• kevin cross

No voting in this village

Updated: Feb 23

Too many seats on your Town or Parish Council is bad for democracy. Also, if your one community remains divided into two only because it's always been done that way then this might be an opportunity. This blogger has an opinion and will be responding to the new review. It should not be forgotten, that Town and Parish Councillors, and charity volunteers are unpaid and all work hard for their local communities.

Right now there is a rare chance to explain to East Suffolk District Council the reasons why you think there ought (or ought not) to be a change to your Town or Parish Council. Should you merge? Examples of Parishes that have a joint council are Wangford & Henham, and Brampton with Stoven. Or perhaps there are too many Council seats ? You have until the end of April 2022 to respond to their review

For example Wrentham Parish Council is a tax setting local authority serving about 800 electors, average age 45yrs. Tax take (known as precept) from residents went up from about £6k in 2012, to almost £18k today with most of the spending on the Charitable Village Hall. Wrentham has 13 seats. In Wrentham, you might be born, live your life, and die without ever being able to actually cast a vote.

For comparison - Southwold has 835 electors . Average age 60yrs. , Tax take from residents = £117,962. 12 seats. There is a whole bunch of reasons why the precept seems high . These might include the fact that until recently they charged £0 zero precept and yet had legacy properties to maintain. Also they like to take on social tenants in their valuable properties and subsidized the rents.

Reydon approx 2800 electors , 49yrs. Tax take =£28,500, 12 seats

Wangford approx 500 electors, av 48yrs. Tax take =£6500 10 seats

Wrentham has a Village Hall which is a registered charity. In a smallish village this means that Councillors and trustees often include the same group of people. So in Wrentham, people wearing a Village Hall charity trustee hat asked the Parish Council to become the sole trustee. Mostly the same people then put on a Parish Council hat and agreed to this deal. The effect of this was to transfer any financial risks from the charity trustees, to Wrentham tax (precept) payers. These days, Wrentham residents are taxed as a sort of cash cow to run the village hall which might otherwise fall into financial difficulty.

Request for this Community Governance Review: Please reduce number of seats in Wrentham to 10

  • No contest - There very little chance of getting 14 candidates at election time to spark a contested election for the current 13 seats. Lack of candidates means that existing Councillors automatically get "elected" without a single vote having been cast for any of them, In Wrentham , the problem is that you can be born, live your life, and die without ever casting a Parish vote.

  • Self appointing - Councillors effectively appoint each by nominating each other to stand as a councillor. There are always vacant seats. Existing Councillors are aware of this and so invite people that they like to become a councillor. It also keeps vacancy rates appearing low.

  • Ghost Councillors - Existing Councillors and clerk auto-approve absences. This means that someone can be "on the books" apparently occupying a seat when in fact they never show up. This also makes it appear as though there are no vacancies.

So 10 seats is the request please . 10 seats for a healthier council at Wrentham .

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