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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 for 2013 and before

  • January 2013

    Mercury report for the Council Meeting of Monday 7th January 2013

    Public Participation

    Rena Partridge
    First to speak was Rena Partridge, noting that the street lighting at the north end of West Street is very poor and a danger for pedestrians, and asking if there’d been any progress on improving access arrangements to the Co-op car park. She felt the current access from Weston Road was dangerous, particularly for pedestrians exiting the car park. Steve Clark explained it was a pity that neither Ward Councillor was present, as they’d have the most up to date information for Rena. He commented only on her second point, saying that changes were under consideration but he didn’t know when they’d be made.

    Bryan Rice
    Second to speak was Bryan Rice, clearly not happy about the subject of parking in Oakdown Crescent and Weston Road. Noting that the latest round of complaints had been ongoing for around a year, he felt that nothing had been done and that the remit given to the Milton Keynes Council (MKC) Transport representative was ‘inept’. He noted a couple of ways he felt the situation could be resolved, that Councillors should ‘pull their socks up’ and that, if the situation didn’t get resolved, he’d be back the next month, and the next... until it did.
    Steve Clark explained that neither Highways nor Parking issues were in the power of Olney Town Council (OTC) to solve – they were MKC issues. Ron Bull concluded this item, noting pointedly that there was a vacancy for a new Councillor, should one wish to put themselves forward.

    Recreation Ground dog fouling

    Rosemary Osborne had met Rob Ward, Neighbourhood Manager at MKC, to discuss various issues related to dog fouling. Namely, to consider whether the Recreation Ground should have a designated area for dog walkers, whether the improved signage has helped, and to discuss the proposed fencing around the football pitch adjacent to East Street. The decisions made in this meeting were to install dog bag dispensers at the main entrances to the Ground, to monitor the impact of the improved signage, to request that the Sports Clubs talk with dog walkers using their pitches and, if appropriate, hand out dog bags to them, and that an article would be produced for the Phonebox to educate people about the effects of dog fouling.
    Liam Costello noted that the proposed fencing around the main football pitch would make it easier for a dog control order to be applied to that area, but that for private land, such as that on which various rugby pitches are based, a joint scheme would be required. Ben Brock, one of the Rugby Club coaches, noted that the Club may well be in favour of such an approach.
    Peter Gage, who’d spoken on this topic in the Public Participation section of last month’s meeting and had come to listen to this one, felt that providing information and education to the Ground’s users was an excellent approach.

    East Street Car Park

    As noted in an earlier Mercury, OTC has sought advice from MKC related to the East Street Car Park extension, prior to it submitting a formal Planning Application. That advice highlighted two areas of concern. First, there are three large trees located to the edge of the proposed additional car parking area. These trees must be retained, implying that protection must be afforded to their roots, meaning that the space immediately around them can’t be used. Second, there must be a six metre over-run area between the football pitch and the additional parking area. This latter area of concern surprised Councillors, in that the Football Club’s Planning Application specifies that the fencing will be only two metres from the Pitch. After some discussions, Councillors decided to wait on the outcome of this Application, due to be considered mid January, then to consider having proper Architect’s plans drawn up for the site, including allowances for the tree roots.

    Berrells Court

    As reported previously, the Council is trying to facilitate surface improvements to Berrells Court. It’s contacted the landlords of properties on the Court and now has a list of those who’d be interested in collaborating to pay for the improvements. Councillors planned to discuss pricing for these improvements in the confidential items agenda item handled after the public, including Mercury, have left the meeting.

    Summer planting

    Tony Evans explained that the Council has received the quotation and plans for the summer bedding plants around Olney. Martin, the new Groundsman, is keen to add more of a ‘wow factor’ to the displays by using a wider range of informal plants and, as such, The Knoll and the bed outside the Cemetery Rest Room will trial these ideas. These have resulted in the quotation of £3077 being £480 more than last year. Councillors felt the would bring, and voted unanimously to accept it.

    Armed Forces Day

    Alan Richardson introduced this item noting that, each June, the Council hosts a buffet meal for war veterans in the Olney Centre. This is much appreciated, but the attendees would like to eat sitting together in one room, and the Olney Centre can’t accommodate this. Alan had talked informally with the Carlton House Club, and it appeared they could host the event in their function room, also providing the food. Councillors liked this, giving their unanimous approval for Alan to pursue this course of action.

    Pinders Circus

    After a successful visit to the Pyghtle last year, Pinders Circus has asked to visit again, the dates being Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th May. Councillors agreed unanimously to this request, with all bar one voting to keep the daily rate charged to the Circus unchanged this year. Surf to www.pinderscircus.co.uk for more information.

    Model T Ford Rally

    Councillors voted to allow the Market Square Car Park to be used as part of a Model T Ford Rally on Friday 7th June. All voted in favour bar three against. The benefits cited were that it’d be interesting for people to see, and should bring more people to the town. The drawbacks were the consequent lack of parking in the centre.

    Market Place Toilet refurbishment

    The toilet refurbishment having been completed, Councillors reviewed the cost breakdown. The main issue was a significant overspend of around £6,000, around a third of the expected total. This was discussed at some length and just the main points are covered here. Tony Evans asked if all the additional amounts had been sanctioned by Mike Hughes, the Clerk of Works appointed by the Council. Liam Costello replied that they had. Jeremy Rawlings felt that some of the overspend, such as that on unforeseen underground sewage work, was reasonable. Overall, there was concern about the issue and, when Rosemary Osborne suggested inviting Mike to a meeting so that Councillors could put their questions to him and he could answer them, it was agreed quickly.

    Specialist Nurse for the Elderly

    Steve Clark noted that, with OTC having funded a specialist nurse for the elderly for the previous year, Olney finance firm The MPA Group – surf to www.thempagroup. co.uk – have set a great example to other local businesses by taking on the funding of that post.

    TOG, PCSOs and torches

    Steve reported that during last year’s Fireworks Display, The Olney Group (TOG) was glad to have help from the local Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). TOG realised that the PCSOs’ torches were considerably less powerful than those used by the event marshals, and asked whether it could purchase brighter ones to replace them. The response was positive, six bright new LED torches were bought, and they’re now in the hands of the PCSOs.

    Kitchener Centre

    The Kitchener Centre offers day care to older people from Olney and the surrounding villages. Steve Clark outlined a proposal which local GP and ex-Councillor Brian Partridge had discussed with him. Brian was instrumental in the original Kitchener Centre project and, with over a quarter of local people now being over 60, the need for this day care is on the increase. As such, the Kitchener Centre is bursting at the seams and would benefit from additional capacity. Brian had asked Steve if OTC would be involved in a project to raise funds for an extension to the building. This topic will be included on the next meeting’s agenda.

    Next Meeting - 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.

  • February 2013

    Mercury report for the Council Meeting of Monday 4th February 2013

    Public Participation

    Isobel Ager-Righinioti
    The only person wishing to speak at this monthʼs meeting was Isobel Ager-Righinioti. Isobel said that she uses her bike for short journeys around the town in preference to driving a car. One afternoon last July she was riding down West Street and as she drew level with ʻThe Archʼ a car caused her to fall off her bike. She felt that a contributing factor had been the presence of the cobblestones in the road, which she said should not be there on such a narrow street and said she had legal advice confirming this fact. Would it not be better if East Street and West Street were both one-way, she suggested? Deidre Bethune responded, saying that one of the conditions of the planning permission which was granted for the houses served by The Arch was that some form of traffic calming must be provided and the cobbles were not actually part of the highway.

    Co-option of new councillor

    Following the resignation of Andrew Dooley, a vacancy had arisen on the council and, there being no call from the electorate for an election to fill the post, it fell to the council to fill the post by co-option. Only one candidate had put his name forward for nomination, that being Joe Stacey. Joe was invited by Mayor Steve Clark to give a brief resume of his reasons for wishing to join the council. Joe said he moved to Olney from Suffolk, where he had previously served as a councillor, in July last year and had found it to be a
    “smashing place”. He had worked for 40 years in the construction industry, he said, and hoped to bring some of this experience in serving on the council. There then followed a short discussion on what was the minimum period of residence before one could become a town councillor, with periods of between one and three years being suggested. Peter Geary said there was no statutory minimum and the council could elect “whoever they wished”. There being no other candidates, Joe was co-opted unopposed and took his seat at the table.

    Kitchener Centre

    Following the discussion at last monthʼs meeting about a possible extension to the Kitchener Centre, Dr Brian Partridge and centre manager Helena Newbold were present to discuss the proposal. Brian explained that the Kitchener Centre offers day care to older people from Olney and the surrounding villages and, with over a quarter of local people now being over 60, the need for this day care is on the increase. OTC had always been receptive to the needs of the elderly and took up the challenge of getting the centre built when the nearest similar facility was in Newport Pagnell, he said. One of the key roles of the centre was to enable the elderly to continue to live in their own homes rather than go in to residential care but the ability to remain independent becomes less as we grow older. The centre currently provides for 14 people per day between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, enabling them to have a hot meal, meet other people and be gently supervised. Helena explained that there are two waiting lists in operation: The first is for people wishing to join the service and there are currently nine on the list with another six in progress. The second list is for people who already use the centre but want additional sessions and this currently stands at 12. Sadly, the only way that people move up the list is when others go in to residential care or pass away. The clientele covers a wide range of ages (more than 30 years) and abilities, with some people in their sixties with dementia attending sessions with those in their nineties. Over such a range it was inevitable that people would have different interests and ideally separate sessions should be available for different age groups, she said. Brian concluded by that he was garnering views as to whether there was a perceived need for further provision for the elderly in Olney and the surrounding area but so far the indication were positive. However, he wanted to be sure that if the centre expanded it would continue to be financially viable, particularly when public finances are being cut back. He did not have time to personally spearhead a fundraising campaign, he said, but thought that perhaps an individual with the right skills and sufficient time might be persuaded to volunteer. Ward Councillor Peter Geary suggested that a Business Case should be prepared and funding sought from MKC. Tony Evans said that since the centre opened in 2000, OTC had supported it and thought there was no question that they would want to be involved but wondered what sort of costs were likely to be involved and would it be just for the building and running costs or staffing as well. OTC could help get the ball rolling but agreed it would need someone to manage the fundraising on a full time basis.

    East Street Car Park

    As previously reported, OTC has sought advice from MKC related to the East Street Car Park extension, prior to it submitting a formal Planning Application. One of the points that MKC identified was that the Football Club had applied for Planning permission to erect a protective fence around their pitch to comply with league regulations and a condition of that permission being granted would be that there must be a six metre over-run area between the football pitch and the fence, The Football Club was subsequently able to argue that the 6m run off area suggested by planning officers was not actually an element of the league regulations, so the officers eventually agreed not to require this as a condition. Steve Clark said there were still a number of issues around the planned car park and the council recognised that an application for car parking may not be popular, so they intend to conduct a survey to gauge the amount of local support. If the outcome is reasonably positive, they would then apply for planning permission. Tony Evans said that in his opinion the town desperately needs more car parking spaces and was passionate that it should go ahead. Peter Geary was sure that there would be flak from residents and said that he did not want the council to start work on the scheme and then back out. He said he, personally, would not be voting for the scheme because it was too expensive for too few additional spaces. Jeremy Rawlings thought that additional parking was required but only at specific times and would only support the scheme if the additional parking was only available as an overflow on match days. John Sharp disagreed, saying that it was needed seven days a week and would be used. The existing East Street (Rugby Club) car park is too far away and too dark, he said. Eventually a vote was taken on whether to progress with the survey which was narrowly passed by four votes to three, the rest of the members present inexplicably choosing to abstain.

    Budget and Precept 2013/2014

    The finance committee have recommended an increase of 5.84% to the precept. This is the portion of the council tax which is collected by MKC on behalf of OTC. The Income & Expenditure Budget vs. Actual appeared to show a deficit of £15k, although there seemed some doubt as to whether it was a ʻrealʼ deficit. Peter Geary felt that the budget should balance and said that the council needed a plan to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. MKC is capped in terms of the amount it can increase the council tax and OTC could be the same. Tony Evans felt that they were a good set of figures and easily understandable. The budget was passed by a vote of five to three. Electoral Review of Milton Keynes
    As previously reported, The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has undertaken discussions with MKC and consulted publicly on council size and has decided that the number of councillor should be increased to 57, from the current 51. Each a councillor will cover 3300 residents as opposed to 3000 at present. The draft proposal as now been published and recommends that Milton Keynes be divided into 19 wards, each represented by three councillors. In most of urban MK this is fine but in the rural areas this leaves very large geographical areas with many individual communities requiring individual attention from their councillors in attending parish council meetings etc. For example a merged Sherington and Olney ward would comprise 17 parishes, which Jeremy Rawlings described as ridiculous. Steve Clark proposed that OTCʼs response to the document should be a request to maintain the status quo such that the current Olney ward continues to be represented by two councillors. The motion was passed by five votes to two, again with a number of abstentions.

    Neighbourhood Planning

    The council had received a copy of the document ʻQuick Guide to Neighbourhood Plansʼ. Since April 2012 local communities have been able to produce Neighbourhood Plans for their local area, putting in place planning policies for the future development and growth of their neighbourhood. The plan is subject to examination and referendum and then forms part of the Local Development Plan. This statutory status gives Neighbourhood Plans far more weight than parish/community plans, such as the
    'Olney for You' document that was produced by members of the community over five years ago. Tony Evans thought that a plan for Olney is a 'must do' as it is an opportunity to influence the planners and wondered if it might be possible to reuse some of the Olney for You output. Peter Geary pointed out that if Olney produced a plan ii must fit in with the existing development framework and could not be used to override MKC plans. If, for example, MKC strategy was to build 400 new homes in the town then a Neighbourhood Plan could not be produced proposing no new housing. Unlike Olney for You it would need to be council led and the effort involved would be massive in comparison. Several such plans were being produced elsewhere in Millon Keynes, he said, and were clos€ to going to referendum. The council agreed to set up a working group of members to investigate the feasibility of producing a plan for Olney.

    Superfast Broadband for Olney

    Town Clerk Uarn Costello reported that he'd had meetings with MKC about the position of street cabinets that will be required for superfast broadband to be rolled out in Olney. Pete Geary explained that this is being enabled by an alliance between MKC, Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Councils to provide superfast broadband to areas that are not part of BT's commercial deployment plans, as described in the Councillor Comer article in January's Phonebox. MKC has set aside £2.4m and has won a government grant of £ 140k to appoint a contractor to do the work, the contract being due to be let in August or September this year. However, since the meeting this has been overtaken by the recent announcement from BT that Olney is now part of its own commercial deployment some time in 2014.

    Next Meeting - 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.

  • March 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting of March 2013

    Public Participation

    Claire Wood
    Claire Wood addressed Councillors about the Church Hall on High Street South. The Church has been considering how the Hall could be better used, and aims to make it meet some of the needs within Olney and be more part of the townʼs community. Itʼs identified some projects to help it meet this aim: a Memory Club for those in the early stages of memory degeneration, a Youth Milkshake Café with two separate strands –to provide a place for secondary school young people to meet after school (initially weekly) and to provide training for them –and New Skill for those who need basic skills training, for example those recently bereaved whose partners had provided for them before. To achieve these projects, some changes to the Church Hall will be starting shortly, including improved access, improved toilet and shower facilities, a new meeting room, a mezzanine floor and a meeting area.

    Kitchener Centre

    Ann Lark and Nick Stacey from Age UK attended the meeting to discuss the Kitchener Centre, a day care centre for vulnerable older people from in and around Olney. Age UK has been managing the Centre under contract to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) since 2000. The contract to manage the Kitchener Centre and another day care centre in Bletchley, currently run by the British Red Cross (BRC), has been out for competitive tender, the bid process having just been completed. Itʼs not yet known who has won the contract, but Ann and Nick provided background information on what might happen next. First, the BRC did not submit a bid for the Bletchley centre, as running day care centres no longer fits with its national agenda. Second, and most important for Olney, the contract value specified by MKC is significantly below that which Age UK believes is required to continue to offer the current level of service at the Kitchener Centre. Age UK has been given notice to leave the Kitchener Centre later this year unless this issue is resolved. Responding to the clear, though not fully articulated, implications for the standard of care being offered, David Rumens, of Senior Voice MK and previously Olney Town Council (OTC), said his organisation would apply as much pressure to MKC as it could, and will also keep in contact with OTC on the subject. Olney Councillors were also clearly concerned about this issue.
    In the background, OTCʼs letter to MKC regarding the possibility of an extension has now received a reply, any consideration being put on hold until the end of June when the contract commissioning process should be near completion.


    Andrew Jackman is the new Team Leader for Traffic Management at MKC, having replaced Richard Duffill in the post. Tonight he was attending the Council meeting to discuss various Highways issues in the town.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent is a longstanding and contentious issue. Andrew agreed that there was severe pressure on parking there, as had been made clear to him by Ward Councillors Peter Geary and Debbie Brock and stated that, if there was a simple solution, itʼd be in place by now. Peter Geary outlined three current ideas, each with highly approximate ballpark figures:

    • A new road running from Dagnall Road through The Pyghtle to serve the properties which face it, £250,000.
    • A car park in the (retained) garden of 102 Weston Road, £85,000.
    • A residentsʼ parking scheme in Oakdown Crescent, £5,000.

    As is usual for this issue, a good deal of discussion followed. The main points were that Peter Geary felt OTC should propose a solution, Andrew wanted to understand the problem and have MKC work out the best solution and, when pushed by Ron Bull, Andrew said the issue would be addressed by the end of March 2014. Finally, Debbie Brock noted that the investigative work done so far hadnʼt gone to waste – it would still be useful when choosing the best way forward. The Olney Traffic Management Review in 2008 included the idea of having one-way systems in East Street and West Street. Andrew felt that using a one-way system to calm traffic was an odd idea, since evidence shows that such systems in fact make people drive 5-10 MPH faster. Based on the brief discussion which followed, which saw various Councillors expressing safety concerns regarding East Street, itʼs hard to see the one-way idea progressing further. Regarding potholes, Andrew explained that the Highways Authority has a duty to maintain roads in a safe condition. All roads are inspected regularly at least once a year. Defects, whether spotted during inspections or reported by members of the public, are dealt with in 24 hours if classified as dangerous or 28 days otherwise. The general condition of the roads has been contributed to by bad winters causing water which has penetrated the road to freeze and lift the surface. Insufficient maintenance on a national basis hasnʼt helped either. MKC is developing plans for a pothole month, likely April, during which the Council would deploy many road gangs to blitz the problem.

    Fairʼs fair

    OTC agreed to requests to hold the annual fair on the Recreation Ground between Wednesday 19th and Saturday 22nd June, and the Cherry Fair on the Glebe on Saturday 29th June.

    Olney Centre facilities

    Great news for those who attend Council meetings but, by the end, feel like theyʼve missed out on the interesting bits. OTC has received quotes to improve the Olney Centreʼs facilities for the hard of hearing. One quote was for a fixed system, building on the hearing aid induction loop already fitted in the Council Chamber and supplying boundary microphones and an amplifier. The other also provided microphones but, instead of using the existing induction loop, provided earphones and two mini loops which the hard of hearing could wear around their necks. No decision was made on the night, but one or both systems will be trialled during a real Council meeting.


    Liam noted that the hedge laying on Crouchʼs Field has been completed. Also, the gate into Crouchʼs Field has been moved to comply with the right of way through to Nichols Field - the field to the East of Crouch's Field beside the river.

    East Street Car Park

    There was a brief discussion about the proposed extension to the East Street Car Park, particularly including how it would adjoin the proposed fencing around the Recreation Ground football pitch. Joe Stacey noted that, while a concrete path is planned to go all the way round the pitch, thatʼs not an FA requirement – the FA requires hard standing on only two sides. He suggested instead that the path at the East Street end could be removed from the proposals, thus creating more space for parking which currently looks pretty tight. Although the Football Club does have planning permission, and OTC as landlord has given its permission, OTC could change its permission if the Council felt that section of the path should not be included. The Council will discuss the issue with the Football Club.

    Community Asset Transfer and the Olney Centre

    Back in February 2012, Alan Richardson stated and Peter Geary confirmed that the Olney Centre was not an asset which would be affected by the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme, as it was not MKCʼs asset to transfer. Now, however, legal opinions about this differ.
    The Olney Centre is held in a trust and, until recently, was believed to be owned by that trust and not by MKC, even though the trustees are wholly that Council. Day to day, MKC is responsible for certain aspects of the repair of the building while OTC is responsible for other aspects.
    The ownership of the Centre has been challenged, with the Queenʼs Counsel (QC) and the Charity Commission having been asked for advice. The QCʼs advice was that the Olney Centre was the property of the trust and hence could not be transferred. However, the Charity Commission believes that, since around £400 was paid on the transfer of the building in 1870, it seems to have been purchased by the predecessor to Buckinghamshire County Council, then reverted to that Council when it formed, and then to MKC in 1996. It is therefore currently thought that the property could be transferred under the CAT programme to a community organisation or group such as OTC.
    MKC is to arrange a Public Meeting at the Olney Centre at 6.00pm on Wednesday 22nd May to explain CAT and how it affects the Olney Centre. This may well be a very interesting meeting.
    Mercury thanks Peter Geary and Liam Costello for background information on this topic.

    Next Meeting - 8th April

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 8th 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.

  • April 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting of April 2013

    Public Participation

    David Rumens
    There was only one member of the public wishing to speak at this month’s meeting and that was ex-Olney Town Councillor David Rumens speaking on behalf of Senior Voice MK. David explained that the contract to run the Kitchener Centre was recently put out to tender by Milton Keynes Council and they had set a tender value of £312,000. Age UK is the only organisation to have tendered for the contract but its tender was rejected as it was substantially above MKC’s valuation. This raised the question of whether the original tender was correctly valued, he said. The fact that there was only one bid from an existing provider and that it exceeded the tender value by a considerable sum suggested that something may have gone wrong during the tender valuation process. There is considerable concern being expressed about the ability of Milton Keynes Council to deliver a Day Care Service at an equivalent standard on the allocated budget both now and in the future, he said. As things stand the service will be brought in house and decision will be made by Councillor Debbie Brock, as Cabinet Member of MKC with Portfolio responsibility for Adult, Older Years and Health, as to whether the council or Milton Keynes Service Partnership will manage the Day Care Service. This matter was discussed as a formal agenda item later in the meeting and David was invited to stay for that discussion.

    Superfast Broadband

    Present at this month’s meeting was Nick Brown from MKC planning department. Nick explained that his role was to negotiate with Openreach to identify the best locations for the additional street cabinets that are necessary to contain the equipment that provides the service. They need to be located as near as possible to the existing cabinets which they connect to. There is one such cabinet in the High Street opposite the Flower Shop and the proposed site of the equipment cabinet is in the Market Place, opposite Darwins Gifts and Cards. Nick explained that it could not be positioned next to the existing cabinet due to the requirement for Openreach to access the cabinet every time a customer was set up for the service, which would restrict access on the footpath. The proposed position would enable parking while the engineer carried out the work, he said. The usual locations selected were footpaths, which MKC own as part of the highway, so there are no issues with access. The member present felt that the box would be rather obtrusive in the proposed location so agreed to Nick’s request for it to be moved back a few feet on to the Market Place and rotated by 90 degrees so that it was parallel with the wall for the planter. Nick said he expected work to commence in 6-8 weeks.

    Future of the Kitchener Centre

    As reported last month, Age UK has been managing the Centre under contract to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) since 2000. The contract to manage the Kitchener Centre had been out for competitive tender and the bid process has just been completed. There had been 10 Expressions of Interest but only Age UK had tendered and its application had been rejected because it is £100,000 more than MKC’s tender value of £312,000. Jeremy Rawlings said the decision could be ‘called in’ if 20 members of the electorate requested it and suggested that David Rumens went down that route’. Why had the other nine parties declined to bid, he wondered. Could it be that the indicative price had put them off? He also observed that OTC only had Age UK’s estimate that it would cost more to run the service, since no other bids had been submitted. David Rumens said that as part of the bid process any interested party could submit questions and the answer would be made available to all of the other parties so they would have been fully aware that that Age UK had received no replies.

    Debbie Brock said that due diligence had been applied and MKC were confident that £312,000 to run the service is a realistic figure and as portfolio holder she felt that ‘internalisation’ is the best option. Jeremy said that, with respect to Debbie, MKC did not have a good track record on due diligence. Debbie said that good grounds would have to exist in order for the decision to be called in, but Jeremy replied that Age UK’s expert opinion that the service could not be run within that financial constraint should be sufficient. Jeremy formally proposed that OTC recommend that the decision should be called in. The motion was seconded by Deidre Bethune and passed by a large majority.

    Parking in Oakdown Crescent

    Following on from last month’s discussion about the Parking in Oakdown Crescent there was an item on this month’s agenda to discuss one of the options: A new road running from Dagnall Road through The Pyghtle to serve the properties which face it, i.e. numbers 70 – 92 Weston Road. This scheme would involve the council relinquishing part of The Pyghtle, which caused some consternation to members. Steve Clark observed that when permission was granted for the houses on The Pyghtle there was a condition that at least half of the land must be retained for recreational use. Even if OTC agreed to relinquish the land it was unlikely that MKC would fund the scheme he said, since it was estimated that it would cost £250K. John Sharp noted that part of the problem with parking in Oakdown Crescent was due to the fact that a fence that previously existed had fallen down. If that was reinstated then there would be no shortcut making parking there less attractive, he thought. Peter Geary stated that because the fence had been down for a number of years it was now effectively a right of way. Joe Stacey wondered if providing parking spaces in the garden of the houses in Oakdown Crescent might alleviate the situation but Peter Geary pointed out that most of the cars parked there did not belong to residents. (Mercury wondered if this might be a passing reference to the revolutionary ‘Driveway Parking Scheme’ announced in the April edition of The Phonebox, as did a number of other councillors, apparently!) Deidre Bethune proposed that the scheme be rejected in favour of one of the cheaper alternatives: parking spaces on the retained garden of 102 Weston Road. This was seconded and passed unanimously, meaning that every member present voted. This is a most unusual occurrence for OTC.

    Community Defibrillator at Recreation Ground

    The Joint User Group (JUG) has recommended that a defibrillator be located at the recreation ground for the use of the various sports clubs that use it. Steve Clark wondered if the clubs would be prepared to assist with funding and Town Clerk Liam Costello said that the individual clubs had schemes through which funding would be available. It would be housed in a lockable unit with a key or combination given out in a controlled manner. Alan Richardson wondered whether such a unit should also be located at the Olney Centre. It was agreed that OTC would contribute £1500 for the installation of a community defibrillator at the Olney Centre and £1000 for one at the Recreation Ground.

    Olney Brass request for funding

    The council have been asked to consider a request from Olney Brass that they award a grant of £2.5K towards the running costs of the youth section of Olney Brass for the coming year, possibly from the Community (previously Sydney Dix) Fund. As part of the application Olney Brass were required to submit a copy of their accounts and on inspection the council agreed to the request.

    Exclusion of Public and Press Representatives

    Whenever matters are to be discussed that the council deems to be of a confidential nature the following item appears on the agenda: ‘To consider exclusion of Public and Press Representatives pursuant to the Public Bodies (admission to meetings) Act 1960 on the basis that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interests by the confidential nature of the business to be transacted’. Joe Stacey questioned whether the item to be discussed warranted the exclusion of the public and press, since it was a matter of public interest. Debbie Brock agreed, saying that she had often questioned the rationale behind such exclusions. Peter Geary was of the opinion that because the matter was of a financial nature relating to the tendering of contracts this justified the exclusion. The council resolved to seek guidance from Bucks Association of Local Councils on when exclusion is justified. For information, the draft minutes published on OTC’s website state: The council considered quotations for surfacing work at the Recreation Ground. As all three contractors had provided different specifications, they are to be asked to re-quote on a like for like basis.

    Annual Town Meeting - Thursday 2nd May

    This will take place at 7:00 pm on Thursday 2nd May in the Olney Centre and all Olney residents are invited to attend to question the council on any matter of concern to them. If you want to know why the precept you pay to OTC as part of the Council Tax has risen by 5.8% this year, why we may lose part of the recreation ground to a car park or have any other concerns, then come along and exercise your democratic right.

  • May 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for May 2013

    Public Participation

    Brian Rice
    In this slot, Brian Rice spoke about parking in Oakdown Crescent. First, some background on this issue: In last month's meeting, Councillors rejected the option of a new road through the Pyghtle, reluctant to relinquish the land and believing that Milton Keynes Council (MKC) wouldn't finance the £250,000 projected ballpark cost. Instead, they unanimously agreed that the best solution would be to provide parking spaces on the retained garden of 102 Weston Road. They also discussed to what extent the lack of a previously existing fence, now allowing access from Oakdown Crescent to the back of the properties 70 - 92 Weston Road, was affecting the parking problem.
    Brian made a number of points. He stated that the agreed solution would provide parking for only around six cars, when around double that was needed. He also felt that the projected cost of the new road was far too high, around £80,000 being realistic which, as it happens, is remarkably close to the ballpark cost of the agreed solution. Finally, Brian felt that the fence referred to had never existed, so access had always been available. John Sharp disagreed, saying there'd not always been access. A 1945 picture of the area, courtesy of Google Earth, appears to show that there was access at that time, though that in itself implies nothing about the situation when Oakdown Crescent was built. Mercury thanks Liam Costello for background information on this point.

    Annual elections and appointments

    The Mayor and Deputy Mayor were elected, this time round Steve Clark and Jeremy Rawlings being re-elected to their respective roles. Committee Chairs and members were appointed, almost completely unchanged from last year.
    Usually, Standing Orders are formally adopted with little change but, this time, adoption was postponed pending change and review. Specifically, Deidre Bethune wanted to make them less gender-specific (i.e. male) and, following a debate started by Joe Stacey, there was general discussion about whether or not Committees should provide reports to full Council meetings. This latter point meant that the Council will review the Scheme of Delegation to Committees and Staff.

    Inventory review

    Always an interesting topic, Councillors reviewed Olney Town Council's (OTC's) inventory of land and assets. Council regulations state that fixed cost accounting must be used, meaning that each item is listed with its purchase cost, these not being depreciated over time. Peter Geary and Joe Stacey felt that it'd be helpful to also include each item's replacement value. Tony Evans brought the ensuing debate to a close, stating that "We have to accept that these figures are absolutely meaningless", and "move on".

    The Kitchener Centre

    This has become a contentious topic, with enough background information and vociferous disagreement to fill an article on its own. To fit the most into the space available, and try to keep it interesting, this is a mix of what occurred in the meeting and the background to it.
    provides day care in Olney. As reported last month, the contract to manage the Centre had been out for competitive tender, and the bid process had completed with ten expressions of interest but only one bid, from the incumbent provider, Age UK. That bid was rejected because it was around £100,000 more than the price for which MKC believed it could manage the Centre in-house. So, that's what it decided to do. OTC disagreed with this decision, so voted by majority to call it in. As a result, two meetings on this topic took place between OTC and MKC.
    The first meeting was adjourned after some delay. Steve Clark attended, and believes the delay was due to evidence, thought to be from MKC Officers, having been submitted late to the members of the panel, allowing too little time for proper consideration. Peter Geary believes it was due to there being insufficient supporting information for the committee to reach a conclusion.
    Jeremy Rawlings attended the second meeting. He'd presented the Council's case that MKC's decision to manage the Kitchener Centre in-house should be called in. Debbie Brock, MKC Councillor and OTC Ward Councillor, had then presented the opposing case. Both presentations had been 'robust'.
    Jeremy noted that the Officers who were justifying MKC's costs said that various management items, for example human resources, payroll and training, could be absorbed by Council departments with no impact on their budgets and thus not appear in MKC's contract price. The cost quoted by Age UK for these items was £45,000, and Jeremy felt that 'absorbing' such significant and real cost was impossible for a smaller organisation such as Age UK. A vote was taken, OTC lost, so the decision stands: MKC will manage the Kitchener Centre. Peter Geary, also MKC Councillor and OTC Ward Councillor, replied with his view. Peter felt that OTC needed to understand what it had agreed to when it decided to present its case to call in the decision: It delayed the process, which resulted in MKC having to extend care provision using the current providers at both the Kitchener Centre and the Bletchley day care site, thus putting care at risk if either provider had refused this extension.
    Peter cited the £45,000 Age UK management figure, questioning why OTC had backed Age UK quoting this amount when the spend would not be necessary if MKC ran the service. He also stated that the credibility of OTC had taken a nosedive, due to it presenting flawed figures, thus succeeding in uniting the MKC parties round the table to an extent rarely achieved, with the vote being eight to one against calling in the decision - there was no case to answer. He noted that OTC would shortly be asking MKC Officers to expand the Kitchener Centre, 'within weeks of effectively calling the same Officers liars'.
    Tony Evans had heard enough. Forcefully disagreeing with Peter, he said that the first meeting had been 'a farce', that MKC had its figures incorrect and that if Peter didn't like OTC, he should 'get off it'.
    Steve Clark called the discussion to a halt. Note that, if you're wondering why Debbie didn't express her views, she was absent from this meeting.
    Mercury thanks Steve Clark, Jeremy Rawlings and Peter Geary for background on this issue.

    Naval Cadet Corps

    A while ago, the Naval Cadet Corps had identified a derelict building near the Emberton Park cafe and, with permission, started repairing it to make it suitable for use as the centre for a new Olney based Cadet Group. The Corps aims to start the new group soon, accepting children from eight to eighteen years living in Olney and the surrounding villages.
    The work thus far has been paid for by the Corps, and thus money is very tight. In order to help complete this work, the Corps are now seeking a £4,500 grant from OTC. Councillors were generally sympathetic to the request but required more information in order to make a decision. So, a Corps representative will be invited to the next meeting.

    Speed Indicator Display units

    Speed Indicator Display units (SIDs) are the live vehicle speed indication devices you sometimes see on lampposts. Behind the scenes, they also note recorded speeds and times, the resulting data often proving useful to analyse traffic patterns and general driver behaviour.
    Due to a recruitment freeze in MKC's road safety team, and MKC's SIDs needing replacement, it's inviting Town Councils to either purchase their own SIDs or to participate in a loan and operate scheme, where they'd borrow the SIDs and be trained to deploy and operate the units themselves. The Council liked the loan and operate scheme, and will tell MKC it would like to participate.

    Private and confidential?

    At the end of most OTC meetings, Councillors vote 'to consider exclusion of Public and Press Representatives pursuant to the Public Bodies (admission to meetings) Act 1960 on the basis that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interests by the confidential nature of the business to be transacted'. This mouthful is almost invariably agreed, and Mercury, along with any remaining members of the Public make their way home, while Councillors stay to discuss the confidential business. It tends to get used to cover items such as personnel matters, where its use is uncontroversial, and tenders, where it isn't.
    Councillors had received guidance on the legislation and how to interpret it. The initial position should always be in favour of disclosing as much information as possible about the decisions the Council takes, and only in limited circumstances should information be withheld, where there's justification, in law, for doing so. The relevant considerations in favour of disclosure include openness and accountability for tender processes and prices.
    After some debate, in which it was clear that there was general agreement in favour of openness, Councillors agreed that tenders would not generally be regarded as confidential, and that the names of the companies and organisations concerned would be anonymised. This common practice would prevent, for example, one company gaining business-critical information from another's quotation.


    It was mentioned in passing that a planning application had been received from RWE npower renewables for a temporary 80 metre anemometer on land at Bozeat Grange, just South of Bozeat. For more information, surf to planning.wellingborough.gov.uk/portal, click Application Search, enter Reference number WP/2013/0162 and click Search.

    Hanging baskets

    The hanging baskets in the town during the Summer months, bar those around the Market Square, are all sponsored by local companies, organisations and individuals. Ron Bull, who's kindly organised this sponsorship in recent years, is not able to run it this time due to health reasons. As a result, the Council has stepped in and is starting to organise sponsorship for this year. So, if you've had a basket in the last few years, it'll be the Council approaching you to see if you'd like to sponsor one again this time round.
    If you're a company, organisation or individual who'd like to sponsor a basket this year, please contact the Council by calling Liam or Sandra on 01234 711679, or emailing them at townclerk@ olneytowncouncil.gov.uk. Each basket has an individual plaque showing the name of its sponsor.


    As a result of MKC budget cuts, the Number 1 bus service between Olney and Milton Keynes will be considerably reduced from 2nd June - surf to www.milton-keynes.gov. uk/bus/documents/1.pdf. Essentially, most of the evening buses will be cut, and there'll be no buses at all on Sundays. The Council will ask MKC if any of these evening buses could be reintroduced.

    Next Meeting 3rd June

    The next meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 3rd June 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 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for June 2013

    Public Participation

    Samantha Chapman
    Samantha Chapman spoke about the cuts to the bus serice between Olney and Milton Keynes which have taken place since the beginning of June. Samantha said that as someone who works in Milton Keynes she was a regular user of the late evening bus service, which had now been cut. As a result she was now unable to work late nights and Sundays. She felt that it was unfair to penalise residents of Olney who do not have access to a car, particularly when the majority of shops do not shut until 8.00 pm. This subject was an agenda item later in the meeting so it was agreed to move it to become the first item.

    Bob Blackie
    The next person to speak was Bob Blackie from the United Reformed Church. Bob said that the URC would be holding a flower festival on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th July, followed by a service on Sunday 14th. He thanked the council for their generous donation towards the running of the event and invited all councillors to attend.

    Cuts to Bus service

    As reported last month and discussed in public participation, because of Milton Keynes Council budget cuts, the Number 1 Arriva bus service between Olney and Milton Keynes has been considerably reduced. The last bus leaves Central MK at 19:18 and there are no Arriva buses at all on Sundays. Northampton based Meridian Bus will now be running a new service 101 on Sunday from Lavendon to Central MK, but this is being run as a commercial initiative and is not subsidised by MKC. Deidre Bethune was unhappy that Olney Town Council had not been consulted but recognised that it would not be possible to get all services reinstated. She wondered if it would be possible to get a specific evening bus reinstated. MKC ward councillor Peter Geary said that the council had a £20m revenue challenge and the original proposals had been far worse. One possibility could be provision of a linking bus from Newport Pagnell to the villages, he said, but consideration would need to be given to the likely demand and cost. Tony Evans said he'd had a lot of representation from young people, who are not the sort of people who come to meetings of OTC (and looking round the room, Mercury was inclined to agree!). The cuts had made it difficult for them to get to MK for an evening out, he said. The issue will be raised at the next meeting of the N.E. Area Forum.

    Naval Cadet Corps

    As reported last month, the Naval Cadet Corps have identified a derelict building near the Emberton Park cafe and, with permission, started repairing it to make it suitable for use as the centre for a new Olney based Cadet Group. The work thus far has been paid for by the Corps, and in order to complete this work, the Corps is now seeking a £4,500 grant from OTC. Cdr. David Moth was present to explain more about the group and how the money would be spent. David explained that the Corps had now leased the building for a peppercorn rent from MKC and were refurbishing it at no cost to them. The group
    will give boys and girls from the age of 8 - 18 from Olney and the surrounding villages the chance to learn about and participate in activities such as climbing, sailing and camping. A similar unit at Leighton Buzzard was created a year and a half a with 5 cadets now has a membership of 40 he said. Deidre Bethune noted that a large amount of the requested grant was to be spent on catering equipment and wondered if this was necessary at the start of the venture. David explained that all of the equipment had to be new and child friendly, due to Health and Safety regs, because it would be used by the cadets as part of their training in seamanship. Jeremy Rawlings proposed that the council award the full amount of £4500 but it was not passed by a majority on the vote. A subsequent vote to award a lesser amount of £3000 was passed with the understanding that the Corps can seek further funding at a later date.

    Church Hall renovation

    The Parochial Church Council are undertaking a major refurbishment of the Church Hall in order for it to be used for a number of community uses, including a memory club for those experiencing memory loss and a youth cafe. The PCC is seeking a grant of £5000 towards the cost of renewing the floor in the entire building and provided a very thorough cost breakdown of the entire project. The total costs for the renovation are in the order of £163K, £119K of which has already been raised and the total cost of the floor renewal is £12.5K. The council voted to grant the full £5000 requested.

    The Olney Centre Community Asset Transfer

    OTC has been offered the opportunity to obtain the freehold of the Olney Centre from MKC under the Community Asset Transfer scheme. MKC had recently held a public meeting at the centre to explain the options and see if there were any parties interested in moving forward with the scheme. It came as a surprise to the members of OTC who attended that OTC is not the only interested party and a private developer was also in the running. Tony Evans was of the opinion that this meant that OTC had no option but to start the process as soon as possible and Jeremy Rawlings agreed, saying that it appeared that any commercial company could join in the bidding process. Ward Councillor Peter Geary said that under the rules of the scheme the bidding had to be open to all but unless the applicant met the strict community usage criteria they would not progress to the next stage. There are a number of safeguards in place and the process can be stopped at any time. Tony said that if OTC was successful then MKC would hand ownership to them but would not do any maintenance prior to the transfer. A survey conduct two years ago had revealed that the building was 'not about to fall down' but there were a number of things that needed doing. Ben Brock was of the opinion that a full survey should be carried out as part of the transfer process. Town Clerk Liam Costello reminded members that the building came with a 'sitting tenant' of the MKC Library Service. Tony Evans proposed that OTC progress with stage 1 of the transfer process, which was passed unanimously.

    Future of MKC Parish Wardens

    A letter has been received from MKC explaining that the Parish Warden posts were created nearly a decade ago from central government funding and subsequently picked up by themselves. MKC now wish to 'delete' the six remaining warden posts, four of which are currently occupied. This came as something of a surprise to most members of OTC as they had no idea that Olney even had a warden or what duties they actually perform. Peter Geary explained that the wardens spent on average half a day per week in their allocated parish and could perform duties such as enforcing dog fouling fines, supporting the police and PCSOs etc. Castlethorpe Parish Council is currently undertaking a trial of directly funding a warden on an hourly basis to enforce a dog control area. Deidre Bethune suggested that OTC might be interested if the Castlethorpe trial actually resulted in some penalty notices being issued. Jeremy Rawlings suggested that OTC request a breakdown of what the wardens have contributed to Olney over the past few months before deciding what to do, which was agreed.

    Council protocols

    During the meeting there were a number of separate discussions around the way that OTC conducts its business and manages its finances and these are summarised here. During the item concerning the Internal Audit Joe Stacey said that the council did not appear to have proper and adequate control over the spending of sub committees. Tony Evans replied saying that he believed this was not the case. Each subcommittee has devolved authority to spend up to £2k and all expenditure has to be authorised by the full council. Later in the meeting Joe requested that any item that was not resolved at a meeting should be an agenda item at future meetings until it is resolved. He felt that there was a risk of items simply 'dropping off' as things stand. Earlier in the meeting he had noted an issue that had not appeared in the official minutes of a previous meeting but had been covered in the Mercury report of the same meeting. Debbie Brock suggested the setting up of an issues register. Joe thought that as a matter of routine all committees should summarise the decisions they have made to the full council. Jeremy Rawlings pointed out that the minutes of all committee meetings are circulated to the full council but Joe felt that this did not give members the chance to ask questions. Liam Costello said that there was a risk that each meeting could end up effectively being held twice. Peter Geary proposed that these issues should be covered in a future debate about the council's Standing Orders.

    Odds and sods

    Jeremy Rawlings said that in due course the Youth Club would be up for consideration as a candidate for the Community Asset Transfer scheme. He wondered if the same individual who had shown an interest in the Olney Centre would also be bidding.

    Liam Costello reported that High Street South will be closed for resurfacing from 19th to 28th August and during this time all traffic will be diverted along Weston Road and Aspreys.

    The new Mayor of Milton Keynes, Brian White, will be in attendance at next month's meeting to address the council.
    And finally ... Tony Evans observed that the banks along Driftway were looking good but MKC should be reminded of the requirement for regular mowing if they are to remain that way.

    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.

  • July 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for July 2013


    Steve Clark started the meeting by saying how wonderful it was to see Ron bull take his place back in the Council Chamber.

    Public Participation

    Brian Rice
    Now almost a regular at these meetings, Brian Rice spoke about parking in Oakdown Crescent. In an earlier meeting, Councillors had referred to ballpark costs for two possible ways to address the issue: £80,000 to provide parking in the retained garden of 102 Weston Road, and £250,000 to provide an access road through the Pyghtle. Sceptical of these figures, Brian asked if Olney Town Council (OTC) had investigated whether they were correct. Questioning the lack of consultation on the proposals, he reported that residents thought the 102 Weston Road proposal was 'funny'.
    Liam Costello explained that OTC was still waiting for Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to propose a scheme and, once it did, it would be put to public consultation in due course. Peter Geary and Debbie Brock, OTC's Ward Councillors on MKC, said that a scheme should be proposed by MKC in this financial year.

    Brian White
    Brian White, Milton Keynes Mayor, attended the start of the meeting. He wanted to show that the Mayoralty wasn't just for Milton Keynes town, but for the whole borough and, to do this, he aimed to be seen in every Parish. He also promoted the need for a two way flow of information between MKC and OTC. He spoke briefly about his two nominated Charities for the year: the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines (www.icbl.org), and Ted's Gang (www.tedsgang.co.uk), a local Charity supporting children with Shwachman Diamond Syndrome.

    Youth Centre grant application

    Jeremy Rawlings introduced this item before, along with others, leaving the meeting having earlier declared a pecuniary interest. MKC doesn't fund youth work for the under 13s and, about 15 years ago, Olney Youth Centre felt it would be good to provide a service for that age group. So, it started an under 13s night on the first and third Mondays of each month, staffed by volunteers without the benefit of Council funding. These nights grew in popularity and now regularly attract 50-60 children. As they grew, they became harder to manage without professional help and, for the last two years, OTC has funded a professional Youth Worker to run them alongside the volunteers. The Youth Centre would like to continue funding this position, and is applying for a £1 200 grant to cover it for another year. With the various Councillors having left the meeting, those remaining discussed the item briefly before approving the application.

    Parish Wardens

    Peter Geary introduced this item, explaining that about three quarters of the 17 Parish Wardens in Milton Keynes Borough area are currently employed by Parishes, the balance being employed by MKC and generally working in the smaller Parishes. These roles were cut from MKC's budget last year and one year's grace given to allow Parishes to buy in to paint for their work as a service. For example, OTC might decide to pay £4680 per year for half a day a week
    of Parish Warden time. Either way, it needs to decide on the first year by the end of September. Examples of a Parish Warden's duties include weekly patrols for dog fouling and littering, and checks for household waste being put out early.

    This was discussed at length, the main points including that the Wardens may be trained to implement road closures, and an interesting explanation of how dog fouling enforcement works. In order to issue a ticket for dog fouling in an area not under a dog control order, a Warden has to be visible and prominent, watch the deed being done, watch the owner walk away, offer a bag and challenge the owner to pick up, and only on their refusal can the Warden issue a ticket. Most owners pick up when challenged, hence so few tickets being issued. Compare that with the more straightforward situation in which an area might be covered by a dog control order which, amongst other things, mandates that no dogs are allowed.

    Jeremy Rawlings proposed that OTC sign up for half a day a week of Warden time for a year. A vote was taken, and carried with all in favour bar two abstentions.

    Road closure

    The A509 will be closed for resurfacing between its junctions with Weston Road and Lavendon Road for approximately 8 days, the proposed start date being Monday 19th August. Local traffic will be diverted via Weston Road, Aspreys and Driftway, and through traffic diverted via the outskirts of Bramham on the A422 and A428.

    Traffic regulation order

    In order to alleviate problems due to vehicles parking on or near various West Street junctions and on the North side of Spring Lane towards the High Street, MKC is considering introducing waiting restrictions, denoted by double yellow lines. Further, due to a request from a nearby resident, the existing restrictions on Spinney Hill Road opposite the School are being changed to allow more flexibility with parking outside the School's pick up and drop off times.

    Scheme of delegation

    The proposed scheme set out the circumstances in which the Town Clerk and various Committees are authorised to act with delegated authority. So, while it seems pretty mundane, it's actually very important to the smooth running of the Council. For example, the scheme proposed that the Town Clerk can authorise emergency expenditure of up to £2,000 without requiring the approval of full Council.

    The ensuing discussion centred mainly on one particular aspect of the scheme: the way in which Committees report their work to full Council meetings. Steve Clark explained that, in the past, this reporting would sometimes result in full Council reopening and debating recommendations made by the Committees, thus wasting time and lengthening Council meetings. Joe Stacey felt that since Committees would now be reporting on decisions rather than recommendations, these debates simply would not happen, and meetings would in fact be shorter.
    The scheme of delegation was approved.

    Bus services

    Following on from the issue covered in previous Mercury reports, meetings are being held to see if it would be possible to reinstate a small number of the cut services. Peter Geary noted that the critical cost was that which MKC would need to pay to subsidise a service, per person per journey, and that, if this was less than £2.50, reinstatement may be possible.

    Core planning strategy

    MKC will be talking with Olney and Newport Pagnell Town Councils about additional land allocation for small housing developments, with the Town Councils having a say on where these pieces of land might be. Peter Geary stressed the importance of this issue - local Councils should be able to have their say on housing and retail planning in their areas.

    Hanging baskets

    Ron Bull usually organises sponsorship for the hanging baskets on the High Street and Yardley Road, and recruits a team of people to put them up. It wasn't possible for him to do so this year, so alternative arrangements were made. He thanked Liam and Sandra for arranging sponsorship, and Mark Luckin, TOG, the Lions and others for putting them up.

    Next Meeting - 2nd September

    The next meeting wlll be held at 7 .30pm on Monday 2nd September in the Councll Chamber in the Olney Centre. Members of the public are always weloome to attend and, If they wish, speak at the start of the meeting, or at any point that the mayor decides is appropriate.

  • August 2013

    There was no Olney Town Council meeting in August 2013

  • September 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for September 2013

    Monday 1st July 2013

    It was the start of a new term and the chums of Olney town Council were excitedly telling each other what ripping adventures they'd got up to during the long summer vac…..

    Bench outside the Carlton House Club

    For many years Olney Town Council (OTC) had received requests for a bench somewhere in the middle of the High Street, so that pedestrians could rest on the long walk from one end of town to the other. The location of the bench had been the cause of considerable debate and eventually OTC had agreed to site it at the front of the Carlton House Club. At the time there had been objections from the club and the United Reformed Church, both fearing that it would lead to an increase in rowdy behaviour outside their premises. The council had agreed to review the situation after six months so Town Clerk Liam Costello had written to both organisations in July. No response had been received from The Carlton House Club and the URC had responded saying that they had not observed any adverse impacts. A number of councillors said they had observed the bench being used and felt it had been a success.

    Cattle Market car park

    This car park is owned by Milton Keynes Council (MKC) and some years ago bollards were placed at the Freemans Garden entrance to stop drivers ‘joy riding’ around the car park. This has caused issues to drivers who, finding that there are no spare spaces, have to back out on to Silver End. A number of suggestions had been considered by the Neighbourhood Action Group but the eventual proposal that they recommended to OTC was to lose half a parking space to the right of the current ‘keep clear’ bay to create a wider area for vehicles to turn in – creating 1.5 spaces for vehicles to turn in but losing an additional parking space. The half space could be used for a motorcycle bay. OTC agreed to support the NAG proposal.

    Olney Centre Zebra Crossing

    In order to increase the visibility for car drivers and pedestrians alike, bollards have been placed to prevent cars parking close to the crossing. However, due to the ‘imaginative parking’ for which Olney residents have become renowned it is still possible to squeeze cars into the gaps between the road and the pavement via the crossing itself.
    The NAG has requested that more bollards be erected in order to prevent such opportunities. MKC Traffic Management Team have supported this suggestion and proposed that eight new bollards be installed. Colin Rodden was not in favour of the plan saying that he felt there were enough “large bits of metal” in the area already. He suggested that the solution would be to enforce the existing parking restrictions.
    Though some members were sympathetic to this idea the consensus was that the traffic wardens do not attend regularly enough to do this. Mayor Steve Clark proposed that OTC support the installation of the extra bollards and Rosemary Osbourne seconded the proposal. It was passed by a majority with one vote against.

    Road junction improvements

    Plans for two schemes had been received from MKC. The first is a remodelling of the road system by The Knoll at the north end of town. The proposal is intended to make Yardley Road less appealing to HGVs and ensure that they use the more suitable A509 Wellingborough Road.
    Tony Evans agreed with the aim saying that drivers were using Yardley road to save “a Farthings worth of diesel”. (For readers born after 1960 Mercury should explain that a Farthing was a quarter of an old penny, or 1/960 of a pound!).
    The plan involves reducing the width of the roadway in a number of places and creating more traditional T junctions. Some of the space thus gained is proposed to be used to create additional parking spaces, eight of which will be on newly created space adjacent.
    MKC Ward Councillor Peter Geary said the costs would be in the region of £70k – to £80k and members seemed generally in favour of the scheme, although Tony Evans said it was important to maintain the character of The Knoll.
    The second scheme is for the long awaited improvements to the Weston Road/High Street junction by the Hallelujah Lamppost. The intention here is to slightly relocate the lamppost and remodel the island such that traffic turning left or right from Weston Road would need to keep to the left of the island. Traffic travelling from the south and turning left into Weston Road would do so as now. Traffic travelling from the north and wishing to turn right into Weston Road would do so via a new filter lane, keeping to the left of the new island. A new tactile paved crossing point would be provided on Weston Road by the entrance to the Coop and another on the High Street to the south of the junction with a central refuge.
    This scheme caused more discussion than the first with Peter Geary observing that it was the eighth such proposal for this junction and none had been perfect, although he was less convinced of the merits of this one than some of the previous ones. Jeremy Rawlings disliked the amount of road markings and said he had quite enjoyed the lack of white lines during the recent resurfacing work, but Ward Councillor Debbie Brock said it was necessary for such a complex junction.
    Mercury noted that it did not appear to address the issue of access to and from the Coop car park which was one of the problems with the previous schemes.

    Landscape maintenance and associated services

    MKC has recently approved a procurement process to test the market in terms of both cost and service standards as part of a ‘value for money’ review of the landscape services that include grass cutting, shrub, hedge and tree maintenance and weed control. OTC has been asked whether it wishes MKC to retain responsibility for the services, which would be put out to tender, or take responsibility for the services themselves. If they opted to take responsibility themselves they would receive an apportionment of the current budget, expected to be in the region of £24.25k.
    Tony Evans was of the opinion that it would be good for OTC to control all maintenance but felt that the figure quoted would only “scratch the surface” of the actual cost. The expense of employing an extra person, purchasing the necessary equipment and depreciation thereof could easily exceed £50k, he thought. Debbie Brock was keen that OTC should not dismiss the idea without doing a full desktop estimate of how much it would cost. John Boardman asked if OTC had received any complaints about the existing level of service, which caused considerable amusement amongst members who have regularly listened to Tony Evans’ complaints about the state of the banks on Driftway.
    He quickly qualified the question with “from the public” and Peter Geary replied that there had been numerous complaints in the last year. Jeremy Rawlings was of the opinion that if MKC continued to provide the service the standard would get steadily worse as they continued to cut costs, but Peter Geary said that by outsourcing MKC would get better value and standards would improve. Ron Bull said that OTC should take on the work and it was a golden opportunity for them to employ a young person as an apprentice.
    Tony Evans suggested that the matter should be fully investigated with all the facts and figures, since OTC prides itself on the way it looks after its assets. It was agreed to invite Andy Hudson, Head of Environment and Waste at MKC to attend a future meeting to address the council.

    Play areas

    MKC has received a Section 106 financial contribution of £35,584.33 as planning gain from the residential development off Yardley road. This money has to be spent on improvements to public space and play areas in the town and expires in May 2017. In a letter to OTC they pointed out that some of the equipment at Dagnall Road and the recreation ground is nearing the end of its useable life and does not comply with current regulations. There are also issues with the structural fencing and equipment at the Cowper Tannery site. Tony Evans was concerned that MKC was suggesting using the money to replace equipment nearing the end of its life, since MKC were obliged to replace that, anyway. The money should be used for improvements, not maintenance he said. Peter Geary said that the money does not have to be spent just on play areas. It could be used on any open spaces, he said, and he also warned against spending it all in one go as there would not be any further Section 106 income for a long time. Tony Evans suggested getting input from the parents of children who use the play areas, as happened some years ago when some of the equipment on the recreation ground was replaced.

    Odds and sods

    A letter has been received from a young resident of Lavendon asking the council to provide a cycle path between Lavendon and Olney.

  • October 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for October 2013

    Public Participation

    Brian Rice
    Brian Rice, the only speaker in this slot, had come to discuss parking in and around Oakdown Crescent. He reported that the previous Friday evening, a large van had parked on a corner in the Crescent in such a way as to make it hard to drive cars, let alone emergency vehicles, round it. Noting that the Crescent was full of cars most evenings, he said that the parking issue needed to be addressed within the next 12 months.

    Colts changing rooms

    Olney Town Colts Football Club (FC) has raised sufficient funds to build changing rooms, and contacted Olney Town Council (OTC) to discuss where they would be best located. After discussion, the Recreations and Services Committee recommended they be placed in an extension to the left of the tractor shed, approximately symmetrical with the toilet blocks to its right. The Council approved this recommendation, with all in favour bar Ron Bull, who was against the location on principle, feeling that the Football Clubs should be located together.

    As background, Olney Town Colts FC has 23 teams covering the junior age range from U6 to U18, while Olney Town FC has various senior teams. The two clubs were due to meet on the same evening as this Council meeting.

    Traffic regulation order

    As reported in an earlier Mercury, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) has recently been considering various requests to restrict parking in parts of Olney. The proposals have been out for consultation and the results are now in. The double yellow lines on Spinney Hill Road opposite the School will, in fact, be retained. New double yellow lines will be painted on the North side of Spring Lane between the High Street and West Street, and at various West Street junctions between Dinglederry and Spring Lane.

    Community Asset Transfer

    Jeremy Rawlings reported that the Youth Centre had been added, to tranche seven of MKC’s Community Asset Transfer programme. He believed there were four or more parties interested in taking over the running of the Centre. Steve Clark noted that MKC still had the option to keep the Centre, being under no obligation to transfer it. Jeremy concluded the topic, by noting that two or more of the parties appeared to have ambitions to build on the field to the rear of the Centre, suspecting they were as yet unaware of the buried sewer pipe running East-West across the site to the pumping station behind, and the associated restriction that no building was allowed within four metres of its route.

    Citizens Advice Bureau

    As reported previously, the local Citizens Advice Outreach Service is supported financially by OTC, and had provided a report on its work between April 2012 and February 2013. It had seen 57 clients in that time, almost all from the Olney Ward, 34% aged 35-49, 26% aged 25-34 and 72% female. The biggest topics enquired about by its clients were benefits (43%) and debt (27%). It was noted that OTC had effectively paid approximately £100 per client, and that it would have been cheaper for it to pay for taxis to have those people seen in Milton Keynes, although that would not preserve their anonymity. John Boardman felt, and various Councillors agreed, that a representative from the Bureau should be invited to speak with the Council before the next anniversary of the funding, to allow Councillors to get a better picture of its operation.


    Liam Costello noted that the allotment track is due for resurfacing in the next month or so. A site meeting has been held with the contractor, and tenants of nearby properties will be informed.

    Jeremy Rawlings had attended the opening night of the new Youth Café in the redeveloped Church Hall. Around 30 children came along, and Jeremy was impressed with both the Café and the Hall’s fresh new look.
    A new Café, La Cantina, has opened in Rose Court. It’s made use of the ‘pop up’ measures introduced by Eric Pickles to promote regeneration, where various kinds of retail outlet, including restaurants, can open for up to two years before gaining the usual planning consent – for example, change of use. However, it did not give the required 21 days’ notice to MKC Planners, who have since visited the Café and asked it to provide the information retrospectively. Steve Clark, also a member of OTC’s Planning Committee, noted that this area of planning was currently something of a minefield, with those setting up new businesses under these measures not necessarily aware of what permissions and licences they need to apply for.

    Next Meeting - 4th November

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

  • November 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for November 2013

    Olney Colts FC changing rooms

    As reported last month, Olney Town Colts Football Club has raised sufficient funds to build changing rooms, so they are no longer reliant on the facilities of Olney Town FC. The Recreations and Services Committee of Olney Town Council (OTC) had recommended that it be built adjacent to the existing tractor shed and should reflect the style of the existing building. Following that meeting, the colts had engaged an architect to draw up some illustrative plans of the proposals, and he and Ian Stokes were present at the meeting to present these to the council. The building will contain two junior changing rooms, a kitchen, a changing room for match officials, showers and an over-flow changing room that could double as a function room. The entire building will be disabled friendly, said Ian. The plans met with general approval of the council and, having already agreed in principle to the proposals, agreed that The Colts could now proceed to the next stage of producing detailed plans and apply for planning permission. Deidre Bethune asked if the issue of the blocked sewer, which the building would connect to, had been resolved. For information the sewer, which serves all of the clubs and the public toilets on the recreation ground, runs along the boundary of the football pitch but diverts under the fence and private properties before joining with the main sewer in East Street. It is partially blocked by tree roots under the private properties and occasionally backs up and overflows during periods of exceptional use. Jeremy Rawlings explained that the blocked section was the responsibility of Anglian Water, who have admitted responsibility but prefers to reactively respond to blockages on each occasion and will only consider remedial work when it becomes financially advantageous to do so.

    Berrells Court resurfacing and drainage

    The extremely poor condition of Berrells Court, off East Street, has long been a cause of concern with huge areas of standing water often covering much of the surface. It has never been adopted by Milton Keynes Council (MKC), and according to the Land Registry it does not have an owner. Planning Permission for a new property was granted almost two years ago, and a condition of this Permission was that the road surface should be brought up to standard with tarmac and drainage before construction could start. When OTC last discussed the matter in December 201 2, the proposal was to bring the surface up to adoption standard and seek adoption. The council has since obtained quotes for a tarmac surface with five soakaways but the fact that the soakaways would be directly under the road does not meet the standard for adoption. Town Clerk Liam Costello has contacted the residents of Berrells Court with a view to getting them to contribute to the costs and all but one or two had agreed. Joe Stacey questioned whether the specification needed to be so high for a residential road that gets very little use, particularly now that adoption is not being proposed. Liam agreed to seek alternative quotes for a lower spec. Ben Brock and Deidre Bethune wondered if residents who contributed to the work would be able to claim ownership once it was done. (For a wonderful moment Mercury had a vision of them installing a toll booth and charging the recalcitrant few for access to their properties!) Jeremy Rawlings expressed his displeasure with the whole proposal, declaring it 'a farce'.

    Landscaping Services

    As previously reported, MKC has recently approved a procurement process to test the market in terms of both cost and service standards, as part of a 'value for money' review of the landscape services, that include grass cutting, shrub, hedge and tree maintenance and weed control. OTC has been asked whether it wishes MKC to retain responsibility for the services, which would be put out to tender, or take responsibility for the services themselves. A working party of Cllrs Evans, Geary, Boardman, Bull and Clark were appointed to look at the pros and cons of each option and have produced a detailed report which recommends that OTC take on the devolved service in house for an initial three year period, employing a part-time worker and leasing any additional equipment required. At the end of the three-year period, OTC can chose to hand the service back to MKC if it does not prove successful. The recommendation was put to a vote and passed unanimously.

    Neighbourhood Plan

    The Localism Act introduced a right for communities to draw up 'Neighbourhood Plans' that can become part of the formal planning framework for the area. Once adopted, these Neighbourhood Plans form part of the statutory Development Plan for the area and give the local community more say and control over development in the area. They cannot be used to counteract or override existing core strategies but are more to provide a local input to the implementation of those strategies. At a previous meeting, Joe Stacey had strongly urged OTC to produce such a plan and had agreed to be part of a working group to investigate the feasibility. Joe had consulted members of other communities that had produced plans, including Stony Stratford, Woburn Sands and Winslow, and noted that some had obtained significant funding and produced large documents, whereas others had produced smaller documents in house at little or no cost. The working party had recommended that OTC allocate a budget of £7,000 for a Steering Group, consisting of five Town Councillors and four selected representatives of the community, to produce a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish of Olney. A vote was taken to proceed with the recommendation, which was passed unanimously.
    A point of interest: The Working Party report refers to the MKC Core Strategy, which states that collectively Newport Pagnell, Olney and Woburn Sands are earmarked for an additional 1760 new homes over the next few years. These three settlements were chosen on the basis that they have the largest range of facilities and best public transport links in the rural area. All, bar Olney, have already embarked on producing Neighbourhood Plans, and based on historical growth patterns Olney would be expected to grow by approximately 250 properties in that time. As Olney has been identified as a key settlement, numerous landowners have put forward parcels of land to be considered for housing development. The suggested sites will now be examined in detail to see how sustainable they are, e.g. in terms of proximity of main services such as water, electricity and sewage and also how they would link in to the current highway network. One or more of the sites will then be included in the development plan as being suitable. To this end, most (if not all) of the landowners to the west of Aspreys have put forward plots of land to be considered, and the land thus far put forward is sufficient to build over 2000 dwelling, although this does not guarantee that they will be deemed acceptable and included in the development plan. The action of the landowners is not surprising bearing in mind the considerable increase in the value of green belt agricultural land that such designation would confer. Of course, any development at the Weston Road end of Aspreys would further accelerate the gradual sprawl of Olney towards Weston Underwood. Mercury is grateful to Steve Clark for clarification of the Milton Keynes Development Strategy.

    Kitchener Centre

    Earlier this year the council had discussed a possible extension to the Kitchen Centre, due to an increase in the need for day care for the elderly. Dr Brian Partridge and Centre Manager Helena Newbould, had attended to support the proposal, and explained that there were then two waiting lists in operation: The first for people wishing to join the service, and at the time there were nine on the list with another six in progress. The second list was for people who already used the centre but wanted additional sessions and that then stood at 12. Since then, the incumbent operator has lost the contract for running the centre and it has been bought in house by MKC. For some reason which was not made clear, there is no longer any waiting list and consequently no business justification for expansion. Debbie Brock, Cabinet Member of MKC with Portfolio responsibility for Adult, Older Years and Health, said that opportunities for additional services that do not involve expansion of the building were being explored.

    Parish Wardens

    Parish Wardens are employed by MKC and spend on average half a day per week in their allocated parish, performing duties such as enforcing dog fouling fines, supporting the police and PCSOs etc. Earlier this year MKC had informed OTC that it was proposing to 'delete' the six remaining warden posts, only four of which were then occupied, unless the parishes provided funding for them to continue. At the time, OTC requested a breakdown of what the wardens had contributed to Olney over the past few months, before deciding what to do. 23 other parishes had done likewise, and only three had expressed an interest in purchasing the services of the wardens so MKC has decided to end the service from 31 st March 2014.

    Odds and sods

    Tony Evans reported that a vacancy has arisen at the Ann Hopkins Smith Almshouses and applications are invited from ladies of the parish who are over 60 of age in need of accommodation.
    Deidre Bethune reported that the organisers of the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) would like to extend the event to cover the whole weekend of 6th & 7th of September next year. They currently have no clear plans for the Sunday but suggested it could encompass the Farmers' Market and other events. Steve Clark suggested a meeting between reps from BOFF, the Farmers' Market and OTC Rees and Services committee.
    Debbie Brock passed on her thanks to The Olney Group (TOG) for another highly successful fireworks display.

    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 2013

    Mercury report for the Olney Town Council meeting for December 2013

    Public Participation

    Paul Collins, Chair of Trustees at the Cowper and Newton Museum, was the only member of the public to speak in this slot. After a recent unintended schedule clash between two musical events in the town, he urged the Council to consider implementing a central calendar for town events which local organisations would be free to use, thus reducing the possibility of such schedule related surprises in future.

    Olney Dementia Project

    The Council listened to a presentation from Joy Oehlman on the Olney Dementia Project, organised by the Friends of Cobbs Garden Surgery and made possible through generous donations from local businesses. It's in response to David Cameron's Dementia Challenge, and Joy is employed on a fixed term one year contract. Olney has a higher than average proportion of older people and, nationally, increases in dementia detection rates (currently 44%) are expected to significantly boost the proportion diagnosed with dementia.
    Two thirds of those diagnosed with dementia live in the community , with many of them feeling let down and misunderstood by those around them. The Project aims to increase awareness and understanding of dementia, trying to address issues such as shopping - dementia sufferers tend to feel more comfortable shopping locally - and signage. While not the first initiative in the UK, that honour falling to York, it is the first in Milton Keynes borough.

    Big Olney Food Festival 2014

    Following on from last month, the Big Olney Food Festival (BOFF) has now formally asked the Council if it can extend its September 2014 event to two days. Sunday, the second day, would see the Farmers' Market stalls housed under BOFF's covered area, encouraged to serve hot food and to stay at the venue late into the afternoon. The Council agreed to this request.

    Proposed Road Changes

    Although only mentioned briefly in this meeting, two proposed road changes have entered their consultation period -the High Street junctions with Yardley and Weston Roads. If you visited the Council's stall at Dickens of a Christmas, you'd have seen their details on display.

    Hearing Loop System

    As reported previously, the Council has been trying to install an improved hearing loop system in the Olney Centre. This has been progressing very slowly, with an external company having agreed to install a trial system but not yet having done so. In order to guarantee some progress, Councillors voted that, if the trial system was not ready by the January full Council meeting, Jeremy Rawlings would investigate the purchase of one or two boundary microphones and equipment to connect them to the existing hearing loop, thus hopefully providing a useful fixed system for the Council Chamber.

    East Street Parking

    Parking near the Sports fields at certain times during weekends continues to be a hot issue. Various possible solutions were discussed, and those which seemed most relevant are noted here. Firstly, the Rugby Club has offered an area in the West end of Doffs Field which could be used at weekends for sports related parking. Secondly, Tony Evans suggested the compulsory purchase of the vacant land North of and adjacent to the existing East Street car park, and currently classified as being for housing use. Peter Geary felt that the parking problem was a neighbourhood planning issue, that there was a logical process to pass through and that, since it was a problem for only around four hours per week, there may be easier solutions such as traffic management. He also noted that, with its housing classification, this vacant parcel of land was extremely valuable and, to purchase it, the Council would likely need to request that another piece of land be classified as being for housing use. If this was done, then the money from the sale could be used to fund the purchase of the land adjacent to the car park. Tony Evans felt that having decided to reclassify this land as being for housing use, thus significantly inflating its value, Milton Keynes Council (MKC) should fund the land purchase. The only thing which seemed certain at the end of the discussion, was that this issue will run and run.

    Traffic Management Training

    Since the Police are generally no longer providing assistance with closing roads for local events, two three-hour training courses are being run in December, which will qualify those who complete them to be able to close roads with speed limits of 30MPH and below. They'll be attended by representatives from various local groups, and from the Council.

    Rugby News

    Duncan Taylor, previously a junior player at Olney Rugby Club, graduated to playing with Bedford Blues, now plays for Saracens and has six caps for Scotland. Councillors congratulated this major achievement.

    Next Meeting - 6th January 2014

    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.

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