Former mayoress champions town councilBy Nick Edmondson
September 28, 2012
ALDERSHOT could have another layer of local government with residents’ groups mulling over the prospect of trying to introduce a town council.
The council, which would provide a new rung of local government separate from Rushmoor Borough Council and Hampshire County Council, would have its own precept and budget.
Members of the Cargate Area Residents’ Society and the Aldershot Civic Society believe Aldershot residents feel distant from current councils and believe their town lacks personal representation.
During a meeting to discuss the issue last Thursday, Jennifer Evans, former mayoress of Rushmoor and secretary of CARA, said: “At least a town council would be independent and representative.
“People in Aldershot don’t turn out to meetings because they think 'why should I bother?'. Aldershot feels like it doesn't have a voice and the people feel like they are not being heard. The borough council has the whole of a district to worry about and listen to. A local council, with a democratic mandate, would make a real difference.”
Town councils average a council tax precept of around £40 per year per household nationally, but that could be higher or lower depending on its responsibilities. The assets that would be passed to a town council would be negotiated with the borough and county councils.
The meeting, held in Aldershot Baptist Church hall, featured guest speaker Stephen Lugg, from the Association of Local Councils. He said: “There are many times when people feel that their district and borough councils are not listening to their concerns. So much so that ‘consultation’ has become a dirty word. We are seeing a real move towards communities having a say in the way their towns and parishes develop and the number of parish and town councils have continued to increase.”
Members of Rushmoor Borough Council who attended the meeting were more critical of the plan. Cllr Charles Choudhary said: “Why should they incur extra cost and set up a whole new council?”
Len Lampleugh, a member of the Aldershot Civic Society, said: “The problem is we simply don’t get enough volunteers for the society itself, which I think is pretty close to a town council, although we are unelected. So many meetings are just not supported and it seems like the people of the town don’t care that much about issues. They will moan about them, but not turn out for meetings to discuss them.”
Mrs Evans added: “A town council could help with that. The civic society does a great job, but they are not elected and have no mandate.”
Under statute, residents can call on a district or county council to consider creating a parish council by presenting a petition signed by 10% of the parish population.
The council would then forward the petition to the secretary of state, who then has the option to call for a community governance review, which will decide if a new council is to be created and elected.