Civic Voice response to the 2017/18 Local Government finance settlement technical consultation paper
Dear James Livingston,
RESPONSE TO THE 2017/18 LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE SETTLEMENT TECHNICAL CONSULTATION PAPER
I am writing in response to 2017/18 Local Government Finance Settlement Technical Consultation Paper which sets our proposals to extend council tax referendum principles to parish and town councils.
Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement in England. We make places more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive. We promote civic pride.
The civic movement is based on a network of hundreds of local voluntary civic and amenity societies in the warp and weft of communities across England. It is one of the largest social movements in the country. The first civic society was set up in the 1840s and tday there are 500 across England. We are a partner to the town and parish sector.
In rural areas parish councils provide a legitimate grass-roots level of government with its own modest budgets. This is generally not available to urban citizens and puts them at a disadvantage when, for example, developing a neighbourhood plan. In many urban areas there are ward forums or similar structures which in some cases work well, but without a statutory basis and their own income they can be closed down at the whim of the local authority.
Successive Governments have taken steps to make it easier to form urban tertiary authorities and some communities have responded to this but the time has come for a more comprehensive approach. We want to see a move towards putting local government on a proper footing with powers over the things that matter and the majority of council income coming from local sources, free of Government interference. We also want every part of the country to have a tertiary local authority and many of our civic societies are actively involved in setting up parish councils to give the community more of a voice and democratically accountable structure for taking action on local issues.
It would therefore be a retrograde and backward step to extend council tax referendum principles to any size of parish or town councils. These bodies are already directly accountable to local people for money raised and spent locally. Such interference would only serve to weaken local democracy, undermine local decision making and damage local communities and services.