Option Four: the creation of four parish councils for North, East, South and West Bexhill


Option Four: the creation of four parish councils for North, East, South and West Bexhill

The arrangement in option one would remain, except for Bexhill Charter Trustees.

There would be an additional cost to the taxpayer.

We would set up four new Parish Councils covering Bexhill-on-Sea, namely North Bexhill Parish Council, East Bexhill Parish Council, South Bexhill Parish Council and West Bexhill Parish Council.

Their boundaries would be based on the current East Sussex County Council divisional boundaries.  As a Bexhill resident you would live in one of the new, four proposed parish councils in this option. 

We propose 17 parish councillors for each of the new parishes because this is the number of councillors for parish councils of a similar electorate size. 

Each parish:

  • 17 parish councillors
  • No wards
  • Start on 1 April 2019
  • First election in May 2019
  • Elections every four years
  • About 11,000 residents in each.  This is larger than the populations of the towns of Rye and Battle combined
  • Dealing with local issues, in your neighbourhood.

Option Four: boundaries of four parish councils proposed in Bexhill 2017 Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser windowThe four parish councils would focus on the needs and local issues of the neighbourhoods in their boundaries. 

This would mean there would be three tiers of local government in Bexhill-on-Sea, as in option two.  However, under this option four you would be represented by 17 parish councillors, two Rother district councillors and one East Sussex county councillor for the area in which you live.   You would be able to vote for all 17 parish councillors for your parish instead of only the two town councillors representing your town council ward as in Option Two.   This option gives you the most 'democracy', in terms of the number of people you can vote for and that you will be electing the whole organisation.  In Stage One some people told us that they would like to elect more representatives for Bexhill at a similar level to those living in parished areas of Rother.  This option would provide a similar level to most Rother parished areas, in that voters can elect their entire parish council.  

Click on the map to see the proposed parish boundaries.  PDF pdf icon Map of four parish council boundaries for Bexhill [176kb]

The parish boundaries would be the same as the boundaries of the four divisions of Bexhill for East Sussex County Council and the elected County Councillor for that division would be able to build a relationship with the parish that covered exactly the same neighbourhoods.  As many of the local issues raised in the Stage One consultation were about services provided by East Sussex County Council (for example roads and pavements), this seems an advantage. 

The services provided by four new parish councils could vary a lot and it would be a decision for whoever is elected. Typically, parish councils take care of some green spaces, sport and leisure, bins and benches, support tourism and the local economy and give local grants and civic awards.  The size of each of the four parishes is as big or bigger than a lot of town councils elsewhere in England, so they would have the capacity to carry out all sorts of functions.

Rother District Council could transfer some of its services to the parish councils, such as green spaces in their boundaries, but it has not yet considered any of the options.  We have not costed any options and we have not added any such costs to the calculations below.  We cannot devolve some services, like Planning.  Rother District Council would continue to provide many of the services currently provided (see Option One).

Each parish council would have to employ a parish clerk to manage the money, any staff, contracts and services, rent offices and meeting rooms and meet day to day operating costs.  It is unlikely the parish councillors will be paid an allowance but they would be reimbursed expenses for carrying out town council activities or duties. 

Most arrangements set up when a parish council starts, such as its name, services or staff, can be changed by the councillors when they are elected. For example, West Bexhill Parish Council could call itself Little Common Village Council.  These changes include the precept (charge) it makes on the Council Tax to fund its services.  The precept amount could go up or down.  There is no government cap on precepts from parish councils, which means there is no upper limit on the increases that they can make.  The upper tiers, the district and county councils, are subject to a 2% cap on increases (2017/18). 

The Bexhill Charter Trustees would cease to exist if all four new parish councils were created. The new Parish Councils would each appoint a Chairman and Vice-Chairman.  There would be no mayor or deputy mayor covering the whole of Bexhill-on-Sea.

All parish councils need money to pay for services they provide and are funded through a separate charge added to your Council Tax, known as a precept.

The services the four new parish councils would provide could vary a lot depending on the needs and aspirations of those communities.  For examples of parish councils serving around 11,000 residents see below. 

The minimum costs for running these parish councils would include employing a parish clerk, the election expenses and securing premises to operate from (offices, meeting rooms).  For the first year of operation, these have been calculated in the table below.  (The £25,000 is a figure from the £100,000 estimate to operate a Bexhill Town Council but divided into four equal parts.  It does not include a sum to provide any functions or services.) 

Parish CouncilElection CostsAdministration CostsEstimated minimum precept in Year 1
North Bexhill Parish Council£9,300£25,000£34,300
East Bexhill Parish Council£9,600£25,000£34,600
South Bexhill Parish Council£11,000£25,000£36,000
West Bexhill Parish Council£11,400£25,000£36,400

What could a parish council do for their area of Bexhill?

This is the most local option out of the four options; each parish council would deal with matters in your neighbourhood or  neighbourhoods close to where you live.  The parish councillors would live in those neighbourhoods.  Meetings would almost certainly be held in those parts of Bexhill, so would be easier to attend for more people.

A parish council is a third tier authority.  It does not replace the district council or the county council.  Those levels of local government would continue to provide their services.  For example, parish councils have a planning committee that discusses planning applications and sends in a submission but it cannot make any planning decisions.  That is the responsibility of Rother District Council and would remain so.  Another example is that a parish council would not provide roads and pavements because that is the responsibility of East Sussex County Council.

However, parish councils have wide-ranging powers and can provide all sort of functions and services that their local community wants or needs.  It would be a decision for the parish councillors.  No one will know what services they will want to provide, as a council, until they are elected.  It also depends on where they are and what is important to their local community.  All functions and services cost money to provide and are not included in the costings above. 

To get a good idea of all the different things that a parish council might do, it is worth looking at some examples from parish councils serving a similar population size to the four proposed parishes (11,000).  Below is a summary of several examples and links to their websites but there are more examples at the end of Option Two.   You can look at examples of parish councils of ALL sizes because they have the same powers.  Please note these are examples and do not mean that the proposed parish councils would decide to provide ANY of these services. 

Parish councils can act in partnership with other local authorities.  For example, the four parish councils could decide to share staff with each other or with other councils.  Parish councils can use their staff to provide services under contracts to other local authorities, usually a council from an upper tier of local government; this is still quite rare. 

 Southborough Town Council, Tunbridge Wells, population 12,330

  • 18 councillors are elected over 3 wards. 
  • 2 formal committees: planning & transportation and finance & parks.
  • Functions and services are the annual Town guide, newsletter, allotments, common, pond & fishing licences, playing fields, recreation grounds & courts, play area, outdoor gym, war memorial, cemetery, civic awards, community centre, building of new community hub (inc. medical centre, hall/theatre space, town council offices, library, café/bar) in partnership with borough & county, along with new pitches & pavilion.
  • Political groups: Conservative (majority), Labour, Liberal Democrat
  • Council Tax charge: 445,715, (£278,640 = 2015/16 staff costs). Band D estimated at 108.64, £10.87 over 10 months, £9.06 over 12 months
  • http://www.southboroughcouncil.co.uk/

Finchampstead Parish Council, population 12,000

  • 17 councillors are elected in 3 wards
  • Parish clerk and assistant clerk, footpath warden.
  • 5 formal committees: planning, amenities, finance & general purposes, rights of way, roads and road safety and a number of working groups
  • Functions and services include allotments, newsletter, grants, walks & additional footpath maintenance, notice boards, street map, welcome packs, war memorial, emergency response, parish office.
  • Political groups: None
  • http://www.finchampstead-pc.gov.uk/

Bishops Cleeve Parish  Council, population 11,000

  • 13 councillors in 3 wards
  • 5 staff, all administrative only the parish clerk and responsible financial officer is full time.
  • 5 formal committees: buildings and grounds, community, finance, personnel, planning, highways & environment.
  • Functions and services include allotments, recreation grounds and play areas, bus shelters, notice boards, litter & dog bins, grants, funding youth club sessions and workers and play rangers, community building, parish office, pavilion & meeting room, emergency response.
  • http://www.bcpc.btck.co.uk/

Battle Town Council, population 6,700

  • 17 councillors in 4 wards
  • Five members of staff on the payroll (town clerk, deputy town clerk, 3 groundsmen)
  • 4 formal committees: Environment, external relations & town development, finance & general purposes, planning & transport and 2 sub-committees
  • Functions and services include: civic awards, The Almonry (offices, museum, public garden), allotments, cemetery, church yard, recreation grounds, play area, open spaces, magazine, grants, town twinning, writing competition, events
  • Political groups:  None
  • Council tax charge: 252,683, (£133,354 = 2015/16 staff costs), band D estimated at 95.40, £9.54 over 10 months, £7.95 over 12 months
  • http://www.battletowncouncil.org.uk

This pdf file has a number of examples of town and parish councils of different sizes: pdf icon Examples of town and parish councils [128kb]  (N.B. this is the same document as Option Two.)

Neighbourhood Plans

Bexhill can have one or more neighbourhood plans whether or not it has a town or parish councils.  Bexhill, or neighbourhoods in Bexhill, can develop and produce a neighbourhood plan and benefit from the advantages that go with a neighbourhood plan, once in place. The District Council may determine that any strategic development (i.e. a development serving a wider area) would be dealt with outside of the scope of a neighbourhood plan.           

In Bexhill-on-Sea, as a non-parished area, a neighbourhood plan may be prepared by a constituted 'neighbourhood forum'. Any such forum must have at least 21 members and be open to new members.  The community group would have to apply to Rother District Council who would have to agree whether it met the right standards.  If Rother District Council decided the community group did meet the right standards, the group could call itself a 'neighbourhood forum'.  This is simply the technical term for groups that have been granted the legal power to do neighbourhood planning in a particular area.  A 'neighbourhood forum' may be established to prepare a plan for a particular part of the town, such as Sidley or Little Common, for example.   More information about neighbourhood plans can be found on the Council's website at the following link: http://www.rother.gov.uk/neighbourhoodplans

Community Infrastructure Levy

We have been asked to clarify the relationship between neighbourhood plans and the Community Infrastructure Levy and how the levy might contribute to the budget of the proposed four parish councils.  Read more about CIL here

In 2016, Rother District Council adopted the Community Infrastructure Levy.  The levy raises money from developers so that public services can provide more infrastructure necessary for growth.   Infrastructure around developments has been a big issue with the public and this is one of the ways the Council could make sure communities have the infrastructure they need.  The district council keeps a 'pot' of money from the levy and certain organisations will ask for funding from the pot to build more local infrastructure, as long as it is on our list of essential infrastructure (regulation 123 list).  Projects on that list are improvements to roads, parking, rail stations, bus, cycling and walking infrastructure, educational provision, leisure, open spaces and libraries.

There are exceptions to paying the levy for some developments.  Affordable housing is exempt, for example.   The levy is still quite new and dependent on the housing market and related factors. 

Parish and town councils get a small amount of money (15%) from the levy.  They can use that money to support local infrastructure in the neighbourhoods inside their parish boundaries.  This is another reason why this option gives the most local governance.  Every six months, Rother District Council pays the parish councils their 15% from the levy fund before any other money is spent.  The four parishes could give that money to projects on the essential development list or for infrastructure that is not essential but desirable or supplemental.   It could not be used for day to day running of the parish council.  Parish councils have to report each year on how they spent the levy money.  Rother District Council has to monitor parishes to ensure the levy money has been used according to the legislation.  If the four Bexhill parish councils are created, each of them will get 15% of any levy raised on development inside their boundaries. 

However, if there is a neighbourhood plan for an area administered by a parish council, then the parish council will get a larger proportion of the levy (25%).   At the moment, there are no neighbourhood plans in Rother.  The 10% difference (for parished areas without a neighbourhood plan) is going into the pot that will fund local projects for essential infrastructure.  As CIL is very new in Rother, not enough money has come into the pot to fund any of the essential infrastructure projects so far (by September 2017).   Once neighbourhood plans are in place, or if more parish councils come into place, then there will be less levy money available for the essential infrastructure projects.  However, individual parishes might decide that an essential infrastructure project supports their neighbourhood plan or other plans and use their CIL money to support some of the essential infrastructure projects.  It is unlikely they will support an infrastructure project in another part of Rother; although that might depend on what benefits it brings to their residents.

In Rother, the neighbourhood plans have been (or are being) drawn up by the parish councils.  If an area is parished then the parish council must draw up a neighbourhood plan. However, if an area is not parished then a 'neighbourhood forum' can write a neighbourhood plan (see above).  (Rother District Council cannot write neighbourhood plans.) 

If there is a parish council for North, East, South and West Bexhill, and if the parish councillors wish to do so, each parish council could create their own North, East, South or West Bexhill Neighbourhood Plan or they could create a set of neighbourhood plans for the neighbourhoods inside their parish.  Once such a plan or plans were through all the processes, then the four parish councils would each receive the larger amount of the Community Infrastructure Levy (25%) from any development in an area covered by a neighbourhood plan.  However, a parish council is not necessary to get a neighbourhood plan.  Any group of people could set up a neighbourhood forum to create such a plan.  In the absence of parish councils, Rother District Council would allocate the levy to essential infrastructure projects (the majority of which benefit Bexhill anyway).

It should be noted that the creation of a neighbourhood plan does take at least two years and longer.   You can read more about neighbourhood plans here http://www.rother.gov.uk/neighbourhoodplans 

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