Parish Councils – Good or Bad?
This November on the same day people in Northampton will be going to vote for the first elected Police and Crime Commissioner some will also be entering the polling booth to vote for a Parish Council in their local area.
So is it a problem, are Parish Councils really local people taking local decisions or is it a way for the Borough Council to shift services from the local authority to local people and more importantly the cost of delivering the services.
I’ll start by saying that I live in Little Billing within the Billing Parish Council boundary and have absolutely no problem with them or with paying my £42 a year as an additional Parish Council precept on top of my Council Tax.
The reasons are varied but in simple terms I believe of the existing Parish Councils in Northampton the Billing Parish is the only one who don’t have any Borough or County Councillors on the Parish Council which means they are truly independent and demonstrate not only that they will they hold both Local Authorities to account but mainly that they put the local people first.
One example of how the Billing Parish Council operates is in turning down the opportunity to submit a bid to run the Bellinge Community Centre believing that it was a transfer of an expensive facility from the books of the Borough Council to the Parish Council and Local Residents.
Another example is the Parish Councils rejection to consider replacing the funding withdrawn by the NCC and NBC with Parish Council funding for a PCSO.
In February of this year Conservative Councillors applauded themselves for not increasing the Borough’s Council Tax which would have cost residents in the region of £3.50 a year, and yet they are now proposing in the areas where a vote on Parish Councils is going to be taken a tax increase of up to £52 a year.
At the same meeting Conservative Councillors in defending their decision to cut PCSO funding said that in at least one Parish Council area they would be funding their own PCSO.
It is this approach that raise most concerns an approach that many will see as nothing more than a “stealth tax” in transferring responsibility for the delivery of front line services, whether it’s PCSO’s, Environmental services, Community Centres (for which a long-term loan may be needed which will have to be paid back by local tax payers through an increase in the Parish Council precept), or switching on streetlights to the local tax payer.
What people in my opinion should be looking for from a Parish Council is an enhancement and addition to the services that they are already paying for through national and local taxes.
Northampton people are not fools and will look at those existing Parish Councils, who their Parish Councillors are, and the way they operate before making a decision on how to vote.
There is some way to go before the vote but it is interesting that the timetable for submitting an interest Parish Councils was extended and if my information is correct even then at least one area only just achieved the 250 names they needed for it to happen which suggests that the residents have already demonstrated that they aren’t interested in paying more tax for the same services.
We’ll see what happens later on in the year.