Wootton Parish Council Village Memorial Hall – Project Support

11 Jan 2024

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Phil Woodward, Local Council Consultancy (LCC) Associate, explains how LCC helped Wootton Parish Council in Bedfordshire gain clarity on its responsibilities for its old village memorial hall.

All town, parish and community clerks will know the story – the council has asked me to look at options and implications of doing… whatever it might be…procurement of new pavilions, extra playing pitches, looking into whether you can you apply for grants, relocating the skate park and developing a new play area. There are also discussions around leasing the village hall to a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), selling the council offices, moving somewhere cheaper, and installing new toilets in the old market square.

And you may be thinking – I only work 20 hours a week. I have so many other things to juggle, including sorting a stack of invoices, assisting with two burials this week, fixing the village hall lighting, which is on the blink again, doing the VAT return, and arranging the next council meeting which is in just two weeks… how am I supposed to find time to even think about the implications of putting a new toilet block in the market square.

That’s where LCC can help, with its bank of experienced local government consultants able to provide bespoke project support for those occasional issues that might only crop up once every five to ten years.

Wootton Parish Council is a good example.

The parish council had become concerned about its responsibilities for the condition of, and the letting arrangements for, the old village memorial hall. It wasn’t even sure it had proper ownership of it, although it was being expected to invest thousands in its upkeep.

The clerk’s time was fully occupied on the council’s routine business, and she didn’t have the time to investigate the full ownership background of the hall or the land it stood on. Neither did she have the time to check out the validity of the arrangements with the voluntary group that had run the hall since the 1960s.

A quick chat with Angela Meek, LCC Support officer, identified an outline of the kind of support Wootton Parish Council needed to give them the reassurance the council was looking for, before it invested more time and money into keeping the hall going.

This was quickly followed up by an LCC regionally-based consultant over the phone with the council’s clerk to scope-up exactly the nature and extent of support she needed and the product the council was looking for.

Before the project got underway a written project plan was agreed by all parties detailing the scope of the work involved, a time frame for completing it, the staged and overall costs involved, and the required output. Not until all this had been agreed and signed-off (either by resolution of the council or by delegation to the clerk) was the go-ahead given for the project.
The Wootton project was completed in four days after careful searching of the parish council’s own records and those held at the Bedfordshire Records office. The result is the parish council now has a clear picture of options for the future of the memorial hall – together with an evidence-base to give it reassurance on what its liabilities and responsibilities are.