Labour to oppose parish council plans and call for a referendum

The Labour Party in Swindon is opposing plans to parish the town, and are calling for a referendum which will allow the public to decide.

Swindon Flemming Way - Forward Swindon (day)

The Swindon Labour Group has come out in opposition to Swindon Borough Council’s plans to parish the non-parished areas of Swindon in order to transfer all ‘Street Smart’ services, as well as other services, to existing and new parish councils.

They have also said that if the Conservatives proceed with their plans then there should be a referendum to let the public decide. So far, the Conservative administration has said they are unwilling to commit to a referendum on new parishes.

The Labour Group Leader has also wrote to the Chairs of all Swindon’s Parish Councils urging them to hold a public referendum in their parishes on whether to accept the transfer of all services Swindon Borough Council currently plan to give to parish councils.

Earlier this year it was reported that Conservative-ran Swindon Borough Council are planning to introduce parish councils in current non-parished areas, including West Swindon, Central Swindon, OId Town and other parts of East and North-Central Swindon.

This is currently under consultation as part of a Community Governance Review, which is a statutory consultation the Council has to undertake before reforming parish arrangements in the Borough.

Plans have been presented to councillors to increase the Council-Tax by £75 over 3 years through these new parish councils introducing a parish precept.

Last month Covingham Parish Council rejected the Council’s plans to allow new services to be transferred from the Council to Parish Councils.

The Labour Group Leader, Councillor Jim Grant, said: “We are opposed to the Conservative Group’s plans to introduce parishes across all of Swindon.

Swindon Labour leader, Jim Grant
Swindon Labour leader, Jim Grant

“Their plans will force on people new parish councils they haven’t asked for and new services on existing parish councils they haven’t asked for.

“We think these plans would lead to less efficient services as parish councils are smaller organisations that don’t have the same purchasing power as the Borough Council. We know the Conservatives are looking to offload services to new and existing parish councils because they want to save money for the Council.

“However this will cost residents a lot more as the Council are expecting new parishes to charge residents an extra £75 to pay for these services through a “parish precept”.

“If services are transferred to existing parishes then residents will also have to pay more through their precept in order to keep the same level of service. This “parish precept” charge would be on top of the Council’s proposed 2% general council-tax charge.

“The Conservatives are proposing this because they know the Council-tax needs to be increased by substantial amounts, but they want to avoid getting the blame for such substantial increases in council-tax, so they want to get parish councils to do it through their precept.

“I have written to the Chairs of all Parish Councils in Swindon urging them to hold a referendum on whether current council services should be transferred to parish councils to make sure their residents get the final say over whether the services are devolved to their parishes as it’s their taxes that will be affected.”