This week is Create a Council week, organised by the National Association of Local Councils to coincide with the historic elections to the new Queen’s Park Community Council, London’s first parish council.
Being held for the very first time, the week is about promoting the creation of new parish councils in England’s towns and cities, highlighting the help on offer through a Government funded support programme and showcasing how parish councils around the country are making such a difference.
Having supported and advised the Queen’s Park residents who campaigned to set up the new community council right from the start over two years ago, to say I’m excited would be an understatement. It has been a real privilege and an honour to help the residents realise their ambition of establishing a statutory hyper-local council to give them a voice, improve the area and influence the delivery of other services.
So I was somewhat annoyed at the Guardian’s story Monday on 9 facts and figures about today’s elections, as it made no mention of today’s milestone election in Queen’s Park.
Because today’s election is even more historic than I realised as I thought parishes were abolished in London in the 1960’s. And they were, but they were civil parishes, not parish councils.
The last parish council in London was actually abolished in 1936, in North Ockendon, 18 miles east from central London on the border of the London Borough of Havering and Essex. Making the efforts of residents in Queen’s park, in the deprived north west corner of Westminster, even more momentous: the first parish council in outer London for over 75 years and the first ever in inner London!
To remedy the Guardian’s oversight, here’s seven facts and figures from me to mark today’s landmark local election:
Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007
Parish councils could not be established in London prior to a change of the law in 2007, brought about by a campaign from the National Association of Local Councils to give Londoners the same rights as every other city in England.
Not your average councillors
Seventeen men and women are standing for twelve seats to represent Queen’s Park – all are independent, non-party candidates. One quarter of the candidates are in their 20s, and a larger proportion than normal are women and ethnic minorities. The cultural heritage of the candidates includes African, Afro-Caribbean, Asian, English, European, Irish, and Middle Eastern backgrounds – reflecting the diversity of this central-London neighbourhood. According to the Local Government Association 68 per cent of councillors are male, the average age is 60 and 96 per cent are white.
Putting the heart back into your community
A 7ft heart shaped prop started its press tour of the country on Tuesday with its first outing at a networking event for people campaigning to set up a new parish council where they live. Areas include Ashford, Charlton, Bingley, Penrith, Peterborough, Plumstead, Rickmansworth and Stoke-on-Trent.
Two new parish elections in 2014
People in Chadwick End, Solihull and Queen’s Park, Westminster go to the polls today to elect their parish councillors who will serve a four-year term.
Weston-super-Mare is the biggest parish council in the country with a population of just over 72,000. Although this will be dwarfed by a new town council in Sutton Coldfield if the review of community governance being conducted by Birmingham city Council recommends the establishment of a new council: the town has a population of 105,000 people.
From 2011 to 2013 Queen’s Park was one of 12 areas selected by the Government to pilot neighbourhood community budgets (now called Our Place!), an approach aimed at giving people more power over their local services and budgets in a neighbourhood and aligning these with all the other resources the local community can bring. The focus of the project was to improve outcomes for children and young people as well as families at risk with a view to creating a formal role for residents in service development and delivery.
Welcome to the family 🙂
There are around 9,000 parish councils in England and approximately 80,000 people stepping up to make a difference in their area as a parish councillor.