Friday, 30 September 2005

Parish councils and neighbourhood governance At their recent conference the chief exec of the National Association of Local Councils supported the idea of neighbourhood arrangements as part of the renewed drive to bring about change in local government. "Within this focus," he argued, "parish and town councils should be able to take on more services from other tiers of local government, if they so wish." (Emphasis added). Now NALC, in collaboration with the Commission for Rural Communities have released their Ideas Paper on the Neighbourhood Governance Review. "This paper argues that the Government needs to link parishes strongly into local government policy and delivery, but also into the local voluntary and community sector and the wider community capacity building agenda. There are dangers that without building and supporting these linkages parish policy could fall between the gaps of Government department responsibilities." The paper calls for the government "to provide a distinctive narrative and reform programme for parish and town councils." As might be expected, it also calls for funding support for training and related development for the parish and town council sector, and there is reference to capacity building, although I have still yet to see any link across to the role of the Academy for Sustainable Communities. From where I've been sitting - just outside the loop for the past three months - I think it's fair to say that the local government voice has been totally dominant in the debate so far, with the parish and community sectors peripheralised and having difficulty keeping up with what's going on. We begin to detect a little shuffling of others trying to get to the front, as it were. Thanks to Martin Dudley for the alert.

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