Parish pump puzzler

Milcombe Parish PumpI rarely get excited about parish pump politics (small “p”) but I am interested to see the make-up of Adderbury’s next parish council.  I can talk about the make-up before the elections on 5 May 2016 because Adderbury Parish Council – along with many others – is uncontested with 10 names for 11 seats.  Being a parish councillor is not the most glamorous of roles.  Power is very limited; agendas are predictable and the one issue that worries people most is planning where the district council – Cherwell for Adderbury – can trump anything the parish council would wish for.

However, what I find interesting and, I think, worrying is that, out of the 10 people who have put themselves forward for the parish council:

  • 4 give their address as Horn Hill Road
  • 1 does not include her road in the address but – surprise – it is Horn Hill Road and
  • 1 more lives in Cross Hill Road which is next to Horn Hill Road
  • several of them are actual next-door neighbours and have cross-nominated one another.

Why does this worry me?  Well, a parish council is meant to be representative of the community from which it is elected.  You cannot dictate this as a principle but you can hope the democratic process will provide councillors who are truly representative of the area they serve.  That is why I worry to see an uncontested election where 6 of the ten new councillors represent just two roads out of the 58 roads in the village.

Is this a complete coincidence?  Well, I don’t think so because the form that records their nominations is on the Cherwell web site and there is a column for “Description (if any)”.  In national, county and district elections, where candidates stand for a political party, this column is used to identify the party they represent.  However, in parish council elections, it is unusual to find anything in this column because party politics do not feature in many parish council elections.

I suspect small “p” politics are featuring here because there is an interesting and fairly consistent theme in that all  candidates living in Horn Hill Road or Cross Hill Road have used similar descriptions like “democracy & transparency”.  This suggests to me something like a concerted campaign for these 6 people to work together to secure control of the parish council.  Why would they want to do that?  Well, there is a tradition for the Horn Hill end of the village to feel they are special and that housing development should be resolutely and absolutely resisted in their part of the village.

I think this is all rather sad because it suggests a lack of democracy by the current parish council and that is certainly not my experience.  Diane Bratt has done a superb job of leading the Parish Council as chairman for some years and has handled some difficult situations with great diplomacy. Indeed, I have wondered at her patience when I have witnessed some silly behaviour from some parish councillors which seemed to be designed to hold up proceedings for no real purpose.

I may be completely wrong and the newly appointed Adderbury Parish Council may prove to be a wonderful example of representative democracy, working for the benefit of all parts of the village from St Mary’s Road, through the centre of the village and across the whole of the Twyford part of Adderbury and even, perhaps, down the Aynho Road to Nell Bridge!  However, I am not holding my breath.

Could I be tempted to attend the first couple of parish councils to see what the early signs portend?  Well, I think I just might!.  I am glad to be out of the political rat race but I might just find the time to sit in the public benches to see how well the new Adderbury Parish Council considers the needs of the whole village.


About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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