Very local elections will prime parish pump politics

People at an election count This week's parish council elections will decide to make-up of ultra-local governance

"It's all happening in Henley-in-Arden," said my colleague.

"Everybody knows that," said I, playing for time. It transpires that what exactly IS happening in Henley is a parish council election.

If there's one happening in your area, you will know all about it. Because while most of the larger district councils are electing for only a third of their seats, a parish council poll is an all-out affair, with a four-year term at stake for the entire assembly.

Parish councils are the lowest tier of our great democracy; they are where politics gets closest to local communities. Some of them represent only a few hundred people.

But at a time when polls suggest most politicians seem disconnected from the public, the parish councils are woven into the warp and weft of our everyday lives.

Start Quote

But at a time when polls suggest most politicians seem disconnected from the public, the parish councils are woven into the warp and weft of our everyday lives.”

End Quote Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

People care passionately about their recreation grounds, allotments, bus shelters, village halls, cemeteries and swimming pools. And these are all within the ambit of parish councils. They have money-raising powers through a precept collected on top of the Council Tax by district councils.

And typically the parishes hold their elections on the same day as elections for seats on those larger local authorities.

I cannot promise exhaustive analysis of the parish council elections during our programmes this week.

But I hope you will join us just the same. We will be bringing you the picture from all our 18 district councils during Vote 2012 from 23:35 BST on BBC One on Thursday, 3 May.

We will also have the result of Coventry's mayoral referendum.

See my earlier blog posts for the full list of local elections and for more of the background to the Birmingham and Coventry referendums.

And on Friday, 4 May there will be further updates during Midlands Today from the councils counting the following day.

We hope to have the result of Birmingham's mayoral referendum on our main edition of Midlands Today at 18:30 BST on BBC One.

Stay close to your BBC Local Radio and online service for more details on the results where you live.

And I hope you will join me during this weekend's Sunday Politics from 12:00 BST on BBC One on Sunday, 6 May 2012, when i will be talking to some of the winners and the losers.

Patrick Burns Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    As a now retired, but previously active parish councillor, I do think there is need for some reform of parish councils.
    I know it's a voluntary activity, but training (+updates and refreshers) after election should mandatory.
    Oh, and email decisionmaking, and other abuses that come about from long serving 'done it all before' members needs sorting.
    Councillors do it at the table.
    Or should.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Unfortunately our Parish Council seems somewhat disconnected from the real world. This is probably due to poor public relations and not telling people what they actually do. Also, on a precept of £113,000 their "office running costs" are £74,000. So: 65% of the precept we pay them they use to run their office! Seems somewhat inefficient to me - but that's local government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    re #2 curiousman;
    Local govt is not always good at directing either expenditure or use of it's assets to best benefit of the community.
    The good bit though is that decisions, unless delegated to the Clerk, have to be made formally, ie at the table. And we have the right to be there, and see the agenda, and the minutes.
    You may even get the chance to speak!
    It's your council.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The only time I've ever served in public office was when I was a member of a Parish Church Council a few years ago. We had legal responsibility for the running of the Church and it was supposed to be a democratic body, but all the members were elected unopposed and the outcome of all business was decided in advance by the chairman. Nobody was willing to object. I stood down after one term.



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