What is community governance?
Community Governance is the way local communities are represented at local authority level. It is also the way individuals / groups within the community are listened to and able to influence decisions that affect them. Electors should be able to identify clearly with the parish in which they live. There is no right scale for a parish, but the general rule is that a parish should be based on an area which reflects community identity and interest, and which is of a size which is viable as an administrative unit.
What is a community governance review?
A community governance review (CGR) is the process to consider whether existing parish / town council arrangements should be changed in any way.
This can include:
- The creation of a parish / town council
- Separating an existing parish / town council
- The name of a parish / town council
- Altering boundaries of an existing parish / town areas
- Changes to the electoral arrangements (eg. changing the number of councillors)
- Whether a parish should be grouped or de-grouped
- The dissolution of a parish / town council
In carrying out the CGR the District Council should reject any proposals which it has reason to believe will act against the interests of either the local community or surrounding communities, particularly where the effect would be likely to damage community cohesion. It is also desirable that any new arrangements do not upset historic traditions but do reflect changes that have happened over time, such as population shift or additional development, which may have led to a different community identity.
Who undertakes community governance reviews?
Wealden District Council is responsible for this within its electoral area.
Who is being consulted?
The consultation is publicly available to any interested persons and groups in the affected area. This also includes:
- Local councillors
- Community groups
- Parish councils
What can local residents/community representatives add to this process?
Local residents and community representatives can add to this process by telling us what they think about governance arrangements in their area and whether the proposed changes would reflect community interests and promote cohesion and strong and inclusive local governance.
How will the options be judged?
Government guidance indicates that a good CGR should assess the options considering:
- Effective engagement with the local community at neighbourhood level
- A sense of civic pride and civic values
- Strong leadership
- A strong, inclusive community and voluntary sector
- A sense of place with a positive feeling for people and local distinctiveness
- The ability of local authorities to deliver quality services economically and efficiently in an area that is of that size
Can alternative suggestions be made?
Yes, we want to hear your views.
These will be considered before any decisions are taken. We must work within government guidelines by ensuring boundaries recognise natural communities and where possible we will use natural and physical features as boundaries, such as rivers, railways and major roads.
When will any agreed changes take effect?
If changes are agreed in any of the areas under review, they would take effect at the district and parish elections in May 2023.
What is a Parish or Town Council?
A Parish or Town Council is made up of members who are elected every four years. It will have regular meetings to discuss issues which affect the area, which members of the public can attend. The Parish or Town council will have a Chair-person and a clerk, who implements decisions, provides independent advice and administrative support.
What can a Parish or Town Council do?
Parish and Town Councils represent the interests of their community by providing services to meet local needs and improving the quality of life and community well-being. They are consulted on planning applications in their area and may be responsible for the provision of allotments, street lighting, managing cemeteries, managing village halls, maintenance of roadside verges and supporting local crime initiatives.
How are Parish and Town Councils funded?
Parish and Town Councils are funded by a precept. The precept is raised through a separate charge which is added to your Council Tax bill and collected by Wealden District Council on behalf of the parish or town council. The parish or town council will decide how much funding they need in order to provide services and facilities for the benefit of the community. The amount you pay will depend on the size to the parish or town council, the number of properties across which it is spread and the Council Tax Banding of your property. If new parish or town councils are created, Wealden Council may decide on the precept required for the first year.
Will the proposed changes make any difference to my council tax?
If you live in an area where a new parish or town council is proposed then yes, the changes may make a difference to your council tax. This is because parish and town councils are funded by a precept (as explained above). The creation of any new parish or town council or a merger with an existing parish or town area would change the funding requirements. The council tax you pay may decrease or increase, depending on the services the parish or town council wanted to provide.
It is hard to predict what the level of any precept will be in the future, just as it is hard to judge the impact (if any at all) of parish boundaries on matters such as property values or insurance premiums.
Are Parish and Town Councillors paid an allowance?
Parish and town councillors are not usually paid an allowance but may incur costs which can be reimbursed.
Will the proposals change the current school catchment areas?
No, these will remain the same and are set by East Sussex County Council.
Will the proposals change local elections in my area?
Possibly. The District Council will need to consider the governance of new or altered parishes in the form of their electoral arrangements i.e. the number of councillors and how they are organised and elected. The minimum number of parish councillors allowed is five, but there is no upper limit. The District Council will therefore pay particular attention to existing levels of representation, the broad pattern of existing council sizes and the take-up of seats at elections in its consideration of this matter.
Each case should be considered on its merits, and on the quality of the information and evidence provided to the District Council during the course of the review.
When considering the electoral arrangements for a parish, whether it is warded or not, the District Council must also consider any change in the number or distribution of the electors which is likely to occur in the next five years.
Can a CGR change the boundary between Wealden and another Principal Council?
No. Boundaries between Principal Councils are a matter for the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to consider. A proposal to change a principal boundary would need support from the principal councils affected and would need to satisfy the criteria for a Principal Area Boundary Review.
How much does a CGR cost?
Every CGR is different. The costs will not be known until after a Review has been completed. This can take up to 12 months. Wealden has an approved budget for this work and the costs of a CGR would be borne by the District Council.
How will this affect local services in my area?
The convenience and quality of services provided at parish level is an important consideration. A CGR will need to consider how local services for new and existing residents would be affected, and whether change would improve the capacity of a parish council to deliver better services and to represent the community’s interests more effectively. It will be important to consider whether users of parish services will have a democratic voice in the decisions that affect them, as well as a fair share of the costs.