We want you to have your say. That’s the message from Canterbury City Council as it continues its in-depth look at how the most local tier of government is working in the district and how its own area-based council meetings operate.
At the end of last year, the council asked whether town councils should be created in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable and whether any changes are needed to the way some parish councils work. This is known as a community governance review, or CGR.
Councillors concluded from the results of the consultation and the low response rate that there is limited appetite for town councils because of concerns over increasing the amount of council tax people would be expected to pay and an increase in bureaucracy.
Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, chairman of Canterbury City Council’s CGR councillor working group, said: “It was clear there is a desire for local people and local councillors to have a greater say about decisions affecting their area.
“They also felt this council could do more to welcome members of the public to its meetings and encourage them to take part. We’re keen to hear people’s views on how we can do this.
“This process leaves the door open to the creation of town councils, especially if there is a groundswell of support for them in the future, but recognises that now is not the right time. Some might see local councillors having a greater say about decisions affecting their area as the next step on that journey.”
The council already has the Canterbury Area Member Panel, the Herne Bay Area Member Panel, the Whitstable Area Member Panel and the Rural Area Member Panel. The latter represents the interests of the district’s villages.
Here the public can attend meetings and have their say on issues affecting the area they live in. This helps councillors make informed recommendations to other council committees.
Cllr Fitter-Harding said: “We genuinely want to help local people get more involved in our decision making in a way that works for them and ensures their views are taken into account.
“As well as improving local democracy and engagement, the arrangements need to pass the test of being ‘effective and convenient’. This means they should be easily understood and shouldn’t unreasonably add to the bureaucracy involved in council decision making.”
Suggested improvements could include:
- The sorts of issues to be discussed
- What the meetings should be called
- When and where the meetings should take place
- How often they should meet
- How the council can best promote them to the public and make them feel more welcome
- Whether they should only be able to give their views to other committees or have their own powers
- How they balance local priorities with those of the wider district
- Whether they include representatives from community groups and how they should be chosen
The Community Governance Review is also looking at whether to adjust the boundaries of some parish councils, whether to rename others and whether a new parish council should be created in the Hersden area.
To find out more or to take part in the consultation, visit the council’s website, The deadline for views is Sunday 18 March. Council officers will analyse the results before councillors decide the next steps to be taken.