As we all look forward to some much-needed rest and rejuvenation over the summer, it seemed like a good time to reflect on the productive months passed since we welcomed 2022.
Ashington Town Council has had a busy seven months, with lots to celebrate and even more to look forward to. What we as a Council describe as projects, actions, and initiatives, happen in addition to the normal work of the Council.
The normal work of the Council includes managing contracts for work delivered by Northumberland County Council and other partners and responsibility for just under 850 allotments, managed directly and alongside seven allotment associations. Also, entirely maintaining bus shelters, seats, litter bins and play areas, and the impressive Memorial Garden and Miners Memorial Wheel. Both are well worth a visit, and we will always share when they have been spruced up!
Speaking of being ‘spruced up,’ Alexandra Road Play Area will be re-opened in August following a full refurbishment. Young people from the nearby Children’s Centre worked with Ward Cllrs and Officers to bring a fresh, new scheme for this popular spot in the Hirst Ward. The play area is expected to be closed for a couple of weeks at the end of August whilst the work takes place.
We have bought 24 bins this year, half of which have been installed to replace older, smaller bins, which we will continue to do throughout the year. We have refurbed several bus shelters and have plans to replace three shelters this year and a further programme of replacement over the next five years.
The Council is pleased to now have two Neighbourhood Services Officers, who in addition to looking after these physical areas and assets, also maintain the summer floral displays – quite a task in recent conditions. See our recent news story.
The Ashington Gardens Competition has just been judged, and winners will be announced in September.
In January 2022, I chaired the meeting that agreed the council budget and resulting precept for the taxpayers of Ashington, with no increase. Having been re-elected Business Chair in May 2022, I remain proud of the achievements of the Council and feel enthusiastic about what is to come.
From a Governance perspective the Council has increased its workforce and developed new roles for staff, reviewed and updated all policies, expanded the new and improved website, moved to full online banking, and advanced decision-making and delegation. Ashington Town Council is the first tier of Local Government and as Business Chair I welcome the standards of professionalism set by officers and member colleagues.
Thanks to a committed Climate Change Team, we have planted more than 30 trees so far this year and will plant more. We are also really excited about the potential for sustainable planting in and around the town. Station Road and the town’s Gateways are only weeks away from new sustainable planting, and the school’s involvement in this initiative has really helped us convey a positive message to the town.
We didn’t hold the usual Fair Day, but we supported the community in their celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and were the main sponsor of the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic.
Ashington Town Council has always considered itself a generous council when it comes to local organisations and community groups. In 2022/23 we have pledged over £64k in annual grants. Our modified Grant Aid policy, agreed by the Council in January, opened the fund to more organisations, and we continue to offer smaller grants throughout the year. Funding availability and goods news stories of spending are shared on the Council website and Facebook page, follow us to keep updated.
As September brings sustainable planting, October will unveil the magnificent Jack Charlton Statue and Ashington’s Footballing Heritage tribute in Hirst Park. Plans are being developed as we speak for an event to mark the occasion, and a legacy event each year. The team working behind the scenes are tremendously committed to this project and its potential to inspire future generations.
In June, the Council supported the Ashington Branch of the Royal British Legion and Churches Together to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Falklands War and Armed Forces Day. We continue to work closely with both and join them in their wish to make sure Remembrance 2022 includes a parade, alongside the Remembrance Service.
The quiet reflection of Remembrance is followed by the joy and excitement of Christmas, and this year Ashington is going to sparkle like never before. Following a procurement exercise the Council agreed a new Christmas Lights supplier who will deliver brand new displays for the town centre. Plans for the switch-on event have just started and will be shared nearer the time.
All that is left is to wish you a safe summer, but also to mention that Ashington Town Council is working with Ashington County Councillors, of which I am one, to equip Ashington with many more life-saving defibrillators. As with most safety devices, you hope never to need one, but we will work to place as many as possible throughout the town, seeking the support of businesses and community groups to look after them.
Have a wonderful summer. Our first meeting back after summer is the Finance and General Services Committee on 13th September, followed by the Full Council meeting on 27th September.
Cllr Mark Purvis
Business Chair of Ashington Town Council
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