LETTER: Best interests of village at heart

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I would like to comment on contributions in the West Sussex County Times in the past month or so questioning value for money from Billingshurst Parish Council. I must stress that I comment personally and not on behalf of Billingshurst Parish Council (BPC).

Whether parish councils provide value for money will largely depend how people define value for money. Personally, I have always felt that parish councils should be pro-active in supporting other local organisations and increasing and improving facilities for their parishioners.

They should of course spend money wisely, plan ahead and be able to demonstrate where precept payers’ money is spent.

Personally, I feel that in difficult times, BPC has achieved a good balance and offered good value for money. Given that at the time of writing there are around 6,400 voters in the parish of Billingshurst and how few parishioners have complained about BPC’s spending, I can only conclude that a vast majority of Billingshurst parishioners agree.

BPC could do less, it could spend less; however, I would question if it would be giving local people value for money by doing so.

In the past four years BPC has amongst other things updated play and leisure equipment at Lower Station Road and Cherry Tree Close and also made improvements to the Jubilee Fields skate park; it has also supported the work undertaken by the Friends of Station Road Gardens.

BPC has supported the Tennis Club in its efforts to provide a new club house and tennis court and has supported the Sports Association in the excellent work it does at Jubilee Fields; it also supported Billingshurst Football Club in their endeavours to improve facilities to help them progress to higher levels. BPC gives a grant to the popular Senior Citizens’ Lunch Club and has increased the maintenance of Jubilee Fields and Par Brook.

BPC helps fund a Youth Worker who has done excellent work with youngsters in our parish in recent years. BPC has supported the Allotments Society in providing allotments at Manor Fields.

BPC has worked with HDC on a Supplementary Planning Document relating to the centre of Billingshurst and Jengers Mead and has also produced a Community Plan with the Community Partnership and Chamber of Commerce.

BPC is the Trustee of the Billingshurst Community and Conference Centre. In the past four years it has turned the centre around from a potentially loss making facility that was facing the prospect of the council having to financially prop it up, to a facility which is now healthily in the black and where long awaited improvements can take place.

Let us not also forget that in the past four years BPC has stood shoulder to shoulder with many members of the community in objecting to large-scale development in the parish.

In the past four years, the council has secured over £160,000 in external funding to help fund some of the things it has been involved in, in order to improve facilities for its parishioners; there is also more money waiting to be drawn down.

When considering a precept rise of less than £1 this year on an average band D property and whether BPC has provided value for money, maybe the aforementioned things should be taken into account. Maybe the increasing cuts in the Council Tax Benefit that BPC receives should also be noted.

As BPC enters a new four year term I would ask residents of Billingshurst to come to some of its meetings and visit its website to see first-hand the work the council does and how it operates and form their own conclusions.

There is a dedicated group of volunteers on BPC who despite what some may feel and say really do have the best interests of Billingshurst at heart.

BPC enters its new term as it ended the previous, with some vacancies.

This is not particularly uncommon with a council which has 15 places; in fact, I understand that there are 32 parish councils in the Horsham District and only four have had contested elections this May.

If anyone would be interested in filling one of the spaces on BPC, I urge them to contact the parish clerk on 01403 782555 to find out more.

PAUL BERRY

Nightingale Walk, Billingshurst

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