In 1972 the Local Government Act came into force. Since 1972 there has been considerable social,cultural,environmental and political change. Part of that change is the change in expectations by residents about what they expect from their Parish Council. So how well has the Local Government Act 1972 stood the test of time and is the legislation as it stands today with its various additions and amendments Fit For Purpose in the 21st Century?
There have been many and quite important legislative updates and additions that affect parish councils but the 1972 Act underpins how the sector operates.
So what does current legislation say about: Parish Delivering Quality Services. Not much to be honest.The legislation is focused mainly on process and documentation such as Standing Orders for parish councils and is based around meetings rather than service delivery to benefit residents.
Parish delivering Value for Money Services. The legislation is based on process and procedure rather than giving directions or rules. Hence APC is controlled by economic illiterates. They are supposed to be able to read a budget proposal instead of having it explained to them line by line.
Parish adding Value to the Community. Parishes have the power and a long history in providing spaces and buildings as recreational,social and sporting facilities. Anston Parish Council’s Clerk to the Council ‘forgets’ to collect rents and payments for the allotments and playing fields. Add on the costs of ‘Anston Day’-promoted and “organised” by Dalton-which costs approximately £2000 and there is no value to the community for these facilities.
Parishes delivering Localism. Parish councils are ideally placed to deliver the localism agenda but old habits die hard and APC is still stuck in the past, unaccustomed to listening to others, reluctant to engage in meaningful consultations and not concerned about raising the precept (aka Anston Tax)
The Way Forward? There are a number of parishes who are a credit to their community but on Anston Parish Council there is a hard core of Labour councillors that urgently need to: Modernise. Engage in active and meaningful consultations (Instead of voting in secret sessions behind closed doors) Be open and honest. Realise and accept there are alternative viewpoints and solutions.
Under laws introduced in 1894, even the smallest payments made by a parish council must be signed off by at least 2 members of the council-a time-consuming process leading them to use cheques instead of quick electronic transfers. From 2011, parish councils were given the freedom to use modern banking methods. The National Association of Local Councils and the Society of Local Council Clerks worked together to put important safeguards in place so all payments made by parish councils are legitimate and there is no misuse of the system. This initiative gave a welcome boost to local councils to help them operate more efficiently and effectively and to enable them to continue to play their role at the heart of the community. It’s time to bring Anston Parish Council into the 21st Century so it can get on and do its jobs in a faster and simpler way instead of St.John and AN.Other wasting time signing cheques.
The Roadblocks. Since the 1972 Act the changes over the years, the additions, deletions and new pieces of legislation means it is now something of a hotchpotch. Add in: A Code of Conduct that is a complete waste of time and money. A code that any other corporate entity would just consign to the dustbin. A Neighbourhood Planning scheme that is too bureaucratic, too time consuming, too reliant on experts and too expensive to complete. A Community Infrastructure Scheme that is manipulated by a Principal Authority (RMBC) to the detriment of parish councils in terms of special developments and funding. A process that allows cliques to exist, flourish and hold on to power and which (In Anston) tried to stop filming of parish meetings.
Anston Parish Council must consult, be transparent and not wait for new legislation to modernise. It needs to be proactive, not reactive otherwise it will probably cease to exist in its present form as the 21st century progresses.