An update from Hart District Council Chairman, Councillor Wendy Makepeace-Browne
For Councils, due to the holidays, August is a quiet month with fewer ‘general’ meetings and Chairman’s engagements, so my main event was on Friday 24 August, when I enjoyed launching the new Fleet Pond Society Kubota tractor, on its first task for its new life here in Fleet.
Whilst the Councillors get a breather, our Hart Officers continue to crunch through the day to day tasks that keep our residents covered, so this month, my Council focus is on how it all works.
People get confused about the layers of local government … mainly because it is confusing ... but also because it never really gets explained.
Around the 1920s, women’s suffrage and extended male votes meant that people started taking more interest in politics. Government realised it needed to change to a concession strategy, giving people a say, and rights, to make changes for themselves. Today, political progression means we have 4 layers to government, allowing anyone who wants to get involved, the opportunity to do so.
Parish/Town Councils, being the lowest level, are seen to be closest to community views and Councillors are volunteers, who are elected or co-opted. Whilst limited in decision making power, they influence organisations that make decisions (district council, health authorities, police etc.) and, cash willing, can support allotments, public clocks, bus shelters, community centres, play areas/play equipment, and local organisation grants. They can also prepare a legal planning document (Neighbourhood Plan) and they have powers to issue fixed penalty fines for litter, graffiti, fly posting and dog offences.
Next up is the District Council (with a Chairman) or Borough Council (with a Mayor), which subdivide a county. Councillors must be officially elected and get an allowance for their time. It starts to run like Central Government at this level, as decisions are made through committees. We have a Cabinet and a Leader of the Council, full council meetings and an internally elected 1st Citizen (Chairman for Hart), which is the figurehead of the Council.
District/Borough Councils are responsible for services such as bin collections, council tax and business rate collections, local organisation grants, environmental health, licensing, housing and planning. Our revenue comes from Central Government (around 20%), fees, business rates and council tax. Please note that we only keep around 10% of the money collected from council tax, with some going to Parish Councils and most of the money going to the Police, the Fire Service and the County Council.
The third layer is County Council, a bigger version of a District Council, and responsible for services such as education, transport, roads, fire/public safety, social care, libraries, waste management facilities and trading standards.
Regarding the top Central Government layer … your guess is probably as good as mine!
I hope this has been interesting and for feedback or questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If there is a particular topic that you’d like to see more information on, please do let me know and you can follow updates from the Council on Facebook - /HartDistrictCouncil and on Twitter - @HartCouncil
See you next month.