Sunday, 28 October 2018

Chairmans Column - 25th October 2018

Town and Parish Councils throughout Britain face the challenge of taking a much more proactive rôle in running local services.  In Shepton, we are no different.  As responsibilities for library provision, support for the Citizens Advice service, and even road surfacing, are curtailed or even cut entirely by higher authorities, we, as local people can either suffer in silence, or step up to the plate and do something about it.

Already Shepton Mallet Town Council is working hard to keep our library in the High Street, and has accepted that we will have to part-pay for the resurfacing of Town Street and the Market Square since the County Council has run out of money.  Services that were once seen to be essential that were provided by authorities including the Police, the Department of Work and Pensions, and the District and County Councils are being reduced or withdrawn.

In South Somerset, Martock Parish Council has hit the headlines in the national Press since they have taken up the challenge of providing services which are no longer available from other authorities.  Despite Martock having a population roughly half that of Shepton, they have successfully tackled anti-social behaviour issues by engaging a private security firm to work alongside the Police.  They have directly helped people on all matters to do with social services with free advice on benefits and jobs, and are considering options to provide housing for local people.

Our Town Council faces many challenges but continuing to make Shepton a safe and special place to live, work in and visit remains the top priority.  If we want to support the services that are on our doorstep, we will have to take on much greater responsibilities as public finances are squeezed again and again.

Last Sunday, local historian, Alan Stone, delighted many visitors to the Town Councils gazebo at the Sunday Market with his display celebrating the 700th Anniversary of our Market Charter.  Again our monthly market attracted a steady stream of browsers and bargain hunters who turned out on a cold grey day to support local traders and learn more about our town and its long history.

With the clocks going back this weekend, we have a lot to look forward to with the Carnival season nearly upon us.  As usual the Shambles and the Highwayman Clubs will do us proud with their impressive floats and their commitment to year-round fundraising to give us an evening to remember in mid-November.

Inspired by the success of the Sunday Market, this year will see the first three-day Christmas market in Shepton. Again the hugely successful Lantern Festival will take place on the Saturday before Christmas, and in the preceding weeks, towns-people will get the chance to build their own lanterns and demonstrate the amazing creativity within our community.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Chairman’s Column - 18 October 2018

This Sunday sees the return of our ever-popular monthly market.  At the event we will be celebrating the 700th anniversary of the charter given to Shepton by Edward II.  The Town Council gazebo will exhibit a range of historical materials researched by Alan Stone.  It will be your chance to gain an insight into the sweep of history that has led to the town we live in today.

Way back in 1318, Britain was in a constitutional malaise.  England was in dispute with the Scots, and had a load of trouble in Ireland and Wales.  On a more positive note, Edward and the Earl of Lancaster had managed to sign a treaty and resolve some of their differences.  I suspect Mrs May would very much like to have the same sort of breakthrough with the EU in 2018!

The Collett Park Charity met last week to discuss our recently commissioned feasibility study into the future of the park.  It’s a once in a generation opportunity to bring the park into the 21st Century.  We have now considered the results of the public consultations that were held over the summer at a series of events including Collett Festival. The vast majority of your responses were very positive.

A key aspect of this exercise was to gain your opinion on the state of the buildings next to the Park Road entrance, including the toilet facilities.  As a result, the charity has agreed to do additional work within its budget to plan a design that will make long-term improvements and increase community facilities.  It will give us the opportunity to reach out to funding bodies for their financial support to redevelop the infrastructure and make the park a haven for all age ranges and interests.

Your feedback in the summer reaffirmed the oft-requested call to make urgent improvements to the play equipment in the park.  Matt Harrison, a leading member of the FreSH group who were instrumental in raising funds for the skatepark and BMX track, now wants to help the Collett Park Charity raise money for an ambitious revamp of the play area.  FreSH has already enlisted a growing group of local people willing to assist with community fund-raising to replace and upgrade the facilities.

Often, we at the Town Council are approached by local residents wishing to donate trees to commemorate loved ones.  We have now agreed a Collett Park tree strategy that identifies the best locations for planting, and specifies the species that are compatible with the overall planting scheme.  We will continue to welcome these touching requests.

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Chairmans Report  11th October 2018

As the days get shorter and the autumn leaves blow around the town, we start anticipatingHalloween, fireworks and our wonderful Carnival.  Also at this time of year we reflect on the act of remembrance that is held on 11th November.  2018 is of course especially poignant as we commemorate 100 years since the ending of the First World War. 

All the giant red poppies that have appeared in Shepton have been installed by Nick Chambers and Edric Hobbs.  Youll find them everywhere from the impressive display at St Peters and Pauls Church, to the one on the Babycham statue on Kilver Street. They make a real visual statement that reminds us that our freedoms have been won by the courage of others.

Next May, we will be asked once again to elect our Town and District councillors.  Mendip Council will be holding an introductory session for people considering standing as District Councillors. This is an opportunity to meet a panel of district councillors and discuss their rôle and responsibilities. This event will be held at 7pm on 24th October in the Mendip Council Chamber.

Here in Shepton we will also be electing our town councillors. This will give local community-minded people a chance to standand if successful, play an important part in shaping Sheptons future. In the last 4 years many new responsibilities have had to be taken on by the Town Council as the District and County Councils have reduced and cut their services.  

The Town Council now provides the improved flower displays on the High Street and plays a full part in the monthly Sunday markets. We are leading the campaign to keep the library in the town centre and have agreed to part-fund the resurfacing of the town centre with Somerset County Council (otherwise the broken paving will remain hazardous and unsightly)

We have managed, procured and part-funded the rebuilding of the skatepark and also part-funded the newly resurfaced BMX track.  The town council had to increase its staffing to address all these new challengesand is about to appoint a Finance Officer to match the best practice of communities of our size.

Being a Councillor allows a key involvement at a crucial time where we are being asked to do so much more than in the past. I would be delighted if we get talented people willing to be active councillors bringing new skills to join the council next May.  

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council


Chairman’s Report. 4th October 2018

Last Wednesday it was a pleasure to attend an event organised by the Shepton Snowdrop Festival outlining their plans for the coming months. This Saturday (6th October) there will be a snowdrop sale in Tesco between 10am and 4pm, and on the following Saturday the organisers will be holding a planting day.  People will have the opportunity to buy and plant snowdrops at St Peter and St Paul’s Church and at Highfield House, and then can record their efforts in a memory book.  If you are interested in joining in, please contact the Snowdrop Festival at admin@sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk, or to find out more go to www.sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk

The Journal recently reported the good news that Collett Park is the first open space in our district to be awarded the coveted Green Flag award. This is a tremendous recognition of the Council’s progression in working with its partners. We have a growing range of activities in our park. This includes the long-standing Drifters Boat Club, but now also the well attended weekly Parkrun (soon to be joined by the Junior Parkrun), other cross-country running events, music concerts, a visiting circus, the Collett Festival celebration in June, through to the Christmas Lantern Festival, and of course the popular Collett Park Café. The Collett Park Management Committee, acting for the Park Charity,  now plans to make important improvements to ensure that our park continues to be the jewel in Shepton’s crown.

We held a series of well-attended and successful public consultations this summer, where we asked people what they want for Collett Park in the future. The Park Management Committee has been considering the range of comments you have made and how best to proceed, combining the best ideas from your suggestions and the feasibility study we had on display.

It is important for the Committee to work with people who love Collett Park and want to see it flourish.  One key aspect of this involvement will be the creation of the ‘Friends of Collett Park’.  The park has a limited staff resource, so it is hoped a new voluntary group will be keen to help us devise a new planting plan for the park, but importantly help carry out the vital tree, shrub and flower border planting, as well as any other tasks the group feels competent to do. The Friends group will also have potential to fund-raise and organise events to benefit the park and park users.  The Friends will be a vital contributor and sounding board for the Committee when developing the park into the future.

I am keen to hear from those green fingered people who love our park and want to form that important Friends team.  Please contact me (cllr.C.Inchley@SheptonMallet-TC.gov.uk) or the Collett Park Committee Chair, Garfield Kennedy (cllr.G.Kennedy@SheptonMallet-TC.gov.uk).  Collett Park is a wonderful asset for our town, and together we can make it even better.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Chairman’s Report  -  27th September 2018

This week the Town Council voted to renew the traditional Town Crier’s uniform.  Andy Neal took on this rôle 4 years ago, and is often seen, and always heard, delivering the town’s proclamations at many of the town’s increasing number of events. Andy does a terrific job, and will now be suitably attired to proclaim all the wonders of Shepton Mallet.

At last week’s Town Council meeting we discussed the future of Collett Festival. This includes the ticketed concert, the Collett Park fête and the very popular free children’s festival on the Sunday. The good news is that this year’s festival had a net income of £1700 over expenditure. This is not counting all the financial and promotional gains by the many local charities and societies who are invited to showcase their activities for free.

However the Town Council are now reviewing the whole way the festival is managed. Many councillors expressed unhappiness with the need for security including fencing the Festival area, and were questioning having a concert in future.

The current organisers have been mindful of safety and security at all the events, and not without reason. Any gathering of a large number of members of the public has to be well managed and made as safe as possible. For example, this year at all of the events, we had lost children emergencies with often very distressed parents, but as the Festival area was contained, our security personnel were able to close the site, find and look after the children and reunite them with their parents.

I also witnessed the professional security staff intervene in a very serious act of violence. They contained the individuals involved, protected the public and then evicted the perpetrators from the Festival site, whilst also keeping the police informed throughout. These and other equally challenging instances have been consistently well managed in recent years. They are the sorts of issues that need to be considered when staging any event where thousands of people are gathered. I’m certain the council will want to hear from a cross-section of residents with their views on the future shape of this keystone event in our summer calendar.

The Town Council is launching a brand new, much improved website this week that offers a more interactive service for our community.  Please go to www.sheptonmallet-tc.gov.uk to see the new design and layout. The website has been created by a local company, and includes photographs and artwork supplied by local people. I would like particularly to thank Will Dunscombe for his brilliant photographs of the town.

Our town council staff do so much more than is seen by the community. The recent data protection legislation, GDPR, is an example that is creating a substantial additional workload. Unnoticed by many residents, demands like this on staff time have to be resourced, while the delivery of some key projects that have visible benefit to the town get delayed. I find this particularly frustrating

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Chairman’s Column - 20th September 2018

These are times of change for the town council. We have reorganised the management structure in the office, and are looking for an accountancy professional to join our highly motivated and professional team to fill a financial officer position.

Shepton residents rightly expect their Town Council to meet their expectations of delivering high quality services with tight control of finance.  For this reason, the Council is looking for an enthusiastic accountancy professional who has sound financial management skills.  We need to find a person with a confident manner who can deal with complex issues, who will work alongside our Town Clerk and provide support to councillors. The position will offer the successful applicant the opportunity to manage and play a key rôle in implementing and delivering a business plan that will help to improve Shepton Mallet.

We are looking for someone for 18 hours a week over three days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  By the very nature of working for a town council, the successful candidate may be called upon to help with other varied tasks, thus offering us flexibility and making the very best use of all of our small team of officers.

Already, Shepton Mallet Town Council is lucky to have hard-working and committed employees. I am particularly keen that we employ the right person to complement them and deliver a high level of financial competence to deliver services and projects.

The future is looking increasingly bright for the Council.  Recently we appointed a new, energetic and highly professional Town Clerk.  Much more is happening in the town with the Sunday Market and many other successful events. We have a series of challenging issues to address, including the ongoing work to retain our town centre library, and the need to make improvements to the town centre and Collett Park.

There couldn’t be a better time for an outstanding accountancy-trained individual to join us. You can contact the town council on 01749-343984 to discuss the matter further or emailoffice@sheptonmallettowncouncil.gov.uk.

Whilst attending the Mid-Somerset Royal Air Force Association Commemoration Service, Sister Anne Martin reminded me of the launch of the Dementia Action Alliance.  This is an initiative to understand the complex problems that dementia presents us with, and how we as a town can learn more and provide help. Anyone interested can attend a meeting in the Mendip Council Chamber on 27th September between 6pm and 9pm










Sunday, 16 September 2018



Chairman’s Column  13th September 2018

There is little doubt that these are difficult times for Somerset County Council who face rising demand and increasing costs for adult social care and children’s services.  Yet both these departments are now facing large cuts to their funding.  Despite the withdrawal of substantial amounts of financial support from central government for these core services, the County Council chose not to increase council tax year on year.  The County has now simply run out of money, leaving some of the most vulnerable people in our society potentially abandoned.

Somerset County Council also announced that it plans to drastically reduce financial support for the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). The CAB has become increasing important lifeline in recent times as government has cut back on access to Legal Aid. This has left the CAB as the only source of independent advice and help for many people.

The County Council now plans to remove £98,000 from the CAB budget in October, giving the organisation no time to plan for the impact of an overnight reduction of 20% in its core funding. The Town Council recognises the important job the CAB does in helping residents in often difficult and dire circumstances, and we continue to give an annual grant to this vital service.

Last week Jon Hardy and Garfield Kennedy met with County Council officials to continue talks to keep our library in the centre of Shepton. I am positive that the town council’s detailed business plan,and the strong social and economic arguments that we have spelt out, makes a compelling case to keep the library in the heart of the town.  County Councillors will determine our library’s future.  If they choose to put it into Mendip District Council’s SHAPE offices, it will betray all the work done by the persuasive and passionate Friends of Shepton Library and your Town Council.

After a week away in sunny Majorca it’s great to be back home. With our Sunday Market returning this weekend, it will be another chance to buy a lovely selection of food and gifts.  Sadly, for me, I will have to make it a fleeting visit as I have a busy day representing our town at a service in Wells for the Mid-Somerset Royal Air Force Association, and then on to Highbridge for their town council’s annual awards and civic service.

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council