Parishes proposal: the electors must decide

November 20, 2015

This is written on behalf of Parks & East Walcot Community Forum, of which I am the Secretary.

Yesterday Parks & East Walcot Community Forum discussed the Community Governance Review being launched by Swindon Borough Council – the proposal to devolve some of its services to new parish Councils in the main body of the town (covering roughly 97,000 electors) where none currently exist.

It was agreed that the Forum would oppose introducing new parishes and call for a referendum of the non-parished areas on whether or not they should be set up.

The Forum felt strongly that such a significant reorganisation of local government in the town should not be a decision for a few dozen Councillors. The imposition of new parishes where no mandate exists would be completely undemocratic. Read the rest of this entry »

Swindon Council to ’empower’ local people by denying them power to decide on parishes

November 13, 2015

At the Council meeting yesterday I asked a couple of questions on the Community Governance Review which will consider whether to introduce parishes into all the non-parishes areas of the town.

Question 1: “Will the administration make a commitment that no area of the town, which currently does not have a parish, will have one imposed on them without their residents being able to vote for or against the creation of a new parish?”

Answer : “Thank you for your question. The law makes no provision for holding such a referendum. If Full Council resolves to undertake a Community Governance review tonight, then the local authority will follow the process set down by law and government guidance.”

It may be true that ‘the law’ under which a Community Governance Review takes place says nothing about a referendum. Yet there is nothing to stop the Council organising a ballot of the non-parished areas, either together or singularly. The fact is that they do not want to commit to one because they fear that they would lose it. Read the rest of this entry »

Not so much a ‘vision’, more a nightmare

October 21, 2015

This is a guest post by a Swindon Council employee who has been given a ‘vision’…

A couple of weeks ago I went to an event for all SBC employees.  It was called On Track To A Vision For Swindon.  It was designed to present the ‘vision’ of the leader of the council, as represented in 4 ‘priorities’ and exemplified in 30 ‘pledges’.  Staff were being asked to think about what their contribution to the vision would be.

The event took place at STEAM.  Each pledge was set up in the form of a custom-made stand and they all lined both sides of a walkway, the floor of which was designed to look like a piece of railway track.  The staff involved in creating and staffing the event wore orange t-shirts with logos specific to the event and there were several tables with orange gazebos above them.  I can only imagine this was in order to create a feeling of coherence about the whole vision thing.  I describe it in detail because of my amazement at what must have been spent on it at a time when we are being told to reduce the cost of virtually everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Labour should oppose parishes move and demand referendum

October 19, 2015

Just when I was thinking that’s a good letter from Des Moffatt (“Beware Parish Plan”) he said this: “…I am not necessarily against going this way provided the citizens of Swindon know what is involved and the opportunity for well off areas to pull up the ladder is avoided.”

This unfortunate statement contradicts the logic of the arguments by which Des himself explained why it would not be a good idea.

Given the fact that the proposal is being put forward by the Conservative administration in the context of an austerity programme which is about to be reinforced by the government’s Spending Review there can only be one outcome to its implementation: the decimation of services and the reinforcement of inequalities based on the different Council tax levels in different wards. Read the rest of this entry »

Housing Associations capitulate over ‘right to buy’

October 3, 2015

When the idea of the extension of ‘right to buy’ to housing associations was first floated housing association representative, including David Orr, head of the National Housing Federation (the ‘trade organisation’ of housing associations) were talking of fighting the proposal. There was also discussion of legal action. Yet the NHF has organised an ignominious capitulation to the government’s destructive housing agenda. Mr Orr negotiated an ‘agreement’ with Housing Minister Greg Clark in which instead of being forced to sell off their homes they will do it ‘voluntarily’. HA’s affiliated to the NHF were given just a week to decide on whether or not to sign the capitulation terms or else the government would proceed to legislate to introduce RTB extension. The spurious argument in favour was that this was a means of defending the ‘independence’ of housing associations. What sort of independence is it when private organisations are told by central government that they have to sell off their assets? (Download a PDF here hacapitulation or read on below) Read the rest of this entry »

Council Tax payers should decide

September 28, 2015

This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser.

Here’s your starter for ten points. What is the relationship between the government’s spending review due later this year and the news that the Conservative administration wants to expand the parish council ‘model’? Could it be that they are keen to lessen the flak they will come under when implementing another round of swingeing cuts? Why not pass the buck to parishes? This will give the parishes the opportunity to implement their own cuts rather than all the blame being heaped on the SBC administration.

Economically it makes no sense. Providing services at the Borough level allows economies of scale which cannot operate at the parish level. Moreover, parishes are unlikely be able to sustain services for long. In the same issue of the Advertiser as the article on this proposal we read of a parish unable to even afford to aerate a local pond with the Environment Agency pulling out. Read the rest of this entry »

Labour’s Shadow Cabinet: collaborating with the enemy

September 22, 2015

Goethe famously said “All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the tree of life springs ever green.” Life sometimes throws up the unimaginable or the seemingly impossible. Even when Jeremy Corbyn miraculously got on the ballot paper for Labour leader nobody imagined that he might actually win the contest. Late in the day it was decided that he should stand in order that the views of the Labour left could be aired, otherwise the grey ones would have been left to bore everybody to death, and put forward their variants of New Labourism. However, once he was on the ballot paper there was a large scale influx of new members into the Labour Party (some of them returners), ‘affiliated supporters’ through the unions, and those who paid £3 to be able to participate in the election. This marked an attempt to shake the Party loose from its Blairite, New Labour moorings, and to strive for a government which breaks with the economic and political consensus which gave us the great crash of 2007/8. (Download a PDF here afterwinning or read on below) Read the rest of this entry »


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