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Season’s Greetings from the Parish Council.  We all wish you a happy and successful 2024.

Let’s start with some of the more problematic issues hanging somewhat ominously on the horizon. 

As many residents will be aware, the new Somerset Council is running into serious financial difficulties; this is largely driven by significant jumps in the cost of social care which have risen multiples in excess of general inflation.  Current predictions show it is entirely possible the Council will declare what amounts to bankruptcy in 2024-25, whereupon they would have commissioners imposed upon them, but they are seeking to avoid this if at all possible.

The net effect of this is that there will be a review and likely a reduction in all Council provided services except for social care and children which are protected. We have been advised that, should we wish to see reduced or cut services maintained we would need to look at these being provided locally at a Parish level, potentially in conjunction with other Towns and Parishes. Specific note has been made that the council tax for Parishes is not capped, unlike it is for Somerset Council. We are working with Somerset Council to understand what the financial impact of this will be for the Parish, but as residents will understand it is unlikely to be positive, and we would counsel that the 2024-25 precept will almost certainly see a marked rise. It will still remain a small fraction of the overall local tax burden.

As readers will have seen in previous editions, the Trustees of the Village Hall are standing down and the Parish Council will fulfil this role from April 2024 forwards. We have had our first ‘shadow’ Village Hall Management Committee meeting, and will go live with this in April. The major reason for the changes has been the inability to secure a new volunteer person to assist with the management, book-keeping and booking aspects of running the Hall. The Parish Council will be looking to add an additional Officer in early 2024, and part of their role will be to assist in covering some or all of these functions.

Now some better news. We have been able to secure funding for the resurfacing of the Tennis Courts. This should be finalized by January 2024, but the new surface will need several weeks of bedding in before the courts will be ready for play. The courts are free for anyone to use. Additional funding should come on line later in the year which will enable us to redevelop the next-door Multi-Use-Games Area. The intention is to make this useful for basketball, netball and also five-a-side football, with an appropriate resilient surround fencing. There should also be further funding for the playing fields, and for new equipment at the play area. We are also now in a position to start pushing forward with plans for the extension to the sports pavilion, and are delighted that we have been given planning permission; this is subject to some tweaks at the recommendation of organisations such as the Football Foundation, and we are looking to incorporate these into the plans. Many thanks to the Playing Fields Management Committee for working with us in all these improvements.

Much of the funding has come from prior development, and a significant further tranche will be due as the Redcliffe project in constructed. We continue to push both the developer and Somerset Council Planning to deliver upon the commitment to provide a Community Hub.

We have two ongoing planning applications at Court Lane (22 houses) and Wheathill Lane (58 houses). Court Lane are working through a variety of issues, most recently with drainage. In October, Wheathill submitted a phosphate offset plan, which if approved would potentially allow their application to proceed. As consultee, the Parish Council objects to the Court Lane development, but is in favour of that at Wheathill Lane. Both perspectives are subject to a number of nuances, and residents can find the details of these on the Somerset Planning Portal.

We have also entered into partnership with Bruton, Castle Cary, and Wincanton to start up Youth Service provision within the area, which will include at least one session in Milborne Port for forty-four weeks a year. The service provider, Youth Connect South West, is in the process of hiring a level 3 Youth Worker to run the program and once they are on board services should commence. It is possible that this type of shared service provision may become more common going forward. Whilst it is technically separate from the South-East Somerset Local Community Network (which is part of Somerset Council) the LCN provides a good forum through which such arrangements can be discussed and explored.

Finally, we entered a competitive tender for support for a Community Review in 2024 and were delighted to receive the news in mid-December that we were one of the communities chosen to be assisted. This will involve a variety of stages, but will include a survey of residents to seek their views and perspectives, and then the development of a programme for the Parish for future years.

That’s more or less it, except to thank all residents for their contribution to our community, to thank my fellow councilors (including Glenn and John our new councilors) for all their work and commitment, and especially to thank our officers Simon and Nathalie without whom the running of the Parish Council would simply not be possible.

Cllr. Tim Carty, Chairman of Milborne Port Parish Council

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