Disenfranchising the electors of Eldene & Liden

Swindon Council is ruled by anti-democratic clique. They have imposed new parish councils on non-parished areas without any democratic mandate whatsoever and against considerable opposition. They have set a ridiculous deadline with the new parishes having to agree a precept by the end of January. The borough councillors in these areas were presented with a dilemma; to become shadow parish councillors and to set the first precept for parishes which they opposed setting up in the absence of a democratic mandate, or else the Tories would have imposed their placemen/women to set a precept. This is bad enough but in Nythe the situation is even worse, In the two areas with which it will be amalgamated, the electors of Eldene and Liden will even be denied the right to be represented by their elected Borough councillors as others will.

When the October 19th Cabinet passed a document relating to the changes, it said it would “Agree to the recommendations set out in Appendix 5”. This Appendix referred to “the new parish” which would comprise Nythe, plus Eldene and Liden. The “new parish” would be divided into two wards, with 7 parish councillors in Nythe, and 8 in Eldene and Liden.

Yet the Community Governance Review document contradicted this.

Since Nythe is expanding into an area without a parish, there will be no shadow council as the existing council will have the authority to act for the whole area once the (Reorganisation) Order comes into effect.”

So despite the reference in the Appendix to the “new parish” the Council decided that there would be no shadow parish council for the parish of Nythe, Eldene and Liden. This decision was almost certainly designed to freeze out the elected borough councillors for Eldene and Liden.

What this means is that the electors in that area have been disenfranchised. They will have no say in the precept that they will have to pay next year and the decision apparently will be taken by parish councillors for Nythe.

On December 23rd, Councillor Dale Heenan told the Advertiser that

The parish (Nythe that is) has contracts ready to cover services in the new areas of Liden and Eldene from April 1st…”

This poses some questions. According to the Advertiser Nythe Parish was inquorate, with only two sitting councillors1. If it was inquorate then how could it have contracts ready? When was this decision taken, and by whom?2 Secondly, since the new parish of Nythe, Liden and Eldene has not yet come into being, how could Nythe councillors take decisions on its behalf? As the quote above shows Nythe would only have authority to “act for the whole area” once the Reorganisation Order “comes into effect”. To my knowledge this Order has yet to be passed so it’s difficult to see how the Nythe parish councillors can take decisions on behalf of a parish council that does not yet exist.

This is a profoundly undemocratic way to operate. It’s not as if there is a slight change in the Nythe parish area. It is clearly a new parish. The decision to exclude existing ward councillors from discussion was a petty party political decision. But more importantly still it means that the people of Eldene and Liden face “taxation without representation” for 2017-18.

Martin Wicks

January 6th 2016

1On Facebook Dale Heenan is now saying that Nythe isn’t inquorate. They have a third Parish Council. Since there has been no election then this person must have been co-opted. I’ve asked who this is but have had no response thus far.

2SBC’s website has a page for Nythe Parish Council. The last meeting shown on there is June 27th. CORRECTION I have eventually found contact details for the Parish Councillors, although the information is out of date.

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