Friday, 18 January 2013

Response to DCLG consultation on setting up town and parish councils

The Department for Communities and Local Government recently closed a consultation on making it easier to set up new town and parish councils. The current legislative framework for this was set down in 2007. I responded to this consultation and recommended a number of amendments to existing policy, including legislative changes.

The consultation presented a number of problems that campaigners for new parish councils might encounter. These include the lengthy timescales to set up a parish council and the administrative burden. Looking at the example of Queen's Park these two problems appear interrelated. The group started discussions to form a council in 2010, followed the relevant procedures, were successful in their efforts,  but will not come into their powers until 2014.

DCLG presented three options for improving the process of setting up town and parish councils. They were keen to stress that these are not mutually exclusive and some elements of each option could be brought forward. I am of the opinion that such an approach is necessary to achieve the aims of the consultation.

Campaigners may find it demanding to create a parish council
I support amending guidance to reduce the timescales of the community governance reviews. However, without statutory compulsion there is a risk that valid proposals could still be delayed in bureaucracy. Therefore a change must be made to legislation in addition to the guidance. I also support the proposal to create an easier route for neighbourhood forums (used for neighbourhood planning) to become parish councils.

The proposal to reduce the scope of the community governance reviews might have some unintended to consequences in Greater London and I highlighted some other factors that might be more specific to London where there is no recent experience of parish councils. The full response is available online.