What is a Community Council?
Community Council is the title that has been adopted for a local council in Ashford’s urban areas; they could also be called Parish Councils, Neighbourhood Councils or Town Councils.
A Community Council is a great way to give residents a more powerful voice in the local area.
It is the first tier of local government in England. The Localism Act of 2011 gives more authority and power to local government.
It is democratically and financially accountable to the community.
Its role is to:
- represent and promote the community,
- provide services
- to meet local needs and improve the quality of life and community well-being.
- respond to all consultations on the behalf of the communities; they have the legal right to be informed about planning applications.
- liaise with Ashford Borough Council, Kent County Council and other stakeholders;
- support groups in the area, through funding, providing somewhere to meet, or by publicity.
- do anything else that the electorate asks it to do!
Community Councils have a range of powers and can provide, maintain or contribute to services. Examples include:
Leisure centres, youth projects, bus shelters, car parks, community transport schemes, crime reduction measures (e.g. anti-social behaviour, CCTV), cycle paths, allotments, community safety schemes, street cleaning, street lighting and traffic calming.
What community councils cannot do is take on the responsibilities of a principal authority e.g. education, transport, social services, development and building control, environmental health.
Would the Community Council hire staff?
Yes. It would hire an accredited professional Council Clerk who would effectively act as a Civil Servant for the Council. In total we estimate that the five Community Councils for urban Ashford would hire one full-time clerk between them.
How is the money spent?
The running costs of a Community Council include the clerk’s salary and costs, insurance, costs for meeting rooms, communications (e.g. website, newsletters etc). Thereafter, the money is all spent in the area on services to be provided by the local council. These will be targeted to benefit the local community and the money will not be going to the Borough or County Council.
The council‘s spending will be guided by what local people say they want. By law, the council has to be publicly accountable for all money spent and to keep accurate and open records.
Unlike borough and county councillors, your community councillors will not be paid allowances for attending meetings etc. If councillors have to attend meetings outside the area then it is reasonable that their travel expenditure is reimbursed.
A local council can also only do those things allowed by law and it has to be accountable to the public. This means that meetings have to be open to the public and accounts have to be published every year so that everyone knows how much has been spent and on what.
How are Community Councils funded?
Community councils are funded through a sum of money called a ‘precept’ – this is a separate charge which is added to, and collected with, your existing Council Tax. The Community Council will decide what it will need for the coming year and that depends
on what services and facilities are needed by the local community.
The average cost for Ashford Borough is £39.55 per year (for a Band D property), equivalent to 11p per day, per household! Whilst we cannot yet accurately assess the precept that would be sought in South Ashford, we do expect it to be below the average; probably in the region of £30.
Community councils can also apply for grants and loans.
The money raised is invested into our Local community to improve facilities and services.
How many Community Councillors would there be?
Councillors elected to the Community Council would be in addition to the existing local ward councillors who are members of Ashford Borough Council. It is possible for the same people to be elected to the Borough Council and a Community Council.
The Borough Council have recommended Community Council sizes based on guidance produced by the National Association of Local Councils. In the case of the proposed South Ashford Community Council there will be 16 Councillors
Who can be a Community Councillor
Community Councillors, in addition to the normal requirements for standing for public office, must live within three miles the area served by the Council or work within it. .
That is one of the big benefits of having a Community Council – it will be local people taking decisions for local people.