Parish Council Review of 2013-14: Another busy year has passed and we continue to modernise and improve our working practices. Like many organisations, the last few years have been challenging, especially financially, but through careful and prudent management we have managed to keep within our budgets and have reduced our overheads without having to raise the precept. However, in last year’s report I indicated that in order to fulfil our obligations, it was likely this would have to rise. Thus it was at our December Full Council meeting, we passed a motion to raise the precept by 7.4% to £97,500. While the percentage sounds a lot the reality is just £2.64 per annum for a Band D household but it does mean we can move forward with some additional projects outlined below.

South Street Toilets: We are on the verge of finally signing a lease with Wealden District Council (WDC) for South Street Toilets. There had been some delay with this due to the extreme weather we had in December which left the toilets without a roof and in need of refurbishment. Happily for us this happened before we took control meaning WDC has had to bear the cost. I’m pleased to say this work is now complete and the toilets are now open again. There are very few public conveniences left in Wealden but we hope by taking on this responsibility we will be providing the village with a vital amenity for both residents and visitors alike.

Parking: Parking in Mayfield continues to be one of the most complained about issues and the Parish Council along with the police have been trying to enforce the 2 hour parking limit on the high street to alleviate congestion and to encourage more shoppers. This is still proving to be a challenge with some flouting the rules and leaving cars parked all day. We will continue to encourage enforcement of the parking regulations but we have identified an area around the Memorial Hall which might help to alleviate some of the congestion. We have devised a plan to utilise a little used area around the hall to create a further 23 car spaces. It is not intended for the surface to be permanent, but have a gravel finish in case any plans for the redevelopment of the hall are forthcoming.

Street lights: Apart from our funding of South Street toilets and the provision of extra car parking around the Memorial Hall we have devised a long term plan to switch all our street lights to LEDs and to partial night time lighting. At the moment it costs somewhere in the region of £250 to change to LED and with 102 street lights to look after you can see it’s not going to be cheap. However, with technology improving rapidly and the unit cost beginning to reduce we are confident that over the long term we will see significant savings.

Post Office: This has, understandably, been of great concern over the last few months. The closure just before Christmas of the existing premises was most unfortunate and the residual impact on other businesses has not been insignificant. Initially the PC tried to persuade the Post Office to open an interim facility or at least provide some sort of counter service but it soon became clear that the business model under which the Post Office now operates is purely a commercial one.

With Mace being the front-runner to have a counter service, negotiations continue but the consultation process back in April did throw up a few issues which are being addressed [*].

WEBSITE (www.mayfieldfiveashes.org.uk): We hope our communication to residents of both Mayfield and Five Ashes has improved over the year. Apart from using the excellent Mayfield and Five Ashes Newsletter for our monthly round up, the Parish Website has become an important tool for disseminating information. All minutes and agendas are published for viewing and to download. Much of the PC documentation is also freely available along with regular news updates and the ability to facilitate questionnaires and consultations as with the Post Office recently. More information is being added all the time with links to other useful sites so I hope more of you will use this valuable resource.

Want to be a Parish Councillor? All Councillors, apart from the Clerk, give their time freely and voluntarily and with a General Election next year it also means that all present serving councillors will have to decide if they wish to stand for re-election. If you are interested, it is a job that at times can be frustrating but at others, enormously rewarding by working on behalf of your community. If you are considering serving on the Parish Council it is my intention to hold an informal evening later in the year where you will be able to chat to existing councillors and find out more of what the job entails. In the meantime, you can of course contact the Clerk who will be able to offer you further details.

Wealden Neighbourhood Policing Team: There have been a number of reported scam attempts in the Crowborough area recently.

One particular scam involves somebody phoning up a resident pretending to be from a Police Force in the UK. They tell the resident that they have counterfeit money in their bank or there has been fraudulent activity on their account. They ask them to withdraw a large amount of money and arrange for a taxi/courier to attend and collect it.

Please can we ask that you make friends, family and neighbours aware of this scam, especially elderly residents who seem to be targeted and more vulnerable to this criminal activity.

Another scam is people purporting to be window cleaners and or duster sellers. We have intelligence to suggest that there is a link between some of these callers and subsequent burglaries in Wealden and Lewes areas.

Please report any suspicious activity of this nature directly to Sussex police by calling 101.

. . . and finally: Last week at the Parish Council Statutory Annual Meeting, I was honoured to be re-elected as Chairman for another year and would like to take this opportunity of thanking my fellow councillors for their continued support. I would though, like to offer special thanks to our Clerk, Janna Todd who has been so diligent in her work, often working above and beyond her statutory hours to deal with issues and problems as they occur and in such a professional manner.

Jerry Watkiss, Chairman Mayfield and Five Ashes Parish Council