District Councillor Jaan Larner’s Monthly Report, May 2017

Dear all,

Please see my report for this month.

Governance Review
Due to the snap general election the consultation period has been extended for the South Norfolk Community Governance review. The deadline has now been moved back to July 12.

The links to submit representations are below.   The first survey is for residents which will be put on our website at  http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/communitygovernancereview1.

The second is for all Parish & Town Councils which will be emailed, and can be found at
http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/communitygovernancereview2.

Just to put the review into more context, I attach the article John Fuller wrote setting out the issues:

Just think about how many changes there have been in our lives over the last 20 years.  Twenty years ago the Internet had just started, mobile phones were as large as a brick and John Major was still the Prime Minister. Now imagine what changes might come in the next twenty.

I say this because every twenty years South Norfolk Council has to think about the boundaries of the Parish Councils within it and whether it’s sensible to alter arrangements.

At its simplest, a Parish Boundary might be tweaked a bit because new homes have been built on the edge of the village.  I know of one person who extended his home at Little Melton with the result that his kitchen is now in Great Melton.

It’s to straighten out simple lines on maps that a “Community Governance Review” provides an opportunity for South Norfolk Council to work with its parishes to make practical sense of its area.

There are 119 parishes in South Norfolk.  In 2015 only 19 held parish council elections.  And many of those didn’t have elections in 2011.  Or 2007 either. It’s not good for local democracy if those that govern us are not subject to election.

It shines a light on the wider fact that we all live such busy lives.  The internet allows us to live much more individual lives communicating with people much further away as if they were neighbours.

And the result is that fewer people serve in local voluntary capacities in sporting clubs, the cubs & brownies, the WI and, yes, Parish Councils.

And there’s another angle.  Not only are many of our smallest parishes not elected, the proportion of the tax they raise that they spend on their own administration has got out of control.

In small parishes about 2/3 of the tax it raises is spent on the Clerk, Insurance and other subscriptions leaving just one third to be spent on the village.   If it was a charity it would be closed down.

Now is the time to consider whether villages would be better served by joining together their Parish Councils.  There’s no question of removing the road signs and the village boundary would still exist. It’s just that several parishes would club together to have a single Parish Council serving all of them.

We need arrangements that are going to hold good for the NEXT 20 years that address the realisation that it’s difficult to get people to serve and to solve the problem of smaller parishes spending the majority of their income on running costs.

South Norfolk is encouraging Parishes to think deeply about their future and want the initiative for any changed arrangement to come from you, a bottom up, not a top down process.

Independent Retail Awards
We are once again celebrating the district’s unique range of shops, eateries and salons with our Independent Retailer Awards. This year, for the first time, residents can nominate their favourite independent retailers from across the whole of the district. Please help us by encouraging businesses to enter and by promoting the competition. For more information, speak to Lisa Cosh or visit http://www.south-norfolk.gov.uk/retailerawards.

Events and initiatives in May 2017 and beyond

As always, if you have any comments or queries, please let me know.

Kind regards
Jaan
Jaan Larner
District Councillor
Chedgrave and Thurton Ward
South Norfolk District Council

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