'Speaking up for Parish Councils - Mendip Matters - 16th February

It would have been hard for you to miss the recording from Handforth Parish Council’s zoom meeting that went viral a week or so ago. I was sent the link many times, and there has been widespread coverage of the somewhat chaotic meeting across the national daily newspapers and social media.

I see Andrew Lloyd Webber has even composed a spoof musical song (the newspaper headline read: “Don’t cry for me Jackie Weaver”!) about Handforth Parish Council’s clerk because, he said, the council meeting was “sort of operatic.”

As much as we all found the meeting to be funny (in a toe-curling way!), I think it says a lot about people’s general mood at the moment, nearly 12 months into the global pandemic and how fractious people can be towards one another.

What I wanted to do in this week’s column is to speak up for the parish councils we have across Mendip and the great work they do.  Thankfully I don’t think any of the parish council meetings in Mendip are as “operatic” (to use Lloyd Webber’s descriptor!) as the meeting in Handforth.

I have been on my local Parish Council since 1999, which seems like a very long time indeed. But it’s a role I have greatly enjoyed as I care deeply about the village I live in and surrounding areas.

When we use the word ‘Parish’ this refers to the most local band of government, which includes parish, town and city councils. In addition to the Parish meetings, we have 60 parish councils, and much variation when it comes size, ranging from some very small villages of 200 homes or so, to the much larger Town and City Councils of Frome and Wells. All of the councillors give up their time for free.

The work they do is extremely varied – for example, they look after play areas, allotments, cemeteries, pathways and raise money for heart defibrillators. They are official consultees in planning applications and many are increasing efforts to support tree planting initiatives, to protect our wildlife and countryside. They organise litter picks, as well as launching initiatives to protect our dark skies.

There are fun things too – with parish councils organising village fetes and family events in non-covid times.

Speaking of the pandemic, parishes have really helped support the most vulnerable in our communities and have had a big role to play in sharing information about where people could find much needed support.

At Mendip, we hold Parish Forums to support our parishes and share key learnings with them. We recognise and value Mendip’s parish councils and applaud and all the councillors and clerks involved in supporting the people of Mendip.

Looking forward to hearing from you if you have any questions. I can be contacted either through my Facebook page, @Ros.Wyke, or via email: [email protected].

Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council

Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].

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