Elections taking place in the Queen’s Park ward of Westminster today are truly historic. As well as the London region MEPs and councillors on Westminster City Council, residents of Queen’s Park are voting for truly local councillors to represent them on Queen’s Park Community Council.
Queen’s Park Community Council is the first ever parish council in Inner London and the first in Greater London as a whole since 1936.
|The parish is divided into areas to elect twelve councillors|
The Queen’s Park area of Westminster has no history of truly local democracy. It has always been subject to remote administration. Before 1900 from Chelsea, until 1965 from Paddington and currently from Westminster.
Most local government services will continue to be provided by Westminster City Council, but now Queen’s Park has the ability to act for itself and respond to issues locally. Communities all over London should be interested to learn what they are able to achieve. About Steve Chambers
I’m going to use StudentFunder to raise PhD fees for the 2014-2015 academic year at The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL.
StudentFunder is a crowdfunding site. What is crowdfunding? Perhaps you have heard of Kickstarter? That’s a more famous crowdfunding site. Crowdfunding allows money to be raised for a new business or project. StudentFunder allows me raise funds to continue my PhD research. I’ve been blogging about the research into community governance in London if you want to find out more.
Some things to know:
- The campaign lasts only a month. If the whole amount isn’t raised the campaign fails and the money gets returned to funders.
- The money raised gets transferred to UCL by StudentFunder
- Funders can get ‘perks’ in return, if they wish. This can be something small for giving £10 to advice about community rights and policy for bigger donations
I’m going to need help from my network to find potential funders and get the message out. The campaign goes live in seven days. I’ve already approached some people for help, but I’m asking anyone who thinks they could help to come forward. Last week two fabulous friends helped me create this video.
What I am doing in the next week:
- Working on marketing of the perks to get them just right for the various audiences
- Drawing up a list of potential funders to approach
So if you think you could help in any way, let me know!
The latest area in London to look at setting up a parish council is Barking Reach. This area, also known as Barking Riverside, was in the news recently because of plans to connect it to the London Overground so further house building can take place. As much of the area is undeveloped, delineating boundaries should not be as problematic as it can be elsewhere in the urban sprawl.
|The boundary follows the new development area|
The organisers of the parish council plan have benefited from the new councils grants that are promoted by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the National Association of Local Councils in order to assist in setting up a council. About Steve Chambers
On Wednesday 26 March 2013 the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) held an event asking the question “What next for localism?” It was attended by everyone from parish councillors and clerks to the minister and shadow minister for local government. Also represented were academics, officers from principal authorities and the Local Government Association.
|Speakers came from every level of community, local and national government|
We’ve been doing localism for over 100 years
Delegates were keen to note that localism didn’t just happen with the Localism Act 2011 or any other piece of legislation. Town and parish councils have been offering a wide variety of services for some time, either alone or more typically by forming partnerships with other tiers of local government or agencies. The flip side of this was a sense that the coalition hasn’t “done localism” by passing the Localism Act.
One size does not fit all
Another theme explored was that the powers available to councils, such as neighbourhood planning, right to challenge and right to bid will not be taken up by every council. Many councils felt able to achieve their objectives without having to ‘challenge’ anyone. There was also a fear of devolution of bureaucracy occurring, where new powers create new processes that waste time and resources.
Finance, finance, finance
What next for London?
The take up of parish councils and powers such as neighbourhood planning in London has been slow. The radical idea of systematically creating parish councils might be the only way to get these initiatives moving. However, localism is at best a “bottom up” exercise. Having a share of business rates might encourage parish councils to form in London that otherwise wouldn’t. The fear of taxation through precept would be turned on its head with the prospect of a revenue stream being ‘lost’ without a local council to make use of it. The experience of councils outside London with regards to the new powers available could be useful to communities in London. Many were able to do the things they wanted through informal partnership working. So, perhaps the benefit of forming new parish councils in London isn’t about gaining new powers, but creating a structure that will give the community a voice and the corporate form needed to act.