A parish is the smallest administrative unit within the hierarchy of local government i.e. counties, districts and parishes. Long Itchington is one of 109 parishes within the Stratford-on-Avon District, which in turn is one of 5 districts within the County of Warwickshire.
Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the parish church or its governing body although the geographic area covered by the Parish of Long Itchington roughly coincides with the parochial boundaries of Holy Trinity, the local C of E church. This is because the old parish church boundaries were used as the basis for creating civil parish councils towards the end of the 19th century.
The Parish of Long Itchington covers the area bounded by Firs Farm to the east, Snowford Hill to the west, the old railway line to the north and just beyond the main road between Southam and Ufton to the South. It is administered by a Parish Council which is a directly elected body with elections held every 4 years. There are 9 council members representing nearly 1,800 electors.
The electoral roll is updated annually and all registered adults over the age of 18 are entitled to vote in Parish, District, County and national elections. Parish Council elections are unique in that you have as many votes as there are council seats, so in our village you can vote for up to 9 different candidates!
It is a generally held view, certainly as far as Long Itchington is concerned, that national party politics have no place at all in parish council activities. Long Itchington Parish Council (LIPC) is solely concerned with local people, local issues and ensuring that the interests of the village as a whole are represented to the District and County councils.
What does the Parish Council do?
Parish councils have statutory rights to undertake a wide range of activities although many choose not to exercise all of their powers. LIPC would probably be seen as a fairly active council in that it takes total financial and management responsibility for:
- Street lighting
- Playing fields & play areas (Green End, Leigh Crescent and Short Lane)
- Open spaces (including the Pond, the Greens, many verges and footpaths)
- Community Centre (with the indispensable help of a semi-independent committee)
- Village amenities (benches, bus shelters, public toilets, etc)
- Communications (Long Itchington Diary, website, noticeboards etc)
In addition, LIPC is heavily involved in all of the domestic and commercial planning applications that affect the parish. It should be recognised, however, that this is only a consultative role and that all comments and/or objections must be based on planning rules rather than aesthetic judgement. In recent months many large-scale housing planning applications have been seen in Long Itchington and the Parish Council has spent a great deal of its time dissecting them and making sure that the wishes of the village are heard at every level. We are facing un-precedented times with the very real danger that our village community could be enlarged at an inappropriate and unwanted rate.
Parish councils also act as an interface between the village and local government agencies and service providers, especially the police, highways, water, and environmental authorities.
LIPC is also consulted by many organisations concerning health, education, local government reorganisation, etc. Most of the time this involves expressing the likely views of the village but if the council feels a topic is sufficiently important, it will call a public meeting where individuals have the opportunity to give their personal responses. The various meetings held to discuss the many new potential housing developments is a good example where many villagers were able to express their wishes and views and hopefully influence any proposals that may be made.
Finally, LIPC can work with and encourage other village organisations to achieve their individual objectives. LIPC is indebted to the ALIVE group for the production of the Village Design Statement which ensures that development in the village meets popularly agreed guidelines as far as possible. Similarly, after the magnificent achievement of the Play 2000 group in completing the total transformation of the play area in Green End, LIPC committed funds towards helping them with a second phase aimed at providing additional facilities for teenagers. The LILAC group has been active for some months and has overseen the development of the two fields at the end of Green End.
How is the Parish Council funded ?
There are three sources of external funding available to LIPC – precepts and grants from the District Council and loans from a range of sources. In addition, LIPC has its own reserves or savings that have been built up over the years.
Precepts are, in effect, local community charges raised on behalf of the Parish Council by the District Council as part of their annual Council Tax charges each year. The Precept covers items such as street lighting, grass cutting, the community centre, play areas, minor running costs and repairs around the village as well as the clerk and her office.
Grants can be obtained from the District Council for carrying out work that they would otherwise have to organise themselves. A good example is grass-cutting where LIPC want more cuts (possibly to a higher standard?) than the District Council would provide directly so we organise the work, obtain a grant for part of the costs and pay the balance from our precepted income.
Loans are normally avoided but a loan was raised in the late 1970s to pay for the Community Centre when it was built as an integral part of the new school. A loan was also raised in 2004 to purchase the new field adjoining the playing field – the LILAC field. The practical effect of raising a loan is to increase the yearly precept by the amount of the annual loan repayments. This loan has now been fully paid.
Reserves are increased by any unused income in a year and reduced to pay for a greater expenditure in a year than was originally planned. LIPC has traditionally maintained a healthy level of reserves (about 25% of one year’s income) so that funds can be made available to kick-start one or more major projects if that is what the village wishes to do.
Do we need a Parish Council ?
There are some people who feel that parish councils are unnecessary and that their activities would be better handled by “somebody else”. It is one point of view but, not surprisingly, LIPC believe in making sure things get done and not relying on somebody else. At its most simplistic level, we take care that the streetlights work; the open spaces and greens are kept clean, tidy and to a standard which suits the village and not some remote authority; and that we have the village amenities we want and where we want them.
LIPC has become somewhat dissatisfied with the level of services provided by the County and District Councils in terms of cleaning gutters, removing rubbish, etc., and is mindful to do more itself.
If you have a view, LIPC has a public meeting on the first working Wednesday of every month – come along and tell us what you think or contact the Parish Clerk on: 01926 815216.