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Abolish the pointless parishes

PUBLISHED: 15:35 14 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:33 03 March 2010

HERE'S a brilliant way of simplifying local democracy. Get rid of parish councils.

What on earth is the point of these talking shops which have no power and virtually no influence.

HERE'S a brilliant way of simplifying local democracy. Get rid of parish councils.

What on earth is the point of these talking shops which have no power and virtually no influence.

The only people who pay any attention to what they say are their own members – it's real Vicar of Dibley territory.

And frankly they're even worse when they surround themselves in their own self-importance and call themselves Town Councils – then it really gets farcical.

Let's take a look at Felixstowe Town Council. It has a budget of £250,000, spends a lot of time and money talking about the town. But what does it do?

It runs some allotments and the town cemetery. And it organises a flower competition. That's it.

It does look at planning applications before they go to the Suffolk Coastal, but district councillors don't pay any attention to what it says.

Its budget is taken up with organising meetings and paying staff – but there is no end product whatsoever.

The members are keen to do their bit for the community and are truly committed to the town.

But ultimately they have no power whatsoever.

It's always been argued that their importance is the influence they have – but is that really true?

District and county councillors always want to do their own thing whether or not the parishes agree. Is that really influential?

Felixstowe's neighbouring parish, Trimley St. Mary, has the right idea. Members there said there was no point in sending planning recommendations to Suffolk Coastal because no one pays any attention to them.

So why discuss them? Why hold any meetings? What's the point of the parish council?

It isn't as if Trimley is unrepresented – the two Trimley villagers have two representatives at Suffolk Coastal and one on Suffolk County Council.

Are these people incapable of representing the community's views to their authorities? Of course not!

I know a lot of the larger parish (sorry town) councils look forward to the glorious day when they have things to do rather just talk, but that just isn't going to happen.

We're going to move towards larger councils running more services – within 10 years they'll probably be no Suffolk County Council, three borough councils in the county, and a regional assembly based in Cambridge.

Parish and town councils will probably be left untouched to carry on regardless. The government will almost certainly ignore them – after all everyone else does!

IT'S good to see Ipswich councillor Chris Newbury has found a ward to fight in May's local council elections.

After being dumped from Sprites Ward, the independently-minded Labour councillor looked as if he was heading into the political wilderness.

Now, however, he's been selected for the safe Labour seat of Whitehouse. Nothing's certain in politics, of course, but it looks as if council meetings will be enlivened by his interesting observations for some time to come!

WE still haven't got a date for Ipswich market to make its long-awaited move on to the Cornhill.

I just hope it happens sooner rather than later.

The whole question seemed to have been sorted out at the end of last month when the borough decided they could move to the Cornhill three days a week.

But negotiations about the actual licence are still going on – hopefully the stalls will be in the town centre by April.

What is worrying is that the suspicion you might expect to have developed between the market traders and the borough council seems to have become a gulf.

The two sides just don't seem to trust what each other says – and I'm told that one telephone conversation about key matters ended with phones being slammed down.

Then I was told that people aren't answering each other's telephone messages.

For the sake of the town, and it's market, it's time to get together and sort things out.

All the principles have been thrashed out – the market has permission to move and the traders want to get on to the Cornhill.

I can't help feeling that senior councillors, officers, and market traders should be locked in meeting room one at Civic Centre and not be released until they can tell us the day that the market will be moving on to the Cornhill.


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