West Adderbury has always been a separate community from East Adderbury and Twyford. Historical sources refer to the townships of Adderbury East and Adderbury West, both having separate ecclesiastical and civil governance for most of the past 1000 years. It was not until the 1850s that West Adderbury and East Adderbury were brought under a single church authority. Until as recently as 1971, West Adderbury had its own Parish Council.
In March 2020, over 200 West Adderbury residents submitted a petition to request Cherwell District Council to carry out a Community Governance Review (CGR), with the aim of getting back our Parish Council.
What is a Community Governance Review?
A Community Governance Review is a process that reviews governance arrangments for town and parish councils and makes changes where appropriate, such as creating, abolishing or changing the boundaries of Parishes and Parish Councils. This is to ensure that councils continue to be reflective of the identity and interests of local communities, and that they are as efficient and effective in their governance as they can be.
In other words, West Adderbury has a legal right to a parish council which works for our best interests and makes sure we have the ability to influence the way we are governened.
Why have we requested a Community Governance Review?
East Adderbury and Twyford are three times larger than West Adderbury. This means that West Adderbury will always lose out to the majority in surveys, polls, elections and Parish Council Decisions. On far too many issues, West Adderbury has very different needs, interests and views to our larger neighbours. This means that the current Parish Council is forced to make decisions in the interest of the majority and we are left without an effective voice.
It is obvious that the current setup, introduced in 1971, cannot continue. The experiment to merge parishes in the hope that it would be more efficient and democratic has failed.
Adderbury Parish Council has become very divided, with councillors from West Adderbury increasingly coming into conflict with those from East Adderbury and Twyford. This latter group includes the Chairman, who has held this position for over ten years. This conflict has spillled over into the wider village community, resulting in two highly divisive parish polls, numerous complaints made to the CDC Monitoring Officer and two Judicial Reviews. Allegations of councillor misconduct and criminal behaviour have also been made to the Police.
Social media has been full of comments which range from rude and disparaging to threatening. Those residents of West Adderbury who have publicly expressed views contrary to the “majority” have been bullied and vilified, and in some cases have had their property vandalised.
In July 2017, things got so bad that Cherwell District Council had to bring in outside consultants, Hoey Ainscough, who produced a damning report on the Parish Council. Since then things have got worse and many West Adderbury Councillors have been forced to resign.
This needs to change urgently and this is why over 200 people in West Adderbury have asked Cherwell District Council to investigate whether we need our Parish Council back.
Who decides the outcome of the CGR?
It is the legal responsibility of Cherwell District Council to make the decision, but the Law and Government Guidance are absolutely clear that the views, interests and needs of the residents of West Adderbury must be the primary consideration. Cherwell District Council will have to consult West Adderbury residents and other stakeholders, so there will be plenty of opportunity to make your views known and legally they must be taken into account when the decision is made.
What happens now?
Cherwell District Council has one year to complete the CGR. Now that a CGR has been tirggered by the petition, the next step is for the Council to draw up “Terms of Reference” which will state the issues to be investigated, the methodology and the timescales. Once the CGR is complete, the Council will publish its recommendations and put into effect changes needed.
Some more of your questions answered:
It is an option that could be considered, but government advice is that warding in parish councils only works if they are roughly of the same size. West Adderbury is less than 25% of the current parish, so we would still only be a minority interest on the council and it wouldn’t solve our problem.
Yes, of course and we don’t expect everyone to agree on all matters. If we were voting on village wide issues and problems but simply disagreed with the way forward on those matters we would accept that it was just democracy in action. However, when we vote on issues that primarily affect West Adderbury, we are outvoted by a majority who do not share our concerns and this is undemocratic and wrong.
Historically, no. West Adderbury and East Adderbury have always been separate “townships”. It was not until 1971 that the two parishes were joined under a single council. There are many examples of villages that join together under a single parish council, but that does not mean that they are any less a village in their own right. The joint Parish Council can work if the separate communities are allowed to retain their identity and have a real say over how their community is governed. This clearly hasn’t happened in Adderbury.
In a sense yes, but only in the same way that people who live in Summertown live in Oxford, or people in Hammersmith live in London. Each area of Adderbury has its own distinct character, and many of us feel that we live in West Adderbury first and foremost. That doesn’t mean that we want to “leave” Adderbury, we simply want a Parish Council that reflects the place that we live.
Many younger residents have been put off by the horrendous infighting and the general nastiness of the village politics in recent years. Councillors from West Adderbury have had verbal and written abuse thrown at them, false complaints made about them and have been villified on local websites simply because they live in a part of the village that does not share the same values and vision as East Adderbury and Twyford.
If Cherwell District Council decide we need to regain our Parish Council, there is no shortage of people willing to volunteer and many are taking an active role in making sure West Adderbury has a chance to retain its identity and have a real say over how it fulfils its potential in the future.
In July 2017, Cherwell District Council got so fed up with the constant complaints about Adderbury Parish Council that it decided to hire consultants to fix the problem. Hoey Ainscough produced a damning report on the state of the Parish Council which you can read here. It paints a picture of a Council dominated by a chairman who has been in place for ten years and has lost the trust and confidence of a significant number of councillors, many of whom have since resigned. It speaks of bitter divisions that have reduced the council to a dysfunctional mess incapable of effectively governing the Parish.
One Councillor said to the consultants, “I tend to feel anxious before a meeting and dirty afterwards.”
Hoey Ainscough made recommendations, but it became apparent that these were not being seriously followed and the situation has got increasingly worse.
The problem can’t be fixed because there are two separate villages with very different needs, interests and identities which will continue to be a source of bitter conflict under a single parish council.
The idea that there is only the village of Adderbury is not one that we accept. West Adderbury has always been a separate village with its own character and identity, just as East Adderbury and Twyford have their own identity. There are many groups, such as the Twyford Tigers that celebrate their own identity. We in West Adderbury just want to do the same.
The larger community of Adderbury is not united now and hasn’t been for many years. The lack of social cohesion has been caused by the fact that the Parish Council is trying to make policies for two very different communities. It cannot meet the needs and interests of West Adderbury on many issues, because they conflict with those of the majority in other parts of Adderbury.
West Adderbury being given its Parish Council back will promote community cohesion by removing the source of the constant and bitter divisions that have spilled over into the community.