On the parish council learning curve

By Susanna Rustin, Queen’s Park Community campaigner

“So now we are 12. Ten months on from our referendum ‘yes’ vote, the Queen’s Park community council actually exists. Well, sort of.

We’re called a shadow council, though not officially, as Westminster City Council won’t give us ‘formal approval’ until next April, when an order is passed enabling the first ever elections to a London civil parish to take place.

Until then we have no budget. And we’re obviously not elected. We expected Westminster City Council to appoint three of its own councillors to the shadow council, either our own ward councillors or others interested in our project.

But they didn’t, so we are 12 residents, none of whom has ever been elected to local government, all of whom live here in Queen’s Park ward and want to play a part in the future of our neighbourhood.

We were selected via a process that started when the campaign group asked our chair and vice-chair to invite applications, and choose what in their judgment was the best combination of people.

So what next? We meet for the first time this month, and will set about forming committees. Finance will have the ghastly job of thinking through how to cope now that our projected precept income has been slashed, thanks to measures adopted to compensate local authorities for the abolition of national council tax benefit.

Last month I threatened to write a whole column about this but I’ve put it off. The good news from others is that it doesn’t affect anyone else in quite the disastrous way it affects Queen’s Park.

The governance committee will, with help from the National Association of Local Councils, swot up on how civil parishes work, and think about next year’s elections.

We are a non-party-political campaign in a Labour-held ward, in a flagship Conservative local authority. Without political parties, how will campaigns be organised? Will there be enough candidates?

Our neighbourhood planning group has already made progress. The area in which we are lagging behind is communications. We need to do more blogging, tweeting and talking to the press.

More urgently, we need to engage local people, stick pieces of paper through letterboxes, tell everyone what we’re up to. And we need to do this as soon as possible.”

Follow @goqueenspark and @susannarustin on Twitter

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This entry was posted in Neighbourhood Planning, Paddington, Queen's Park, Queen's Park Community Council, Westminster North and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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