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Halls, taxpayers money wasted, no complaints allowed.

0 votes
Hi, the P.C. has two loss making Halls and has turned one of them (very rarely used) into a free car park, therefore increasing the loss it makes. I see this as a change of use on which the residents have not been consulted, however the PC deny this. They have put the car park at the disposal of two or three shops nearby and the same have been given the keys to the car park. The PC say that they own the Hall and they do as they please. Is it possible to challenge the decision? Expenses are spiralling with the PC spending two thirds of its precept on staff costs but very little to see in terms of provision for the residents: it is a self serving body. Apparently no complaints are possible. The Clerk (£40,000 for part time work) and the Chair work together to discourage any interest. I seem to understand that it is impossible to hold a PC to account and no complaint will achieve anything. What do you think?
by (170 points)
edited by

4 Answers

0 votes
Complex question really when you scratch the surface. How old is the hall? If new build then the car park may carry planning obligations of use by hall only which means that the lending out may contravene planning and require a change of use. The question to ask is why are the halls making a loss anyway. It is ok to run a hall as a community asset with the intention of being non profit making but they should at least cover their costs (including future maintenance) and not be a loss.
What needs to be questioned is what the obligations for allowing such usage  are on the councils insurance and should this be relieved by the shop owners. It is a whole wasp nest to be looked into before the council should be held to account and should not avoid any such questions. You always have the FOI route.
by (13.9k points)
0 votes
Ultimately you can't hold them to account because the govt don't want to enact any legislation to enable you to do that. They have been unsympathetic to calls for putting a ceiling on precept rises without a referendum and empowering the local govt ombudsman to investigate allegations of  maladministration.  There is one way you can put some pressure on them.  A  parish poll .If enough turnout and overwhelmingly vote to support your complaint, they could not claim nobody was interested.  This would be a clear demonstration to the PC that their agenda is not supported. But you would have to rally support to make it successful.  One way would be to encourage people to look at their council tax bills and note how much of them are comprised of the Parish Precept.
by (28.8k points)
Whilst Graeme is perfectly correct in what he says, it is probably worth remembering that a) parish polls are incredibly expensive - roughly the cost of a full blown parish election, b) the cost is borne by the parish council so, ultimately, by those who pay their parish precept, and c) the parish council may have to put up the precept simply to pay for the cost of the parish poll - which in a sense makes the whole exercise somewhat futile.
I disagree.  A parish poll, and I agree it's a costly business, has no legal impact on a parish council.  However, the correct route is to question the accounts with the external auditors.  This also carries financial penalties for the parish council but if the auditors feel it appropriate, they will issue a public interest report which must be made public and would include the reasons why the parish council are deemed to be mismanaged.
Yes it has no legal impact, but I don't think questioning the accounts with the External Auditor will achieve anything. I disagree that there would be financial penalties. The EA cannot impose them or stipulate what the Parish council should spend the precept on.  The PC can argue that providing a service for the benefit of those they serve, and that is a good use of money.  The EA has to verify that the accounts are accurate and that receipt and bank transactions are consistent with the information in the accounts. They can raise concerns in the public interest report and highlight breaches of legislation, but there is no obligation for the PC to act on the items in it. The PC could fail to publish the report on their website and few would get to read it if the PC decided to keep a paper copy viewable by appointment only.
0 votes
The theory “well it’s always done like that” springs to mind here. The cost of managing halls and car parks is increasing and often hidden costs go unnoticed. Perhaps a small group of councillors doing an analysis may help you all find a solution
A time and motion study of the clerks role may find that they have inherited work that is not effective or necessary in the role.
Breaking down the role into different parts may help you source cost effective solutions
by (5.8k points)
You can huff and puff but the answer is in your own hands get someone to stand against every Councillor and as a manifesto highlight how poor the current Councillors are
0 votes
The Parish Councillors have to assume personal liability for the losses if - as seems likely - the decisions have not been made with proper consultation etc. Discuss it with the local Monitoring Officer. The Chair and Clerk may be guilty of something more serious legally.
by (960 points)
As a constant PC challenger I recently took the plunge and got co-opted as a Councillor . After 10 days of clashes with the  Locum Clerk I resigned .  At the next PC meeting this Thursday I see the PC is to debate setting a Habitual and Vexatious complaints policy with the immediate preceding agenda item being to exclude the public and press.  Local politics is a dirty business but the trick is not to let it get you down . (But plans are afoot)
I wish the Monitoring Officer could be bothered to look into all this.
Monitoring Officer not responsive.

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