Richmond councillor questions move to create charter for 731 parishes

Independent group leader and Richmond county councillor Stuart Parsons.

A move to enshrine the importance of North Yorkshire’s 731 parishes and their collaboration with the incoming unitary authority has been questioned.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will on Tuesday consider endorsing a draft Parish Charter for a 12-week public consultation, having already recognised it needs an effective partnership with parish councils to achieve its vision.

The charter will define the relationship between the new unitary North Yorkshire Council and the parishes, which include parish meetings, and parish, town and city authorities, following the abolition of the county’s district, borough and county councils on April 1.

The document will ultimately set out how the principal authority and parish authorities will work together, but as there is still much work to do to bring together the operations of eight councils to vesting day, the draft Charter does not provide detailed working arrangements which parishes can consider.

The draft charter, includes proposals for working relationships about matters ranging from planning and community services to emergency responses.

Among the contentious issues being raised as potential issues by councillors is a pledge by the unitary authority to “respect and promote the role of both elected and co-opted councillors as representatives of their communities”.

Leader of the independent opposition group on the county council, Councillor Stuart Parsons said while some parish councils had elected members, many had unelected co-opted members or were completely unelected and therefore lacked a democratic mandate.

He said: “We have seen in many areas where parish councils start with good intentions, but are hijacked by one or two particular interest groups, and as they are recognised it seems they speak for everyone. Until they sort that out they should be looking at a citizens charter.”

An officers’ report to the executive states it “has been agreed” the charter’s development should be a staged process,

The report states the draft charter represents the first stage in the process and presents a framework through which the new North Yorkshire Council and parishes will work together for the benefit of our shared local communities.

One requirement for parishes in the draft charter states they must “make every effort to attend and be represented at relevant North Yorkshire Council meetings and events when invited”.

Coun Parsons, who is also a Richmond town councillor, said he questioned why 90 councillors had been elected to serve on the unitary authority if it was intending to duplicate processes and procedures with parish councils, by occasionally inviting them to attend North Yorkshire Council meetings.

He said: “They have no idea what they’re doing. They are clutching at straws.”