Agenda item

Chairman's Announcements.


The Vice Chairman announced that Members would have noticed that the Chairman of the Council had been unable to make the Council meeting,due to having caught Covid-19. The Chairman was joining on Zoom and had an announcement to make. Before handing over to Cllr Esler, Cllr Hunter advised that she had attended the Hosting Ukrainian Refugees event at the Stag Theatre on 20 April 2022, which was organised by Sevenoaks Welcome Refugees and supported by the Council. The Homes for Ukraine Scheme was launched by Government and as a District, there had been an overwhelming and extraordinary generosity by the residents who had offered their home or property as a safe place for a Ukrainian person or family.  Like millions around the world, she was sure residents in the Sevenoaks District had watched on in horror at the escalating situation in Ukraine.

Her thoughts were with the people of Ukraine, who had shown great strength and character in response to this horrific attack.


Many would want to know how best to help Ukraine at this immensely troubling time. Thousands have fled the country while those that remain were not only suffering the effects of a military assault, but also from the dire consequences that accompany such a situation as resources like food, water and fuel become scarce.


The Vice Chairman also announced that on 9 March 2022, the Council won a bronze Community Focus award for the work with Eliza Ecclesstone, who took home the prestigious Chairman’s Award for initiating ‘Care for our Community’ at the iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards and congratulated all.


The Vice Chairman, welcomed the Chairman, Cllr Esler to the meeting via zoom, who addressed the Council.


Over the course of my year as Chairman, I have been made grateful for so many things. I am truly thankful to have had the opportunity to support such an important local charity, DAVSS - the Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services. DAVSS is a charity not only close to my heart but also to the Council – Merle Bigden, one of its founding members, was an Officer of the Council before her retirement in 2003. I know the District Council supported them during the difficulties of the pandemic, so I was happy that I could support them further in my capacity as Chairman. Their work is fundamental to so many people in the local area, and we have been so thankful for the opportunity to help raise their profile at our events. It has been a privilege to fundraise for an organisation where you know that the money you raise will help so many with such serious issues as abuse and violence at home.

I am also grateful for the experiences I have had. We enjoyed a touching Civic service at St. Luke’s Church, on the 17th July 2021. I would like to thank the Rev. Ann Bourne for the beautiful service, and Cllr Thornton and Cllr Maskell for their brilliant readings. I read the poem “Footprints” by Margaret Powers, and its message resonates with me even more now that I can look back on such a wonderful year.

Our visit to St Julians on the 29th July was another highlight. The bluebell walk with its wonderful views of the surrounding countryside was a reminder of our district’s great beauty, and the talk from Nell Williams about the history of the club reminded us how rich the area’s heritage is.

Our visit to Westerham Brewery on the 21st September made it clear to us that it was not just the history of the district that is rich, but its current business climate too. It was a delight to tour such a successful local business. Our visit to Eagle Heights on the 7th October, where we were treated to a flying display and were able to tour the sanctuary was a unique experience. It was a delight to see so many healthy native birds in a time where they are increasingly vulnerable. We so enjoyed seeing the huskies, servals and meerkats that the sanctuary also cares for – learning that the sanctuary also supports conservation work in West Africa was a reminder of the strength and kindness of everyone in this district.

Our visits to Coblands Garden Centre and Coakham Farm on the 13th and 14th of October similarly reminded us of the great work that the people of this area have been putting into sustainable development. The talk on plants from Tim Evans and Judith Kerr-Sheppard at the Garden Centre was very engaging, and it was interesting to see examples of the properties they described displayed by the plants in the centre. At Coakham Farm we learned about the pioneering work on sustainable development being undertaken there as well as having a ride sitting on hay bales on a trailer to view some of the farm. Despite having had to push the event back because of the pandemic, our visit inspired hope for the future.

We visited The Bricklayer’s Arms on the 9th November, which was both a lovely opportunity to catch up with friends, but also to fundraise for DAVSS. We booked the private dining area, and it was a refreshing social experience after two years of the pandemic. Our visit to Mumbai Central on the 23rd February 2022 was similarly a trifecta of spectacular food, wonderful staff, and the generosity and great company of those we invited. At The Pheasant Plucker on the 16th March that “company” even extended to Sir Winston Churchill himself, as we enjoyed talking with a fantastic, and very knowledgeable, impersonator. We were treated to a fascinating talk on his life and achievements - and with Chartwell in the district, it also felt comfortingly local. Our Last Hurrah was held on the 13th April, and I could ask no more from my final event as Chairman. The speakeasy theme was enchanting, Coblands had truly gone to town with their decorations and the singing and dancing was thoroughly enjoyable.  Carradine's Cockney Sing-a-long was enjoyed by all.


Lastly, but by no means least, I am grateful to have met Michael, my husband. When I was preparing to step into this role I never imagined I would meet the man I love, and it has made these three years so extremely special to me. He is the most wonderful husband I could ask for. He has truly been my prop and stay throughout this time. He has supported me in everything – no matter what I needed, I knew I could rely on him. Throughout this speech, I have referred to “our” activities – this is because Michael has been by my side, with me every step of this fantastic journey. None of this year as Chairman would have been possible without him. He was involved with all the arrangements for all the events, down to the flyers we sent out. I cannot express enough how lucky I am to have him as my husband. With his hard work, we were able to raise  over £5400 for such a great organisation. DAVSS do such valuable, important work and we are so proud to be able to contribute to it.

Thank you all for supporting me in a truly unforgettable year that has not only been so personally meaningful, but also has supported this great charity.”

Cllr Esler, invited Cllr Irene Collins, Merle Bigden and Jan Berry from DAVSS to come forward to the front of the Council Chamber, where they were presented with a large cheque.

Cllr Collins expressed her own thanks to Merle and Jan for the invaluable work which DAVSS carry out.

Merle Bidgen took the opportunity to thank Sevenoaks District Council as without them the Charity would not be in its existence, and it would not have been able to have helped over 16,000 people. She thanked Cllr Esler for her fundraising and the amount raised said it all.

Members showed their appreciation.






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