Option Two: one parish council for the whole of Bexhill

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Option Two: one parish council for the whole of Bexhill

Option Two: Parish all of Bexhill and create a Bexhill Town Council.

All the arrangements in Option One would remain, except for Bexhill Charter Trustees.

All of Bexhill would be one very large parish and a new local council created for it, called Bexhill Town Council.  There would be an additional cost to the taxpayer (see below). 

A new town council:

  • 18 town councillors representing the 44,200 residents in Bexhill
  • In 9 wards across Bexhill - click on map below to enlarge
  • 2 councillors for each ward
  • Starts 1 April 2019
  • First election in May 2019
  • Elections every four years

Bexhill would move from two to three tiers of local government in Bexhill-on-Sea.  You would be represented by two town councillors, two Rother district councillors and one East Sussex county councillor for the ward in which you live.  You would elect those councillors in an election for the town council, in an election for the district council and in an election for the County Council.  It is very likely the parish and district council elections would be run on the same day, as it is elsewhere in the district.  PDF: pdf icon Ward map of proposed Bexhill Town Council [653kb]

Option Two: proposed ward boundaries for Bexhill Town Council Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

The Bexhill Charter Trustees would cease to exist.  See Option One for more information on Bexhill Charter Trustees.  The new town council would take over the role of the trustees and their civic responsibilities and charge a precept on the Council Tax for the costs of these responsibilities.  The current cost is 89p a year for a Band D property.  Responsibilities (and costs) would include electing the mayor and deputy mayor of Bexhill from among the town councillors.

The services provided by a new town council 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, litter/dog/salt bins and benches, support tourism and the local economy and give local grants and civic awards. You can read more about parish council services further down in this article.

Rother District Council could transfer some of its services to a new town council. No decision has been made, but a transfer might include things like parks and open spaces and public conveniences, when the current maintenance and cleaning contracts expire.  The district council has devolved things like allotments, public conveniences and village car parks to some parish councils in the last few years.  We cannot devolve some services, like Planning.  Rother District Council would continue to provide many of the services currently provided (see Option One).

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

By way of an example, if Bexhill Town Council took over parks and open spaces and public conveniences in Bexhill, this would cost around £910,000 a year. 

In addition, if the proposal went ahead, we estimate there would be additional costs of around £100,000 a year.  The town council would have to employ a town 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 town 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. This includes the precept (charge) it makes on the Council Tax, which could go up or down.  There is no government cap on precepts from parish and town 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 (2017/18). 

Assuming a total precept (cost) of £1,010,000 this would mean a Council Tax charge for a band D property of £62.34. This would be offset by a reduction in the amount of Bexhill Special Expenses, charged by Rother District Council to Bexhill residents.

Overall we would expect the total Council Tax charged to Bexhill residents to increase by £22.75 based on a band D property.  The table below shows the amounts for each charging authority.

Charging AuthorityEstimated 2017/18 charge with a Town Council
East Sussex County Council£1,314.36
Rother District Council   £169.32
Sussex Police and  Crime Commissioner   £153.91
East Sussex Fire Authority     £88.40
Bexhill Special Expenses       £2.25
Bexhill Charter TrusteesNot applicable: would cease to exist
Bexhill Town Council     £62.34
Total Charge at Band D£1,790.58

For each Council Tax band the expected annual increase in Council Tax for Bexhill residents is shown below:

Council Tax BandABCDEFGH
Estimated Annual Increase£15.17£17.69£20.22£22.75E27.81£32.86£37.92£45.50

 

What could a town council do for Bexhill?

A parish or town 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, town 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 town council would not provide roads and pavements because that is the responsibility of East Sussex County Council.

However, parish and town 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 elected town councillors.  No one will know what services they will want to provide, as a council, until they are elected.  All functions and services cost money to provide. 

To get a good idea of all the different things that a town council might do, it is worth looking at some examples from town councils serving a similar population size to Bexhill (44,200).  Below is a summary of several examples and links to their websites.  (Details provided were correct at the start of the consultation but may have changed.)  All the following town councils elect a mayor.  Please note these are examples and do not mean that a Bexhill Town Council would provide any of these services.  It should also be noted that some town councils have joined partnerships and entered into contracts to provide services with other local authorities. 

Kidderminster Town Council, population 55,500, established 1 December 2015

  • 18 elected town councillors serving 6 wards
  • number of staff not known but greater than 2
  • 4 formal committees: Planning (consultative), staffing, events advisory, strategic advisory plus working groups
  • Functions and services include churchyard, statue, clock tower, war memorials, street furniture, paddling pool, public toilets, Christmas events & lights, town centre flowers, arts collections & promotion, arts festival, community & sports awards, grants, Town Hall, funding town twinning association/visits.
  • Political groups: none stated on website but many declare political party membership in their register of interests
  • Council Tax precept: 482,850, Band D cost estimated £29, £2.90 a month over 10 months, £2.42 over 12 months
  • Kidderminster is a new town council only operational from 2016 and undergoing a period of transition and change while it establishes itself.  A number of staff transferred from the upper tier local authority along with the services that they supported.  Further functions were devolved over 2016.  A new town clerk was appointed, replacing the temporary town clerk, and the committee structure went down from 11 committees in 2016 to 4 committees for 2017.  Although it serves a larger population than Bexhill it is an example of how a new town council evolves in the first couple of years. 
  • http://www.kidderminstertowncouncil.gov.uk/

Banbury Town Council, population 46,900, established 2000

  • 22 elected town councillors serving 12 wards
  • 14 members of staff on the payroll
  • 4 formal committees: Planning (consultative), general services, resources, traffic advisory
  • Functions and services include allotments, bus shelters, by-laws, cemeteries, crime prevention initiatives, dog & litter bins, grit bins, events, grants to voluntary organisations, parks, open spaces & play areas, planning, public clocks, recreation & facilities including pitches, courts & pavilions, skate ramps, park rangers, tree planting, town hall, town publicity & tourism, famous cross, statue. Highways grass verge cutting in agency agreement from county. Library in a phone box, chewing gum removal, some snow clearance & gritting, Fairtrade town, town guide, In Bloom.
  • Political groups: Conservative (majority), Labour
  • Council Tax precept: 1,666,853, (£491,548 = 2014/15 staff costs), Band D estimated 122.12, £12.22 over 10 months, £10.18 over 12 months
  • http://www.banbury.gov.uk/

Folkestone Town Council, population 43,000, established 2004

  • 18 elected town councillors serving 7 wards
  • 10 members of staff on the payroll
  • 4 formal committees:  Finance & general purposes, planning (consultative), community services, grants plus 1 sub-committee and 6 working groups
  • Functions and services include museum & heritage, allotments, grants, tree management, town magazine, events & campaigns, parks and gardens, Christmas lights and events, youth facilities, tourist information, paying for CCTV, war memorial, statue, salt bins, running The Old Town Hall.
  • Political groups: Conservative (majority), UKIP, Labour, People First
  • Council Tax precept: 666,735, (£284,581 = 2015/16 staff costs),  Band D cost estimated 49.95 £5 a month over 10 months, £4.16 over 12 months
  • http://www.folkestonetc.kentparishes.gov.uk/

Ramsgate Town Council, population 40,410, established 2009

  • 16 elected town councillors serving 7 wards
  • 4 formal committees:  Amenities, finance & general purposes, planning (consultative) & environment, town promotion
  • Functions and services include allotments, visitor information centre (staffed by volunteers), Custom House, grants, events, newsletter/magazine, coastal community partnership member, neighbourhood plan, 'Visit' & 'Invest In' websites, town twinning, town promotion.
  • Political groups: UKIP (majority), Labour, Conservative
  • Council Tax precept:  413,904, (£137,553 = 2015/16 staff costs), Band D estimated 38.43, £3.85 over 10 months, £3.21 over 12 months
  • http://www.ramsgatetown.org/

You may also find it interesting to look at these examples below. 

Royal Leamington Spa Town Council (population 49,500)  http://www.leamingtonspatowncouncil.gov.uk/default.aspx

Bury St Edmonds (population 40,700, est. 2003)  http://www.burystedmunds-tc.gov.uk/

Salisbury City Council (population 40,300, est. 2009)  http://www.salisburycitycouncil.gov.uk/

Andover Town Council (population 38,290, est. 2010)  http://andover-tc.gov.uk/

Canvey Island Town Council (38,170, est. 2007) https://canveyisland-tc.gov.uk/

Blyth Town Council (37,340, est. 2009)  http://www.blythtowncouncil.org.uk/

Abingdon Town Council (33,130)  http://www.abingdon.gov.uk/

Harpenden Town Council (30,000)  http://www.harpenden.gov.uk/

pdf icon Examples of town and parish councils [128kb]


Neighbourhood Plans

Bexhill can have a neighbourhood plan whether or not it has a Bexhill Town Council.  Bexhill-on-Sea 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: 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 a town council.  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.  They will get the money as long as there is enough money and the project is on this council's list of essential infrastructure that Rother needs (the 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 their parish boundaries.  Rother District Council pays the parish councils their 15% from the levy fund before any other money is spent.    It could be for projects that are 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 there is a Bexhill Town Council, then it will get 15% of any levy raised on development inside the Bexhill boundaries. 

However, if there is a neighbourhood plan for an area administered by a parish or town council, then the parish council will get a larger proportion of the levy (25%).   At the time of this consultation there were 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 was very new in Rother, not enough money had come into the pot to fund any of the essential infrastructure projects 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 Bexhill Town Council, and if the town councillors wish to do so, it could create a Bexhill Neighbourhood Plan or a set of neighbourhood plans for the neighbourhoods of Bexhill.  (The same applies to the proposed four parish councils in Bexhill.)  Once such a plan or plans were through all the processes, then Bexhill Town Council would receive the larger amount of the Community Infrastructure Levy (25%) from any development in an area covered by a neighbourhood plan.  However, Bexhill and its neighbourhoods do not need to have a parish council to get a neighbourhood plan.  Any group of people could set up a neighbourhood forum to create such a plan.  In the absence of a parish council, Rother District Council will 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 www.rother.gov.uk/neighbourhoodplans

Local Feedback:

Bexhill Environmental Group say this option 'will give extra and more local scrutiny of and control over environmental issues concerning the town'. 

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