Pickles calls for more parishes

As if to prove my point regarding Eric Pickles hatred of local government, he’s continuing his campaign to rid the country of local government, be it district, borough, county, or even unitary. I’ve long believed that the campaign to encourage quality parish councils, was part of central government’s ambitions to rid itself of the unruly brat called local government.

Let’s not forget that, unlike district councils and above, parish and town councils have to get all of their cash from local taxpayers via a precept. Also, very few, if any, of those elected to this the lowest level of local democracy, receive allowances. This combination of very limited funding, untrained and un-remunerated members and little in the way of professional staff, means that most of these councils spend their time fretting about very, very local issues, such as the length of the grass on verges or why the streets aren’t being swept more often.

Pickles and co are seeking to distract local people into thinking that they are having a real say in what’s going on locally, because they now have their own parish, or town council. This whilst also starving higher level councils of cash as a way of turning them in to no more than front men for central government policies. Westminster will then be able do what they like, without the inconvenience of being challenged by those in local government.

Given the continued uncertainty that we all suffer when it comes to our income and the cost of living, what chance is there that the people of Spalding would be willing to possibly double the amount of council tax they pay as the Spalding Special Expenses, in order to set up a Spalding Town Council?

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online 31 October, 2012 | By Kaye Wiggins

The Department for Communities & Local Government has set out a range of proposals that aim to make it quicker and easier for local residents to set up parish councils.

Following a call from communities secretary Eric Pickles to “remove red tape” around the creation of parish councils to “give local people a real sense of community control in their areas”, the department has set out a series of ideas that will be open for consultation until January.

In its consultation document, the department said: “We want to tilt the balance in favour of community groups, where there is the demonstrable support of a majority of local people. Where local people express popular support for the creation of a town or parish council, the local authority should work with the community to achieve that.”

The plans set out three possible routes to achieve Mr Pickles’ vision and are summarised below:

Option 1: Changing guidance

Guidance “could strongly encourage authorities to complete the process in less time”

It “could make it clear that the right weight should be given to what is effective and convenient for the local community, separately from for the local authority itself.”

It “could propose that as a matter of good practice, the local authority could carry out a review of a decision not to create a town or parish council if campaigners want one.”

Option 2: Legal change

The number of signatures required to force a council to consider an application for a parish council to be set up could be halved.

The DCLG document notes: “The disadvantage of this option is that lowering the threshold for a petition triggering a community governance review runs the risk that petitions which do not have sufficient community backing will be considered, potentially wasting resources or leading to the creation of a council which is not wanted by the local community.”

The timescale for a “community governance review” – the process by which a parish council would be considered – could be shortened to six months. Alternatively there could be a single limit of nine or 12 months for the whole process, from the receipt of a petition

Councils could be required to publish timescales linked to the electoral cycle, so that if a parish council is approved there would not be a delay caused by the wait for the next election.

Option 3: Neighbourhood forums

A neighbourhood forum could submit an application to trigger a community governance review, rather than having to submit a petition with the required number of signatures.

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