“Please, someone, explain,” pleads Adrian Chiles at the end of his article on how local democracy works (I believe in local democracy – I just don’t understand it, 13 January). On the basis of two years’ experience as a local parish councillor, I can tell him that in the case of parish councils, “it doesn’t”.
In those two years, at the end of which I resigned in utter frustration, I learned that our parish council has virtually no powers or decision-making authority with respect to anything of significant importance.
Almost all matters of significance are the responsibility, and within the jurisdiction, of someone else: planning and housing (borough council and central government); roads and road safety, including local speed limits (county council and central government); education/schools (education authority and central government); health and social care (health trust, county council and central government); crime, policing and public safety (police and crime commissioner, and the home secretary); bus service (county council, bus service providers and central government); flooding (county council).
In its election manifesto in 2019, the Conservative party wrote: “Our new Towns Fund will help communities make sure their towns are safe to walk in and a pleasure to be in … Above all, we want the town’s future to be in the hands of the people who live there.”
The reality, however, is that during its first two years in office, the central government has sought to increase its control over decision-making, at the expense of the authority of local government, in almost all of the areas of governance that I have listed above.
Philip C Stenning