Conservative Leader Councillor Mark Weston is set to interrogate the City Mayor over his ‘conversation’ with Bristolians to possibly establish so-called urban parishes in the city.
The idea has emerged as part of Labour’s Marvin Rees’s budget and Corporate Strategy Consultation which is being billed as the public’s chance to influence council spending for the next five years.
The creation of new parishes can be controversial in that these are mini-councils with uncapped revenue-raising powers through a precept, which is entirely separate from Council Tax, and are seen by some as a means of devolving responsibility and payment for services on to communities.
Now, Tory councillors intend to use the next Mayor’s Question time slot, immediately preceding Full Council, on Tuesday, 8th November, to find out what the parish proposals entail for householders.
Cllr Weston (Con, Henbury & Brentry) said: “The review taking place into the future of the Neighbourhood Partnerships, which are expensive to maintain and have not developed as originally envisaged, is to be very much welcomed and long overdue.
“However, we do not believe the establishment of parish councils is the right way forward.
“There are some immediate concerns over these inchoate proposals which need much further clarification. For example, with such bodies able to levy uncapped charges on captive residents, what safeguards will there be in place to avoid excessive rate rises?
“We would need to know the size of these subdivisions and where their boundaries will be drawn, as well as how these local councils are to be resourced.
“One can also envisage a lot of opposition if this move merely introduces either a form of double taxation to pay for devolved local services or exacerbates inequality in the city because some parts of Bristol cannot afford or choose not to have their own parish.
“Many will also find it particularly galling that the Authority is effectively asking to charge tax payers more for doing a lot less.
“Historically, previous consultations on plans to raise extra money from citizens have not gone down well in Bristol – remembering here Labour’s ill-fated referendum on the Council Tax in 2001, when more than half of residents voted for a freeze instead of an increase.
“I suspect once people are made more aware of the implications of introducing such tiers of governance, this latest effort will suffer the same fate of rejection in what could prove to be a very short conversation indeed.”
CONTACT MARK WESTON tel: 0770 942 1667