Community Governance review

Published: 22 March 2021

Introduction

During the last few months, the Council has received a number of queries from parish councils asking how they can change their governance arrangements, all of which can be considered as part of a Community Governance Review (CGR).

The areas that CGRs cover are:

Creating, merging, altering or abolishing parishes (grouping or de-grouping parishes)
Increasing or decreasing the number of Councillors
Creating ward boundaries or changing existing Warding arrangements
Changes to Parish names
Correcting minor boundary anomalies.
Changing a parish council into a parish meeting


The Process

The responsibility of undertaking CGRs falls to the principal council (Dorset Council in this case) and can be triggered in a number of ways including a request from a parish, a community petition or, as in this case, at the principal council’s volition. As a principal council, we are required to undertake a review of governance arrangements of all parishes every 10-15 years, and as a number of tentative enquiries have been made, now seems the right time to carry out a council-wide review. The various predecessor councils had undertaken reviews but, for some, this was many years ago so now seems the right time to undertake this piece of work.

The legislation that covers CGRs requires any Review to be completed within 12 months of Dorset Council publishing its Terms of Reference which is the document that sets the process running. It’s a very tight timescale so we wanted to put you on notice that we propose to “formally” start this piece of work in July this year. Please note, any changes to governance arrangements agreed as part of the Review cannot take effect until the next scheduled elections in May 2024.


The process that Dorset Council will follow will be:

Publication of Terms of reference that sets out what will be covered – in this case it will be a review of all parishes that sit within the Dorset Council area (July 2021).

Public consultation for 12 weeks seeking proposals/initial submissions.(5 August to 28 October 2021)


Consideration of consultation responses and preparation of draft recommendations. (to be agreed at Full Council - December 2021)


Public consultation on draft recommendations. (20 December 2021 – 28 February 2022)

Consideration of further responses and then publication of final recommendations. (to be agreed at Full Council – April 2022)

Considerations

When preparing any submissions, we recommend that you take into account the considerations that Dorset Council will need to apply that are set out in the LGBCE Guidance - a link to the Guidance can be found here. The considerations include:

The need to secure that community governance within the area under review:
- reflects the identities and interests of the community in that area.

- is effective and convenient.

The impact of community governance arrangements on community cohesion and the size, population and boundaries of a local community or parish.
The impact on electorate size of future development within the next 5 years.


We will be able to assist by providing street lists with elector numbers and we will also be able to provide figures for projected future developments. We are currently looking at options for mapping facilities and will advise in due course if we are able to provide any assistance with this.


Any changes will be set out in a Reorganisation Order – the Order will include a detailed map of any boundary changes with any changes taking effect at the next scheduled elections ie May 2024.

Obviously, if your parish is content that the governance arrangements are working well then you do not need to make any submission.

What we are recommending to Parishes prior to the formal start of the process:

Whilst the process will not start formally until July, we recommend that parish councils start talking with their parish at an early stage. Whilst the 12 week consultation period may sounds like a long time, this will pass very quickly.

It is important that any submissions you make to the Council must achieve electoral equality – ie each Councillor will represent roughly the same number of electors.

If parishes are proposing changes, we will ask that you provide information about how this will ensure community cohesion eg what are the links within the community that leads you to recommend that certain areas should be linked together eg in the same ward or parish.

If parishes are seeking a change to the boundaries of the parish, we suggest that they start talking to the other parishes affected. Decisions are much more straight forward if there is community agreement.

I would ask that queries are kept to a minimum between March and 11 May as the Team will be busy administering the Police and Crime Commission election, and a number of parish by-elections and Neighbourhood Plan referenda, but will be happy to help outside of this period. If, in the unlikely event that the May election should be postponed, I will write to you all again with a revised timetable once we are in a position to produce this.

If you have any queries in respect of the proposal, please do not hesitate to contact the Team at the cgr@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk address.

Service Manager, Democratic & Electoral Services

Legal and Democratic Services