Saturday, November 20, 2010

Do we need St Neots Town Council?

I was reading a piece on Muck and Brass and I noticed a link to Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish Council website. The history of this is Letchworth Garden City was an unparished area of North Herts DC. In 2005 there was a referendum to create  a Parish Council. Supporters of this move won the day and Letchworth Garden City Council was born in 2006.

By 2008 things had gone sour and the Town Council looked out of control. At the 2009 Elections the HELP campaign won 22 out of 24 seats and simply shut Letchworth Garden City Council down. The Council still exists on a minimal level holding the minimum statutory meetings.

This begs the question: "Do we need St Neots Town Council?" To answer this question we first have to take a look at what SNTC does.

Everything below can be run by a District Council.

Allotments: Could be run by an Allotment Holders Association.
Bus Shelters: Why don't bus companies provide these?
Cemeteries: Doesn't have to provided.
Closed Churchyards: This is a legal responsibility. I believe this should be for the church to run not the Town Council. But the District Council could run these.
Footway Lighting: Never understand why this is provided by the Town Council. The County Council should be the provider.
Grant Aid: Can be done by a District Council
Open Spaces: Many spaces but not Priory Park or the Riverside Park which are maintained by HDC.
Planning: SNTC is a consultee. This is an utterly useless committee.
Play Areas: Can be run by the District Council.
Promotion of Town: Can be run  by the District Council.
War Memorials: Can be maintained by the District Council

With the cuts coming along one way HDC can pass down the costs is by abandoning services and making the Town and Parish Councils take up the slack. There is nothing wrong in devolving services downwards. The problem is HDC only gets rid of services which cost it and no finance goes with the service. The payers, which the Town Council can do, such as Car Parks, are kept by the District Council.

The answer to my question is St Neots needs a Town Council to carry on some of the services HDC is going to abandon. Just because HDC abandons a service it doesn't mean the Town Council should pick this up. What is needed but HDC doesn't want to do is have a proper agreement between HDC and the Local Council over who does what. Whatever services HDC does abandon, the Local Councils should remember that HDC has £1.9 million in a special reserve to smooth these service cuts.

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