Can parish councils rise to the challenge?
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Can parish councils rise to the challenge?. James Garo Derounian and Elisabeth Skinner University of Gloucestershire. Introduction What are parish councils? What are the Government’s expectations? What is the evidence? The Quality Parish Scheme Case studies

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Can parish councils rise to the challenge?

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Can parish councils rise to the challenge

Can parish councils rise to the challenge?

James Garo Derounian and Elisabeth Skinner

University of Gloucestershire


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

Introduction

What are parish councils?

What are the Government’s expectations?

What is the evidence?

  • The Quality Parish Scheme

  • Case studies

    Can parish councils rise to the challenge?


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

What are parish councils?

Parish councils1894

England8500

Wales 730

£200 million80,000 councillors

25,000 staffServing 15 million people

(30% of the population)

200 to 80,000 population

Most parishes are rural with less than 5000 population

Budgets£1000 to £3 million

Few duties – many powers


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

  • What are the Government’s expectations?

  • Government vision: “flourishing local councils acting as the voice of the local community … working in partnership with counties and districts to deliver more services locally”

  • (English Rural White Paper DETR and MAFF 2000: 145).

  • Government investment:

  • £2m for training

  • £5m for community-driven parish plans


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

Quality Parishes Scheme 2003*

A Quality Parish is “representative of, and actively engages, all parts of its community, providing vision, identity and a sense of belonging…is committed to work in partnership with principal local authorities and other public service agencies.”

(ODPM 2005:19)

David Miliband: more powers to strong parish councils in a move towards local empowerment (ODPM [online] 2006)

*ODPM (2003) The Quality Parish and Town Council Scheme: The Quality Scheme Explained, London, ODPM


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

Crunch questions

1What is the evidence that parish councils can meet expectations and are worthy of Government investment?

2Can parish councils rise to the challenge?


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

What is the evidence?

  • Initial outlook: dismal at first…

  • In three years approximately 3.2% of English parish councils have Quality Parish Status.

  • (NALC [online] 2006)

  • Barriers 

  • qualified clerk

  • electoral mandate

  • Small parish councils need convincing.


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

Brighter later?

The Countryside Agency (2004) identifies good practice showing parish councils’ active engagement to improve services. For example:

1Branxton Parish PlanNorthumberland

2Hibaldstow Recreational Facilities

Lincolnshire

3Llanbrynmair Local Distinctiveness ProjectPowys


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

  • So can parish councils rise to the challenge?

  • Some parish councils are leading the way but principal authorities and other

  • agencies can do more to ignite parish councils! (Derounian et al 2005)

  • Promote the work of parish and town councils

  • Encourage councils to use the parish precept to support local projects

  • Reach out to parish and town councils on their own terms

  • Promote collaborative working and joint service provision

  • Ensure that consultation at parish level contributes to strategic planning

  • Promote the development of skills and confidence in communities


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

And finally….

üSome councils are delivering an excellent service for their citizens.

üThe sector is striving to increase the numbers of high performing councils.

ü  The sector needs further support from other agencies - especially principal authorities and the voluntary sector.

It will take time but the growing number of active, responsive and engaging parish councils demonstrate the significant potential of the parish model and cannot be ignored .


Can parish councils rise to the challenge

“The strength of free peoples resides in the local community. Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within the people’s reach; they teach people to appreciate its peaceful enjoyment & accustom them to make use of it.

Without local institutions a nation may give itself a free government but it has not got the spirit of liberty”

Alexis de Tocqueville 1835


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