Erosion of local rights to decide

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I write on the subject of parish councils and declare right away that I am an elected member of the Billingshurst Community Partnership. However this letter is not about the EYE Project nor is it denigrating the work of Billingshurst Parish Council.

Recent letters have raised questions about the effectiveness of parish councils and this is a debate that should not be ignored. After all the current parish precept is over £244,000 of taxpayers’ money in Billingshurst alone and this is but one of many hundreds of councils up and down the country.

The problem is that in recent years such powers that parish councils did enjoy have been eroded and here I speak from 30 years’ experience on another parish council.

What is left that district councils cannot do at almost certainly less cost to the taxpayer? Very little that I can see. Specific issues, such as large-scale planning, can be, and are, confronted by local ad-hoc pressure groups. They have no more and no less clout than parish councils.

The basis of this gradual change is the erosion of the authority of councillors at every level.

Power has been concentrated in Whitehall while what we need is greater delegation of power – localism. The Government pays lip-service to this principle while over 80 per cent of the electorate don’t bother to vote in parish elections. It is this issue that should be addressed rather than the small number of electors who still consider it their civic duty to vote.

This problem will appear again in the forthcoming elections for Police Commissioners and more and more in all future elections for district, county, Parliamentary and European elections until the Government gives us back the right to decide local matters locally.

JOHN UNDERWOOD

Luggs Close, Billingshurst