People have got fired up by the positive opportunities which a town council can offer! But what are they? Some people have asked us for more examples of what town councils can do.
Well Dunstable provides social activities for people of all ages, including lunch clubs for the over 55’s and over 75’s, National Play Day for children, youth drop in sessions for teenagers and Dunstable Men in Sheds for men 55 plus. It has partnered with a young people’s counselling service to deliver sessions in schools identifying what causes stress. Totton and Eling, Hampshire, instituted a shopping voucher scheme to encourage residents to shop locally. Falmouth developed an economic plan including saving CCTV and youth services, and employs a team of gardeners who in conjunction with visitor and education office involve primary school children in horticulture projects.
Sprowston has taken over a youth and community building from Norfolk County Council, held a health fair and run a weight management class which has developed into an exercise class. Wikham has planted 800 new trees, commissioning two new floodlit tennis courts and a new club, a floodlit all weather football pitch and a new village green. Many town councils have taken over parks and allotments and public spaces: Skegness has a groundcare team, manages and maintains benches, bus shelters, notice boards, planters, hanging baskets, litter bins and an information lectern in the town. The groundcare team also manages the council’s cemetery, burial ground, war memorial and allotments.
Sevenoaks run a cinema and theatre complex ! Antsey has provided new football pitches for the local youth teams, built a community footpath with a neighbouring parish council and funded a feasibility study on a late night bus service. Stirchley and Brookside runs a gardening scheme which manages gardens for elderly people who can’t. Burnham Overy, Norfolk is a local partner in the development of six homes, five of which are classified as affordable.
Salisbury took on a mix of services, some of which cost money to run and others which generate an income. These include 33 parks, 12 play areas, a community centre, two pay and display car parks, the Guildhall and various shops, offices and flats. Thame in Oxfordshire supports local businesses with a range of measures. This includes providing 50% funding for a market town coordinator, chairing and supporting a business forum, supporting a charter market manning an information centre, providing sponsorship opportunities for local businesses and operating a buy it local policy.
Waltham Abbey have played host to a number of national and international events, including a night stopover of the Monte Carlo rally, the Olympic Torch relay, the Olympic Games and the Tour De France!
What would people in Bexhill like to see? It would of course be up to the councillors (elected in Bexhill by the people of Bexhill) to find out what is most needed in the town. Our D4B leaflet mentions some things we think would be popular, some big and some small, but we know that Bexhill residents are not short of ideas and suggestions for services which they would want to be effective and good value, not wasting money and not ignoring what the town really wants.
Parish and Town Councils are the most unbureaucratic and the cheapest kind of local authority in existence. Their funds will be the smallest part of the Council Tax and they get no general government grant, so they have every incentive to keep expenditure low and be economical. The accounts are strictly and independently audited every year.
Can we trust councillors?
All councillors have to abide by a Code of Conduct which sets out which interests have to be declared. The one used by Rye Town council (Yes, they have a town council although their population is only 5,000 compared to Bexhill’s 41,000!) is here.
Councillors also have to enter relevant financial and other interests in a special Register that is open to inspection by members of the public. The Department of Communities and Local Government provide a guide.