THE SECOND STAGE OF THE COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE REVIEW ENDS ON 4 JANUARY 2021.
Time is running out for West Adderbury residents to submit their comments on the second stage of the Community Governance Review.
Visit Cherwell District Council’s Community Governance Review Page to respond online to Cherwell DC’s proposal to divide the existing Parish Council into two wards, one for West Adderbury and one for East Adderbury and Twyford.
WARA’s response to the 2nd Stage consultation is set out below, and members are free to use this response, or the shorter draft paragraph below, in their own submission. As previously reported, WARA does not believe that Cherwell DC has correctly followed the law and guidance on CGRs and is disappointed by the decision not to reinstate West Adderbury Parish Council. While WARA does not believe that warding will resolve the issues we face, we think it may be helpful to increase the total number of parish councillors to bring in new ideas and views to a Council which has been run by the same small clique for over 20 years.
WARA would like to thank everyone who signed the petition for a Community Governance Review, and all those who took the time to submit comments.
To be clear, in requesting a CGR there was no intention to “split the village” – we just wanted West Adderbury residents to be able to make decisions about the issues that affect our community. Although we were unable to persuade Cherwell DC to reinstate our parish council, we believe that the CGR has led to a number of positive outcomes. For example:
Traffic calming – after at least 16 years of discussion, we have finally had a formal OCC consultation on traffic calming measures in West Adderbury. It is interesting to note that this only came about following the submission of the CGR petition.
Planning & Development – following an application for a 70-berth caravan park at Perry Tree Farm, WARA members submitted nearly 100 objections in a matter of days, and the application was subsequently withdrawn. This would not have been possible without the increase in WARA membership that came about while asking residents to sign the CGR petition.
Representation for West Adderbury – when WARA was first set up, it was seen by some as just a very small group of disgruntled ex-parish councillors. Following the submission of a petition signed by nearly 200 residents, both the District and Parish Councils now recognise WARA as representing the needs and concerns of West Adderbury.
DRAFT PARAGRAPH FOR USE IN RESPONSES:
I am very disappointed that Cherwell District Council has not followed the law and guidance on Community Governance Reviews, and has not considered the special identity and interests of our community. Instead, in response to a petition which stated that the needs and wishes of West Adderbury are always outvoted by the majority in East Adderbury and Twyford, CDC decided to run a poll in which, unsurprisingly, the wishes of West Adderbury were outvoted by the majority in East Adderbury and Twyford. I no longer have any confidence in CDC’s handling of the Community Governance Review.
While I believe that only the reinstatement of West Adderbury Parish Council will solve the serious governance issues in West Adderbury, if CDC decides to proceed with warding then I suggest increasing the number of parish councillors. This may help to bring new ideas and views to the existing council, which has seen the same small group of councillors in charge of the parish for over 20 years. I also suggest the ward boundary should run along the Sor Brook and that the wards be known as West Adderbury and East Adderbury & Twyford”.
WARA’S RESPONSE TO THE SECOND STAGE CONSULTATION:
For many years, residents of West Adderbury have felt that their concerns and needs were being ignored in favour of the majority in East Adderbury and Twyford. Despite having had (at one point) six West Adderbury councillors on the Parish Council, issues affecting West Adderbury have always been decided by this majority, without regard for the views of West Adderbury itself. For example, when West Adderbury asked the rest of the parish via a parish poll to support the use of some Section 106 funds to address speeding traffic on Milton, Berry Hill, Horn Hill and Cross Hill Roads, the residents of Twyford and East Adderbury instead voted to continue using these funds to develop sports facilities on Milton Road – despite the fact that this money came from new developments in West Adderbury.
It is clear to WARA that a single Parish Council cannot possibly effectively represent all three areas of the parish, and that since West Adderbury is the rural minority our needs will always come last. In desperation, nearly 200 West Adderbury residents signed a petition asking CDC to reinstate West Adderbury Parish Council, which co-existed happily with the old East Adderbury Parish Council up until the early 70s. These residents asked CDC to consider whether the governance of West Adderbury “reflects the identities and interests of the community in that area, and is effective and convenient”. Hundreds of pages of evidence were supplied during the first stage of the consultation to support the view that such governance could only be achieved by reinstating a separate Parish Council for West Adderbury.
Despite this, the CGR Working Group appears to have made the decision very early on not to reinstate our Parish Council. This view is supported by the Chair of the Working Group’s statement at the Council meeting on 19 October 2020: “To be absolutely clear, the second consultation which we have to have by law will be on warding or the number of councillors. It will not be another consultation on separation. That has already been decided.”
The basis of this decision appears to relate simply to the absolute number of votes and the percentage in favour of and against separation of the parish. This is evidenced by the Working Group Chair stating that “consultation had clearly shown a majority against separation”, and in Steve Jorden’s letter of 21 October 2020, which states ”Given the high percentage of responses that did not support the proposal, the Working Group unanimously agreed that separation of the existing parish council should not take place.”
According to the law and guidance on CGRs, the principle criteria to be considered by the Working Group should have been the identity and interests of West Adderbury, and whether the current arrangements are effective and convenient. There is nothing whatsoever in the Working Group’s report to suggest that any of these criteria were considered. Instead, the Working Group has looked at the parish of Adderbury as a whole and has made a decision based solely upon the views of the majority.
In other words, in response to a petition which stated that the needs and wishes of West Adderbury are always outvoted by the majority in East Adderbury and Twyford, the Working Group ran a poll in which – surprise, surprise – the wishes of West Adderbury were outvoted by the majority in East Adderbury and Twyford. As far as we can see, no further work or discussion has taken place. In its report, the Working Group does not suggest that West Adderbury does not have its own identity, or that governance in West Adderbury is already effective and convenient; these matters were simply not considered. The Working Group has made a decision based on a vote, in which it did not confirm whether respondents actually lived in the parish, or even in the county. While it is open to the Working Group to consider the opinions of the wider parish, these opinions should not have been given the same or greater weight than the principle criteria set out in law. It seems incredible to us that Councillors cannot see the problem with the approach they have taken.
To add insult to injury, the Working Group Chair went on to opine that “The group felt that the real problem was the feeling that they were not being represented by the parish council despite the fact that they always had a pretty good number of councillors who lived in West Adderbury”. In addition to making very little sense, this statement completely ignores the many comments submitted by West Adderbury residents, and suggests that the Working Group knows better than we do what the “real problem” is.
In failing to address the concerns WARA has raised over the past months with the way in which the CGR has been handled, CDC has lost the confidence of West Adderbury residents. We simply do not believe that CDC has considered what would be best for West Adderbury, as we asked them to. The Working Group has let us down.
With regard to the proposal to ward the existing Parish Council, we note that the CGR guidance states “Warding may be appropriate where the parish encompasses a number of villages with separate identities, or a village with a large rural hinterland”. There is no minimum requirement in terms of number of residents for a ward to be set up. However, WARA believes that setting up a new ward for West Adderbury would simply formalise our status as a minority, since inevitably CDC would not propose an even split of councillors between wards. While we would have a designated number of councillors representing West Adderbury, these councillors would always be outvoted by councillors representing East Adderbury and Twyford.
WARA does not believe that warding is the answer to the serious and ongoing governance issues in West Adderbury. However, should CDC be minded to proceed with warding, WARA suggests that the ward boundary be along the Sor Brook and that the wards be known as West Adderbury and East Adderbury/Twyford. A larger number of parish councillors would perhaps be beneficial in bringing new ideas and views to the existing council, which has seen the same small core of councillors run the parish for over 20 years.