Author Topic: Parish Power  (Read 11245 times)

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Offline Peter Hastings

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Parish Power
« on: June 12, 2008, 08:24:30 am »
At the Parish Council we carefully worked out a budget with a precept rise under inflation. The numbers are small however and in absolute terms if we had doubled it each council tax payer would have had to find about 60pa more. Think what we could do with such a burst of local finance!! It would cover several CPSOs for a start!

See the following http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/politics_show/7435129.stm to see what other councils have done.

Some have rises of over 200%. Some are taking on more and more duties. Some are new and some replace falling levels of service by borough and district councils.

Local democracy increasing in power or local government gone mad?
 

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2008, 09:03:08 am »
For the 60+ a year I pay, what do I, as a Brookmans Park resident, get in return?
 

Offline Bob Horrocks

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2008, 05:14:44 pm »
Sorry John but you set that ball rolling a couple of years ago which resulted in a long debate on this Forum.  No point in rehashing old arguments.   :mblah05:

For up to date info, read the parish council article on page 6 of the Spring edition of Chancellor's Community Newsletter.  I can email you a copy of the text if you wish.   Also check out www.NorthMymmsPC.org.uk.  See the 'facilities' page and the minutes of all meetings since August 2005.

Unlike the European and our own MPs and County and Borough councillors, your parish councillors receive no allowances or expenses - not a penny.  They all live in North Mymms and pay Council Tax, so they do not wish to shoot themselves in the foot by large increases in the parish council precept.

Offline jet

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2008, 11:06:22 pm »
In the name of the Big mon Bob, thats a bit of a put down for our esteemed rate paying forum contributor? Almost a moderation :)
 

Offline Peter Hastings

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2008, 08:33:06 am »
for example. The people who cut the verges (borough or county) cut down on their budget for that as they are getting less from the govt. so the Parish could up its precept and take over that job and create a better environment.

does this hide a problem with underfunding of higher levels of local govt or does it give the local community more say over where more of its money goes?

In fact should the higher levels be forced to reduce their council tax requirements and the parish be allowed (as they are now i believe) to charge what their local community will allow at elections?

Then we could ask John what he as a local person would want to see for his money. Perhaps he doesnt have an allotment?
 

Offline Bob Horrocks

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2008, 10:17:14 am »
In the name of the Big mon Bob, thats a bit of a put down for our esteemed rate paying forum contributor? Almost a moderation :)

Far be it for one Moderator to moderate another   ;D 

All I was saying was that we had this debate when Council Tax bills were issued about 2 or 3 years ago.  Also when the Government offered a Police Community Support Officer for North Mymms as long as the parish council paid half the cost for 2 years i.e. about 15,000 a year = extra 10% on the precept.  The offer was one we could and did refuse.  We still got extra policing in Welham Green.

Why get steamed up now, particularly as your payment to the parish council only went up by 2.5% this year, and 1.8% in the previous year.    Prudence has moved out of Downing Street into North Mymms!

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2008, 01:24:49 pm »
I seem to have been a little too cryptic. For a lot of people 60 isn't a small amount of money. I had noticed the low level of increase of the last two years, but  to glibly talk about doubling it, as if 120 is nothing, shouldn't be let pass.

I have no idea what Peter's second post is about.
 

Offline Peter Hastings

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2008, 10:55:31 pm »
The article I referred to shows that some parish councils are taking on services previously provided by higher levels of local govt. Those levels can and do have their income restricted by caps imposed by central govt. Parish councils dont. 

What I am asking is do people see the possibility of parish councils raising their precept and doing more locally as a good one or not? Is it increased local democracy or papering over the cracks?

As a second point John, is there anythign you would like done locally which isnt and is there anything extra you think would justify say doubling the parish precept. Is there anything better done at this level than borough or county?
 

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2008, 11:06:10 pm »
Seen as you didn't tell me what the Parish Council does it's difficult for me to suggest what else it might do. As usual, I notice the should-it-do-less-and-drop-the-tax option, doesn't get a mention.
 

Offline James Bentall

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2008, 09:53:15 am »
Seen as you didn't tell me what the Parish Council does it's difficult for me to suggest what else it might do.

I am sure you would be welcomed at next year's Annual General Meeting if you want to find out more John. It is always published on this website and normally around the end of March. I was at this year's meeting and got full reports from the various council committees about what they had been doing over the last year, with space for questions from Parishioners if they wish....

James
James Bentall, Brookmans Park, Herts.
I post in a personal capacity and not on behalf of North Mymms Parish Council
 

Offline Peter Hastings

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2008, 10:30:57 am »
This was meant to be a debate more about local power rather than just budgets but of course the two are linked.

This year's parish precept increase was under inflation so in real terms we are charging less and still have a balanced budget. Every household had a council tax bill with a letter from the parish explaining what we do. Is there anyone who hasnt been to Gobions, Little Heath or Welham Green play areas, played tennis at Welham Green, walked across the greens at Bradmore Green or Welham Green, been grateful the council is at the forefront of comment on hospitals, waste sites and travellers sites etc? All this takes equipment, insurance and staff.

At the parish level we have a lot of flexibility. We are obliged to do very little. We could halve our precept and do less and be within the law. We could double it and do more and still be within the law.

What if the caps on say county were increased and effectively council tax raising and spending at parish level increased and the parish repaired the potholes or took over care of roadside trees. Woudl that be better or worse? We could give our kids the best play areas in teh country, build a cycle track for older kids, contribute to activities for pensioners, we could do whatever we as a local population wanted with our local money. The list is endless the point is would local people want that level of responsibility and power or is it really best carried out at a borough, county or national level? Should we indeed confine ourselves to keepign the allotments going and keeping an eye on the planning applications and forget the rest?

Just something to debate.
 

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2008, 08:43:30 pm »
How glibly you double and half the tax people have to pay. All the councils might be democratically elected, but between elections the local populations get no effective say in what their taxes are spent on.

The tax levels are already at record highs, so there should be no need to ask for even more money. In the real world companies are tightening their belts. All levels of goverment to do more with less. It's what the rest of us have to do.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2008, 11:27:38 am by John Fraser »
 

Offline southbury

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2008, 07:18:41 am »
John ,

Surely you should stand for office and deal with all these issues ?

I am sure that the Parish Council , the Green Belt Society , the Local Council , Parliament , The European Parliament and of course The UN would welcome you with open arms .
 

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2008, 09:06:17 am »
Peter said he would like a debate. No one responded for three weeks, so I thought I might as well. Did I misread his words or intentions in some way?
 

Offline Peter Hastings

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2008, 09:50:24 am »
I am keen people should firstly realise they have a parish council and secondly some of the facts about it. Beyond that it is really a chance for us not to operate in a vacuum so all views welcome.

Just so no-one misunderstands me though I should add firstly that I am not speaking on behalf of the parish council and secondly that I am only floating options to stimulate reaction, not necessarily expressing preferred views of my own on this.

By the way look out for new play equipment in Gobions coming soon-at considerable expense!
 

Offline southbury

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2008, 10:06:14 am »
Peter,

Before someone conspires to say something negative about ' spending ' money on new play equipment I would just like to say that I am delighted and grateful that thsi investment is being made . My family will be regular users as I am sure will many of our friends.
 

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2008, 11:52:03 am »
Oh dear, now we're entering into the land of conspiracy theories.

It's great that the play equipment is being updated. Definitely needs doing and defiantly long, long, overdue.  How long over due? Well no equipment has been replaced in the twelve years I've lived here and I suspect for a good few years before that too. The only change to the play area has been the removal of equipment. So forgive me for a lack of gratitude that my money is finally going to be spent.

So that I'm not accused of always being negative here's a constructive suggestion: Why not ask the local children what sort of thing they would like and then get some play equipment providers to design a suitable play area? This would be deciding what the local population wanted with our local money. Designing what the council decides is a suitable play area would only put lie to that tail.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2008, 10:45:59 pm by John Fraser »
 

Offline Peter Hastings

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2008, 07:02:44 pm »
We considered consulting the children in principle but as it turned out one of the three designs was out of our budget and of the other two, one was clearly better in terms of activities and future maintenance costs and also turned out to be the cheaper so we went with that.  We couldnt afford a grassy knoll.
 

Offline jet

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2008, 08:12:29 pm »
Its not really my business but I am sure those in the area would like to know what they are getting and how much it would cost?
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2008, 12:36:01 am »
One thing that I recall from when we lived in London Colney 7 or 8 years ago was how good the playground facilities were.

We lived near the centre of the village and we had 4 playgrounds within walking distance, one had a paddling pool and all had good equipment.

Moving to BP, with a big increase in Council Tax, I was slightly disappointed that the play facilities at Gobions were so old and basic.

Now I don't know whether the play facilities were funded by the parish council or the City and District of St Albans, however it is clear that at least in this area of spending BP is considerably worse off when compared with BP, despite the fact that London Colney is a considerably less affluent area.

Perhaps it's a problem with WHBC but St Albans seemed to do a better job at least in this area of spending.
 

Offline Bob Horrocks

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #20 on: July 10, 2008, 11:00:52 am »
The 3 play areas in North Mymms are owned and funded by the parish council.  One at Gobions, one off Dellsome Lane, and one at Little Heath.  The parish council has not found any source of funding apart from the precept - that part of your Council Tax bill that goes to the parish council.  So it has nothing to do with Welwyn Hatfield.  I do not know who owns and funds the play areas at London Colney.

There are many play equipment manufacturers and their brochures can be half an inch thick.  And they do not show prices.  The parish council asked various manufacturers to see the Gobions play area, told them the budget which was 20,000 and told them that wooden equipment was not acceptable due to the high risk of arson.  Equipment at Dellsome Lane has been set on fire so it was not 'Elf & Safety' scaremongering.  Some were not interested in that size of order, so 3 quotes were obtained.

One quoted way above budget, another had lots of wood in the construction, leaving one which met the criteria.  Before giving the order, the primary school is being consulted.  No point in paying out money if the children don't like what is being proposed.

As regards the age of the equipment, is that material?  Just because something is not new does not mean it is useless.  Oherwise I would be on the scrapheap along with many others who hopefully lead a useful existance. 

Offline southbury

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2008, 12:33:55 pm »
Bob,

When we moved to Brookmans Park in September 03 we were bowled over by finding Gobions and the Open Space on our doorstep . Though, to be honest, when we first located the play area we were disappointed at what we found .

My wife and I thought it might be a good idea to see if we could either approach the Parish Council about replacing what was there or raising money to do the job ; or more likely a combination of the two.

We are regular vsistors to Verelum Park in St Albans which has a great cafe , an excellent play area and now a super ( free) Spalsh Park in the summer months. The play equipment is well designed and contemporary so I contacted  the company in Sweden which supplied it to get a feel for what the budget may need to be to refurnish the play area at Gobions to a standard that we assumed would work for local children.

The cost was simply staggering. The 5k that I (very) naiively assumed would cover it did not even buy a swing.

Hopefully 20k will provide a really good and (importantly) fun resource for young families in the local area.

How can the decision to refurbish the play area come in for petty criticism ?

Here is an idea ; why don't we all 'do' a bit more ( say help deliver the Green Belt Society leaflets , raise some money to add to the pot to the playground) instead of whinging and whining at the very people who do so much for all of 'US' for no thanks or glory ?

And yes I know that we all 'pay taxes ' and people should be 'accountable' yada yada yada .. just get over it .. but in reality the whole 'show' is kept going by the same small band of local volunteers ; the Scouts , the Rotary , the Nighbourhood watch , the Wood land Trust , the Parish Council , the PTA etc etc. who work for the betterment of the community at large.

Here is a thought ; where would we all be if the NMPC councillors just said " stuff this.. no one appreciates us , no one agrees with us.. tell you what I'm off.. I'll sit on my backside and post political posturings on the web-site instead of dragging myself to yet another planning meeting aimed at safe-guarding the environment of the ward ..I'm off.. . " who is going to step up to the plate ?

Over to you ..
 

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2008, 10:32:17 am »
This is a forum and Peter asked for a debate. If we're all going to agree and do nothing but congratulate each other it would rather miss the point. But if you're happy, I'm genuinely pleased for you.
 

Offline southbury

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2008, 11:30:29 am »
John ,

I find your congratulations touching and in no way condecending.

I thought that I was opneing up the deabate by asking who would take over from all the local volunteers if they just walked away from their responsibilities as they tired of having everything they do scrutinised and questioned?

I know it is a slightly academic question as almost by definition the people with the back-bone and spirit to fulfil these roles will not walk away or be deterred.. but who would (will ?) step up if they did not get a little merit , a little support or apprecaition.

Personally , "I don't have the time" (sic.) so I am willing to make the assumption ( and yes it is an assumption) that whilst they may not be right all the time they are making honest decisons and judgements in our best interests. The refurbishment of the play area being a perfect example.

Smug ? yes . Happy ? yes. Naiive?  possibly.
 

Offline jet

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2008, 01:55:37 pm »
Perhaps I am naive? 20K for a play area? 5K for swings? Why such a ridiculous cost when similar equipment ( all CE marked ha ha) can be purchased for next to nothing for domestic use.
Why? well I guess it is because to quote for the work one has to be a prefered and on the councils books.
To get to this status one has to meet diabolically intrusive requirements. Therefore those on the books are on a winner.
Those not on the books can never quallify, why? well its because one has to have done at least three contracts for a local authority. In other words its all the old boys network. Only those that have a specialist patented product that can not be obtained by any other means stand a chance. As for installation work its a closed shop.
Now open up to the new companies that can offer a cost effective solution and millions can be saved.
I recall the old bridge at Hawkshead being re tarmaced etc. The cost by a council contractor was beond comprehension. A private firm could have done a better job for a fraction of the cost.
Thats where the dosh goes and its endemic to the system.
 

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #25 on: July 11, 2008, 02:22:02 pm »
As I said, nice for you, Southbury. Meanwhile, as a resident of planet Earth, I'll continue to respond to requests to debate the idea of raising a tax. Especially when there is no clear idea on what to spend the money on and no suggestion on how to economise.

P.S.
I look forward to a defence in response to Bob's recent (perfectly justified and reasonable) criticisms of the goverment and Jet, Peter and Roy's (equally justified and reasonable) diatribes on the EU.
 

Offline sasquartch

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #26 on: July 11, 2008, 02:58:22 pm »
Quote
similar equipment ( all CE marked ha ha) can be purchased for next to nothing for domestic use

I would have to disagree.

The quality of your average 85 (or whatever) climbing frame from Argos or wherever, in no way compares to the build of equipment suitable for public use.

Yes, it's expensive but to compare it with products designed for domestic use is not a valid argument.
 

Offline jet

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #27 on: July 11, 2008, 03:12:08 pm »
How can the price of 5K for a set of swings be justified.
The public ones are anchored down , the domestic ones have to be even more stable as they are free standing.
Set of say 4 swings ganged together. Materials and coating about 300, manufacturing about 1000 at most, installation 500 max.
I would suggest that the extra cost can only be justified by the Bull incurred with any public contract. Endless meetings etc.
It is astounding how cheap making things really is compared to the end price.
Anyone ever read a form of construction contract, ( even small works) its usually unworkable and a risk for any contractor.
Yet a house purchase contract is really quite simple.
This is why we don't make an awfull lot any more.
 

Offline southbury

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #28 on: July 11, 2008, 03:16:16 pm »
John ..

The point that I would like  to debate is ; Who will (or would) fill all the volunteering roles if the incumbents felt undermined and their posts actually beacame vacant ?. I sincerely hope it's a hypothetical question as my suggestion would be no-one ; certainly not me !

Obviously it is your prerogative if you would prefer not to debate that point.

I am not intending to be provocative.  It simply appears to me that you are consistently willing to raise issues and question actions (again your prerogative) but unless in my ignorance I am missing things ; you  offer no solutions . Surely if you could do a better , more accountable job then you should be putting yourself forward to lead the Parish Council?

I have no excuses other than I do not have either the time , the energy or the community spirit . No excuse at all really.

Again if you would rather not deabte the above I'll leave it there and we'll graciously move on.
 

John_fraser

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Re: Parish Power
« Reply #29 on: July 11, 2008, 03:18:12 pm »
How can the price of 5K for a set of swings be justified.
It wasn't and isn't. It was Southbury's metaphor for how these things are a lot expensive than you would at first expect. It wasn't supposed to be used as a firm estimate.
 

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