6 Mar 2009

Should our Parish Councils spend more?

At the last Full Council meeting the figures of all the Parish Councils Tax rate were available. If we look at Band D then they work out as follows:

Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish £27.76
Randwick Parish £28.99
ie just over 50p a week for Band D

Stroud District Council £183.44
Gloucestershire County Council £1,065.94
Gloucestershire Police £193.99

Looking at the differences between Parish and Town Councils it is clear that both Randwick and Whiteshill and Ruscombe are near the lower middle in terms of expenditure - 23 Councils spend less and 28 spend more - however the 28 spending more include the larger Parish/Town Councils so in terms of expenditure our two Parishes are low. Take for example Nympsfield £53.08, Rodborough £35.38 and Bisley £50.25. Then of course you have Stroud Town at £88.66 and top spenders locally, Wotton and Berkeley both £102 odd and nearly 4 times our expenditure.

Now I am not for a moment advocating increasing the tax just for the sake of it - especially in the current climate - too many people have serious concerns - the real problem lies in our democratic system that gives so few powers to local Councils - we are the most centralised 'democracy' in the western world - the other flaw lies in our failure of the tax system that does not redistribute as fairly as some other countries like Norway.

It is clear local expenditure can enhance and enrich local communities. Already our Parishes spend wisely in my view on improving our area but are there other opportunities?

Take for example Randwick's £3,000 every year for a long time put into the Village Hall - that local commitment helped the Village Hall committee bring in considerable extra funding to develop the hall - see Stan Giles' speech re hall here and the measures taken here to make it the country's first carbon neutral village hall. Yes it was lots of work but this is just the sort of thing that can make such community facilities sustainable in the long term and encourage householders to take similar measures. Kirkburton Parish in Huddersfield has done some similar stuff and is committing I think £10,000 each year to energy efficiency and microgeneration.

Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish put in the orchard in the Playing Field and are hopefully improving facilities there like the installation of the basketball hoop - plus they are investigating a small area just outside the Parish to see if it would be suitable for Parish allotments. There is lots more that Parishes could be doing and supporting - councillors already listen lots but they also need to hear from their communities - both the local Parishes communicate through the local newsletters and have held consultation meetings and encourage parishioners to take issues to them in the first 10 mins of a Parish Council meeting.

Indeed many of the Parish councillors are busy folk indeed who are giving up time each week for the community. If you have ideas about how our area can be improved do please get in touch. How would you see money spent locally?

For more about the role of Councils see:


Anonymous said...

I would like to see the accounts for the two parishes. but this seems to be hidden from view. I was astounded to see how much the parish clerks earn. I always thought this was a small part time position. They seem to earn almost twice the min wage.WHERE CAN I VIEW THE ACCOUNTS ONLINE? I am all in favour of paying a little more if it actually goes on improvements to the village.

Philip Booth said...

Apologies for delay in reply - budget should be in minutes of Parish Council at - for Whiteshill and Ruscombe that will be:

Parish Clerk allowances are set so there is not room to change much - their role now has become complex with many legal issues, budgeting and more - we are v fortunate to have excellent Clerks locally go both go way beyond what they are paid to do. I haven't looked at hours but they are basically employed for about the minimum possible to achieve smooth running of Parish - I will try and find exact link to accounts...

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for raising this issue - the Clerk at Whiteshill and Ruscombe sent this through last night in response to my query last night:

"The end of year accounts for WRPC were published on the website at year end. If this person wishes to see up to date accounts, then they can in accordance with the Publication Scheme (details on the website under Latest News).

"Link here:
20Council%20Guide%20to%20Information.pdf "

As noted the parish clerk role is no longer 'a small admin job' and there is much emphasis on the clerk providing professional advice to the council to allow them to proper decisions. It is a requirement in law that the council has an 'officer of the council' known as the clerk. In Whiteshill and Ruscombe the Clerk is paid for 8 hours per week and I know for certain often does well in excess of these hours. In addition to
this, the clerk sometimes provides their own IT equipment, broadband, telephone etc. In Whiteshill and Ruscombe they have started to address this and now provide
a laptop, printer and phone. However the Clerk does not claim for Broadband or providing storage for the many files - you have to see to believe!

If you are interested further I could probably find a link to the NALC salary scales - you will see we are getting value for money.

Philip Booth said...

And just through the answer from Randwick - the accounts are not on line but there is a link to the clerk and you can request the information you want directly. Also the audited accounts were available through the statutory process in the summer - details were posted on the three parish noticeboards.