Shropshire Star

Plans for charter between parish and county council rejected in favour of 'actions not words'

Plans to create more formalised working arrangements between Shropshire Council and smaller authorities in the area have been scuppered after the administration said there was no time to implement it.

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Opposition councillors called for a formal charter on the arrangements. Picture: Mike Sheridan

Opposition councillors wanted the council to create a written framework for how the unitary authority works with town and parish councils, seen as more pressing by some councillors as Shropshire Council looks to offload some non-statutory services as part of a £62million cuts programme.

But the administration said the proposal by Green Party councillor Duncan Kerr to get a charter in place by December was unworkable, as council officers did not have time to work on it, and it would only “muddy the waters” of existing arrangements.

“We know parishes are responsible for many services in Shropshire, and we know Shropshire Council is having some difficult times,” said Councillor Kerr.

“What has been missing for the last decade or more is a formal agreement, a charter between parishes and Shropshire that can work for the benefit of both parties.

“If such a charter had been in place then it might have been possible to have started discussions on many of the issues Shropshire wants to see.

“This charter in no way would visit the dumping of statutory costs from Shropshire Council onto parishes – indeed it is intended to do exactly the opposite and ensure that, where more effective ways of working can be found to deliver services, then benefits can be taken from doing that and the financial benefits can be shared between the two authorities.”

Liberal Democrat leader Roger Evans said the charter would show that Shropshire Council treated parish councils as “equal partners” when it came to discussing how future services could be delivered.

“We all want and need to work together for the benefit of all our citizens,” he said.

“This council should learn and work with partners – because it hasn’t worked with partners this is one of the reasons why £62m has to be saved this year.

“Parishes are able to deliver many services a lot better, a lot cheaper and a lot more efficiently than Shropshire Council but it needs a charter… to show that Shropshire Council wants to treat all other councils as equal partners and have parameters on which discussions can take place.”

However, the council’s Conservative administration was less keen on the idea, saying previous attempts to establish a charter had failed due to a lack of buy-in from town and parish councils.

Council leader Lezley Picton said she wanted “actions not words” as the unitary council moves into discussions with town and parish councils about how services are managed.

“There’s already a significant amount of discussion going on between the town councils and quite frankly I’d rather it was action rather than words at the moment,” she said.

“I’d rather the officers were taking the time to talk to the town and parish councils and work with them rather than putting together a charter of words.

“It was made very clear to me by the SALC (Shropshire Association of Local Councils) executive that when we did this at the time before there was a significant number of town and parish councils that would not sign up to it. I don’t want to waste time this year.

“The officers are under the most enormous pressure this year, and [yet] you want them to come up with a charter when actually they’re out there doing this work now.”