Over the years there has been some debate about the merits or otherwise of a Town Council for Spalding. In our July 2022 Newsletter, our
Chair, John Bland set out what powers a Town Council could potentially have to help inform the debate.
Over recent months there has been renewed debate about the merits or otherwise of a Town Council for Spalding.
Whilst Spaldonians have been consulted on this question twice in the last twenty-odd years, it does no harm to explore the question
again, as there have been some significant changes in the population of Spalding since 2015, the last time the issue was explored.
Spalding's lack of a Town Council has been picked up by a researcher at the House of Commons Library. A useful article explaining why some parts of England don‟t have a Parish Council cites Spalding alongside Great Yarmouth, Rugby, High Wycombe, Coalville and Chester-le-Street as examples of
unparished gaps within largely parished areas..
Spalding lost the ability to govern itself as a result of local government re-organisation in 1974, when the old Spalding Urban District
Council was abolished. For many years this did not seem to be a problem. Indeed, in the referendum held in 1998, a clear majority voted against the creation of a Town Council. As a direct consequence
the Spalding Town Forum was
created. It is a body that is purely consultative and has no statutory powers. Nonetheless, it does afford the opportunity to air issues publicly that affect Spalding, and our Society does have a
place on the Forum.
To help inform the debate, I have looked at the statutory powers that a Parish Council has. Whilst there is a detailed list on
the Parish Councils website , the key ones that stand out
- Duty to provide allotments.
- Power to provide and maintain burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria.
- Power to provide and maintain bus shelters.
- Power to make bye-laws relating to pleasure
grounds, cycle parks, baths and wash houses, open spaces and burial grounds, mortuaries and public conveniences.
- Power to provide
- Power to provide
- Powers in connection
with crime prevention.
- Provision of entertainment and support of the arts.
- Power to accept gifts.
- Numerous powers in respect of the highways including the power to maintain footpaths, street lighting, provision of litter bins,
provision of roadside seating and shelters, power to provide road signs, power to plant trees and lay grass.
- Power to acquire land by agreement, to accept gifts of land and dispose of land.
- Power to provide open spaces and recreation facilities.
- Power to provide public conveniences.
- Right to be notified of planning applications.
- Power to encourage tourism.
Power to contribute toward traffic-calming measures.
- Powers in connection with public transport, including the provision of bus grants.
That is a significant list, and it is fair to say that not all parishes make use of those powers, but many do. Skegness Town Council, for example, certainly does.
If Spalding were to have a Town Council that had many of those powers, it would need to have significant financial resources, and would also need members with the right
skills and experience, supported by staff. Parish and town councillors are not paid, but can receive an expenses allowance. In Skegness, the allowance is £500 per year.
Any Council is only as good as those councillors who are elected to serve on it. Would a Town Council for Spalding resolve some of the issues that are frequently aired?
Would it attract those willing to set party politics aside and put the interests of the town first?
There‟s a pretty general feeling that Spalding‟s response to The Queen‟s Platinum Jubilee was disappointing, in terms of both festive decoration and events. Many of the
district‟s small towns and villages seem to have put on much more of a show. Could it be that they all have parish or town councils and Spalding doesn't?
What do you think? Would a town council benefit the town? There are plenty of pros and cons that need to be considered, and by writing this I am hoping
to encourage informed debate.