Letter of the week: we’re very dynamic

Your correspondent whose letter headed “Parish Councils - time for them to go” (Advertiser February 21) shows a not uncommon degree of ignorance of the working of parish councils (PCs). Foremost is their lack of understanding of the co-option system. To clarify: when a vacancy for a parish councillor arises it must be notified to the electoral officer at their local borough or district council. The PC is then obliged to advertise the vacancy publicly. If after 14 days there has been no response then the electoral officer will issue a “permission to co-opt” notice. Actions that can be taken to prevent this happening are for a greater number of candidates than the number of vacancies to declare themselves or for ten registered electors to formally request that there be an election. Every four years the entire council retires and an election must be held. The down-side to elections is the cost of holding them; in the case of Dunchurch in the region of £1,500- a cost which must be borne by the PC. However, I know of no PCs that would not welcome far more active public participation, regular competitive elections, and even in their absence, more electors willing to be considered for co-option. Furthermore in Dunchurch, during my 13 years serving on our PC, there has never been anything resembling a “co-opt a friend” instance nor any resemblance of a “closed shop”.
One change I should like to see, is to rename parish councils; there are many of the population whom I suspect believe that PCs are part of the church establishment rather than the first tier of local government. I believe such a move could well increase public participation.
Currently our higher local authorities, borough and county, rather than wishing to take over PCs’ responsibilities are in fact doing quite the opposite. I would cite the examples of a very dynamic Dunchurch PC, within the last year having to take over the responsibilities of running our library and a new and invigorated youth service. I believe that in the service areas for which PCs have responsibility, they offer great value for money- at levels of productivity far greater than the higher local authorities. Of course not everything in the PC’s garden is rosy. We have to fight to be heard by the borough and county, continually cajoling and encouraging our representatives to ensure that the our voice is heard and acted upon. Abolish the PCs; what a ridiculous notion.

Robin Aird

Chairman, Dunchurch PC