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Community Governance Review FAQs for parish councils

What is a Community Governance Review?

Eden Community Governance ReviewA ‘Community Governance Review’ is a way for district councils to make sure that, at parish level, governance arrangements are working as efficiently and effectively as they should be. This is achieved by asking the public, parish councils and any interested parties whether they feel their communities are suitably represented and whether parish councils would like to see any changes made to their current governance arrangements.

We have the power to undertake such reviews under Part 4 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 and the relevant national guidance document.

What can a Community Governance Review do?

A Community Governance Review can make a number of changes to parish councils when there is clear evidence to do so:

  • Creating, merging, altering or abolishing parishes;
  • Change electoral arrangements for parishes including the ordinary year of an election, number of parish councillors and changes to parish wards;
  • Convert a parish council to a parish meeting;
  • Change the name or the style of a parish/town council or parish meeting; and
  • Group parishes together under a common parish or de-group parishes.

What can't a Community Governance Review do?

A Community Governance Review cannot:

  • Change the number of district or county councillors;
  • Change district or county council ward boundaries;
  • Change the amount of money that a parish council raises through your council tax (known as a ‘precept’);
  • Change individual parish councillors; and
  • Create a unitary authority.

Why are we doing a Community Governance Review?

It is good practice to conduct a review of parish council governance arrangements every 10 to 15 years. However, there is no record of us undertaking such a review. A number of changes have impacted on parish councils in recent years, including the Localism Act and the introduction of a Transparency Code, which has placed a number of additional requirements on to parish councils. It was felt that now would be a good time to make sure that governance arrangements were working as well as they could be and to make sure that any changes can be put in place before the next elections in 2019. We are also currently consulting parishes about devolving services, so it might be beneficial for parishes to think about whether grouping together might help to share knowledge or produce efficiency savings if you are considering taking on footway lighting, public toilets or grass cutting.

What are the timescales?

We agreed to undertake the review in September and have officially published the terms of reference in September 2017. We now have 12 months to complete the Review and agree on any proposed changes.

We are going to be undertaking two phases of consultation in Eden:

  • October to December 2017 - Phase 1 Consultation: We will be writing to all Parish/Town Councils and Parish Meetings to explain what the review is, why we are doing it and to ask them whether they would be interested in making any changes. We will also be considering population growth forecasts and consulting with key stakeholders including local residents, Cumbria County Council and the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authorities;
  • December to February 2018 - Interim report writing: Following the closure of the consultation, we will develop an interim report that will include recommendations for changes to parishes;
  • February to April 2018 – Phase 2 Consultation: We will work directly with the areas shortlisted in the interim report to see what local parishes and residents think of our recommendations. We may end up changing our recommendations depending on the responses and evidence we receive during this round of consultation;
  • April to June 2018 – Final Report: We will develop a final report and set of recommendations after Phase 2 of the consultation; and
  • July 2018 – The final report and recommendations will be discussed and considered by full Council in July 2018. Following Council’s consideration of the final report, we will make an Order to give effect to any changes to local parishes which will come into force on 1 April 2019.

Who is doing the review?

The Review is being undertaken by our Deputy Chief Executive, Matthew Neal, and he is being advised by a working group of six councillors who are as follows:

  • Chairman: Councillor Douglas Banks (Independent, Langwathby)
  • Councillor Judith Derbyshire (Liberal Democrat, Dacre)
  • Councillor Karen Greenwood (Independent, Appleby (Appleby)
  • Councillor Elaine Martin (Conservative, Hesket)
  • Councillor Virginia Taylor (Liberal Democrat, Penrith West)
  • Councillor John Thompson (Conservative, Penrith West)

The review is also being supported by the Assistant Director Legal Services, Lisa Tremble, and staff in Information Governance and Communications, Elections, Legal and Member Services.

How can we be involved?

We will be writing to all parish/town councils and parish meetings to ask whether you would like to be involved in the Review. We would encourage looking at the options and see whether any of these might help to improve the way in which your parish currently operates. We would strongly encourage you to think ahead. Large scale community governance reviews only tend to happen once every 10 to 15 years, so you might want to look at our population growth forecast to see whether your town or villages are likely to have any significant increase in people in the future, or think about whether grouping together with neighbouring parishes might help you to deliver services in the future by creating greater economies of scale.

If your parish would be interested in being involved and tell us which of the options you would be interested in by completing the Town/Parish Councils and Parish Meetings Questionnaire on Survey Monkey.

You can also write to us with your views please use the contact details at the bottom of this page.

How are we consulting people?

In Phase 1, we will be having a questionnaire for town/parish councils and parish meetings, asking them whether they would like to be involved and how well they think their current governance arrangements are operating. We will be writing to all parish councils and parish meetings to ask them to be involved.

We will also have a questionnaire for local residents and businesses to fill in. We will also be sending you copies of posters and leaflets which we would be grateful if you could display on village notice boards to encourage local residents to take part. We will also be promoting the Review through the local press and via our social media channels to encourage as many people in Eden to take part and help to shape the future of their parishes.

During Phase 2, we will be undertaking targeted consultation in the areas being reviewed, so it is likely that we will be hosting public meetings to hear from parish/town council or meeting representatives and local residents to find out what you think of our initial proposals. We will also be seeking your views online and by post so that we can gather as much evidence as possible to make sure the right governance arrangements are in place across the whole of Eden.

Who makes the final decision on any changes?

We will need to consider any comments and evidence received as part of the consultation process and will have the final say on any recommendations.

What if we don't agree with the recommendations?

Whilst we will listen to all representations received, it is ultimately up to us to make the final decision in relation to how community governance should be undertaken.

Where can we find more information?

Town and Parish Councils who wish to request changes to their parish governance can fill in the Town/Parish Councils and Parish Meetings Questionnaire on Survey Monkey.

You can find out more information by using the contact details below.