It’s widely reported that all Councils budgets are stretched. Some more than others due-to ‘Questionable’ spending perhaps, but onlineFOCUS has learned that Essex County Council is trying to devolve powers to Parish & Town Councils.
Councillor Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, is keen to explore how joint working between ECC and Parish/Town Councils could deliver better outcomes for our residents and businesses.
You will be aware of the financial pressures facing ECC and therefore Cllr Bentley welcomes an opportunity to jointly review how certain Highways services might be delivered via Parish/Town Councils, and in the process of doing so significantly reduce cost. The services could include such matters as grass cutting and special verge maintenance, weed control, tree and hedge cutting, minor repairs to footways, installing and maintaining signs, winter salt bags scheme, maintaining bus stop flags and shelters, and maintenance of Public Rights of Way.
This could be the thin end of the wedge for towns and parish councils with County and District Councils trying to take the opportunity to shift some of their own cost off the balance sheets and taking advantage of the fact that currently, towns and parish Councils do not have their precept capped.
Rochford District Council have been quick to adopt this policy as it seeks to relieve itself of its financial burdens. You’ll remember the public toilets saga which will transfer the cost of maintenance to Rayleigh Town Council, then there are the parks and open spaces, as the District Council takes advantage of using Rayleigh Town Council to access grants that it is not entitled to itself.
onlineFOCUS is sure that we will see more of this in the future, however, thankfully, members have recognised for now, that this won’t be a popular decision and held back until further information is obtained.