Monday, 21 December 2009

A tall order

One of the most daunting aspects of PhD research is the requirement to read everything that has been written about your subject. The upside of this is you automatically become the world expert on your chosen subject. The downside, you have a lot of reading to do. The right to create neighbourhood councils in London dates from 2007 and there has been some limited reaction from stakeholders.

London Councils had something to say about it during consultation in 2006. London Councils (formerly known as ALG) represents the interests of London borough councils, who currently exercise the rights that would have to be devolved to any new community councils. Quite rightly they point to the variety of existing ad hoc community management schemes that are already in operation, suggesting that community governance is already happening.

In November 2008 think tank LondonSays published a document of opinion pieces, including the views of Simon Hughes, MP for Southwark North and Bermondsey. He describes the current devolved arrangements in Southwark as a rationale for formal community councils in London rather than one for “do nothing”. His concern would seem to be that under the current system the powers of the communities rely too heavily on the willingness of the local authority to co-operate.

One aspect of my research is going to have to be a study of these ad hoc community management arrangements in all of the 32 London boroughs. I want to know how their powers and functions shape up to those of a statutory community/parish council. So, taking a step back, another important area of research is revealed: I firstly need to have complete understanding of the full range of powers available to parish councils. I known many of these date back to 1894 and others come from later incremental legislation.