Parish Council

Upper Marshwood Vale Parish Council – an introduction

Your council has twelve councillors each serving a four-year term, each representing one of the four parishes of Bettiscombe, Stoke Abbott, Pilsdon and Marshwood. At present this ‘grouped council’ meets about 7 times a year mostly at Bettiscombe Village Hall under the chairmanship of Matthew Bowditch, with John Vanderwolfe as clerk to the council. Other meeting places are the Stoke Abbott Church Hall and the Skittle Alley at Shave Cross.

As a result of the clerk’s qualifications and the councillor’s efforts UMVPC has earned the status of Quality Council, a rare honour for such a small council. Meetings are on the third Thursday of a month, start at 7.30 pm and last from under the hour up to over three hours.

Along with a number of general responsibilities, the council co-ordinates the activities of our lengthsman as Steve Lee and his team look after our vale to give access, keep tidy and look after drains throughout the four parishes. His success in this can be seen in the vast reduction in flooding in our Vale.

Four times a year, our parish magazine, Beneath the Vale is produced by local resident Sara Hudston and her editorial team and is posted out to all villagers to keep them accurately informed. This team ensures that the magazines editorial viewpoint is independent of the council and represents the community. A recent development is the addition of Facebook pages to keep the news and comments up to date.

Every council meeting follows a standard agenda with the Democratic Period as a highlight. This is the section of the meeting when anyone can have their say on a relevant subject. Past Periods have included a (successful) attempt to stop the council meeting dead as it was claimed one of the notice boards did not have the active agenda displayed – the meeting was re-held. Other Periods included visitors from another parish’s action group who felt insulted.

But this Period is more usually an excellent way of getting the council’s attention for a problem missed by councillors or for those with a planning issue to be heard. As a Parish Council can only express an opinion on plans before them, the final decision is made at a public planning meeting of a committee of a more senior council. If a councillor is involved he will ‘declare an interest’ and withdraw from the room for the discussion.

So all members of the public are welcome to listen to the local news of events from reports, take note of the finances, hear the debates – and take part in the unofficial chat after the council meeting finishes!

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