberton used to discharge directly into it, although he noted that with the amount of rats that were currently to be seen around the bathing steps he personally wouldn’t want to swim there.

    Chris Tennant
    Chris Tennant said that he knew of people that had been injured by broken glass at the bathing steps and wondered if it might not be time to consider a swimming pool in the town, possibly to the rear of the new Sainsbury’s.

    Paul Collins
    Paul Collins said that while a pool might not be expensive to build it would certainly be expensive to maintain and besides which a good swimming facility existed nearby in Newport Pagnell.

    Emberton Park

    Steve Clark said that the Emberton Park User Liaison Group was meeting regularly once again and was making good progress. Jeremy Rawlings noted that there had been a lot of discussion on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group, mainly about litter. Steve agreed, saying that it would be good to prevent the large groups that descend on the park unannounced, but Emberton was one of the only parks in the area where this was possible. Jeremy noted that MKC Parks Trust have a rule that large groups must make a booking. Changes had been considered to provide more automation for admissions but were proving very expensive. Peter Geary said the park was ‘work in progress’ and the ward councillors had met with MKC and requested a 5-10 year strategy on how they intended to manage it because hundreds of thousands of pounds of spending is required.

    Grant for school PHSE programme

    A teacher at Olney Middle School had submitted a request for a grant towards a resource pack for a PHSE (Personal, Social and Health Education) programme called Jigsaw PHSE. The government has mandated that RSE (Relationship and Sex Education) and Heath Education are now compulsory for all schools but presumably not made any additional funding available. The letter noted that young people are increasingly putting themselves or finding themselves in vulnerable positions and it is important that schools are in a position to prepare them with the skills and resilience to deal with real-life situations and to stay safe. The resources would be utilised by both the Olney Infant Academy and Middle School, and the total cost would be £1,925.

    Desmond Eley noted that there was no particular budget for this, although Jeremy Rawlings stated that OTC has a fund (formerly known as the Sidney Dix Fund) which could be used. Jo Eley questioned what the requested resources would actually look like, and Jeremy referred her to the link in the email hwww.jigsawpshe.com/ which describe the programme in some detail. Each school has already raised £500, so the requested grant is for the balance. Des Eley pointed out that two-thirds of the existing Section 106 allocation already goes to schools so questioned why the additional grant was necessary.

    Chris Tennant said that section 106 could only be used for capital projects so was not appropriate. Paul Collins replied that the original request had been for the full amount and it was only when the council’s ‘matched funding’ policy had been pointed out that the schools had ‘found’ £1000 between them. The government had just announced a massive increase in spending on schools, he said. Des Eley said he did not think the council had sufficient information to make a decision so suggested that a representative be asked to give a brief presentation at a future meeting, which most members seemed to agree with.

    Colin Rodden thought it unfortunate that the council was spending so much time discussing a grant of £925 when it had readily given out larger sums to other bodies in the past.

    Odds and Sods

    Peter Geary reported that the surface of the newly laid path between Olney and Weston Underwood is already ‘failing’ because the preparation of the sub-layer was poor. It is covered by a two-year warranty and will be referred back to the contractors. Later in the meeting, he observed that the hedges were currently neatly cut back (presumably to enable the resurfacing work), but it was unlikely that MKC would maintain it so suggested that OTC obtain funding from MKC and do it themselves a couple of times a year.
    The tenant farmer on the Goosey has replaced 120 fence posts, but Peter Geary thought there is still some work to be done and proposed a meeting with him and group of councillors to decide who would be responsible for any additional work.

    Jo Eley reported back from the recent Parish Forum where the PCSOs had noted that the signs banning the consumption of alcohol in public spaces appear to have fallen down. While not totally preventing the consumption of alcohol, it meant that the PCSOs cannot react to drink-related antisocial behaviour or confiscate alcohol from under-aged drinkers.

    A letter had been received from The Olney Group (TOG) requesting permission to hold the annual fireworks display on Sunday, November 3rd, which was granted.

    Councillor Tony Evans

    Jeremy Rawlings announced that Tony Evans had resigned from the council and they had lost a valued and well-respected member. He expressed his sincere thanks for all his work over more than 40 years for the council.

    Next meeting - 7th October

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7th October 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.

  • November 2019 Edition (October Council report by Mercury)

    November 2019 edition (October Meeting)

    Deputy Town Clerk

    Before the meeting commenced Mayor Jeremy Rawlings welcomed the recently appointed Deputy Clerk Sarah Kennedy, congratulating her on her appointment and thanking the interview team.

    Public Participation

    As reported last month, a teacher at Olney Middle School had submitted a request to Olney Town Council (OTC) for a grant towards a resource pack for a PHSE (Personal, Social and Health Education) programme called Jigsaw PHSE. Members did not think the council had sufficient information to make a decision on financial assistance so suggested that a representative be asked to give a brief presentation at a future meeting. This month Lucy Coleman, a teacher at Olney Middle School, was present to provide that information. Lucy began by saying that children and young people’s mental health is on the decline due to pressure such as social media. There has been a huge drop in funding for outside agencies to support schools and parents/carers with children’s emotional well-being. Previously the schools could direct parents to agencies, but these just don’t exist anymore. Of the remaining counselling services many are now not able to take on young people unless they are in extreme need – often a suicide risk. The school learning mentors are overrun with children in extreme need and have no time to support those with lesser needs. This is often left to teachers who are already overrun trying to meet educational needs but are expected to be experts in every field. She finished off by saying that schools were doing their best to create happy, secure, respectful and resilient children who will be an asset to the wider community.
    Next to speak was Lindsay Heath on the subject of the Thursday Market. She said she was concerned that if people don’t use it, they will lose it. It gets no publicity, she said, and it needs to be advertised widely as happens with the Sunday Farmers Market. It is a high-quality market with amazing fresh local produce and the latest addition is a stall for sharpening knives and other implements. She appealed for the council’s help in promoting the market, particularly as Sainsburys will soon be opening. Jeremy Rawlings said that OTC had been involved in a number of promotion initiatives over the years, the most recent being an invitation to the market traders to promote their wares on the Olney Notice Board which had received a zero response.
    The next speaker was Kevin McPartland who noted that OTC had recently declared a Climate Emergency, part of which pledges to improve the air quality in the town. Why after 30 years of discusses has the issue of a bypass not been addressed, he asked. With 350 new homes plus a new Sainsburys on the horizon, traffic will increase, and pollution will get worse. For the past 15 years Milton Keynes Council have issued air quality reports but no action has taken place on the findings. In 2009 the transport research laboratory issued a report which proposed remedial action to reduce HGV traffic in Olney, but 10 years on no action has been taken. In 2005 and 2017 the local plan identified it as an issue but still no action. He asked the council to look at the issue and pursue the provision of a bypass. Jeremy Rawlings responded that both proposed bypass routes are shown as reserved in the local plan but the main issue is funding.
    Last to speak was Lynda Batty on the subject of the Youth Centre. She said that two years ago she had attended an OTC meeting to ask what was happening with the building and why had a group of regular users not been regularly invoiced. Two years later they were still waiting to be invoiced for May 2019 onwards. Surely the council need the money because the building requires a substantial amount of repair. At the original meeting she had been told that there was a problem with the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme to OTC. As far as she was aware no further information was available. The building is ideal for use by older members and youth of the community and is sadly under used. Collecting fees would help with the upkeep and enable the employment of an admin person to manage the hire, she said. Jeremy Rawlings said that the building was managed on behalf of MKC by an independent committee of four people, including himself. This group act as tenants and are responsible for all repairs to the building but it was difficult to find new volunteers. The existing committee were on the verge of giving up and handing it back to MKC, he said. In that case MKC will simply close the building, he said. He will be posting information on the Olney Noticeboard Facebook group in due course.

    Grant application for school PHSE programme

    Following Lucy Coleman’s presentation, a discussion took place about the need for the grant. Des Eley asked why it was necessary and Jeremy Rawlings, declaring an interest as a school governor, said the rhetoric coming from central government about school funding increasing year on year is a ‘tissue of lies’ because he sees the figures for funding and there is no doubt that it is actually declining. Peter Geary proposed that a grant of £925 be made, which was agreed. Lucy will provide feedback to the council at a future meeting.

    Co-option of new member

    Following the resignation of Tony Evans, a vacancy exists on the council. One person had put themselves forward for co-option but was not present at the meeting. It was decided to hold this over to the next meeting.

    Emergency/ Resilience Plan

    Clerk Andrea Vincent presented a plan based on a template produced by MKC for situations where an emergency arises (actual or potential) and the emergency services are unable to provide the normal swift assistance, due to weather conditions of or priorities elsewhere. Under those circumstances a member of the council might be called upon to arrange for emergency reception centres to be opened and liaise with other agencies and community groups. It was agreed to adopt the plan.

    Climate Emergency

    The development group has met since the last OTC meeting but Chris Tennant was not present so no report had been submitted.

    Land to the rear of the Bowling Club

    A landlock strip of land exists between the building formally occupied by Olney Town Football Club and the Bowling Club which is not used and has become overgrown. It is currently owned by OTC and is part of that land that is due to be leased to Body Force, although they are not intending to use it. The Bowling Club have approached OTC with a view to buying or leasing the land to provide a
    viewing and seating area. Des Eley explained that it is not possible to sell the land as it is part of the recreation ground but it is currently unused and polluted by rodents. It was agreed to lease the land to the Bowling Club for a ‘peppercorn rent’, with all associated costs being born by them and subject to access being allowed to the rear of the building occupied by Body Force and Olney Town Colts Football Club (OTCFC).

    Councillor Tony Evans

    Jeremy Rawlings announced that Tony Evans had resigned from the council and they had lost a valued and well-respected member. He expressed his sincere thanks for all his work over more than 40 years for the council.

    Next Meeting - November*
    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday (November*) 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.

    We do apologies for a cut and past mix up. To keep a true record on what went into the Phonebox Magazine we have left this in here. But there is a correction in next month's magazine.

  • December 2019 issue (November Meeting)

    Olney Council report for November 2019

    Omission from last month's report

    Due to error on the part of your reporter the following items were missed from last month’s report and are now included here for completeness:
    Olney Town Colts Football Club has recently suffered a good deal of vandalism to its premises and facilities. A letter has been received requesting permission to install CCTV covering the clubhouse, stand and dug-out. It was noted that The Rugby Club already have CCTV covering the Olney Town Council (OTC) owned car park at the front of their clubhouse. While sympathetic to the request a number of members had concerns about the coverage of the cameras and who would view the footage, particularly around the changing rooms where minors would be present, and there were safeguarding obligations to consider. Jeremy Rawlings said it would also be important to consult Caveman Conditioning, who use the grassed area in front of the building for classes. It was agreed to hold a meeting of all stakeholder users the area, along with a security expert who can provide advice on CCTV covering such sensitive areas.
    The electricity supply to the Market Place has still not been completed by EON to a satisfactory standard, the making good around the control box has not been completed, and there is some doubt as to whether it has been commissioned correctly. Desmond Eley is investigating and will report back.
    Many of the trees in the High Street have now been pollarded by Milton Keynes Council (MKC), as requested by OTC.

    Stacks Image 1678

    One of the pollarded trees on Olney High Street

    Public Participation for the November Meeting

    First to speak was Chris Roberts on behalf of the Olney Branch of The Royal British Legion. Chris thanked the members of the council for their continued support of the Remembrance Day parade and requested that two councillors attend to read out the names of the Olney men who died in WW1 and WW2. It was agreed that Joanne Eley and Steve Clark would perform that duty.
    Next to speak was Patricia Gadsby. Patricia explained that she is the Activities Co-ordinator for Broomfield Residential Care Home, which care for 40 residents and specialises in dementia care. There is currently a major refurbishment taking place, and Patricia said she is trying to create awareness and stronger links with the community, which has attendance by a group of Pre-school children to perform song and dance and talk to the residents, which has two-way benefits. Members of The Baptist Church have also performed there, and it is hoped that residents will be able to participate in the Amazing Grace 250th anniversary celebrations. Patricia said the councillors, either collectively or individually, would be most welcome to get involved with activities. She said that there would be a grand opening of the refurbished premises in January and all councillors and the local MP (whoever that might be) would be invited to attend. Mercury interjected to say that his old mate David Pibworth would no doubt be delighted to attend should the voters of the Milton Keynes North constituency return a Monster Raving Loony Party MP at the forthcoming general election!

    OTC Code of Conduct

    Paul Cummins, Deputy Monitoring Officer MKC, was present to give a presentation on the Code of Conduct which has been adopted by OTC. Also present was Monitoring Officer Sharon Bridglalsingh. Paul did not state the purpose of the presentation since OTC adopted the code in 2012, but Mercury assumes it was a timely reminder to all members of the ethical standards required of them. The code was introduced in order to comply with the Localism Act of 2011 and is intended to be ‘light-touch’ compared with the more formal standards regime of the predecessor Local Government act of 2000. The code states that councillors, along with everyone else in public office, should uphold the principles of accountability, honesty, integrity, objectivity, selflessness, openness and leadership known as the Nolan Principles. The council must maintain a Register of Interest for all members which includes Disclosable Pecuniary (financial) Interests (DPI) applying to councillors and their spouses or partners. If any member becomes aware of a DPI during a meeting that is not already on the register, they must declare it at the meeting and register it within 28 days. Any gift or hospitality over £100 in value must be declared, including a series of lesser value gifts totally more than £100. The full Code of Conduct can be viewed on the council website https://www.olneytowncouncil.gov.uk/
    Kevin Viney asked how many investigations into breaches of the code had taken place in 2019 across all parish councils. Paul replied that four alleged breaches were currently being investigated at a cost to Council Tax payers of approximately £30K.

    Co-option of new member

    Following the resignation of Tony Evans, a vacancy exists on the council. Debbie Whitworth was the only candidate to put her name forward and was present to address the council. Debbie explained that she had lived in Olney for 28 years, and her three sons had all attended local schools and had played for Olney Town Football Club. Since being diagnosed with MS six years ago, Debbie said she had become very aware of the daily obstacles affecting the elderly and disabled in the town, bad parking being a particular issue of concern. As there were no other candidates, it was not necessary to hold the usual secret ballot and Debbie was elected unopposed and welcomed to the council by Mayor Jeremy Rawlings.

    Supplementary Fund application

    Parish councils are permitted to apply for funding for projects which support MKC Themes and demonstrate public benefit. The Limit on the total value of bids is £5,000 (£10K project value as parishes are expected to match any grant by 50%). Each Parish or Town Council may submit a maximum of three applications. OTC has applied for and been given two grants – one for fencing around the children’s play area on the recreation ground and the other for drinking fountains in the town, for which the council are looking at designs.

    McCarthy and Stone development proposal

    Angle Properties and McCarthy & Stone have submitted a detailed planning application for 48 retirement flats and ten houses on land to the rear of the new Sainsbury’s store. The MKC Planning Officers have recommended acceptance of the plans which were due to be presented to the MKC Development Control Committee (DCC) two days later. Chris Tennant explained OTC objections to the plans, being:

    • The land is earmarked for retail use in the Neighbourhood Plan.
    • Insufficient evidence has been submitted to prove that an attempt has been made to find a retail customer for the site.
    • The site is unsuitable for retirement housing, due to its location.

    Chris said as Chair of the Olney Development Group he would be speaking at the meeting, along with Ward Councillors Peter Geary and David Hoskings. Colin Rodden said he understood that Sainsbury’s had signed a non-competition clause in the agreement with Angle to ensure that a similar retail operation would not be permitted on the site. Chris responded that the marketing report submitted by agents BNP Paribas confirmed this. Deirdre Bethune wondered if this excluded a petrol station and Chris replied that there had been enquiries of this nature, but since petrol stations usually include a convenience grocery section this would be considered competition to Sainsbury’s. Steve Clark said that OTC had only recently discovered that the non-competition clause existed, and Angle had met with them several times and claimed that there had been no interest from other retailers so believed that there had been deliberate deception on their part.
    Update: At the meeting on 7th November, MKC DCC decided not to accept the MK Officer recommendation and refuse the application due to its conflict with the Olney Neighbourhood Plan. The applicant was given advice by Councillors that where communities have come together to produce a Neighbourhood Plan, planning decisions will be made in accordance with the Neighbourhood Plan and Plan:MK. It is not known at this stage if there will be an appeal.

    Astro-turf pitch

    Chris Tennant said consideration was being given to the provision of a full-size 3G Astro-turf pitch locally. Some Section 106 money is available, and MKC and the Football Foundation would provide additional funding. The FA has identified that there a number of locations in MK that are lacking such facilities and are committed to providing 1000 pitches nationally. As chair of the Olney Development Group, he had recently met with the FA, representatives of local sports clubs and Ousedale School with a view to providing a pitch at the Ousedale Olney campus. It would be managed by the school with a community use agreement out of core school time, he said. Chris said the cost would be in the region of £750K, which caused some consternation amongst members. Dierdre Bethune was sceptical of the community use suggestion, pointing out that OTC had agreed to release a large part of the council-owned Barnfield for creation of the school playing field on condition that it would be available for community use and that agreement had not been honoured by the school. She also pointed out the irony of a council that had recently declared a climate emergency proposing to lay down plastic grass. Peter Geary said that finding capital funding to provide such facilities was often not a problem, but the council should bear in mind that the life-span is usually in the order of 10 years, after which a six-figure sum would be required to replace the surface otherwise it would have to close on safety grounds. It was important that a ‘sink fund’ was set up right at the start to cover this, he said. This meant that the fees for using it would have to be quite steep in order to build up this fund.

    Climate Emergency

    Chris Tennant reported that Climate Change Group had held their third meeting where they had discussed how they could work with local organisations. A workshop will be held in January, focusing primarily on food issues such as food waste, sourcing food locally, and what the council can do in terms of procurement of goods and services. Consideration has been given to reducing grass cutting in order to reduce fuel costs and enhance wildlife habitats and planting additional trees.

    Odds and Sods

    The Local Authority Publishing Co Ltd (a private company) have approached OTC concerning an update of the Town Guide. This is at no cost to the council as the revenue comes from advertising. It was noted that previous editions had contained a number of errors so the council will proofread before publishing.
    The Children’s Air Ambulance charity have approached the council about locating a textiles collecting bank somewhere in town, but it was decided not to follow it up as a similar facility already exists outside the fire station.
    The Market Place will be closed for the annual Pancake Race on 24th and 25th February 2020. Jeremy Rawlings suggested that the marquee company are requested not to drive stakes into the tarmac surface of the Market Place as usual, but Dierdre Bethune pointed out that the areas where the surface has broken up is due to traffic movement, not piercing by stakes. The marquee company will be asked to consider alternatives in advance of the future refurbishment of the Market Place, when piercing of the surface will be banned altogether.
    Deidre Bethune and Jeremy Rawlings expressed their thanks to TOG (The Olney Group) for their hard work in providing the ‘fantastic’ fireworks night that had taken place a few days before.
    Graham Harrison reported that the Allotment Association would like to create a Community Orchard on part of the field behind the allotments as part of the Amazing Grace 250 celebrations, to be called the Newton Orchard. Funding is available from several sources so it would be at no cost to OTC. This will be considered at a future Recs and Services meeting.

    Next Meeting - 2nd December

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd December 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.

  • December Meeting (As reported in the January 2020 Issue

    December Meeting 2019 (as reported in the 6th January 2020 issue

    Public participation

    First to speak was Danny Conway, from the Milton Keynes area of UNISON. He started by noting that he was attending because Olney Town Council (OTC) was planning to discuss discretionar y powers related to the local government pension scheme. He explained that OTC did not seem to have consulted its staff on this change to their conditions, and it would have been good industrial relations to do so. Further, he felt that what the Council was doing was to its fi nancial disadvantage, the relevant clauses sometimes being useful.
    Next up was Martin Allen. Around a year ago, he had asked OTC to consider resurfacing the area between the Recreation Ground play area and the MUGA. Noting that this had not been done, he asked if the Council would look again at the area, as he felt it dangerous especially if puddles froze over. He asked if the S106 monies from the development behind the Rugby Club could pay towards it. He concluded by noting that the Dennis Timpson Stand, next to the football pitch adjacent to East Street, appeared to be being misused as a public lavatory. Jeremy Rawlings noted that both issues would be placed on the agenda of the Recreations and Services Committee, the Police already having been informed of the latter. Desmond Eley noted that the resurfacing work had not been forgotten, and was instead waiting for budget, for example from S106 monies, to proceed.
    Mar y Swallow spoke briefly to ask why the double yellow lines outside her house had not been repainted. She believed this work had been authorised but, while other yellow lines on the High Street had been repainted, hers had not. Tom Winter, Secretary of Olney Rugby Club, was next to speak. He explained that he’d written to OTC with reference to the Council’s submission to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) about the change of use of the Football Club building. In that submission, he explained that OTC had written that the Rugby Club was not in a fi nancial position to put forward a business plan. He noted that these references to the Rugby Club were factually incorrect – it was in a position to take over the lease and make structural alterations to the building as needed. OTC did not go back to the Rugby Club to ask for a business plan, in spite of the Club having formally expressed an interest in the building back in September 2018, noting it was in a position to move forward immediately. Over the next few months, he’d reiterated that the Club had the fi nancial resources to go ahead. However, in one of those conversations, he felt a misunderstanding may have arisen over work on its clubhouse, which is subject to funding from the Rugby Union, which is temporarily unavailable. Its expressed preference at the time was for Olney Town Colts FC to take on the lease, with itself taking it on if they could not, while also noting that the Rugby Club retained an interest in the building. The Club is concerned the submission is somewhat misleading, that information has been put into the public domain which should not have been, perhaps calling into question the integrity of the way the Council worked. Perhaps it had been misrepresented to support a position OTC had taken. He concluded by saying that the Club has no issue with Bodyforce – but sees the misrepresentation as a matter of principle.
    Last up was Phil Morden who, having lived nearby and been a regular visitor over the last 35 years, had recently moved to the town. He was appalled at the amount of traffi c passing through Olney and also Weston Underwood, which now seemed like a de facto bypass. He’d been interested to read how OTC had helped get the Lavendon Road residential development overturned, due to it not being in the Neighbourhood Plan. That plan had also included the need to reduce traffi c problems, he noted, for example reducing the number of HGVs travelling through the town. He could see no evidence of OTC or MKC having done anything about this. He asked if any progress was being made, and for regular updates for people in the town. Jeremy Rawlings noted that Nor thampton Council had just approved a new housing development just South of Brackmills, from which quite a few residents would likely be travelling along the A509 to and from Milton Keynes. He also explained that the two routes identifi ed for a bypass are preserved in the Neighbourhood Plan – none of their area is allocated for building purposes. However, he explained that a bypass would be dependent on Central Government funding – it costing a signifi cant number of millions to build.

    Approving the Minutes

    Kevin Viney had an issue with one item on the draft minutes of last month’s meeting, in which Councillor Eley had noted that there had recently been a political stand on the Market Place and that this was neither allowed nor authorised. He felt that description signifi cantly cut short the ensuing discussion, in which the Town Clerk had confi rmed that authorisation had been given and in which Kevin had noted that, in the past, all political parties had been welcome to use the Market Place provided this had been properly requested. So, he felt this wording on its own was somewhat misleading, and that those extra points should be added. Jeremy Rawlings noted he was happy for that to be changed.

    Amazing Grace 250

    AG250, shorthand for Amazing Grace 250, is the 250th anniversary of the Amazing Grace hymn being written by John Newton to be delivered at a service in St Peter and St Paul church on 1st January 1773. Paul Collins stepped out of the meeting for this item, having declared an interest because the Cowper and Newton Museum, of which he is a trustee, may benefi t from part of any monies granted by the Council towards the Town’s celebrations in general. This was felt to be a laudable aim and, after some discussion, the Council concluded it was minded to grant up to £5,000 for each of the next three years. This will likely come from the Sydney Dix Community fund.

    Pensions discretions policy

    This item, to approve OTC’s pension discretions policy, followed on from Danny Conway’s speech during the Public Participation section. As background, Andrea Vincent noted that most Council staff were members of the Local Government Pension Scheme administered by Buckinghamshire County Council (Bucks CC). One staff member had asked for retirement on a fl exible basis, and this required OTC to get an up to date Employer Discretions Policy, it’s current one being some 20 years outdated and thus not valid as far as Bucks CC was concerned. Councillors had a template policy which discussed what employers might want to do in addition to the terms and conditions. She noted she’d checked with Bucks CC and they’d confi rmed it was an employer’s policy and not part of the terms and conditions, and that the Council as a whole needed to agree an up to date policy. She described various discretionary points from the Policy, namely, giving extra pension where someone might retire early, adding sums of money for people taking fl exible retirement, waiving age limits due to illness, and about the ’85 year rule’ being switched on or off. That rule means a retiree can start to draw benefi ts if the sum of their age and years worked under the scheme add up to at least 85 years. All of these came with signifi cant costs, and it was up to OTC’s discretion to decide which it would allow.
    The Human Resources (HR) Committee had recommended a policy on each discretion, and OTC debated whether to approve these policies. The long ensuing discussion is summarised for brevity. Joanne Eley noted that any discretionary payments would have to be made from Council funds (in other words, Public funds) resulting in money needing to be raised from the Precept. This point was noted widely. She noted that the pension was more generous than those elsewhere and that the amounts involved would be very signifi cant for OTC. She also noted that Councillors should be aware that a discretionary amount, which could be up to £6,500 per year per retired staff member, would burden the precept payers and future Councillors. It was not an easy decision to make, she said. Kevin Viney, the Councillor coming out most strongly against the policy, felt this a mean spirited financial attack on the staff, no consultation of whom had taken place. Given that morale is already low, he felt the policy’s approach to work conditions represented a move from a John Lewis to a Sports Direct – like relationship with its staff. He asked that the proposal be returned to the HR Committee and that full consultation be performed with staff representatives.
    Joanne Eley noted that delaying approval of the policy meant delaying a member of staff’s retirement. She asked if Kevin was aware of OTC’s 24.4% contribution to staff pensions. Peter Geary noted that the HR Committee had looked at this, made its recommendations and, if the Council had to go through the issues again, that’s what it must do. After some confusion concerning the impact of the potential extra £6,500 per year per staff member, Desmond Eley explained that, if given to two staff members, it would be an extra 7% on the precept.
    After further discussion, Jeremy Rawlings asked whether, given that approval for this proposal was required in order for the staff member to retire, Council could approve it in this meeting, reviewing the proposal in six months if felt necessary. This was seconded, voted on and agreed by a comfortable majority.

    Update on former FC planning application

    This refers to the topic which Tom Winter spoke about in the Public Participation section. Jeremy Rawlings introduced this item, noting that BodyForce had submitted a second planning application for the former FC building. There were plenty of submissions on the MKC Planning Portal in favour of the application with just one or two against, he said.
    Paul Collins started by explaining that Olney Town Football Club had found it impossible to continue and could not meet its obligations to maintain the building. A deed of surrender was prepared and signed, resulting in OTC becoming the freeholder of the building. A survey identifi ed the poor, dilapidated condition of the building, and the Council’s Working Group gave consideration to who could restore and use it. Discussions were had with interested parties, including the Rugby Club and BodyForce, the latter allowed to remain in the building for an interim period. Various of those parties had aspirations for the building, but the Working Group’s genuine feeling from the discussions was that neither the Rugby Club nor Olney Town Colts FC had the fi nancial capacity to improve the building, although clearly this was being disputed this evening. BodyForce had come forward with a detailed business plan and information on how it could be funded, so an announcement was made back in April that they were the preferred tenant. That announcement generated no negative reaction from the other interested parties, and it is only when the change of use planning application is being considered that they started making a comment. He felt the Council had acted properly, protecting the precept payers and ensuring a wide range of amenities were available to the town. Desmond Eley noted that there are past and present Councillors with strong ties to the sports community, but they are unpaid public servants and thus have a duty to Olney’s residents. Councillors are required by law to follow rules and regulations, and to make responsible decisions on how public money is spent. The former chair of the Recreations and Services Committee had led a Working Group to resolve the issues with the Football Club building, which otherwise carried the potential to saddle a huge debt on Olney Residents. This Working Group had presented a paper to full Council recommending it proceed with BodyForce. This had been agreed unanimously and the decision published on the Council’s website. Since then, the Council has spent time and money following that agreement. In the eight months since he joined the Working Group, no group or organisation had asked for an explanation, or what could be offered to enable a reassessment by the Council. He was disappointed that there seemed to be ongoing attempts to thwart the business of the Council. This second planning application will come before the MKC Development Control Committee on 23rd Januar y. Desmond Eley suggested resurrecting the regular Joint User Group meetings for those using the Recreation Ground as a way of avoiding misunderstandings in future.

    Bits ‘n’ Bobs

    A speed detection van will be spending around 16 hours per week in Olney for a period. This was as a result of speed data collected by Olney Speedwatch. The van has already issued 20 tickets for speeding on Aspreys in its fi rst week of operation.
    Kevin Viney pointed out that, due to the way in which the white lines around the Market Place have been repainted, it is no longer clear that there are four disabled parking spaces, there appearing to be only one. He suggested the Council ask MKC to paint ‘disabled’ for the three remaining spaces.
    Colin Rodden noted that there were drainage problems at the side of the High Street both outside Brocks and the old Natwest building. Peter Geary suggested Councillors take pictures next time these areas fl ooded, to send to MKC to help justify it investigating.
    Chris Tenant noted that the Sainsbur y’s developers had not replaced the 30 MPH turrets, which were meant to be moved further down Lavendon Road. OTC has asked MKC’s Highways department to reposition them. He also noted that, when pulling out of the Sainsbury’s car park, visibility left onto Lavendon Road is poor. With Kevin Viney also noting a road crossing issue in the area, Peter Geary suggested the Council arrange a meeting of the MKC Road Safety Team to discuss issues around the new Sainsbury’s development.

    Next Meeting

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 6th January 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.

  • The December Meeting will also be repeated in the 2020 listings as a meeting held in that year.

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