Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keith Hann Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keith Hann Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Keith Hann

While the eyes of the world are on Israel's invasion of southern Lebanon, another power is expanding by stealth.

Yes, the forces of Whittingham are on the move again, and this time they have in their sights the remote and beautiful parish of Alnham, in the glorious Cheviot Hills.

A letter I have just received from Alnwick District Council informs me that the residents of Alnham have not had a parish council to represent them in recent years, so Whittingham thought it would be a good idea if it took them over. As imperialists through the ages have tried to fill any power vacuum that comes to their attention.

Whittingham has been quietly and successfully pursuing its strategy of Lebensraum for some years now, having already absorbed the neighbouring parish of Callaly without a shot being fired. Quite an achievement, really, given the number of guns owned thereabouts, albeit for the pursuit of game birds and vermin rather than self-defence. Well, on paper, anyway. It's probably best not to inquire too closely into how they define vermin in Callaly. Let's just say that they don't get a lot of successful burglaries.

The fortunate residents of Alnham clearly have better things to do than sitting around in parish council meetings, preferring to devote their time to more exciting things such as drinking beer and watching their crops grow.

I envy them, since by the same token they presumably don't have to pay an inexplicable Whittingham Parish Council precept as part of their annual tax bill. True, it only amounted to 1.5% of my council tax last year, but it had gone up by an incredible 47.1%. And for what? The parish and the county are the traditional units by which England is governed, and I wish I could find it in my heart to love parish councils more. But they do give a very good impression of being comprehensively useless. They are also all too often self-appointed, undemocratic and unrepresentative. …

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