Horrabridge Parish Council signed up another new member this week and a full current house of nine councillors voted to abandon any idea of using their gritting trailer again.
The second-hand machine cost £2,400 couple of years ago – plus maintenance bills ever since – and it requires two men getting up at 5.30 a.m. to use it effectively. It is out of action again and the estimate for repair is £1,000. There have been offers to do it cheaper but councillors agreed they should acknowledge it was a bad buy and go back to the position that gritting was not a parish council responsibility.
However, they promised to go to work on improving the provision of grit around the village from the council stores, for self-help. For starters, an empty bin in River Park was filled yesterday and one of three bins in Phoenix Close will be moved to the Copperfields-Pencreber junction. West Devon Council and Devon Highways are being chased up for supplies and new bins, at £100 or so each, will be purchased as the plan progresses.
Councillors acknowledged they would get “flak” for an unpopular second-best solution but said the only way gritting worked before was with former councillor Paul Beard doing it with hired hand Tom Dooley. And now Mr Beard has moved out of the village and Mr Dooley has retired.
Deadline for the handyman position, by the way, is February 8 – one new application in so far.
New councillor Dawn Farrar volunteered to help Christine Edmondson and Mike Huda list bins and possible locations for new ones.
County councillor Philip Sanders warned the council they would be under pressure to come up with a list of “snow wardens” to co-ordinate voluntary effort, which is the fashionable idea in local government. Volunteers to be sought.
Mrs Farrar, new to the area, was also immediately influential in the other important vote of the night, on the council’s bill to taxpayers. The finance committee, headed by Eric Hemsil, wanted to put it up 3 percent. Cllr Hemsil said that would be barely enough to balance the books, even with the council cutting back, and other parishes were much more expensive. And it amounted to only a pound or two a year for most householders.
But Mike Huda said he could not look villagers in the eye if he voted for any increase in taxation right now.
Cllr Farrar said she worked with low-income families and she knew what he meant. She proposed a compromise – a council precept raised by 1.4 percent, meaning just under half as much as the chairman and his deputy recommended. It would mean a shortfall having to be met from the council’s reserve funds but it was a compromise and it got a majority of seven on the final vote, with Mike Huda and Eric Hemsil abstaining.
Cllr Mike Glinn said he had been doing some work with South West Lakes at Burrator and had become aware of the requirement on land owners to police Ash Dieback – the disease which the Environment Agency is trying to weed out along the Tavistock road at the moment, amid some controversy. HPC is now required to look for it every spring, in Weir Park, Fillace Park, the cemetery and the allotments, and cut down as required. Cllr Glinn was appointed to organise.
In view of there being no immediate prospect of re-opening the hall, the emergency supplies store being run by Team Horrabridge will be allowed to spread back into the main hall, subject to a monthly review of the situation.
Three council positions still vacant. Next meeting Tuesday Feb. 9.
PS from The Shed:
It has been suggested that the gritting job might be contracted out and the council could try offering a price for two men and transport for four hours at short notice, to cover key junctions. That was not discussed at this meeting but remains a possibility on the back burner. HPC has tried to do a deal with Devon Highways, to get their contractors to do a bit of overtime in the village, but Highways say they need all their resources when they need them.
Anyone else coming forward would need to have their own insurance. And it might cost a bit over a bad winter. But there might well be locals who would turn out for £10 an hour using a truck and trailer right now?
BOOK OF YER
A Book Of Round Yer, the new guide to Horrabridge and neighbourhood, from Shed Publications, sold well for Christmas but there are still some to shift. Local shops have some, in sealed envelopes, and you can order by phone on 854054. Any review comments would be helpful.