The first consultation was to find out what people’s initial thoughts were on the introduction of town/parish councils. We’ve heard that people are concerned about the amount of extra council tax they may have to pay, the reduction in local services, what council tax is currently spent on and the number of additional town councillors which may be created.
We’d now like to give you more factual detail about these areas of concern. We will also be focussing on the importance of local services in your community and if you would be prepared to pay extra through the town council precept to protect the services that matter the most to you. Without the town council precept it is likely that Torbay Council will have to end or further reduce non-statutory services, such as flower beds, toilets, and public entertainment and events, as costs and demand for services we have to deliver by law continue to increase. If we do not have town councils the harsh reality is that more local services will disappear as we won’t have the funding to continue them in future years.
In the second phase of consultations we are looking to reach out to our communities, provide more details about how town/parish councils will operate, explain what services can be preserved and what the costs are likely to be so you can make an informed decision about the future of the area in which you live and/or work in.
On 14 January 2019 we launched a Community Governance Review of the whole area of Torbay to consider if any changes should be made to existing arrangements, including whether new parish/town councils should be created in areas that currently don’t have them.
The first phase consultation ran from 14 January until 15 March 2019, during which all local residents, organisations and interested parties were invited to comment on a range of questions.
The responses have been considered and Cabinet has made recommendations to the Council. These include proposals to hold a second phase of consultation seeking views on the creation of parishes in Torquay and Paignton, subject to any council tax precept being set at no more than £90.00 per annum at Council Tax Band D for the first year. Feedback from this second consultation will be carefully considered before a final decision is made later this year.
A town or parish council is an elected body made up of local people representing the interests of their community and are the most local tier of government.
Town/parish councils would 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 Torbay Council.
Town/parish councils also represent their communities and must be consulted on planning applications. They may bid to buy assets of community value or express an interest in running a local authority service.
Torbay Council is committed to better engaging with its communities. This will mean that individuals, organisations and businesses and the Council (and its partners) will have a shared understanding the issues within Torbay which need to be addressed.
Parish/town councils can be used to promote community engagement and can ensure that decisions about the services which communities value are made at the most local level. They can also play a key role in supporting local communities to provide their own services.
Torbay Council will not be able to sustain a number of services in the future. As a result of ongoing austerity, we’ve had to make £82m worth of additional income, savings and efficiencies in the last seven years in order to maintain a balanced budget. Our funding from central Government will have reduced from £27m in 2015/16 to £6m in 2019/20. Demand for our statutory services is increasing, particularly in Children’s and Adults Services. This has an impact on the level and number of services which we can afford to deliver.
Setting up town councils is a potential solution, because they can raise additional income through town council precepts to deliver local services you want to continue in your town or parish.
Town councils are funded through a ‘precept’; this is a separate charge which is added to, and collected along with, your existing council tax. Town councils can also apply for grants and loans. The council tax collected by town councils can only be spent on the service areas that they are responsible for.
A town council itself decides what funding it needs to meet its running costs and what precept to charge. Torbay Council would set the precept for their first year of operation, which is likely to be a maximum of £90 per annum for a band D property in the first year – that’s less than 25p a day.
This would mean the precept for the other bands would be set as below:
Based on a maximum of £90 per annum for a Band D property, the precept would raise in the region of £1.47m for the proposed Paignton Town Council and £2.09m for Torquay Town Council.
From these figures, administration costs would be incurred. Brixham Town Council currently spends approximately £180,000 per year on general administration. If this were taken as an average administration charge for parish/town councils, this would mean that in Torquay a little over 8% of the budget would be spent on administration and 92% on delivering local services that would otherwise be ended or reduced.
It is possible that the administration costs could be reduced further if the three proposed town/parish councils shared administration tasks - leaving even more for frontline service delivery.
It is proposed that the number of councillors on the town councils will reflect the current number of Torbay councillors based upon existing wards. So for example, in Torquay there will be 17 and in Paignton there will be 14? Each town/parish councillor can also hold the position of a councillor for Torbay Council. These town/parish councillors will determine how services, that will otherwise be reduced further or end completely, can still be delivered.
Parish and Town Councils may decide to pay a basic financial allowance to their elected councillors, although many do not. They may also pay travelling and subsistence allowance in respect of official duties.
Where a parish or town council decides to pay allowances, this can be to all elected members of the council or just to the Chair. If an allowance is paid to all members, the Chair may be paid a different amount. In all cases, when deciding to pay allowances the council must have regard to the recommendations of an independent ‘parish remuneration panel’.
Brixham Town Council’s existing members’ allowances scheme provides for a basic allowance to be paid to each elected town councillor.
The reality is that Torbay Council is suffering severely from cuts to our grant from central government. Government funding has reduced from £27m in 2015/16 to £6m in 2019/20 and we have to find £18m worth of additional income, savings and efficiencies in next three years to achieve a balanced budget. Demand for statutory services to keep vulnerable children and adults safe and preventing them from coming to harm is increasing and most of our funding, including the income from your council tax, is spent on this.
We have to find new ways of funding services though increasing our income (such as through our Investment and Regeneration Fund) and making more savings and efficiencies, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find. We are likely to only be able to deliver the statutory services we have to by law, which means things that matter to you, such as seafront illuminations and flower bed maintenance will have to be reduced further or stopped. Precepts through town councils will enable activities and services that matter the most to our residents to continue to be provided by those new councils.
The government only allows local authorities to raise council tax by a maximum of 2.99%. If they want to raise it by more than this, then they have to hold a public referendum which can be costly.
The proposal is for two new town/parish councils could be set up for Torquay and Paignton respectively.
No. Town/parish councils are independent of the other layers of local government. Any new town/parish councils would not replace Torbay Council but would exist alongside it.
Each town/parish council decides for itself what, if any, services it will provide. Typically they can include the provision of allotments; parks and recreation grounds; toilets; control of litter; play areas; community centres; crime prevention; festivals and fetes; traffic calming; tourism activities and/or markets. However, recently different types of services have been delegated to town councils, 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 at www.nalc.gov.uk
It is anticipated that if any new town councils were to be established following this review they would come into existence no later than April 2020.
The review could affect all residents of Torbay and users of local services. We want to know the views of all interested people - including local residents, employees, business people, community organisations, statutory agencies and others, to help us make a decision.
The second phase consultation will take place from 2 September until 25 October. Details will be available on our website and will be promoted on our social media channels.
Contact officer for the Community Governance Review
Teresa Buckley, Democratic Services Team Leader
Tel: 01803 207013
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