Labour Group Leader Sets Out Position on Council Parishes Plan

There have been a series of letters regarding the local Conservatives’ plans to parish the non-parished areas of Swindon and to devolve streetsmart services (grounds maintenance, street cleaning etc.) to existing parish councils. I wanted to set the record straight about what the Council’s plans will mean for Swindon residents and what the Labour position is towards the Conservatives’ plans.

The Council’s plans for the current non-parished areas of Swindon (West Swindon, Old Town, Liden, Eldene to name a few communities in this area) is to introduce new parishes who will be responsible for delivering streetsmart services like grounds maintenance, street cleaning and pothole filling. In order to pay for these services residents will be expected to pay what’s called a “Parish Precept”, which is another layer of Council-Tax on top of what you pay to Swindon Council. The Labour Group has been told that in a short space of time this precept will be at around £75. In addition to your Council-Tax bills increasing on average by £62 this year, this will mean overall Council-Tax bills going up by £137.

So with residents in non-parished areas now paying a parish council rather than the Borough Council to deliver streetsmart services, they would rightly expect a rebate from the borough council for not delivering these services, otherwise they would be taxed twice for delivering the same service. The Borough Council have confirmed residents will get no rebate for the Borough Council no longer delivering these services. Labour thinks this is wrong and unfair.

For residents in existing Parished areas, it’s a little different but the outcome of double taxation is the same. The Borough Council have reached agreement with all existing parish councils, except in Stratton and Covingham, to deliver streetsmart services instead of the borough. Again, residents in these areas will get no rebate from the Borough Council for no longer delivering these services, while parish councils will have to increase their precepts. In Chiseldon, their Parish Precept has been increased by 100% as a result of the parish council having to deliver streetsmart services. In Stratton, the Parish Council held a local referendum on this issue and 87% of residents said they did not want to be double-taxed with the parish delivering these services while the Borough Council still charged you for these services.

Many of you will be interested to know Labour’s position on this issue. Labour is opposed to the imposition of new parishes without a local referendum to let the people decide. We are opposed to the imposition of parishes today, and we will opposed to this imposition after the local elections. We will play no part in this opaque process and will be holding the local Conservatives to account for their decisions and ignoring the will of local people.