Venue: Meeting Room 1, Abbey House, Abbey Close, Abingdon, OX14 3JE
Contact: Steven Corrigan, Democratic Services Manager email: email@example.com
Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence and details of the attendance of any substitutes.
An apology for absence was submitted on behalf of Councillor Arlett.
To adopt and sign as a correct record the Community Governance and Electoral Issues Committee minutes of the meeting held on 10 October 2022.
RESOLVED: to approve the minutes of the meeting held on 10 October 2022 as a correct record and agree that the Chair sign them as such.
Declarations of interest
To receive any declarations of disclosable pecuniary interest and any other conflicts of interest in respect of items on the agenda for this meeting.
Councillor Mocky Khan declared an interest in agenda item 6 – Community Governance Review – Didcot, as a Didcot Town Councillor.
Urgent business and chair's announcements
To receive notification of any matters which the chair determines should be considered as urgent business and the special circumstances which have made the matters urgent, and to receive any announcements from the chair.
To receive any questions or statements from members of the public that have registered to speak.
At its meeting held on 10 October 2022, the committee did not reach a decision on this community governance review matter – see minute 25/10/2022.
The committee is invited to make a final decision in respect of CGR_G.
Councillor Khan declared an interest in this item as a Dicot Town Councillor, and as such did not take part in the decision-making on this item.
Further to minute 25/10/2022, the committee considered the community governance review CGR_G on a review of the number of councillors elected for each town council ward.
The committee noted the remarks made by Councillor Victoria Haval, in her capacity as a town councillor for the Ladygrove town ward, at the meeting held on 10 October 2022.
The majority of councillors supported the proposal because it would address the current difference in the levels of representation between the different town wards and achieve better effective and convenient local government for both the electorate and councillors. In doing so, the committee noted that the Millbrook ward would continue to have a lower level of representation and acknowledged the community identity and boundary issues identified in the report schedule. However, councillors did note that, whilst Ladygrove had been over represented at recent elections, the reduction of one ward councillor and the construction of new houses in the area could, in a short period of time, result in the ward having a lower ratio of councillors to represent residents.
Councillors expressed the view that Didcot Town Council had insufficient councillors to deal with the workload and that a future review should consider the size of the town council and the levels of representation between each ward.
1. To combine the parish wards of Northbourne and Orchard.
2. That each parish ward is represented by the following number of councillors:
Ladygrove – 6 councillors
Millbrook – 1 councillor
Northbourne and Orchard – 4 councillors
Park – 5 councillors
3. To authorise the head of legal and democratic to make a reorganisation of community governance order to implement the changes agreed.
The timing of future community governance reviews
At its meeting on 10 October 2022 the committee, following an exchange of views, agreed to defer consideration of this item until a future meeting when more members of the committee would be in attendance – see minute 26/10/2022.
The Local Government and Public Involvement and Health Act 2007 provides for principal councils to conduct a community governance review (CGR) at any time.
The relevant guidance, issued by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England and the Department for Communities and Local Government, suggests that principal councils will want to keep their community governance arrangements under review. The guidance goes on to offer the following advice on what might trigger a CGR:
· it can be helpful to undertake community governance reviews in circumstances such as where there have been changes in population, or in reaction to specific or new local issues
· communities may expand with new housing developments over time. This can often lead to existing parish boundaries becoming anomalous as new houses are built across the boundaries resulting in people being in different parishes from their neighbours. In such circumstances, the council should consider undertaking a community governance review
· councils should exercise their discretion, but it is good practice to consider conducting a review every 10-15 years
There is also provision for a community governance review to be triggered by a petition for the whole or part of the council’s area, but this is subject to rules around previous CGR's carried out by the principal council.
In 2017 this committee agreed to undertake a community governance review every four years after the scheduled parish council elections, with any agreed changes implemented in time for the next scheduled elections.
Officers experience since 2017 has been that undertaking reviews every four years is a very resource intensive for the elections team and other service teams which support the reviews. Furthermore, undertaking a review every four years, generally invites parish councils to consider and submit speculative requests often on a repeat basis. A number of the matters considered generate little interest from the public.
The guidance states that principal councils should consider the benefits of undertaking a review of the whole of its area in one go, rather than carrying out small scale reviews in a piecemeal fashion of smaller areas, recognising that occasionally specific reviews, for example to adjust minor parish boundary anomalies, may be appropriate. Committing to undertake a review every four years is contrary to the above guidance, is unnecessary, and as can be seen from the most recent review, causes tension between parish councils.
Officers firmly recommend that the council relies on the statutory guidance provided on the timing of a community governance review, including the provision for a district wide review every 10-15 years. The committee will know that it is perfectly acceptable and possible for specific reviews to be carried out to address anomalies.
That the committee authorises the democratic services manager to carry out future reviews at timescales provided for in the government ... view the full agenda text for item 34.
Further to minute 26/10/2022, the committee considered an officer proposal to amend the requirement to carry out community governance reviews every four years. In 2017 the committee had agreed to undertake a community governance review every four years after the scheduled parish council elections, with any agreed changes implemented in time for the next scheduled elections. However, this had proved resource intensive. It also invited parish councils to consider and submit speculative requests, often on a repeat basis.
Legislation provided for community governance reviews to be conducted at any time. Guidance, issued by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England and the Department for Communities and Local Government suggested that reviews could be triggered by:
· changes in population, or in reaction to specific or new local issues
· new housing developments expanding communities over time
· councils exercising their discretion, but conducting a review every 10 to 15 years
· a petition for the whole or part of the council’s area, subject to rules around previous reviews carried out by the principal council
The guidance suggested that councils should consider undertaking a community governance review of its whole area in one go, rather than carrying out small scale reviews in a piecemeal fashion of smaller areas. However, specific reviews could be undertaken at any time, for example to adjust minor parish boundary anomalies.
The committee considered that a reliance on the statutory guidance provision for a district wide review every 10 to 15 years would not address the needs of the district particularly in respect of the growth in housing and corresponding population increase which could necessitate more regular reviews to ensure effective and convenient local government and representation. The committee agreed that a full district wide community governance review should be undertaken prior to the elections in May 2027 with any changes implemented for those elections. In addition, the committee agreed that a decision on the timing of a future review should be taken by the committee during that review. The view was expressed that regular four yearly reviews ensured parish arrangements could be amended to reflect changing circumstances.
1. the council undertakes a district wide community governance review prior to the 2027 elections to allow for any changes agreed to be implemented at the scheduled parish elections in May 2027: and
2. this committee agrees the timing of a future district wide review as part of the above community governance review.