Here are some commonly asked questions and answers about the community governance review:

A community governance review is a formal process involving consultation with local electors and other interested parties on potential changes such as creating new parishes, setting up or abolishing town/parish councils, changing their boundaries or electoral arrangements.

The ‘principal council’ within an area (i.e. Torbay Council) is responsible for undertaking reviews in its area and deciding whether to implement the recommendations made in those reviews.  If a principal council wants to make changes to parishes or town councils within its area, it must by law[1] first carry out a community governance review. 

[1] As required by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007

As the level of services provided and the number of properties served vary significantly between town councils, so does the level of the precept that they charge.  For example, the precept payable in 2018-19 by a Band D Council Tax payer within the Brixham Town Council area is £46.77 per annum.  The national average Band D precept of all precepting parish and town councils in the current year is £64.05 per annum and for approximately 30 of the larger councils, some of which have taken on responsibility for a range of services ‘devolved’ from their principal authority, the Band D figure is between £200 and £300 per annum.

We are seeking views on whether any new town or parish council(s) should consider delivering some local services that are currently delivered by us and for these to be paid for by the town or parish council precept.

‘Community governance’ refers to the way in which local communities are represented and governed at the local level, including local councils but also through the involvement of other statutory and voluntary agencies, community groups and the efforts of local people themselves. It is also about the way in which individuals and groups within the community can influence decisions that affect them.

A review may cover all or part of the principal council’s area and may consider one or more of the following:

  • Creating, merging, altering or abolishing parishes;
  • The naming of parishes and the style of new parishes;
  • Whether a parish/town council should be established for a new parish area;
  • The electoral arrangements for parishes; and/or
  • Grouping parishes under a common parish council or de-grouping parishes.

We may decide the terms of reference for any review within its area.  In this case, the review is considering whether new town or parish councils should be set up in those parts of Torbay where they don’t currently exist and whether any other changes should be made to the arrangements for the existing town council.

A town or parish council is an elected body made up of local people representing the interests of their community.  There are currently almost 10,000 parish and town councils across England.  They are the most local tier of government and they have been established in many areas, both rural and urban.

Town and parish councils do not have statutory responsibility for services such as social care, education or housing but they may decide to provide some local services for their residents or in some cases to take over responsibility for services previously delivered by us.

Town and parish councils also represent their communities.  They must be consulted on planning applications within their area and may work with us to create a Neighbourhood Plan for development in their area.  They may bid to purchase assets of community value or express an interest in running a local authority service.

No, they both have the same statutory powers and can provide the same services.  A parish council that serves a town area may decide to call itself a ‘town council’ and will usually then have a Mayor rather than a Chairman.

There is currently just one town council within Torbay - Brixham Town Council  Opens in a new window , which was established in 2007 and covers the wards of Berry Head with Furzeham and St Marys with Summercombe.  The remainder of Torbay is unparished.

We took the decision to undertake a community governance review as part of its strategy of examining options to address challenges to the sustainability and resilience of its future delivery of services

Government guidance is that a community governance review should be carried out every 10-15 years.  No review has taken place in Torbay since Brixham Town Council was set up in 2007. 

In order to promote awareness and encourage responses to the review, we will:

  • Publish the terms of reference for the review;
  • Publicise the review as widely as possible using electronic means including social media and seek to engage the local media in reporting the issues under review;
  • Consult residents, business organisations, community groups, other local organisations, political parties and elected representatives for the areas under review and Brixham Town Council  Opens in a new window ;
  • Make key documents available at our offices and at other venues in the areas under review;
  • Accept submissions by post or via email or our website;
  • Take into account representations received in connection with the review; and
  • Publicise the draft and final recommendations and the outcome of the review.

We consider that the establishment of town or parish councils, which have the ability to raise income through the precept mechanism, could enable the continued provision of services that we ourselves may no longer be able to provide due to pressure on its resources and increasing demand particularly in the statutory services for Children’s and Adults’ social care.  There is also evidence from elsewhere which demonstrates that town or parish councils can play an important role in empowering and representing communities.

We have decided that the review will cover the whole area of Torbay.

Our initial suggestion is that two new town councils could be set up, for Torquay and Paignton respectively. This would mean that, including the existing Brixham Town Council  Opens in a new window , there would be three town councils, together covering the whole area of Torbay.

However, other options are possible - e.g. there could be a larger number of small town or parish councils representing individual areas, parts of Torbay could remain unparished, or we could simply retain the status quo. It is important that the size, boundaries and name of any proposed town or parish council provide a sense of place and a positive feeling for local people. We are therefore seeking views about these matters and the area(s) that people identify most closely with.  

No.  Town or parish councils are independent of the other layers of local government.  Any new town or parish council(s) would not replace us but would exist alongside us.

Each town or parish council decides for itself what, if any, services it will provide.  As the populations of town and parish councils across England ranges from fewer than 200 people to almost 100,000, these vary considerably.  Typically they can include the provision of allotments (a statutory responsibility, if there is demand); parks and recreation grounds; public conveniences; control of litter; play areas; community centres; crime prevention; festivals and fetes; traffic calming; tourism activities and/or markets.  However recently there are examples of different types of services being delegated to them, for example street cleaning and CCTV in Salisbury, and a library in Charnwood. Further information on town and parish councils may be found on the National Association of Local Councils’ website.

Town or parish councils are funded through a ‘precept’ – this is a separate charge which is added to, and collected along with, the existing council tax from residents of the town or parish council’s area.  Town or parish councils can also apply for grants and loans.

A town or parish council itself decides what funding it needs to meet its running costs and therefore what level of precept to charge.  In the case of any new town or parish council(s), we would set the precept for their first year of operation based on the estimated cost of the level of activity expected and any services anticipated to be transferred.

Not necessarily.  The review covers the whole of Torbay and is therefore an opportunity for local people to comment on any changes that they might like to suggest in respect of the existence of the town council, the area covered by it and/or its electoral arrangements.

In relation to service delivery and the level of precept, just as for any new town or parish councils that might be established elsewhere in Torbay, Brixham Town Council could decide in future to take on additional services.

The review will consider what electoral arrangements should apply to any new town or parish council that may be created and whether any changes should be made to the electoral arrangements of the existing town council.  ‘Electoral arrangements’ means:

  • The ordinary year in which elections are held;
  • The number of councillors to be elected to the council; and
  • The division (or not) of the town council into wards for the purpose of electing councillors

In relation to the last of these points, the law requires that we should consider (i) whether the number, or distribution, of the local government electors would make a single election of town councillors impracticable or inconvenient; and (ii) whether it is desirable that any area or areas of the town should be separately represented on the council.  If we decide that a town or parish council should be divided into wards it must agree the number and boundaries of any such wards; the number of councillors to be elected for each ward; and the name of each ward.

This would be for us to decide, and views are invited on this point. The law sets out a legal minimum of 5 councillors on a town or parish council, but there is no maximum.

Any councillors elected to a town or parish council would be in addition to the existing local ward councillors who are members of Torbay Council.  It is possible for the same people to be elected to Torbay Council and a town or parish council.

Town or parish councillors are not usually paid any allowances, but they may be reimbursed for any costs that they incur.

In arriving at its recommendations the law requires us to have regard to the need for community governance arrangements to:

  • reflect the identities and interests of the community in the area; and
  • promote effective and convenient local government.

We must also consider the size, population and boundaries of a local community or parish; and the impact of town councils on community cohesion.

Any town or parish council should reflect distinctive and recognisable communities of interest with their own sense of identity. Electors should be able to identify with the town or parish in which they live. Any submissions providing evidence of community identity or local linkages will be important considerations in this review.

When submitting their views, respondents may also wish to consider the following characteristics of good community governance which Government guidance indicates should be considered when assessing the options in a review:

  • a sense of civic pride and civic values;
  • a strong, inclusive community and voluntary sector;
  • a sense of place - with a positive feeling for people and local distinctiveness;
  • effective engagement with the local community at neighbourhood level;
  • strong leadership;
  • the ability of local authorities to deliver quality services economically and efficiently; and
  • an area that is of a size that is viable as an administrative unit of local government.

Boundaries

Boundaries between town or parish council areas should reflect the distinct community identities of the respective areas.  Wherever possible boundaries should follow areas of low population between settlements or pronounced physical barriers (either natural or built) such as watercourses, marshland or moorland; parks, canals, railways or major roads and should be, and be likely to remain, easily identifiable.

Alternative arrangements

In addition, in carrying out a review we must consider the wider picture of community governance. This includes taking account of any other existing or potential arrangements for community representation or engagement in the area, as either alternatives to or stages towards establishing town councils. We are therefore seeking views on whether the establishment of town or parish councils would provide additional benefits compared to developing existing arrangements, including for example the Community Partnerships.

Electorate projections 

In coming to decisions on the electoral arrangements for any town or parish council we must consider the number of electors in the areas under review and any change in that number or the distribution of those electors which is likely to occur in the next five years. Electorate forecasts for January 2024 will be published alongside current figures during the consultation process.

Following the close of the first phase of consultation on 15 March 2019, officers and a working party of councillors appointed by the Council will consider the responses received.

The recommendations of the review will then be considered at a full meeting of Council on 19 June 2019.  We will determine what will be published for a second phase of public consultation which will run from June until August 2019, with the final decisions projected to be made at a further full Council meeting on 24 October 2019.  These are provisional dates but by law the review must be completed by 13 January 2020 - one year after it began.

If the review results in any changes to community governance, at the conclusion of the review we will make a Reorganisation of Community Governance Order.  Copies of that order, map(s) showing the effects of the order, and documents setting out the reasons for our decisions (including where it has decided to make no change following the review) will be available at our offices and published on our website.

It is anticipated that if any new town or parish councils were to be established following this review they would come into existence no later than April 2020.

Any changes made to town or parish council arrangements as a result of this review will not automatically change the corresponding ward boundaries for Torbay Council, and it should be noted that a Council does not have the power to change its own area or ward boundaries.  However, we could ask the www.lgbce.org.uk  Opens in a new window (LGBCE) to change its ward boundaries to align them with any new town or parish council boundaries.  In any case any changes arising from the review would inform the work of the LGBCE when they next review our ward arrangements.

The review could affect all residents of Torbay and users of local services and we want to know the views of all interested people - including local residents, employees, business people, community organisations, statutory agencies and others - to help it decide on the matters under review.