VOTE ON PARISH COUNCIL
PAB do believe in parish councils where the benefits outweigh the cost. A good example of this is Prestbury where the High Street and many publicly owned assets, which are primarily used by the residents, give it geographic and community focus.
In Pittville there are few, if any, such assets to manage, particularly as campaigners could not get the allotments included in the ‘parish’ area. The majority of publicly owned assets are for the use of the whole town and not just the ward. Is it sensible for the ward to take on the responsibility and cost for the management of these?
Whilst a parish does not have to be rural, it should be based on an area which reflects community identity. Pittville has several diverse communities, would it be right to force these into a single identity? The most significant influence on Pittville is the town centre, on which the majority of our ward depends for shopping, recreation, entertainment and such. Pittville uses the town centre rather than any one particular community or neighbourhood hub. With many of the town’s sporting and cultural facilities in the ward there is a beneficial and symbiotic relationship which has evolved.
There are five existing parish councils in Cheltenham, none created by the Borough, but inherited from others such as Tewkesbury or in the case of Charlton Kings, it used to be a Rural District Council in its own right. It is difficult to understand the reason for requiring a new parish particularly at a time when there are many other additional forms of local governance available and probably more appropriate and certainly without cost.
PLANNING. A parish council is no more than a statutory consultee with the same rights as members of the public. They can only object or make comments in writing exactly as members of the public can.
AN ADDITIONAL VOICE ? Pittville already has two tiers of governance, two active Borough councillors and a newly elected County councillor. At any time they may be contacted to make representations at the appropriate level. As members of the public you may also make representations, at either level. Is another voice required which may well oppose yours depending on the view of the parish councillors?
WHO WOULD MAKE UP THE PARISH COUNCIL?
Would the campaigners necessarily represent your views?
An election would only be held if there are more nominees than the County Council specified number of councillors. A permanent financial reserve of £14,000 is required for such an election.
Much of the cost of the precept, to be paid by every household would be funding for this additional tier of governance. A parish clerk, parish buildings, the cost of ‘running the parish office’ at home, or in a separate office space, will need stationary, a telephone, printer and computer. It is almost certain that a new parish council would want to join the Association of Parish Councils – mainly for advice, but not a cheap option to become a member.
It has been suggested taking out a loan to acquire parish buildings. Whether this becomes a reality or not – is it necessary – and would all ‘parish’ members be happy taking such a loan to fulfil the ambitions of the parish council?
A new parish council will be formed if there is a demonstrable expression of interest. Given that there has been an active and publicly funded campaign group promoting a parish council it is important that should you NOT wish to be brought under a third layer of bureaucracy, that you vote accordingly and do not leave it to others. Ensure that your vote counts and please encourage your neighbours to understand and vote on this important matter.