Parish Councils May Return

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Dale Chief Reporter

Parish councils could return to Birmingham in the next stage of local government devolution.

The idea is being looked at as part of the city council's commitment to reengage grass roots democracy.

Communities interested in attaining parish status must collect a petition signed by at least ten per cent of people living in the area and then submit an official application to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.

Mick Rice, Birmingham cabinet member for local services and community safety, who is heading the city council's devolution initiative, envisages three or four urban parish councils per ward.

Each parish council would consist of between ten and 12 members, one of whom would be over the age of 65 and one under 25. The membership would be chosen to reflect a 'gender balance', Coun Rice explained.

The bodies would have limited powers to levy a council tax and would assume responsibilities such as running parks, leisure centres and allotments. Parish members would report to the 11 constituency committees presently being set up in Birmingham.

Once commonplace in cities, parish councils have all but died out. Birmingham has one at the moment -New Frankley.

Coun Rice said: 'This would give the potential to re-engage community politics. We could eventually roll out parish councils across the whole of Birmingham.

'John Prescott has made it clear that he will approve any application for a parish council. He is very keen on theidea as a way of involving people in the governance of their communities.'

In a separate initiative, Coun Rice is looking at establishing strategic partnerships to develop policy and advise the new constituency committees. …