Geoff Gould of Freshbrook is on a personal crusade to make sure that the people of Swindon are represented fully by the newly proposed parish councils.
He is calling on Swindon Borough Council to make sure that the shadow parishes, which will be formed at the end of the year, have community champion representatives on them rather than just borough councillors.
Every household in Swindon received details of a consultation, launched on 23 August, which asked residents for their views on proposals to create four new parishes in areas of Swindon not already in a parish council, and on changes to existing parish council boundaries.
The eight-page leaflet – which also gives information on the consultation regarding the future of Swindon libraries – was delivered to 91,000 homes across the Borough by Royal Mail over a two week period from early September. Among the information it included are two maps showing existing and proposed parish boundaries.
When asked about the potential timescale for parishing, Cllr Mary Martin said: “We would look to have the Shadow Parish Councils in place by December/January so they could set their rates for April, the 2017/18 financial year. From the point of creation, the new councils will be autonomous.”
Residents can also find information on the council’s website The online information features an interactive map where current and proposed parish boundaries can be viewed at street level, and a postcode search facility to show which parish area properties currently sit in, and where they might sit in future.
Mr Gould has been putting posters up across West Swindon to get people to lobby the council for community champions. He said: “At a recent meeting at West Swindon Library, it became apparent the borough council are determined to parish the whole of Swindon, effective from 1 April, 2017.
“The up side is your grounds maintenance and litter bin and dog bin emptying will be carried out by the parish council services and from an overview of other existing parishes it should cost less in council tax as the non-parished element of council tax will be replaced by a similar or lesser charge from your parish council.
“The downside is that initially a shadow parish council will be formed from your borough councillors who will have the power to instigate parish precept charges and sign contracts of any length for services until an election can be held some time between one to 13 months after the parish is formed.
“Then parish councillors will be elected who, hopefully, represent the non-political interests of the local populace.
“In the meantime I would urge you to write or email the chief executive of Swindon Borough Council asking for at least an equal number of local resident champions to be on the shadow parish council.
“If you want to include yourself as a candidate for co-opting into one of the positions on the shadow parish council you may express that wish in the letter or email.
“It is vitally important that a large number of letters are received by the chief executive to express the wishes of the people.”
Five public meetings are being held during September where councillors and council officers will be available to answer questions. The parishing proposals are being made because in future the Borough Council will no longer fund some local services such as grass cutting and street cleaning.
Instead, existing parish councils, and any new ones created, will need to decide with their local communities how these services are provided. At present, 41 per cent of Swindon households are within one of 16 parished areas. In these areas parish councils, also known as town or community councils, already provide a variety of important local services which may include allotments, leisure facilities, bin emptying, parks and open spaces, and grounds maintenance.
The current consultation is the third stage of a Community Governance Review process, and follows feedback received from previous stages carried out earlier this year which gathered views from residents, community organisations and existing parishes. It ends on Friday 30 September, after which the Council will consider the feedback and agree the final recommendations in November.
Consultation information will also be available in four libraries: The Central Library, North Swindon Library, West Swindon Library, and Park Library. Click for the online version
You can contact the Chief Executive by email at: email@example.com
And the postal address is The Chief Executive, Swindon Borough Council, Civic Offices, Euclid Street, Swindon, SN1 2JH.