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'INSULTING WHITEHALL SNUB TO ENGLAND'S PARISHES': TORIES

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Shadow local government spokesman Malcolm Moss has criticised the ...
Shadow local government spokesman Malcolm Moss has criticised the

government for secretly labelling parishes as 'barely active' and

'sleeping'.

Questions in parliament have exposed the pigeon-holing of every parish in

England into performance categories by the Countryside Agency, without even

consulting local communities.

'The government's secret labelling of parishes as 'lazy' and 'inactive' is

an insult to every hard-working parish councillor and volunteer. Parishes

and parish councils play a vital role in community life, a fact lost on

distant Whitehall pen-pushers and quangos.

'This insensitive move comes on top of Labour's new red-tape for parish

councils, which entail soaring audit costs and discourage volunteers from

getting involved. Rubbishing our parish councils is probably only the first

step in a systematic campaign from London - I fear it could pave the way for

Labour to attempt to abolish parish councils completely.'

Notes

* In answers to parliamentary questions on 24 January, the government

revealed it is in the process of grading all parishes into performance

categories (HC Debs, col. 1033-4W, 24 January 2002) - either 'vibrant',

'active', 'barely active' or 'sleeping', based on a survey of parish council

clerks. The grading was conducted by the Countryside Agency, a government

quango.

* Government minister, Alun Michael, has admitted 'consultation was

not done directly with individual communities' and 'individual parish scores

were not intended to be published'. However Conservatives have obtained the

otherwise buried scores via the independent house of commons library.

* These new performance gradings come after it was revealed that many

parish councils are facing soaring audit costs due to the introduction of

'best value' and 'quality parish council' bureaucracy, as well as facing new

draconian codes of conduct that will force parish councillors to reveal in

public personal details about their families' and relatives' finances,

property and employment.

Example of the survey:

Parish Council Local Authority Designation

Blindbothel Allerdale Barely Active Parish

Bothel And Threapland Allerdale Barely Active Parish

Bridekirk Allerdale Barely Active Parish

Camerton Allerdale Barely Active Parish

Dundraw Allerdale Sleeping Parish

Greysouthen Allerdale Barely Active Parish

Holme Abbey Allerdale Sleeping Parish

Holme Low Allerdale Sleeping Parish

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