Parish councils (in our case Town Council), we all know, are hotbeds of intrigue, corruption and passion. Those who sit on them, a colourful mixture of oddballs, bullies and idiots. Or so one might think if television is to be believed.
The Vicar of Dibley (BBC Sitcom) painted a frequently hilarious picture of Parish Councillors, but often wildly inaccurate. JK Rowlings “The Casual Vacancy” (BBC adaptation) portrayed scheming characters pitted against each other in a fictional local authority.
It’s all so far from the truth. I should know, I have sat on the Parish/Town Council of Carlton Colville for a few years now both as Cllr and Chairman, which is my current position. We are are lovely friendly bunch, who do like a laugh.
There was no hard fought election for my seat or cut throat campaigning to win my seat. Like the other 8 councillors, I was co-opted. We either work full-time, part-time or are retired with varying degrees of skills and interests. But the most important thing is we are all volunteers (except our Clerk who works tirelessly on our behalf).
If you are looking for intrigue, I am afraid that you will be disappointed. As for corruption, our budget is £54,878 this year, much of which goes into recurring expenditure. We are responsible for some of the grass cutting, purchasing and replacing bins and bus shelters, summer hanging baskets, supporting the IMPACT team, who provide an excellent service within the youth community and the clerks wages. We also hold funds towards a neighbourhood plan and a youth hub. There is not an awful lot of scope for “back-handers".
There is unemployment and economic need. Not everyone is prosperous or well-heeled. There are social houses as well as private housing within the parish boundaries, with land identified for further housing. Yet the most the Town Council can do to tackle this is protect the existing facilities. Everything else is beyond our remit. For contrary to what many believe, we have very little power and influence when it comes to planning. We can express an opinion, sure, but that doesn’t mean anyone further up the chain takes any notice. Some people may blame us for planning that is given the green light.
We are working hard with all the planning issues related to the East Suffolk Local Plan, but to help us “all” further, we are working on a neighbourhood plan and now are taking over the old Methodist Church building as a Community Hub.
Since we are all volunteers, there are surely better ways to spend our free time. So why do I continue (even though I work full- time)? I do wonder sometimes. I could have remained anonymous, but I have lived here now for almost 17 years and seen many changes. As part of the community I still feel that the Town Council is part of that shared experience and Carlton Colville is all the better for having one.