Community Governance Review
(Verbal Presentation by the Director of Transformation & Resources – Mr Neil Turner)
The district council is, from time to time, required to undertake a Community Governance Review. A Community Governance Review helps ensure that parish councils clearly represent identifiable local communities, that their members reflect the communities that they serve, that residents are equally represented on their council, and that good, efficient local government is promoted.
A Community Governance Review has the power to establish or group parish councils, to alter the boundaries of parishes, to create or amend ward boundaries within parishes, and to increase or reduce the number of parish councillors.
The council intends to undertake a Community Governance Review of the district and this is our first opportunity to discuss how we intend to approach this work and how we hope to involve parish councils and members.
It can be a complex and lengthy process but it is intended that any changes proposed will be adopted by September 2022, ahead of the May 2023 parish elections.
Mr Neil Turner, Director of Transformation & Resources, delivered a presentation on Community Governance Reviews. It was the district council’s intention to undertake a Community Governance Review over the next 12-18 months in order to ensure effective local governance in parishes. He asked for the forum’s support as the members in parishes who knew their parishes and they would be required to provide insight.
Mr Turner advised that there are 28 parish councils, 252 councillor seats and 2 grouped parishes and, 8 warded parish councils. The electorate of parishes ranged from 78 to 25,000.
He said a review was required to ensure that:-
· Councils clearly represent identifiable communities;
· That Members reflect the communities that they serve;
· That residents are equally represented; and
· That good, efficient local government is promoted – in a way that reflects the aspirations of local people.
Mr Turner said the ultimate decision rests with the council. He explained the steps of a review which concluded in a “re-organisation order” and advised that a review is usually completed within 12 months of starting it but it needs to be in place ahead of the next elections in 2023.
The Terms of Reference were illustrated, the questions asked, the key issues and the next steps were identified together with emerging issues and questions were asked by the forum members:-
Q. What happens when you have a parish running alongside another county? Does this mean you could not extend in to their boundary?
Q. Is the same true for the district boundaries as Hammerwich Parish Council have recently met with Heath Hayes and Norton Canes in the Cannock Chase district and it is obvious they share mutual interests.
Q. A joint parish council was concerned as there was likely to be a major development in the rural area of the parish meaning it would make this one part of the parish far bigger than the other; would this mean this part may have to branch off on its own as the demographics would change?
Q. Roman Heights are marketing they are a short walk from the Lichfield City Centre and this could potentially overload an already large parish council, should we not guard against this?
Q. In the ever growing parish of Armitage, outside the current boundary there is Hawkesyard which is another development of up to 1000 new homes coming in to the Armitage with Handsacre parish – there is a definite population issue in this area and it was asked if this could be looked at very soon as it may need warding.
Q. Streethay now has more new houses and a junior school so this has to be done for this area quickly too. Also, Fradley has had huge developments built so can this be looked at as well - would it not be a good idea to split Streethay and Fradley?
Q. There have been significant changes over the years and because we now have the Community Infrastructure Levy, wards that are rural could now receive CIL monies which did not exist before.
Q. What happens if you have a Neighbourhood Plan with the current boundaries and the boundaries change under a Community Governance Review?
In Shenstone the Neighbourhood Plan was made in 2011 and in 2015 the Boundary Commission changed the boundary and created the parish of Shenstone – Woodend. It was queried how much strength this Community Governance Review would have to challenge the Boundary Commission to disagree with this decision.
Q. Is there an average number of people the parish councils should represent?
Q. When the word “development” is used, does this include commercial development?
Q. In Lichfield City Council there are miniscule wards, will this map with the county council divisions?
Q. Can we go back to the Electoral Commission and encourage the use of the Dehont method (Jefferson) of voting?
Mr Turner responded to each of these questions but they have been noted and will be reflected in any emerging Terms of Reference. He thanked everyone for their input and said this was only the beginning of the Community Governance Review which would need parish council input throughout the process.