Friday, 09 January 2015 22:30

Stronger role for parish councils?

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Stronger role for parish councils?

NEW measures aim to make it easier for community groups to set up a town or parish council.

Government measures to reduce bureaucratic burdens associated with setting up local councils were announced by communities minister Stephen Williams on Thursday (8 January).

Implementing the measures would give local people a greater say over what went on in their neighbourhood, said Mr Williams.

Town and parish councils allowed communities to take control of local assets, deliver local services and influence decision-making and priorities, he said.

The government wanted the experience of creating a town and parish council to become easier for local communities that believed they would benefit from them.

"We want more people to have the opportunity to take control and have a greater say over what goes on in their neighbourhood," said Mr Williams.

Three measures would cut red tape, improve the legislative process and help town and parish councils play a stronger role in delivering local services.

The first measure is lowering the threshold of signatures required to trigger a review of governance from 10% to 7.5 % of residents

The second measure is shortening the amount of time a local authority can take to complete a governance review to 12 months from receipt of a valid petition.

Finally, the government will also allow neighbourhood forums to trigger a community governance review for a new parish council without requiring them to submit a petition.

A draft reform order has been laid in parliament and the government expects the new rights will come into force within the next 12 months.

Mr Williams said: "Parish and town councils have a crucial role to play, having both a democratically accountable voice and a structure for taking community action.

"However, the current obligations can stifle local campaigns and constrain local democracy.

"That is why we are changing the rules and helping campaigners by making it much easier to set them up so they can get on and start making a difference for their local communities."

The measures were described as a "common sense move" by Ken Browse, chairman of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).

He said: "Parish and town councils are popular with people and can really make a difference, and for too long communities have battled with burdensome bureaucracy to get them created.

Mr Browse added: "We welcome the continued impetus on the creation of more new local councils to deliver services to local communities and give them a voice.

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