Bromsgrove Standard Article

Bleakhouse Farm Wythall

The Bromsgrove Standard has today published details of the planning meeting for Bleakhouse Farm.

It appears on page 7 of the paper and the online version which can be seen by clicking on the image above and then scrolling along to page 7.

You’ll notice also, the front page article where Councillors Roger Hollingsworth and Peter McDonald are calling for support to scrap parish councils in the district.

Here is the article in it’s entirity, along with a handy email link to let your views be known – useful given the recent performance put in by our own parish council, some might think!

THE LEADERS of Bromsgrove District Council and the town’s Labour group have slammed parish councils, claiming they are not value for money and should all be disbanded.

And Coun Roger Hollingworth and Coun Peter McDonald are due to meet in the coming weeks to discuss the third tier of local government, which they say, the taxpayer should not have to pay for.

Coun Hollingworth said: “There is the odd thing they do where people benefit, but overall I don’t think they are value for money – most of the funding goes on administration.”

Coun Hollingworth added many issues submitted to parish councils were passed onto the district to sort out and that there was nothing parish councils did the district could not take on.

Coun McDonald said the concept of parish councils, which goes back to the 18th and 19th century, was outdated.

“It’s a luxury that divides the district, because those without parishes pay less council tax – it’s discrimination.”

Of Bromsgrove’s 19 parished areas, the highest 2013/14 precepts are Alvechurch, set at £104,957, Wythall, at £100,447, and Clent, at £75,000. Of the annual charges to individual Band D householders, Clent and Barnt Green residents pay the most for their parish councils – £63.79 and £62.11 respectively.

Both councillors hit out at how parish councils could increase their charges by the amount they wanted, while district and county were both capped at 1.99 per cent.

Nine parish councils increased their portions by two per cent or more. Clent was the highest, rising its precept by 33.45 per cent. Hunnington was second with an 8.82 per cent hike.

While the finances for 2013/14 were being agreed, £42,000 extra had to be found for parish councils because of a shortfall caused by the Government changing the way the number of D band equivalent homes was calculated.

Coun McDonald also hit out at some district councillors who were also parish councillors, saying they used the district council chamber to argue on behalf of their parishes.

And he said a debate on the future of parish councils was one that had to be had.

But Alvechurch Parish Council chairman Coun John Cypher dismissed the claims.

“It’s an odd set of comments given the Government’s interest in localism.

“Parish councils are the best form of localism you can get.”

And he added with Bromsgrove District Council vying to reduce its number of councillors, it did not make sense.

“It doesn’t say much about the way democracy may operate in the future.”

And, on cost to the taxpayer, he said parish councils differed and Alvechurch covered a big area.

“We are one of the biggest and offer great value for money.”

Statistically, charges for parish councils make up one per cent of the overall council tax bill.

As has been proven in the past, disbanding parish councils can be a lengthy process. Lickey End Parish Council was finally dissolved in 2011 after a decade of campaigning.

Coun Hollingworth said for parish councils to be disbanded, the public needed to ask for it.

Both councillors now want residents to submit their views on their local parish councils, whether they be positive or negative opinions.

E-mail your views r.hollingworth@bromsgrove.gov.uk or write to R.Hollingworth, Council House, Burcot Lane, Bromsgrove. B60 1AA

2 Responses to Bromsgrove Standard Article

  • Stephen Peters says:

    Re the article on the front page of the Bromsgrove Standard:

    What a strange political alliance – the Conservative Leader of Bromsgrove District Council and the leader of the Labour group on the District Council – speaking with one voice in calling for the abolition of Parish Councils.

    It is important to understand that these 2 councillors are attacking parish councils from two opposite directions. Cllr McDonald (Lab) disagrees with the fundamental principle of parish councils because he considers they are undemocratic because many of those in Bromsgrove are composed of people who have not been elected. In many cases parish councillors are either elected unopposed every 4 years due to lack of alternative candidates or else casual vacancies are filled by co-options.

    Wythall Parish Council is one of only a few where we have competitive elections every 4 years and voters have a selection of candidates to choose from (although it must be remembered that due to lack of local interest there were only 3 candidates standing in South Wythall last time for the 3 vacancies, so no election took place).

    Cllr Roger Hollingworth, the Conservative Leader of Bromsgrove District Council and a former Parish Council chairman, hates parish councils because they disagree with him. Recently, Hagley Parish Council had the temerity to conduct orchestrated opposition to a housing development and threatened a legal challenge. The Chairman of Hagley PC was then unceremoniously removed from his Chairmanship of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on the District Council. I wonder why?

    Clent PC also has long-standing issues and disputes with the District Council; and the PC in Alvechurch (which Cllr Hollingworth represents) is Labour controlled and not at all sympathetic.

    Cllr McDonald is correct when he says the present system is unfair because the unparished areas of Bromsgrove town and Rubery pay lower Council Tax than parished areas. Here in Wythall, we pay twice for street lighting for example. This service is a County function in the town and in Rubery whereas we have to pay Wythall Parish Council to light most of our footways (more than 400 lamps in total). The same argument applies to grass cutting, bus shelters and grit bins.

    Is Cllr Hollingworth suggesting that the District council would take on these extra responsibilities at zero cost? If so, many Wythall people might be attracted by the prospect of Rubery and Bromsgrove residents contributing to our street lighting costs. That would be much fairer would it not, Cllr McDonald?

    I think the residents of Wythall should think very carefully before jumping to support this strange Lab / Con alliance at Bromsgrove. We need the full picture and the true costs before we can form any judgement on this issue.

    In the end, it would be for the people of our parish to decide on the future of their Parish Council. It cannot be imposed on us by a Dictator in Bromsgrove. It is called LOCALISM – maybe Cllr Hollingworth has heard about it. It is a Conservative idea!

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