Friday, 8 November 2013

Is it time for a Thringstone Parish Council?

The way that councils provide services to us is changing.

Never before have local authorities faced the financial pressures that they will be placed under over the next few years.

Leicestershire County Council have just consulted members of the public on how they can save £110 million pounds from their annual budget, roughly one third of all the money it currently spends.

The future of finance at North West Leicestershire District Council is not in a dissimilar position.

Both Councils plan to increase council tax next year (and for years after that) at the same time they are planning cutting, or even cancelling, many of the services that they provide.

The changes to local government will undoubtedly affect every community in North West Leicestershire but I fear will particularly impact on Thringstone.

You may ask why Thringstone could be badly affected and I will give you three examples.

  1. Our Community Centre, Thringstone House, is significantly funded by Leicestershire County Council. There is a serious concern that over the coming years the County Council will choose to stop providing that financial support.
  2. Leicestershire County Council is currently undertaking a piece of work which considers the prospect of merging our County and District Councils. Such mergers have happened in other counties. It is argued that mergers can save significant amounts of taxpayer money, at the same time many believe decision making is too far removed from local communities.
  3. The vast majority of communities in North West Leicestershire are governed by Parish Councils, Thringstone is not (alongside just central Coalville and Greenhill). The things that are normally done by Parish Councils are done on their behalf by NWLDC through a mechanism called 'Special Expenses'. The district council are now planning on moving services away from the 'General Fund', which all district residents pay for and into 'Special Expenses', which are paid for just by residents of the special expense area. It's all legal but it does mean residents in those communities will be provided with less services than they are now.
As services are reduced and, potentially, are moved further away it becomes increasingly important that there is a level of decision making which is based in the community. The level is logically a Parish Council.

Parish Council's are responsible for many of the things that make villages (and towns) nicer places to live - the sort of things which could well be cut as local government changes.

Parish Councils can be responsible for allotments, bus shelters, community centres, dog control orders, litter bins, and play facilities to name just a few areas.

Local people are able to decide what are their own very local priorities and increase or reduce council tax to pay for them. In fact other Parish Councils, like the relatively newly formed Whitwick Parish Council, have not increased council tax since it was established 3 financial years ago.

The best Parish Councils make a huge difference in making villages  much nicer places to live. Look no further than Swannington, Osgathorpe or even Shepshed.

I believe the residents of Thringstone should have that same opportunity.

In order to formally ask North West Leicestershire District Council to consider establishing a 'Community Governance Review' which forms a Thringstone Parish Council it is necessary to gather a petition of local residents.

For Thringstone 250 valid signatures are required on the petition.

After discussing the issue with, and at the request of, a number of local residents I have agreed to compile such a petition.

Over the coming weeks I will be around the village gathering signatures. If you specifically would like to sign the petition which formally starts a conversation about forming a Parish Council then please get in contact and I will make sure you get the opportunity to do so.

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