Parish Council Talk, held on 9th February 2005
The chair invited our guest speaker - Mark Gater, Chairman of Silverdale Parish Council - to give a brief talk on the role of a Parish Council. The session was opened for questions; the main points of discussion are listed below:
What are the duties of a Parish Councillor and what skills and knowledge are needed?
Legally one must be over the age of 21 years, a British or European Union subject and live or work within 3 miles of the parish boundaries. The only additional needs are that you have the interests of your community at heart, be willing to work hard for them and be able to attend at least a majority of the Parish Council meetings (there has to be a minimum of 4 meetings per year). A Parish Council would be given guidelines and training is available, generally through the SPCA.
A leaflet is available for the Staffordshire Parish Councils’ Association (SPCA) outlining the details, SM has a number of copies and these will be available from the William Sutton Centre, at the church and at the local shops.
Would we need training?
A handbook is available for new councillors, the SPCA run training, provide information and offer on-going training for parish councils. This usually involves a day or half day on specific subjects and is delivered locally.
What role does the Clerk play?
The Clerk is a paid employee of the Parish Council and performs secretarial duties such as minute taking and producing letters to external agencies, essentially taking the administrative actions they are instructed to at meetings. Before a new parish council appoint a clerk Stafford Borough Council provide such services.
What would we need as a Parish Council?
An experienced or well-informed clerk would be beneficial to guide the other councillors and help business matters to move forward. It is important that information is freely shared - a change to the laws governing local authorities (such as Parish, District or County Councils) means that all minutes of meetings and personal details of councillors must be readily available to the electorate. A newsletter (such as Doxey Times) is an additional resource which helps to spread information.
What can a Parish Council do?
Representing the views of local people and lobbying other local government bodies (i.e. the Borough and County Council). As a parish council our voice is more likely to be heard and responses are generally received more quickly than other organisations, such as a Community Association. Although planning applications are sent to a Parish Council for comment they are only able to recommend not decide whether such applications are successful.
In addition to this it is possible to negotiate to take on some Borough or County Council services in return for payment, e.g. park up keep or basic highways duties such as verge maintenance.
What does a precept involve?
A precept is the amount of money the parish council decide to take from each household as part of the council tax, it is calculated on the same basis as council tax, i.e. depending up on your homes ‘band’ and is clearly shown on your bill. The money is collected by the Borough Council and paid directly to the Parish Council.
You are not able to refuse to pay this additional charge, however if you wish to change the amount payable you are urged to stand as a Councillor or find a prospective councillor who agrees with your opinion and lobby the Parish Council from inside!
In Doxey, the precept for the first year has been set by Stafford Borough Council at £10 per year for a Band D house, meaning the average home in Doxey will contribute around £7 each for one year.
Do Parish Councils represent a political party?
No, they are usually non-political and non-religious. Individuals who have personal political views are able to become parish councillors but a political party does not drive the council as a whole.
If I don’t want to be a Parish Councillor can I attend meetings?
Yes, the public are able to attend meetings but are not permitted to interrupt whilst business is being conducted. There is an allocated slot for people to voice their opinions, usually at the beginning or end of each meeting.
What are the benefits of becoming a Parish Councillor?
Personal enjoyment and satisfaction knowing that you are helping local people as well as the ability to take action and influence positive change for your community.
Minutes of the meeting held on 9th February 2005
Present: Nigel Barnett, John Corcoran, Susan Corcoran, Val D’Arcy, Isabella Davies, Laura Day, Sue Fox, Sarah Jessop, Sally Hems, David Hughes, Joan Moore, Stephen Moore, Denise Peel, John Perks, Pat Perks, Barbara Simpson, Gill Smith, Sanjoli Seehra, Darshan Singh Seehra, Terrence Strickland, Mike Turner, Adrian Venables, Glyn Woodward, Alistair Wray.
Apologies: Joyce Beach, Tom Beach, Michelle Elliott, Jane Essex
Minutes of the meeting held on 12th January 2005
Approved as a correct record and signed as such by the chair in accordance with our new constitution and Charity Commission guidelines.
2. Parish Council
If more than nine people stand for the new Doxey Parish Council, we will need an election, if only nine people stand they will all automatically become parish councillors and if less than nine stand those who put themselves forward for nomination will become councillors and have the power to co-opt other members. There is a bi-law that states that a parish council election cannot happen on the same day as a general election, it must take place three weeks afterwards. It is predicted (but not confirmed) that a general election may take place on Thursday 5th May 2005; therefore the Doxey Parish Council election would take place on the 26th May, if there were no general election on the 5th May our Parish Council election will take place on 5th May.
Nominations are open until early April; you must obtain papers from the Borough Council (where a briefing will be given to each applicant). When you receive your papers you must find ten people who are on the electoral role and who live or work in Doxey to sign your form in support – do not wait for others to nominate you. A person may sign more than one nominee form if they believe they would make good councillors. If you would like more information about the forms contact Jane Peat at Stafford Borough Council.
3. Doxey Community Association Constitution
After speaking to Helen Dart at Stafford District Voluntary Services BS sent the constitution and application for charitable status to the Charities Commission. It was decided that the Chair, Secretary and Treasurer would be the trustees until the AGM in May when a formal election could take place. As a result of the changes DCA now has a membership system. It was decided to set the membership at 50pence per year, payable to BS.
4. Youth Forum
The Youth Forum gave a presentation about the leisure barn project. They had appointed a board comprising:
Chair Adrian Venables
Managing Director Hannah Burgess
Finance Director Sue Fox
Marketing & Sales Michael Lee
Quality Control Claire Gaisford
Their aim is to provide leisure facilities for Doxey (the whole community) and their objectives include consultation, researching locations and building types, liaison with local groups and agencies, identifying funds and recruiting skills. They want to provide sports activities such as basketball and indoor bowls and the venue would include additional facilities such as meeting rooms, a café, changing and showering facilities, etc. It is estimated this project will cost £950 000 plus employment of permanent staff. They need to identify local people who can advise and help; this would include someone with business and finance planning skills and a consultancy and design engineer.
They have been in touch with the developer, Mr Pritchard whose plans may have an impact on project development, however no plans have been produced and submitted for permission as yet. The on-going debate about the Riverside Recreation Centre may also affect the project. Concerns were raised that this idea will take time to evolve and young people need something to do now. SF advised DCA of cuts to Youth Service budgets and on-going discussion with SCVYS to re-start the drop in (although it was felt a more active youth club was needed there is no suitable location for such a facility). Bad behaviour, a lack of youth workers and no operational bus had led to the loss of the youth bus visits.
The group’s next meeting will be held on 14th March at 6 pm in the church.
5. Village Voices
The scriptwriter and director from Mikron had spent three days in Doxey meeting local people who had stories to tell of history and heritage. Groups are being set up and activities are progressing well. Everyone involved in the project will meet at the William Sutton Centre on Thursday 24th February at 7 pm. Dates for the performance of the Doxey play are confirmed as Sat 30th April and Sun 1st May 2005.
6. Doxey Times
The March edition will include:
A parish council update
Leisure barn information
The Mikron visit
Information about the new church sign (see AOB)
The telephone number for the Community Beat Officers and hopefully an article
People were reminded that local businesses could place small adverts in the newsletter and that this helped offset some of the production costs.
7. Any Other Business
The football pitch has been spoilt again by bikes riding on the land and the grass has returned to a similar state to the one it was in before the Borough Council improved it
People were reminded to call 999 if a crime was seen being committed, the Community Beat Officers are there to report incidents to after the event
People were also asked to be vigilant around the church as signage had been replaced at great cost after it was vandalised last year
10. Date of next meeting
Wednesday 9th March 2005 at 7pm at the Sutton Centre