Urban parish council goes to the vote

Westminster City Council has given residents the go-ahead to hold a referendum on setting up London’s first ‘parish’ council.
More than 2,000 residents of Queen’s Park in north-west London signed a petition requesting the establishment of a community council in the area and the council has held a community governance review to examine the proposal.

Legislation was passed in 2007 allowing the creation of parish councils in London boroughs, following their abolition in 1963, but none have been set up since.

Robert Davis (Con), deputy leader of Westminster, said: “The council is excited by the idea of localism and devolving powers down to local people. However, before making such a significant decision, we want to ensure that the proposals for Queen’s Park have the clear support of residents who will be asked to pay an additional levy for a parish council. Holding a referendum will enable all residents to have their say. I look forward to the results of the referendum.”

Residents will be asked whether they want the community council, with a proposed precept of up to £44.60 a year on a Band D property. If benefit claimants were excluded from the levy the precept on other Band D properties would have to almost double to meet the campaign group’s minimum annual budget of £180,000.

The referendum will be held in May before a final decision in June.

The Cabinet Office is keen to see the creation of new community councils to act as bodies for more powers to be devolved to. In an update on it’s Open Public Services white paper published last month, the Cabinet Office said it would consider legislation if councils stood in the way of the creation of such local public bodies.

Council chief executives had previously expressed fears that they were being pressured to set-up such bodies in order to qualify for a range of grants.

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