Explaining the Role of the Ruckinge Parish Council

The Ruckinge Parish Council sets the vision for the parish, its purpose, values, objectives, and key priorities for the coming years.

The aim of this page is to give Ruckinge parishioners’ a clear understanding of what the Parish Council does and what it is trying to achieve. It details what the Parish Council intends to focus on over coming years. It will continue to evolve over time.

Framework

Having an agreed strategy provides a framework for the Parish Council to work within, enabling it to operate in a more consistent and co-ordinated way, to be proactive rather than reactive in its decision making. It is based on our understanding of our community’s needs gathered from our day-to-day involvement with residents and other key organisations within the Parish.

At the same time, it is to help the local community to have a better understanding of what the Parish Council does and also clarify what it doesn’t do; in other words, to explain what issues fall under the responsibility of other delivery bodies such as Ashford Borough Council (ABC) or Kent County Council (KCC) or the Committees that run the Ruckinge Village Hall and Bromley Green Village Hall.

The Business Plan is a statement of intent; however, Ruckinge Parish Council may have to make decisions contrary to our stated commitments if events such as budget constraints, new legislation, health and safety, the environment or changes in our policies make that necessary.

The Parish Council

Overview of the Council

There are three tiers of local government, each with different responsibilities. Ruckinge Parish Council is the first and local tier, with an important role to play in promoting the village and outlying settlements, representing its interests, and supporting the work of different groups within the community.

Ashford Borough Council (ABC) is the second tier and is responsible for services including housing and environmental services. ABC is also responsible for strategic planning policies for all development (including housing and employment sites) via its Local Plan. Finally, Kent County Council’s (KCC) responsibilities include highways, relating to both roads and footways (pavements), education, health and social services, public rights of way and libraries.

  • Residents elect seven Parish Councillors every four years. The Council elects a Chair and Vice-Chair annually at the Annual Parish Council Meeting held in May.
  • The Council reports to the electorate at the Annual Parish Meeting held in April.
  • Councillors are unpaid. We commit our time to improving the Ruckinge Parish and maintaining it as an attractive and sustainable place in which to live, visit and do business.
  • The Parish Council meets on the second Thursday of each month rotating between the Village Halls of Ruckinge (winter months) and Bromley Green (summer months).
  • All meetings are open to the public with a period set aside for members of the public to address the Council.
  • The Council works to its Standing Orders and Financial Regulations, these lay down the rules by which we operate and conduct our business.
  • The Council owns the Village Hall at Ruckinge but is not responsible for its day-day running which falls under the Ruckinge Village Hall (Charity number: 302828)
  • It also owns Carters Field adjacent to Bromley Green Village Hall (which is does not own or administer)

Ruckinge Parish Boundaries

Ruckinge Parish Boundaries map


The Council Staff and Management

The Council currently employs 1 part-term administration employee – the Clerk to the Council. The Clerk provides administration for the Council and must carry out all the functions required by law. The Clerk is the Parish Council’s “Proper Officer” and only the Clerk can sign official documents on behalf of the Council. The Clerk is also the Council’s Responsible Financial Officer (RFO).

In addition, the Council may from time-to-time use contractors for a number of tasks including grounds maintenance services, and general maintenance at locations such as Carters Field, Bromley Green Car Park and at the Ruckinge Village Hall.


Financial Information

Income

The residents of Ruckinge essentially fund the Parish Council through their Council Tax bill.

In addition, the Parish Council receives grants from Ashford Borough Council, Kent County Council, and other funders for appropriate projects.

While the Ruckinge Village Hall receives grants from Ruckinge Parish Council

Expenditure

The main items of expenditure are:

  • Office administration, Clerk salary, and on-going expenditure
  • General grounds maintenance including, playing fields and play parks etc.

A reserve of money is typically held by the Council in case there is a major problem that affects the Council’s business. This could be any disaster that requires major emergency funding.

The Council also has allocated reserves. We put this money aside for specific projects which will be undertaken in the future when sufficient funds are available.

The Parish Council has the following responsibilities:

  • The management, maintenance, and development of open spaces
  • Submitting comments on all planning applications and change of use applications in the parish as a statutory consultee of the local planning authority (ABC)

The Council also represents the parish on external organisations, including:

  • Ruckinge Village Hall Committee
  • Bromley Green Village Hall Committee

We also look to reflect the views of our community by liaising with other public bodies and commenting on key strategic issues such as housing, planning, highways social services and education.

Administering parish council business, managing our finances, project managing, keeping residents informed of decisions and proposals that may affect them and dealing with enquiries is a core function that promotes the efficient and effective running of the council.


Parish Council Governance (5 Year Plan, 2021 – 2025)

Good Governance Objectives

The Ruckinge Parish Council aims to be a professional, competent, and caring Parish Council, to be open and accountable in all it does and to ensure the sound financial management of Parish Council resources.

The Parish Council aims to:

  • Be well-informed about the needs and opinions of the parish’s residents and businesses by consulting them on major issues
  • Improve services to the public by encouraging members and staff to develop their skills by undertaking appropriate training
  • Ensure we give Councillors the opportunity to keep abreast of new opportunities and policy
  • Be a good and fair employer by providing fulfilling work opportunities and conditions for its staff
  • Continuously promote participation in all Parish Council meetings and initiatives
  • Deal with enquiries and fault reports from members of the public speedily and efficiently
  • Be an effective custodian of the Council’s property and documents

Focus areas

The Parish Council has identified key priorities which we focus upon.

Administering the Council

  • Continually review operational efficiencies in office practices
  • Operate to our Financial Regulations and Standing Orders
  • Review asset register, provide copies to Councillors at the Annual Parish Council meeting
  • Ongoing reviews of Parish Councils legal powers and report to Council opportunities
  • Identify from annual budget money available for programme delivery
  • To maximise any grant opportunities
  • To continue to seek appropriate grant opportunities in capital expenditures
  • To liaise and maintain good relations with the public and private organisations
  • As appropriate, Parish Councillors attend training, seminars, meetings, and workshops

Planning

  • Ruckinge Council is a statutory consultee on planning applications for the parish. It has no powers to approve or reject planning applications and can only comment on applications. Ashford (ABC) is the Local Planning Authority (LPA) and make the final decision.
  • All planning applications can be viewed on the ABC Planning Portal at https://www.ashford.gov.uk/planning-and-development/and simply enter a keyword, planning application number, postcode or single line of an address

Highways

  • To assist in reducing speed throughout the village
  • To work in partnership with our local PCSO to target problematic areas (requires co-operation and assistance from the Police and County Council)
  • Help residents report highway faults with our contacts at County Council
  • Parish council will press for road repairs and maintenance and report defects to County Highways

Crime and Disorder

  • Help establish Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) in Ruckinge, working with NHW coordinators, and Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) and Kent Rural Matters teams on reducing crime within the Parish. See NHW pages on this site for the latest information and also on Facebook

Community Assets

  • Carters Field (Bromley Green Rd, Ashford TN26 2PJ), Playground and Car Park are owned by the Ruckinge Parish Council
    • 2022 – The Car Park was updated (re-laid) in May/June 2022
  • Ruckinge Village Hall is owned by the Ruckinge Parish Council
    • The Parish Council has resolved to take greater accountability for the Village Hall
    • While the Parish Council installed in 2021 a Defribulator (and another at Bromley Green Village Hall) and have undertaken emergency repairs as recently as April 2022, following storms which caused roof damage, over several decades the Hall has fallen behind in standards and facilities and now requires modernisation via a program of updating and renovations to make it a viable and valuable community hub
    • Current usage levels are extremely low, a clear goal will be to see it used more frequently and to become self-revenue generating (financially) viable. Enabling this, we will
      • Increase Advertising
      • Promote through the Parish Magazine, our Facebook Community Page and this Parish Website
      • Work in conjunction with other Parish Councils and Village Halls
    • It is hoped that Electric Car Charging can be established
    • We will seek to add High Speed Broadband
    • Historical images will be added to the walls so that the Halls rich history can be shared by all who visit
    • From early December 2022, day to day operation of the Village Hall will become the responsibility of a new Committee of the Parish Council which will comprise members of the public as well as Parish Councillors
  • Bromley Green Village Hall is maintained and funded by the Bromley Green Road Residents Association (BGRA) – it is not owned by Ruckinge Parish Council