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Community Governance Review FAQs for the public

What is a Community Governance Review?

Eden Community Governance ReviewA ‘Community Governance Review’ is a way for District Councils to make sure parish level governance arrangements are working as efficiently and effectively as they can be. ‘Governance arrangements’ refers to the way in which Parish/Town Councils or Parish Meetings are run and structured. We will carry out this review by asking the public, Parish/Town Councils and Parish Meetings and any interested parties whether they feel their communities are suitably represented and whether parishes 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 relevant national guidance documents. We have previously undertaken two smaller scale Community Governance Reviews in Clifton, where we increased the number of Councillors, and Kaber, which converted from a Parish Council to a Parish Meeting.

What is a Parish or Town Council?

A Town or Parish Council is a local authority area that covers a defined parish or group of parishes. In Eden, and Cumbria more generally, there are three levels of local authority – Cumbria County Council covers the whole County, Eden District Council, and then there are 53 Town/Parish Councils and 19 Parish Meetings. A Town Council has the same powers as a Parish Council, it is just that the local area has decided to refer to itself as a ‘Town’ Council, as they feel it is a more appropriate way of describing their local area.

What powers do Parish or Town Councils have?

Parish/Town Councils have a number of powers and duties, some of which are outlined below:

  • Provide allotments, let grazing rights and maintain open spaces;
  • Burial grounds and cemeteries – the power to provide and maintain burial; grounds, cemeteries and to maintain monuments and memorials;
  • Provide bus shelters;
  • Provide public clocks and benches;
  • Provide community centres, village halls or conference facilities;
  • Contribute towards the prevention of crime and disorder;
  • Make dog control orders;
  • Maintain footpaths, light roads or public spaces and provide litter bins;
  • Provide and maintain public toilets;
  • Act as a statutory consultee in relation to planning applications; and
  • Maintain, repair and protect war memorials.

What is a Parish meeting?

Parish Meetings tend to cover areas with fewer people than Parish Councils, generally areas with less than 150 registered electors. A Parish Meeting does not have elected councillors, instead, the Meetings are convened by local electors who choose a member of their community to act as a chairman. Parish Meetings do not have as many powers as Parish Councils, but they are still statutory consultees for planning applications. They may also be consulted on certain licensing matters. Other powers include, but are not limited to:

  • Management of allotments;
  • Bus shelter provision;
  • Acting as the local burial authority;
  • Appointment of trustees to parochial charities; and
  • Lighting of roads and other public spaces.

A Parish Meeting also has the power to raise a precept to support these functions.

What can a Community Governance Review do?

A Community Governance Review can consider a number of changes to parishes 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, or convert a Parish Meeting into a Parish Council;
  • 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 (that is, abolish the District and County Councils and replace them with a single Council).

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 when considering taking on footway lighting, public toilets and/or grass cutting.

What are the timescales?

We agreed to undertake the review in September and 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:

  • Phase 1 Consultation - October to December 2017: 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;

  • Interim report writing - December to February 2018: Following the closure of the consultation, we will develop an interim report that will include recommendations for changes to parishes;

  • Phase 2 Consultation - February to April 2018: 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;

  • Final Report - April to June 2018: We will develop a final report and set of recommendations after Phase 2 of the consultation; and

  • The final report and recommendations - July 2018: 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)

How can I get involved?

You can get involved by completing our online questionnaire on Survey Monkey.

You can also contact us by using the details below.