Amberley

On Saturday I attended the Amberley Business Breakfast.  It's an excellent event which regularly brings together a large number of people in Amberley, Houghton and Houghton Bridge.

It's run - and ruled with a rod of iron - by the inimitable Susan-Ann Dowle, and it enables villagers from all walks of life talk about issues of local concern and often to hear from visiting speakers.

Local councillors come along, too, and even our local Bishop has joined everyone for an unhealthy fry-up.

This time the breakfast was held in the impressive Limeburners restaurant at the Amberley Working Museum.

In a break from the usual format, West Sussex County Council ran a workshop to find out from the community what their concerns were about local services and how they might like them to be improved.

It all started with an interactive session where people had to write down what the ideas of "choice", "quality" and "value" meant to them.

At first I think some of us were a bit sceptical about the exercise, but when people were then asked to list what they liked about West Sussex, what they disliked and what they would like to improve, the discussion really warmed up.

Not surprisingly, what people liked most was the countryside and the strong local communities.  What they disliked most was the withdrawal of local services and the development pressures on the area.

Then people were asked to say, for a range of services, where their preference lay between choice, quality and value.

In past exercises by the council, people overwhelmingly opted for quality in community safety services, the environment and roads, but they also wanted choice and value in children and social services.

There's a widespread feeling that council tax keeps rising, yet services are always under pressure.  People rightly want value for money.

I hope that more villages will organise breakfasts like these.  They are really worthwhile.

Michelle Taylor