Tag Archives: parish councils

Defending parish councils and standing up for local government

Parish councils are often largely ignored in the scheme of things. However, the recent antics of Handforth Parish Council have enabled many people to view what goes on in their name in the local council chamber. It has sadly shone a less than favourable light on the more unsavoury goings on in some parish council meetings, which, believe me, are not that untypical.

From more than two decades of experience, I recognise three types of local council, the Proactive, the Reactive and the Inactive. The Proactive Council has members who can think outside the box, are prepared to exercise the full powers afforded them by central government and are not afraid to raise their Precept above inflation to provide services.

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Tales from a Small Parish – when things go wrong…

If somebody had told me a week ago that a Parish Council sub-committee meeting would go viral, and that the senior official of a County Association of Local Councils would become a celebrity, I would have offered a quizzical glance before returning to my planning application problems. It’s a funny old world…

There’s no doubt that the events at Handforth demonstrated that, regardless of which tier of government you’re in, the scope for egos to rampage across the scenery is always there. It can be a Chair who has gone power-crazed, a Clerk who believes that councillors are merely a legal necessity to be ignored or overridden, or someone who has joined the Council with a particular bee in their bonnet and who just won’t let go.

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Tales from a Small Parish – David vs Goliath…

Welcome back to Creeting St Peter, a small Parish in Suffolk’s Gipping Valley…

One of the more visible aspects of small parishes is the role of statutory consultee for any planning applications in, or affecting, the Parish. More often than not, councillors are asked to consider extensions, occasionally an outbuilding for a farm. They generally aren’t very controversial, and as planning controls have been relaxed in recent years, there are fewer of them it seems. And, as a councillor, you probably don’t need much in the way of technical skills to take a view on whether or not the Council should take a view.

There is training available if you’re lucky. In our case, the District Council offers the occasional half-day course, and the County Association of Local Councils also offers both support and seminars offering some basic awareness. But, for the most part, councillors in small parishes don’t take up the offer.

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Tales from a Small Parish: welcome to Dibley?…

For those of you who live in urban conurbations, your concept of a Parish Council is possibly associated with the TV series “The Vicar of Dibley”. Funny really, because the Vicar usually works with a Parochial Church Council, a very different animal indeed. But 30% of England’s population is covered by Parish Councils which, for the most part, operate under the radar of political activists…

I moved out of London more than a decade ago but hadn’t been here for very long before a vacancy arose on the Parish Council and, well, …

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water – there are referendums galore this Thursday

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You probably thought that we have had our fill of referendums for the next several millennia.

But, in my researches for this Thursday’s by-elections, I stumbled upon several Neighbourhood planning referendums happening this Thursday, 30th January.

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A bit more about Parish Councils…

Last week, I wrote in these pages about becoming a Parish Councillor as, perhaps, a stepping stone to other things, although it can be, and often is, worthwhile in itself. I then went home to my Annual Parish Council Meeting and, rather unexpectedly, became Chair. That will teach me…

On explaining a bit about my particular Parish Council, a friend noted that it seemed to be one of the common models, an anarcho-syndicalist collective, whereby someone is notional in charge (a bit like the Constitutional Peasant scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail), as opposed to the Stalinist school of …

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Have you ever thought of becoming a Parish councillor?

Now I fully accept that, for many of our readers, the idea of Parish Councils is all a bit redolent of “The Vicar of Dibley” (albeit the cause of confusion between Parish Councils and Parochial Church Councils), but they can be a key element of rural campaigning.

I ought to declare an interest first, in that I’m a Parish councillor in mid-Suffolk, and have been for about six years. Mine is a small Parish, population about 270, with an annual precept of less than £6,000. But this tier of local government is widely varied, ranging from the likes of Hereford City …

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In praise of Parish Councils

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This is a rather unfocussed post, but I just wanted to give a shout-out for Parish Councils.

One of our number here at LDV Towers, Mark Valladares, writes a blog called Liberal Bureaucracy. One of its main subjectival strands is Mark’s role as a parish councillor. Just leafing through some of the post titles gives one an excellent flavour of parish council life:

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Should parish councils be “completely apolitical”?

An intriguing row has broken out in Shoreham, West Sussex, in the lead-up to a by-election to fill a vacancy on the parish council. The local paper tells all:

CONTROVERSY is stirring in grassroots politics, with the nomination of a Liberal Democrat to stand in a Rustington Parish Council by-election. Jamie Bennett’s punt at parish politics has rippled the normally tranquil waters of the council, on which all 15 current members sit as independents.

Lib-Dem Jamie will contest the West ward seat vacated by former parish council chairman Mike Warrington, who has moved away from the area, in a two-horse race with Andy Cooper, described as the “Keep Rustington Council Independent” candidate. The by-election is on Thursday, September 17.

This kind of debate isn’t unusual at parish council level – the size of most parishes, and their limited budget powers, tend to mean the decisions they can make are small-scale: what place does party politics have in such circumstances?, goes the argument.

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