The month of April was quieter than usual. This was probably due to the County Council elections and the overrun of the Easter holidays.
During April, I had a lot of work continuing from the last two months on a property in the Codicote Road which was causing problems for neighbouring residents and which unfortunately fell into two boroughs. This one seems to be getting sorted out, but it may take a while to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
I also communicated with Tesco Head Office about the Food Bank collection boxes in the local store and ascertained that they were being distributed to a local centre in the Welwyn Garden area. The project has been set up in conjunction with The Trussell Trust Foodbanks and FareShare and is a great support to those in crisis in what are for many people very difficult times.
On Monday 15th April there was a Full Council Meeting, at which I put the following question to the Leader, Cllr John Dean: “Local Authorities increasingly need to find ways to deliver local services more effectively. Many local authorities are exploring new ways of doing this, in particular through local collective approaches such as employee-led mutuals, co-operatives and social enterprises. A number of councils are sharing expertise and resources. Is WHBC currently looking at new methods of service delivery that may save money and, if so in what fields?” Cllr Dean responded that he was pleased that I had raised the question and quoted several instances of shared services. He also assured me that WHBC were constantly looking at ways to improve and maintain service delivery standards. I shall observe with interest!
My Surgery on Saturday 20th April was the quietest for the year – only one person came at the very end of the session, just as I was leaving the premises. Her query was actually concerning the Ford in Fulling Mill Lane and I have passed this on to Codicote Parish Council, who cover that site.
I then went on to attend the official opening of the new orchard at Woolmer Green outside the Village Hall. It is an excellent project and I am sure it will be successful and beneficial to local residents and visitors.
On Thursday 25th April I attended what may be my last Planning Control Committee Meeting! It will be a great shame if I am not a member of that committee in the forthcoming new Council year – and what a waste of a year’s training and learning that would be! I have enjoyed the experience tremendously though, as I have been open in my criticism of certain aspects of procedure, it will not surprise me to find myself removed when the decisions are announced!
On Monday 29th April I attended the Welwyn Parish Council Committee Meeting at the Welwyn Civic Centre. A pre-meeting was arranged with officers from WHBC to discuss the current and long term management of Singlers Marsh and Danesbury Nature Reserves. This became quite animated and lengthy so it was decided that another meeting be held in the near future to discuss the situation more fully and with more information to be available.
As I approach the end of my first year, and will learn my fate for the coming year after the Annual Council Meeting on Monday May 20th, I thought it might be interesting to précis my work over the past year.
An update from Welwyn’s Independent Councillor – one year on.
I don’t think I have ever known a year to pass so quickly!
After the excitement of the elections last May, the reality was hard work and lots of it! It was like going back to work and school at the same time and my brain had to dust itself off and get stuck in very quickly. I had to learn about policies, core strategy, planning, codes of conduct, scrutiny, budgets and a whole new language of abbreviations that abound every document that is produced. Brushing up a fast-reading technique was also essential, as some documents were over 200pages long!
There were outstanding parking issues to sort out: yellow lines, car parks, on-street parking times; and the broken fencing around the allotments; all of which have now been resolved. The newly refurbished car park on Whitehill will soon be up and running and it is hoped that this will relieve some of the pressure on the smaller village car parks.
There have been social housing matters to deal with, neighbourhood disputes, problems with road markings, signage, overgrown trees with no owners, planning issues, to name but a few. I derived great personal satisfaction from bringing to a satisfactory conclusion a particular issue in Parkside where it took several months to solve the tree problems that had been outstanding for some years. I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank County Councillor Richard Smith for the help and support he has given me over the past year. His knowledge and advice, as well as practical help, have been invaluable and it was so encouraging to work with a colleague on matters that concerned us equally for community welfare and benefit without the barrier of party politics.
I have attended Local Government Association councillor training sessions and conferences in Westminster, which were most informative as I had the opportunity to meet with councillors from all over the Eastern Region and to compare how matters are managed in different boroughs. I also attended lots of functions, ranging from art exhibitions and charity AGMs to the Mayor’s Garden Party, the Olympic Torch Relay and the Beacon Lighting for the Queen’s Jubilee. There were village events: the opening of the new playground in Ottway Walk and of course the annual week-long festival which is a masterpiece of organisation and to which I love to take my little grandson. The Anglo-French Twinning Association visit took place last May and I entertained quite a large group at my house for dinner, serving a combination of English and Scottish cuisine – which was greeted with much enthusiasm!
Another cause very dear to my heart has been the threat to the chalk streams through over- extraction by the water companies, in particular our Mimram – which currently only flows well because we have had so much rain this year and is still seriously under threat as the aquifer is severely depleted. I have liaised with the Chairman of the Friends of the Mimram to assist whenever needed and recently attended the important Water Summit at the Fielder Centre, Hatfield at which the major problems facing Hertfordshire’s water supply were discussed by representatives from Westminster, DEFRA, Affinity Water and County and Borough Councillors from throughout Hertfordshire, as well as many other involved organisations.
A very interesting evening was spent going on a ride-around beat with PC Ben Satchfield to see at first-hand how he polices the Welwyn area. It has been wonderful to have Ben as our “Village Bobby” and to see how well he has integrated into the community. The new policing changes that are coming in this spring will mean that methods will change and Ben will no longer have sole responsibility for Welwyn but will work as a team with other PC’s, covering the northern section of Welwyn Hatfield. Although we will no doubt miss seeing so much of Ben, Welwyn will benefit from full-time coverage from the team and we will soon get to know his colleagues as they take their turns of duty here. Our PCSO coverage will remain unchanged as far as I know.
The “Meet your Councillor” Surgery attendances on the 3rd Saturday of each month at St Mary’s Church House have been varied. Although some months were quieter than others, many residents have brought their problems in person and I have welcomed the opportunity to meet them and to help where I could. I have also been glad of the opportunity to meet and discuss matters that concern the village with Cllr Mandy Perkins, who shares the Surgery sessions.
I have also attended several meetings of the Welwyn Parish Council and have worked closely with the councillors on matters of joint interest and concern and will continue to do so. I am horrified at the amount of litter that abounds the approach roads to the village and working with an action group to attempt to reduce this will be one of my projects for the coming year.
A couple of years ago, if anyone had told me that, approaching 70 years of age, I would be launching myself into local politics and enjoying it as much as I do, I would have found it hard to believe them! But I am, for I care deeply for Welwyn and its community. It is a lovely place to live and I am happy to dedicate time and energy into doing all that I can to keep it that way.
Please call into a Surgery session any time, even if just to say “hello”. Don’t hesitate to phone or preferably email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a problem that I can help with, and do continue to visit my website on which I log issues that have arisen each month and how they have been dealt with.
My pledge to keep residents informed and to do my best for Welwyn West remains paramount and I thank all those who have given me their support and encouragement during the last 12 months.
With best wishes for a warm summer!
Cllr Sandra Kyriakides
Welwyn West Ward