Old Town campaigner Colin Doubleday gives his opinion of the current parishing consultation process.
We all have a duty to tell the Council what we think and the Council have a duty to listen.
Over the next 15 days you will receive a leaflet through the post. It will be from Swindon Borough Council [SBC] and it will ask again, what you think about cutting up central unparished Swindon into four new Parish Councils.
Yes, if you are on the end of this process you may have 15 days to share your opinion. You may well have done so before, but in a crazy move, all previous comments are now erased, the council will only listen to what you say now based on what you read in the council leaflet.
Why does your opinion matter? Because we need to challenge the organisational bullying that is currently happening from SBC to the residents. By bullying I mean exactly ignoring the will of the people and the intention of the Localism Act that they are using to do this work.
To quote from the announcement of this act in January 2015: ‘While the government is committed to supporting the establishment of town and parish councils, it strongly believes that councils should not be imposed on communities and only created where sufficient community support exists.’
To quote the purpose of the legislation: ‘Speeding up the process and creating greater certainty for local campaigners by shortening the amount of time the local authority can take to complete a governance review to 12 months from receipt of a valid petition.’
Well contrary to the statement no such petition has ever been received by Swindon Council. Indeed, Cllr Elliott and Cllr Martin, the cabinet members responsible for pursuing the policy of setting up new parishes, council leader Cllr Renard and the Borough Solicitor, have all publicly admitted at various times that there has never been one letter nor one engagement response asking for the creation of new parish councils in non-parished areas.
But Cllr Martin, does not desist, saying “I don’t think the people of Swindon are opposed to parishing as such.”
She made this statement after presenting data to the Council that said a large majority of initial responses appeared to say ‘please do not create new parishes’ and that when asked about boundaries a large majority appear to say “one large Parish Council if we must have any at all.”
Instead the council’s plan is cut the town into small pieces, including straight through Old Town. I wonder who that may benefit.
Cllr Martin didn’t like the statistics, so is that connected to why all these replies will now be disregarded and we must say it all again?
So people of Swindon can I ask for your patient help? Please read your leaflet and please do send in your simple replies, again. That is our duty.
If, as I suspect, the answers again are in majority “we do not want new parishes “ and “if we must please make it all one large Town Parish”, well then the duty of Cllr Martin and Cllr Renard is to listen to the people, take a pause and NOT to impose a council on a community where no community support exists.
You can find out more about parishing here: http://www.swindon.gov.uk/…/cgr_public_information