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Community Governance Review phase two

The second and final phase of consultation on the proposal for a new parish council for the Spitalfields and Banglatown area has now ended.

Many thanks to all those who responded to the consultation. A report on the consultation findings is due to be presented to the council’s General Purposes Committee on Tuesday 25 June, ahead of Cabinet the following day.

A decision on the proposals is expected to be made by councillors at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 17 July.


 

Why are we asking for your views?

Tower Hamlets Council has received a valid petition from residents requesting the creation of a new parish council (or ‘local council’) in the Spitalfields & Banglatown area of the borough of Tower Hamlets.

The council is obliged to carry out a community governance review under the provisions of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. The review is considering whether or not a new parish council should be established. 

In the autumn last year we asked people what they thought about the proposals made by the petitioners. You can see a summary of the findings from that consultation

The council has reviewed people’s feedback and examined the options. It has now produced draft recommendations as required by law. There are three options that we want to put to local people for further consultation.

1. Create a parish council but with modifications to the proposals made in the original petition. At this stage, this is not the council’s preferred option, however if a new parish council were to be created we think it should be called ‘Spitalfields & Banglatown Parish Council’. We would also like people’s views on three possible boundary options.

boundaries040319A4

 

2. Reject the proposal to create a parish council but instead create or strengthen non-parish forms of community governance in the area. At this stage this is the council’s recommended option. The council remains strongly committed to localism and community engagement. We want to ensure that people have a say over decisions that affect them. We acknowledge that the borough cannot and should not be run from one central location. The diversity of the borough and local needs must be reflected in how decisions are made. We would like your ideas on how we might best do this.

3. Reject the proposal to create a parish council and retain existing arrangements. This would involve no change, with Tower Hamlets Council remaining the lowest tier of local government in the area. Current arrangements for community involvement and engagement would continue.

We have set out the full reasons for our draft recommendations in our initial analysis and draft recommendations report.

Frequently asked questions

Answer:

Parish councils are the most local tier of local government in much of the UK. Parish councils may resolve to call themselves ‘town’ or ‘neighbourhood’, ‘community’, or ‘village’ councils. Different areas choose to use different names but legally they are the same and have the same powers and duties. Collectively, they are often referred to as ‘local councils’.

Answer:

Tower Hamlets Council is responsible for providing a range of services within its boundaries. These include: education; highways; transport planning; social care; housing; libraries; leisure and recreation; environmental health; waste collection; waste disposal; planning applications; strategic planning; council and business tax collection. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘principal council’. Principal councils have the power to create, alter, merge or abolish parish councils.

Answer:

Tower Hamlets Council will decide after it has received your response to this consultation. The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act (2007) gives the council the power to create a new parish if it believes that this reflects the identity and interests of people in the area and that it would ensure effective and efficient delivery of services to local people. It must consider the impact that creating a parish would have on community cohesion.

Answer:

No, a parish council coexists with a principal council, like Tower Hamlets Council, but it is not a replacement for it. The two would need to work together. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets wards of Spitalfields & Banglatown and Weavers would continue to exist. Local people would still elect ward councillors to represent them on the borough council. Tower Hamlets Council would still continue to provide most services to local people.

Answer:

Parish councils have the option to exercise a variety of powers and duties, including the delivery of a small number of specific local services that add to those provided by the principal council i.e. Tower Hamlets Council. These include recreation grounds, allotments, public toilets, control of litter, community centres, parks and open spaces, crime prevention, festivals and fêtes, traffic calming measures, support for tourism and markets.

There are over 10,000 parish councils across the country. The areas they serve are called civil parishes. Parish councils are different from Parochial Church Councils (or PCCs). Civil parishes have no connection to religious bodies.

Answer:

A parish council can choose not to deliver any services and instead act purely as a means of influencing local service provision made by the principal council or other partners such as the police.

Answer:

A parish council can provide additional services to those provided by the principal council such as the provision of car parking or street cleaning with the consent of the principal council.

Parish councils can express an interest in running a local authority service. Principal councils, like Tower Hamlets Council, must consider an expression of interest submitted by a parish council but there is no guarantee that this would be successful. Parish councils can also bid to purchase assets of community value such as pubs or community halls.

Answer:

A parish council is a democratically elected and legally independent tier of local government with its own councillors elected every four years by local people. It can be sub-divided into wards, with ward councillors representing their neighbourhoods.

Answer:

A parish council requires the election of parish councillors. Parish councillors may be volunteers or may be paid an allowance determined by the parish council. These councillors would be in addition to the councillors already elected to Tower Hamlets Council for the wards of Spitalfields & Banglatown and Weavers. A parish council must meet at least four times a year, hold elections every four years, and comply with standing orders and financial regulations and auditing requirements as set out in legislation.

They must have a responsible finance officer and a parish clerk would need to be appointed to oversee the administration of a parish council.

Answer:

Parish councils are funded principally through an annual precept – an additional council tax levied on local taxpayers. Parish councils mainly use this to fund the administration of the council and to provide additional local services to enhance those already provided by the principal council. They have no power to raise money from business rates.

Funding can also be raised through income, for example from car parks or markets or rental of property owned by the parish council. Parish councils may also apply for grant funding and are eligible to receive a proportion of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) collected in their area, secured from planning permissions granted after the date the parish council is established. This amount ranges from 15% up to 25% of CIL where there is an adopted neighbourhood plan in place.

Answer:

It is important that residents understand the potential costs of a parish council and the likely cost to council tax payers within a parish. Parish councils are funded principally through an annual precept, an additional council tax levied on eligible individuals. The parish precept is added onto the council tax bill and collected by the principal council.

For illustrative purposes only, the table below shows the national average precept for all council tax bands. Nationally, the average Band D precept charged by a parish for 2018-19 is £64.05, an increase of £3.02, or 4.9%, from 2017-18.

Costs
Council tax band National average parish precept 2018/19 
 Band A  £42.70 
 Band B  £49.81
 Band C £56.93 
 Band D £64.05 
 Band E £78.28 
 Band F £93.16 
 Band G £106.75 
 Band H £128.10 

 The precept is set by the principal council in the first year and then by the parish council itself once elected. This sum is levied on top of the standard council tax that you are eligible to pay. If you are exempt from paying council tax you will not have to pay the precept either.

Answer:

It is difficult to give a clear estimate of the cost of running a parish council. The cost depends on the overheads (e.g. staff costs and premises) and the range of services that a parish council chooses to provide.

The tax base for a parish council in the area shown on the map at Appendix 1 as Boundary Option 1 is estimated at 3,277 Band D equivalent properties. At the national average of a £64.05 precept, the estimated income from the precept for a parish council in this area would be in the region of £209,892.[1]

Parish councils vary enormously in size, activities and circumstances, representing populations ranging from less than 100 in small rural hamlets to almost 100,000 (Sutton Coldfield Town Council). We have provided some benchmarking examples obtained from other parish councils at Appendix 3 for comparison. This includes Queens Park Community Council, the only parish council in London. The examples have been selected because they serve populations of a similar size to the area of Tower Hamlets under consideration. They show the different kinds of services provided by different parish councils, staff costs and income raised through the parish precept.


[1] If a council tax collection rate of 97.25% is assumed then the figure would be 3,177 Band D equivalent properties with an estimated total precept of £203,487

Answer:

In considering the proposal to create a parish council for Spitalfields & Banglatown, you will need to weigh up the benefits of other models of community engagement and involvement and the benefits of having a parish council either alongside, or instead of, those arrangements. These could include, but are not restricted to, neighbourhood planning forums, residents or community associations, neighbourhood management or civic forums. The approach to community governance in the area could include a greater role for the two existing neighbourhood planning forums in Spitalfields and East Shoreditch. Neighbourhood forums are community groups that are designated to take forward neighbourhood planning in areas without parishes.

What sets parish councils apart from these other kinds of governance is the fact they are an elected tier of local government and possess specific powers. You will need to consider whether a parish council is something you feel would most benefit the area or whether other options could provide greater benefits.

Answer:

When the council started this review we wanted to find out what people thought of the ideas in the petition. We ran an initial phase of consultation in the autumn of 2018. Although most people told us that they do not support the creation of a parish, there was stronger support for the idea from people living in the area. Some people said that they wanted more information before they made up their minds.

Even if you responded to the first phase of consultation, we would still like to hear from you. You may want to reconsider or reaffirm your views after reviewing the information we have provided here. The council is committed to a two stage consultation. We said we would provide more information at the second stage about the role and powers of a parish council. We also want your views on the area and the naming of a parish if one were to be created.

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You can download a copy of our full consultation document