Despite heavy rain, the public meeting on Parishing organised by South Swindon Labour at Commonweal School on 17 February attracted over 70 local residents. Jane Milner-Barry, Labour candidate for Old Town & East Wichel, was in the chair, and Jim Grant, leader of the Labour Group, along with Councillors Des Moffatt, Nadine Watts and Paul Dixon were on the panel to discuss the issues with residents.
Des Moffatt used facts and figures from the Council’s own presentations to show how, by setting up parishes and transferring to them the responsibility for grounds maintenance, street cleaning, bus subsidies, street lighting and minor highway works, the Council expects to save over £5m a year.
“That’s because in future you and I would be paying for these services by way of a parish precept added on to the council tax we pay already” explains Jane Milner-Barry. “Then there are the costs of running the parish council – the Parish Clerk’s salary, office expenses, public liability insurance and so on. Those costs would all be added to the precept too. And we would lose the economies of scale that come with providing services to the whole town, so all these services are likely to cost more.”
“I can't say that I am in favour of this idea as it adds another layer to an already overcrowded bureaucracy” said one resident, and the overwhelming majority of residents felt that there needs to be a referendum before the council introduces new parishes.
“The Labour group is opposed to the imposition of a parish on Old Town against residents’ wishes, and if Labour controls the Borough Council after May’s elections this will not happen. Meanwhile we are calling on the council to hold a referendum before they take their plans any further” says Jane.
Councillor Nadine Watts commented: "Following a public meeting on 17 February, the overwhelming majority of people who attended were against the imposition of parishing and were in favour of a referendum. Parishes would be responsible for delivering services such as minor repairs to roads, maintenance of open spaces and play areas and street lighting. Not only will taxpayers end up paying more, but the level of service delivery will vary according to where you live. Please let us know what you think."