A Swindon Community Council, a personal SBC Community Governance review submission
Cllr Dale Heenan, “I have written to Swindon Borough Council with my personal view that a Swindon Community Council should be created across the town, and for a reduction in the number of politicians involved in local government by 30%. This is a time for all residents to send in their comments about the Community Governance Review currently being undertaken by Swindon Borough Council, and I duly sent mine in though I expect it will ruffle some feathers.
Parish and Community Councils are an essential part of local democracy, they have a vital role in speaking and acting on behalf of the communities they represent and I have long championed their creation in my local area. Nythe Parish Council demolishes the myths, rumours and scaremongering the Labour party are spreading because local services like grass cutting have improved and costs to every household have been slashed by £70 each. A cut of £70 to £45 per year, not Labour’s mythical tax hike of £120.
Change is difficult, but we should be under no illusion about what the consequences of parishing Swindon could be. The reality could be a 50% reduction in the number of parish councillors, and a 25-30% reduction in the number of Swindon Borough Councillors to reflect the change in responsibilities when the next electoral review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England occurs. The Labour party are opposing the creation of parishes and I believe this is simply an attempt to save their own jobs.”
Dear Community Governance review,
Swindon Borough Council is currently undertaking a Community Governance Review, and this is my personal submission which I hope will be given serious consideration.
Parish Councils are an essential part of local democracy, they have a vital role in speaking and acting on behalf of the communities they represent and I have long championed their creation in my local area.
1. The area represented by the West Swindon Area Forum should form the parish of West Swindon
2. Parish all other unparished urban areas using the existing electoral boundaries under their borough ward names to retain community identity, and ensure historical consistency is maintained
3. Group all new/current urban parishes as Swindon Community Council
4. Where rural parishes represent less than 200 people, they should merge with a neighbouring parish. These merged parishes would have a joint name to preserve community identity.
5. Leave Highworth Town Council, and all other rural parishes, unchanged.
This strategic decision would:
- Improve local democracy through allowing elections to occur from a wider pool of residents in places where insufficient candidates have resulted in uncontested parish elections to occur for more than ten years.
- Realign parishes so that they support a sustainable future, and represent a critical mass of households and income to provide improved effective local services such as grass cutting. The difference between why an area is parished or unparished is purely historical.
- Deliver a real additional benefit in developing community spirit and resilience. Residents live in, and identify with, Swindon and not some artificial construct.
- Follow a tried and tested model used in places like Highworth, and across the country in places like Macclesfield.
- A Community council for Swindon would provide a sense of place since all residents know they live in Swindon, and it will be an area that is of a size that is viable as an administrative unit of local government.
Whatever is decided, there will be costs involved just as there are now. Whatever is decided, Swindon Borough Council will remain responsible for major services such as social care, highways, school admissions, children’s services, environmental protection, planning decisions etc. Borough Councillors will continue to represent individuals and groups in their wards.
Change is difficult, but we should be under no illusion about what the consequences of parishing Swindon are. The reality could be a 50% reduction in the number of parish councillors by ensuring the new Community Council is in line with National Association of Local Councils Circular 112, and a 25-30% reduction in the number of Swindon Borough Councillors to reflect the change in responsibilities when the next electoral review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England occurs. I’m sure this cut in the cost of politics and the number of politicians would be welcomed by local residents, but not by the political parties like Labour.
A myth is being circulated by those opposed to the community governance review is that Parishes will cost £120 a year extra. Yet this is not what the evidence says, with Parishes in Swindon who deliver streetsmart services like grass cutting charging a precept of just £45, such as in Nythe. For example, comparisons with Stratton Parish Council are false because they subsidize a leisure centre which loses hundreds of thousands a year, and their recent 12% hike raised more money than the total budget of 13 out of 16 parishes in Swindon for no difference in local services.
A strategic decision such as the above proposal would see Swindon follow the example set by local authorities across england. Last May, Macclesfield held the first elections for a new city wide parish council following a similar governance review.
Fear, scaremongering and negativity should have no place in deciding what the community governance arrangements are for Swindon. I believe a Swindon Community Council could deliver real benefits for Swindon residents, and is very much in line with “One Swindon”.
If you seek any clarifications on any area of my submission, please do not hesitate to contact me