This week we would like to celebrate the work of Bembridge Parish Council, a small council serving a large village on the Isle of Wight.
Bembridge has a population of 3,682, a precept of £126,000 and employs a small team of six staff, including a new apprentice who joined last year. NALC would like to commend the council for its tenacity and impressive management and use of its budget and assets, as well as for its excellent community events and services.
Bembridge won Hampshire and Isle of Wight Village of the Year in 2014 and it is easy to see why. Aside from its natural beauty, the village is rich in community spirit, thanks to a full calendar of events established by the Village Partnership – resurrected by the council in 2011. From its annual Fireworks and Christmas events, to a Dragons Den grant giving day, Bembridge in Bloom, community litter picks and beach cleans – Bembridge is one busy and friendly village.
The council also run a number of one-off events, such as a Bembridge Tidy Up, the recent planting day for the WWI Centenary Remembrance Orchard and the launch of the Neighbourhood Plan, which went to referendum on 24 July 2014 and secured a 92% yes vote with a 39% turnout.
Isle of Wight Council needs to save significant funds – to the tune of £28m - over the next three years and is reconsidering the provision of all discretionary services. As a result, Bembridge Parish Council will be taking over a number of assets and services. These include the public toilets, maintenance of several local open amenity spaces and the work of Environment Officers – such as monitoring dog fouling, littering and graffiti.
All of this means more pressure on the parish council to deliver more, for less. And discussions over other services continue.
As Emma Goldring, Clerk of Bembridge Parish Council explains: “Money is tight not just for the Isle of Wight Council but for all of us. Therefore we are having to think and operate more like a business and attract as much income as we can to boast our budget and keep our precept increases low.”
Grant funding is also big business for Bembridge Parish Council. They recently secured an impressive £49,979 from the Peoples Millions fund to install an outdoor gym area and make improvements to the current play areas.
They also attracted funding from Biffa towards footpath improvements and are currently awaiting the outcome of another grant to install CCTV. Without the success of attracting these grants many of these projects would not happen, as they couldn’t on the existing precept alone.
Emma Goldring comments further:“There are many other opportunities to be explored with trading, clustering and partnerships to enable the services to continue for the good of our village and community. Localism is just a word and a concept. We are the people making it happen.”
NALC is delighted to feature our first Council of the Week from the Isle of Wight; congratulations to Bembridge Parish Council for their exemplary management of funding, resources and local assets.