I seem to have had plenty of discussions recently about how the village is run.
I’ve written before about our elected representatives and won’t add anything here except to say that we currently have eight parish councillors, instead of the statutory 11. Many of the eight are likely to stand down next May and there seems little prospect of others coming forward to take their place.
In terms of employees, currently the situation is that this village of 2,500 souls employs a part-time clerk to do the administrative work, and a part-time caretaker to sweep the streets and empty some of the bins. In addition there is an allotment warden (honorarium) and a burial clerk (similar), and a community warden who is being paid by Kent County Council (but whose position is, in common with all community wardens in Kent, under review).
So does any of this need changing? You bet it does. Many of the individuals occupying the above roles are experiencing a high workload and a degree of stress. It’s common for villagers to see the post of parish councillor as “a thankless task” and those who occupy the paid roles perhaps don’t get the recognition that they deserve.
The Our Place project is not really about governance but maybe it provides an opportunity to review how the village is run? Many of the individuals who run the village are over-60 after all…
A few thoughts:
- Maybe the staffing of the parish council should be increased to two or three employees. Possibly the role of clerk needs to be split into two: with responsibilities divided between administrative and financial roles. The person responsible for finance might be able to apply for grants for village improvements.
- 11 councillors seems a lot to me, especially as there is no demand for the role. Maybe we should reduce the number of councillors, and make the post more attractive by reducing the workload (by employing more administrative staff – see above).
- A radical idea… Maybe we should just have five parish councillors – one for local issues, one for borough, one for county, one for national and one for international. The role of these councillors would be to coordinate with organisations and representatives (councillors, MP and MEPs) in their respective areas, tying the village into the whole.
- There are currently no women on the parish council. And the post of parish councillor doesn’t appear to appeal to anyone under the age of 45. Could we change this by making the role a bit more enjoyable?
- The profile of the parish council needs looking at. Councillors appear at the farmers’ market once a month but otherwise the council is fairly invisible. The parish office needs to be in the village. The parish logo needs the village’s name on it. How about logos and branding for the village charities? Most people don’t know about them.
- One of the ideas coming out of Our Place is that we should have a village agent: an individual whose responsibility is to work with the over-50s, helping them to plan their futures and making sure they are aware of support services.
- There are plenty of roles for volunteers in the village but not a great number of people coming forward to fill them. Is this just because people don’t know about these needs? Or do people really not have enough time?
Changes to the way that we are governed locally might cost money but I feel that such money would be well spent. Currently management is all about firefighting. In the short term, we need to spend money in order to work in a more composed, effective manner. So I’m going to be pushing for continued increases in the precept in May. If you don’t like it, you can vote me out!