As I sit down to write this report, I reflect back on the work which your parish council and others have carried out in the parish during the past year and I look to share some of it with you here.

By the time you are reading this report the Clifford Neighbourhood Plan should have been adopted by Leeds City Council Executive Board. Once the Executive Board Make the Plan it will be a statutory document which developers, planners and Leeds City Council will have to take note of when looking at future developments in the parish. This plan has taken five years to complete with many residents of the village helping to shape it. Once again my personal thanks go to Councillor Tony Blackmore who has chaired the Neighbourhood Planning Group along with the many other members of the various committees. I on behalf of the parish thank you for whatever role you have undertaken.

I reported last year that the former cricket ground had been gifted to the parish council and has been renamed Clifford Community Sports Ground in the hope of attracting a wider range of sports to the site. The main users so far are the Clifford Junior Football Club with over 100 children, both boys and girls enjoying regular sporting exercise there. My thanks go to the junior football club, their parents and supporters for all the improvement work they have carried out to the site with a further number of windows and doors being replaced as a donation from one parent, the clubhouse cleaned and repainted and generally smartened up and a large area of hard standing for parking has which has been created. Funds for the hard standing were raised by the club itself along with funds which the cricket club trustees so kindly gave to the parish council when they gifted the site. This is a prime example of what can be achieved by a group of people for the benefit of so many in the parish. Councillor Pete O’Brien, as Chairman of the Junior Football Club and I meet with Leeds City Council Wetherby ward member, Councillor Alan Lamb to discuss what funding opportunities may be available to further develop the facilities. The major stumbling block is that the site does not have mains electricity, with power on the site provided by a diesel generator. Over the years ways of providing mains electricity to the site have been explored but initial cost have indicated it would be in the region of £30,000. If any resident has knowledge or experience of how mains power could be installed and ways of funding it please do get in touch.

Clifford Allotment Holders Association undertakes the running of the parish councils allotments. In addition to the paper work involved with running the site several of the members have undertaken maintenance and improvements to the site for the benefit of all the tenants. This has been supplemented with work undertaken by a private contractor with the majority of funding coming from allotment rents. I thank the group for all their hard work, it is much appreciated and a visible transformation to the site. If you would be interested in renting an allotment please do get in touch as allotments do become available on a frequent basis.  

Dog fouling is a perpetual issue within the parish. The majority of dog owners are responsible owners who do clear up after their dog and we thank those people, but there remains’ a few owners who continue to flout the rules by not clearing up. Your parish council continue to work with the dog wardens and enforcement team of Leeds City Council in tackling this antisocial behaviour. I am pleased to report that one irresponsible owner has during the course of the year been issued with a fixed penalty notice for failing to clear up after their dog. Let this be a warning to others that Leeds City Council officers are prepared to take legal action when the evidence is reported.

June 23rd 2016 was a pivotal day in our country’s history with the referendum vote on membership of the EU. With the outcome of the vote to leave the EU, your parish council has been forewarned by Leeds City Council electoral services department of a possible effect on your parish council expenditure in 2019. Leeds City Council is holding all out elections in 2018, where all the members of the council will be up for election instead of the usual third of seats, this is due to ward boundary changes. This will mean that there will be no city council elections in 2019 and it is expected that Britain will have left the EU by spring of 2019 and so there will be no European elections so the only possible elections that year could be parish councils. When more than one election is held on the same day the cost is then split equally between all the elections but when only one election takes place the full cost is chargeable to that one election. If an election poll is called in Clifford in 2019, the full cost of that election will be charged to the parish council and your parish council has been advised that this cost would be around £5000. With this in mind your parish council agreed to increase the precept for 2017-18 by £1000 to £23,000 to build up a reserve to cover this cost. If an election is not held, those funds will be used to fund the work which your parish council undertake in the parish. Some may be horrified by the sum involved but please do remember how fortunate we are to live in a democratic society where we are free to vote how we wish, democracy costs but we should not be put off by that and if residents wish to consider standing for the parish council in 2019 do please base it on what you can offer your parish not how much it will cost to hold an election.

Your parish council prides itself on how openly it conducts its business. Regular reports are published in Outlook, my annual report and the audited accounts are published each year in this publication which is hand delivered to all households in the parish by your parish councillors. The parish council web site is updated regularly with minutes of its meetings, reports and procedural documents and we are also fortunate to employ a clerk who has undertaken training and holds the recognised qualification for a local authority clerk. Residents of the parish are welcome to attend the council meetings and speak. With this in mind your parish council applied for the Foundation award of the Local Council Award Scheme. This is a scheme where a council submits evidence to an outside body to show that it is undertaking its business in a legal and professional manner and that outside body examines the evidence to establish if the council is run in a sound and fit manner meeting the requirements placed upon it by law. I, along with your parish council, was delighted that the independent inspector agreed that your parish council was operating in such a fit manner and your parish council was award the Foundation stage of the scheme in December 2016. Rest assured I will not allow your parish council to sit on its laurels after achieving this award, one of only a small number throughout the country which has, your parish council looks to achieve the next award in the scheme and give you the confidence that your elected representatives are competent in undertaking the roles which they put themselves forward for and that you elected them to do.

Thursday 21st April 2016 marked Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, 90th birthday and your parish council were pleased to mark the occasion by taking part in the lighting of the village beacon as part of the national chain of beacon lighting. Preparations were well in hand until around 4.00pm in the afternoon when, while filling the beacon with fire wood, the beacon decided to take a bow and fall to the ground! With approximately three hours to lighting reinforcements were called for in the shape of Councillor Andy Shaw and my two sons, George and James, and between us the beacon was re -erected in time for the lighting. We were graced with the presence of the Deputy Lieutenant for West Yorkshire, Mr John Richardson DL, who read a personal message of appreciation from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and ITV Calendar presenter Christine Talbot undertook the honour of lighting the beacon. The large crowd sang a rousing rendition of the National anthem followed by Happy Birthday on what was a very enjoyable evening. To make future beacon lighting celebration more accessible to residents of the parish the beacon is to be moved from its current site to Northways field.

Your parish council continues to organise the annual erection of the village Christmas tree and my thanks go to the people who offer to help with the task of putting the tree up and taking it down each year and also the local residents who provided coffee and biscuits on what is often a cold day. The carol singing around the tree always attracts a good turn out with a collection for a local charity which is either based in Clifford or works within the parish. If any resident knows of such a charity which they would like the parish council to consider for this year’s collection please do speak with either the clerk or a member of the council. The Remembrance Day service always gathers an ever-increasing turnout with its collection again last year being donated to Help for Heroes. July 2016 also marked the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme and a small service was held at the war memorial attended by Deputy Lieutenant for West Yorkshire Mr Nick Lane-Fox of Bramham Park, who laid a wreath of behalf of the Lieutenant along with one laid by myself on behalf of the parish. It was noted that the wreath I laid contained blue cornflowers which the French use in the same manner as our red poppies. Plans are already underway to mark the end of World War One in 2018 when Remembrance Day will fall on Sunday 11th November. A service of remembrance will be held at the war memorial and the village beacon will once again be lit as part of the nation celebration marking the centenary of the ending of World War One.

In May in recognition of my work for the Yorkshire Local Council Association, I was honoured to be invited by Her Majesty, to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. I was accompanied by my wife, and despite the rain showers we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon tea and stroll around the palace grounds bumping into people from Bramham, Boston Spa and Harrogate along with our Member of Parliament Alec Shelbrooke. We were fortunate the following day to have a personal tour of the Houses of Parliament, arranged by Alec, and then to see him in the chamber for Prime Minister’s Question Time.

As you can gather from my report and the updates in Outlook, your parish councillors undertake a tremendous amount of work throughout the year, not only attending the monthly meeting of the council but planning meetings, allotment meetings, neighbourhood plan meetings, charity meetings, LCC executive board meetings, area and regional meetings, training events, meetings with contractors and also undertake many practical jobs around the parish. This is all done on a voluntary basis and I am sure much of it goes unnoticed but it makes your parish, and parish council run so smoothly and I sincerely thank all my fellow councillors for the work they all do, I appreciate you and the work you do. The clerk to your parish council is the only employee of the council and also acts as the responsible finance officer for the council. I thank him for the enormous amount of work which he undertakes which goes far beyond his job role. It is his enthusiasm for spreadsheets, formulating our procedural documents and undertaking the homework which makes the running of your parish council so smooth. I thank Peter for all the work he undertakes for us as councillors and for you all as residents of this parish.

Once again I would like to end my annual report by thanking all the residents of the parish who are involved in any aspect of the community. Your parish council is only one part of the community we live in and share, far more residents are involved in so many other aspects of this parish than your council and I wish to thank you all for whatever you do, you all make Clifford what it is.  

Thank you all for your continued support.

Councillor Nicholas P. P. Fawcett – Chairman of Clifford Parish Council