Quote of the week

Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself'

George Bernard Shaw
If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/wish.html

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The decline of the Annual Parish Meeting

The round of annual parish meetings has started and I have been going along to deliver my ‘annual reports’.

I have not been to too many so far, but I have been struck by the declining popularity of these events in some villages.  I will not name names, but some meetings that used to attract a good number of interested residents have shrunk to a few brave souls still keen to tell a few others about the activities of their group or association.  Even the provision of delicious refreshments has failed, in some cases, to attract many attendees.

I find this rather surprising, and disappointing, given the increased emphasis on localism and the need to build the ‘community capital’ that councils are hoping to build on in times of financial austerity. 
But is it really a sign that there is less ‘community spirit’ about, or are people just less inclined to turn out in the evening to sit in the village hall?  I do not detect any overall falling away of societies and organisations.  Indeed, I understand that the WI, following a long period of decline, is now picking up strongly once again.  The success of Little Waldingfield’s quite recently formed History Society does not need repetition here.  Book groups and other special interest groups remain popular, and the ongoing mapping exercise of community activity, currently being undertaken by the County Council is throwing up plenty of local activity.

Moreover, the decline of the annual meeting is not seen everywhere.  The turnout in my own parish, Acton, was not too bad, although the event was enlivened by the appearance of the County Council's Richard Webster, who came to explain about the intelligent lighting system that the council can now provide. The meeting also however managed to get sucked into a protracted wrangle about power lines, trees and an obstructed footpath for which no one wanted to take responsibility.  As the clock ticked past 9 p.m. I was reminded, perhaps, of why people might prefer to stay at home and watch Masterchef!

Nonetheless annual parish meetings generally include much of local interest, and they offer an opportunity to meet neighbours that you do not know.  What is more (although this might not be much of an attraction) there is generally a chance to question and challenge your local councillors at every level.


  1. Dear Jenny,

    I follow your blog even though I have now moved out of your area, and must admit to 'pinching' several of your comments and links where they are related to all of Suffolk, and posting them on BrandonSuffolk.com Forum.

    I am afraid that if my experience is anything to go by in Brandon, the population no longer trust even the parish or town councils let alone district and national electorate. It is sad that the idea of localism from the national government has failed to materialise in North West Suffolk and the population of Brandon feel they get over-ridden by 'the rich and powerful' who seem to have the ear of district, county and nationally elected leaders.

    Trusting you are keeping well,

    Best regards,

    Hugh Lodge
    Was 42 Bantocks Road.

  2. Jenny,

    As a fairly recent new resident of Acton and Suffolk, and an occasional reader of your blog, I would welcome the opportunity to attend the local parish meetings.

    After searching online I came across the Acton Parish Council website http://acton.onesuffolk.net/ which I thought would inform me of the future dates and venues of meetings but alas this site appears to be out of date and no longer active - which is naturally a little disappointing considering someone made the effort to build the site and publish updates in the first instance.

    I am in favour of belonging to and being part of a local community having lived in a densely populated area for over 25 years where there was little sense or feeling of local 'community'.

    I would suggest that to help aid and develop the local community maintaining the 'online' community via the website (and possibly social media) is a small step

    Today, many young people, my teenage children included, 'live' almost exclusively 'online' and for any community projects to develop and thrive in the future an online presence is almost essential.

    1. I have contacted the Clerk of Acton and the website has now been updated. Many thanks for pointing this out!