The Future of Little Wolford Parish Meeting

The status and powers of the Parish Meeting are described elsewhere at this website. As a Parish Meeting fulfilling the role of a Parish Council as the lowest tier of local government, Little Wolford Parish Meeting must convene a Parish Annual Assembly between 1st April and 1st June each year and elect a Chairman for the year ahead; it must also assemble on at least one other occasion during the year.

In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to identify an elector of the parish willing to serve as Chairman. Without a Chairman, the Parish Meeting is unable to conduct business or to represent the interests of parishioners; the District and County Councils would have no parish representative with whom to communicate (on planning issues, for instance). The options in such event would appear to be:

  • Do nothing: The parish would cease to meet until such time as an elector steps forward to be elected Chairman, but the parish meeting could then be re-convened by our District Councillor or by six local government electors; in the meantime, however, the parish would be unable to transact business and parishioners would lose representation at local level. This would be inconsistent with the requirements of the Local Government Act, 1972 and is unlikely to be permitted by the District Council (although it is believed that at least one other parish within Stratford District fails to meet).
  • Apply to the District Council for an order grouping the parish with one or more neighbouring parishes in the same district under a common, or joint, parish council; this would require the consent of the parish meeting(s) of the other parish(es) concerned. Any grouping order would make the necessary provision for the electoral arrangements that are to apply to the group council (such as the number of councillors to be elected to the council by each parish).
  • Petition the District Council to conduct a Community Governance Review, the outcome of which could be the grouping of the parish with one or more neighbouring parishes; alteration of the boundaries of existing parishes, in effect merging the parish with one of more of its neighbours; or abolishing the existing parish altogether (unlikely, as Stratford-on-Avon District is fully parished, and the District Council will almost certainly wish to maintain the status quo in that respect).

The most appropriate course of action would depend upon whether representation at local level is felt to be important by the electors of Little Wolford. Whether, for instance, they wish to continue to be advised of local planning applications; impending road, rights of way and sewerage works; and other proposals likely to affect the parish. Whether they wish to continue to be able to raise local issues, such as the stae of roads, verges and drainage, through a local representative body, or are content to take them up with their busy District or County Councillors directly. Whether they would prefer decisions affecting the parish, such as the level of the parish precept and how it is spent, to be taken within their own parish rather than in a larger, neighbouring village which may have different priorities.

Fortunately, this year, Ralph Döring has stepped into the breach and is committed to preserving the historical status of the Parish Meeting. I urge all electors to give Ralph and the Parish Meeting your support, most especially by making time to attend the biannual assemblies and taking advantage of these opportunities to express your views on parish matters.

David Farman, Past Chairman