Monday, July 14, 2008

Consultation: should Whitehaven have a Town Council?

Copeland council has now launched a consultation on whether Whitehaven should have a Town Council. The consultation paper and questionnaire are available in the Borough Council foyer, at the council website and at various other places. The council's consultation paper reads as follows:


"Copeland Borough Council has been considering proposals for a Whitehaven Town Council and is looking to hear from you with your views prior to making a decision whether to go ahead.

What is a Town Council?
• It is a separate tier of local government and does not replace the Borough or County Councillors;
• Elections are held to appoint town councillors who meet and decide on how to
undertake the town council’s functions;
• It has powers to provide or maintain community facilities;
• It is able to comment and lobby on matters of interest to local people;
• It decides its own budget and sets its own Council Tax which is added and collected over and above the existing Council Tax;
• Depending on its size, it could employ administrative staff to operate its affairs;
• It has access to financial resources that are not available to the Borough Council that can be used to provide facilities for its area.

What will it cost?
At this stage it is not possible to say how much it will cost. The decision on whether to set a precept and at what level in addition to the existing Council Tax is a decision that the Town Council would make if established.

How many town councillors will there be?
We are suggesting that 25 town councillors would be suitable based on current Borough Council Wards.

What are the arguments for and against a Whitehaven Town Council?
• Improved representation of interests of Whitehaven residents
• Opportunities to influence the delivery of services
• A focal point for pride in the town
• A means to facilitate and promote community action
• Opportunities to access Grant Aid not available to Copeland Borough Council
• Opportunities to influence Planning Decisions


Arguments against a Town Council
• Additional cost to Council Tax Payers
• Increase in bureaucracy
• An extra layer of Government
• Difficulties in demonstrating accountability to electors
• Possible difficulties in attracting capable people to serve on a Town Council


Please take this opportunity to let us have your opinion by returning a completed
questionnaire no later than 1st August 2008."

Personally I am a little disappointed that alternative and possibly cheaper means of improving democracy in Whitehaven were not mentioned in the consultation as options for the public to consider. For example, there used to be regular meetings of the Borough councillors representing Whitehaven wards: it would be an option to reinstate these meetings as an area committee under recent legislation, and delegate powers to them to deal with some of the things a town or parish council would do in areas which have them. This would provide a degree of local decision making without the cost and hassle of electing another tier of politicians.

There are also some issues of financial equity accross the Borough but these could be dealt with by a means called "special expenses" which is widely used elsewhere in the country to ensure that council areas with and without a parish or town council pay their fair share of the cost of local government.

If you are a resident of Copeland, particularly in Whitehaven, and have views on this, please do return a form by 1st August or let your councillor know what they are.

4 comments:

Steve said...

Hello Chris.

Im not from the Copeland area, but I am interested in your opinions as to potentially yet another layer of Govmt within Whitehaven plus its associated costs etc etc etc. Indeed, upon looking though your list of "alleged benefits", of having a Town Council, then I must say I honestly cannot see one single reason why anyone (other than freeloaders that is, and who undoubtably are behind this move anyway), would want yet another hugely expensive body of non producers and who are, despite what they may say, initially subject to Govment manipulations anyway (in respect of funding at least), and in truth will be pretty much unable to do anything about Council tax costs, other than increase it by their very presence.

You may also find the following link of interest Chris, its regarding Parish Councils and H Blears suggestions that they should be given more responsibilities and precept raising powers to fund the same. God help us all !!!!

Incidentally, I am not a Conservative, and will actually admit to being a one time active Labour party member. Ive was cured of that affliction however some 10 years since.

Please see - http://www.isitfair.co.uk/PT%20CT%20Scam.html

Regards.

Steve Atkinson of SLDC constituency. (ISITFAIR supporter and long term member)

Chris Whiteside said...

Just to be clear, Steve, the list of suggested advantages and disadvantages was written by Copeland council officers, not by me.

I would not have quoted it if I had not considered this a reasonable list of possible pros and cons which someone thinking about the issue might want to consider and which supporters and opponents of creating a Town Council were likley to think. However, that does not mean I am endorsing the view that any of these actually applies.

Steve said...

Yes I realise that Chris, and Im sorry to have confused you by the wording used in my reply.

I maintain however that local democracy, and mostly because of centralisation tactics etc, is now all but defunct. This is why I personally consider none of the reasons listed as "reasons for" apply, or are even presently appropiate, especially given the level of disempowerment now universally suffered. I also consider the specific reason off "a focal point for pride" (in having a town council etc) is so presently wide of current electorate views as to be almost an insult to the same.
Where on earth have these Council officers been for the last 10 years ?

Are you getting much feedback regarding this issue on the streets etc Chris ?

Chris Whiteside said...

Very little. To be absolutely honest I don't think this issue would make the top twenty if you asked residents of Whitehaven to name the issues they are most concerned about and didn't prompt them.