Do you realise why there is a good possibility that areas of Swindon will be closing parks within the next 10 years and do you imagine you will get a say in which parks get closed? Please follow my line of argument and you may be surprised, this is what could happen and you have no say.
Over the past few weeks there have been a small number of local meetings to discuss the potential boundaries of new parishes in Swindon. Yes, like me, I guess you thought that we told the Borough Council that we didn’t want this, well despite to date, zero requests, the parishes will go ahead we are told by Cllr Mary Martin. And the Council suggests quite small parishes of 10-20 thousand voters. Many questions have been asked about not just about next year, but about 4 or 5 years time.
Things we have learned through the recent consultation:
- Parks will end up in Parishes.
A parish would pay to dredge the lake at Queens Park, replace the next broken wall in Faringdon Rd or to protect trees in Peatmoor.
- Library buildings and other public buildings end up in Parishes
The borough will not pay staff at libraries, but they will not maintain the infrastructure nor the buildings either, not even the 4 libraries that stay open.
- Street lighting ends up in Parishes
Lighting in Swindon is in a poor state There is no planned budget for major changes to lighting by SBC and looks like this may be heading to Parishes.
The Borough will not publish a list of statutory responsibility, so who knows what comes next. Surfacing residential roads?
My example is if there is another landslip at Queens Park. It could cost £100k or £200k to put it right. And another £10k to keep the public safe and away from the landslip over the 6 months it takes to fix. How can a small parish of say 10,000 tax payers find the money to pay that bill? A parish of that size cannot run reserves at that sort of level. And what if the parish also ran the Central Library or 150 dangerous street lights?
Perhaps the bill is just too big, perhaps the Parish may close Queens Park – maybe for good?
Queens Park or Faringdon Rd or Shaw Forest or [insert favourite local park here] are not really local amenities, they are shared across the whole population. Just like an art centre or a shopping centre. So if they need closing due to lack of cash or lack of cashflow, then perhaps that should be a decision for the whole town, not just a small parish of local people?
Surely the best way to cover these type of large bills and to save these assets will be to club together as a group of 100,000 residents. The surplus on my Parish precept this year will fix the leaky roof of your library building in West Swindon, your surplus next year will save the lake at Queens Park. To me that is the point of living in a large town, a community with a responsibility. In Parishes, size does matter.
Colin Doubleday is a resident of Old Town.