All of the local government services that Shilton and Barnacle receive are provided by either Warwickshire County Council, Rugby Borough Council or Shilton Parish Council. The costs of the services provided by the county and borough councils are funded partly by the Council Tax that each household pays, but primarily from central government grant (which in turn, of course, is paid for out of general taxation). The parish council is unique in that all of its income (except for a small amount gained from the fees and charges that it levies for things like burials in the Church Road cemetery) comes from the Council Tax.
The services that each tier of council provides is clearly laid down and specified in law, eg. the county council provides social services and education; the borough council empties the bins and runs leisure centres; the parish council provides street lighting and the aforementioned cemetery. However, some parish councils, unhappy at the services provided in their local area by their bigger brothers, are now beginning to look at doing it themselves where they think they can provide better services than those that they currently receive.
This can be done primarily in one of two different ways:
- the county/borough council already provides the service, but the parish council thinks that it can do the job better. This could relate to litter picking (borough council job) when the parish thinks that taking over responsibility for its own, more local, area would result in a better service. The borough could delegate the responsibility (and hopefully the money!) to the parish council, who then takes over job of keeping the streets clear of litter.
- the county/borough provides a service, but the parish council agrees to pay the county/borough extra money if it provides an enhanced service. This is sometimes seen with grass cutting, where the borough council may only cut the grassed areas in a village, say, eight times a year, and then the parish council pays the borough an amount of money to cut it an extra three times.
So are people prepared to pay more, to get better? Critics argue that the Council Tax payer ends up paying twice for a service that should be properly done in the first place. Proponents will say that you get what you pay for, and you can get better if you're prepared to pay more.
At the last parish council meeting, we received notice from Warwickshire County Council of the gritting programme for the forthcoming winter period. I happen to think that the villages are well served by the gritting programme we receive. However, despite our continued protests, the one through road that will not be gritted is Shilton Lane (from its junction with Lower Road to the Coventry boundary at Lentons Lane).
Should this be gritted? Yes, especially for the cars travelling at speed from the Coventry direction into our area. Will it be gritted? No. So the parish council agreed to ask the county if they would grit it if we paid them the cost of doing so.
This doesn't mean that it's going to happen (and certainly not in time for this winter). The county council have got to agree to do it, they've got to tell us how much it will cost, and we've got to agree whether or not we want to pay this in order to get the enhanced service that we would otherwise not receive. But it's a good example of where ambitious parish councils can make a real difference to the lives of its residents (assuming of course, that its residents are happy to pay the price!).
If you have an opinion on this issue, leave me a comment below.