Wiltshire Council is a ‘Unitary Authority’:

Calne Town Council is one of the Local Councils and Communities affected by Wiltshire decisions concerning the requirement placed upon them to ‘Devolve’ these Assets & Liabilities. They are actually holding on to the Assets while attempting to pass on the Responsibilities and Liabilities alone. This needs challenging.

I live in Wiltshire and was a District & Town Councillor when the Proposal for a Unitary Authority was put forward. I warned then that it would lead to disaster. Taking the power & resources away from people and giving it to increasingly expensive Bureaucrats. With little local influence. I am now a Calne Town Councillor.

There is a need to organise some things at a wider, Regional and National Level, but in the end, the services and resources have to be delivered at the local level, by local people for local people, meeting local needs of all kinds. That has not happened. Wiltshire retained its ‘control’.

It was an expensive experiment and it has failed. In Unitary Councils like Wiltshire, these ‘Authorities’ became Institutional, distant, unwieldy, expensive and unrepresentative of local needs. That has now been acknowledged by Central Government and local Responsibilities & Services are being devolved to Local Councils.

However, the Wiltshire ‘Unitary Authorities’ are seeking to hold on to the Physical Assets (Mostly now Disused Buildings, Business Rental Units & Public Land) as if they ‘Own’ them. They seek to allow us to use them on a Lease-Rental basis, or else sell them off to the highest bidder, clear some of their debts.

They effectively are ‘Legally Bullying’ Local Councils, who cannot afford to fight a legal case against their plans to ‘sell off’ these Community Owned Assets, supposedly under their Management to the highest bidder on the open market. The actions are not only probably unlawful, they are dishonest and immoral.

Meanwhile, the devolved responsibilities that Wiltshire (& Other Unitary Authorities) wish to ‘offload’ will not come with any additional/attached funding. This leaves Town & Parish Councils to take up these responsibilities without additional funds to do it; forcing them to raise their Precept (our segment of ‘Rates’), or allow facilities to degrade.

These new responsibilities include Grass & Hedge Cutting of public spaces ‘owned’ by Wiltshire, Managing Road Side Verges, Hedges, Trees, on Highways Managed by Wiltshire and Maintenance of play equipment, Waste Bins, Dog Poo bins, Disused Buildings & other Unsafe equipment on ‘Unitary Authority’ Land.

The History:

The more massive infrastructure responsibilities like Highways, Waste Collection, Sewerage, Electricity, Gas supplies, Planning and Transportation Management are best served by ‘Specialist Agencies’ at National & Regional level, implemented at Local Levels in cooperation with Local Councils.

The Professional Services like Social & Community Care, Health Provision, Courts, Policing and Children & Family Services are best served by National, Regional Agencies, with the Local provision & Management of Resources, monitored by and in cooperation with Local Councils,

The provision of local Services, designed to meet Local Needs should never have been taken away. Youth Services, Children’s Play Areas, Public Parks, Community Building & Recreation Facilities were all Established and Developed Locally. They should be returned to those Local Communities.

Now:

Wiltshire took these over and subsequently failed to maintain these Facilities & Services. Many more buildings & land will fall into disuse. Now the Authorities want rid of the responsibility for them, without discharging the physical resources (and funds to support them) back to the community.

Unless we put up a strong stand against Wiltshire Unitary Authorities desire to sell off ‘Our Assets’, we will lose those facilities the Local Community had helped set up and run in the first place. Wiltshire has already discharged its responsibilities for providing organised Youth Services at a local Level.

Now they intend to dump all their ‘Community Maintenance Duties’ (Including on their own Owned & Controlled Land) on the Town and Parish Councils. Calne Town Council is one of those Local Councils & Communities seriously affected by this decision and Wiltshire’s determination to deal with it in this way.

I enclose below the summary list of Services, Liabilities and Responsibilities that Wiltshire is going to dump onto our Local Communities. They were meant to be a transfer of ‘Assets’ but Wiltshire is now attempting to restrict these transfer to the ‘Liabilities’ and ‘Responsibilities for Maintenance (retaining the Physical Assets for themselves):

1) Grass Cutting all Verges and Open Spaces (Wiltshire retaining Physical Ownership)

2) Maintaining Play Areas & Equipment (Wiltshire retaining Physical Ownership)

3) Managing Trees, including fallen Branches & Trees

4) Maintaining Hedges & Shelter Belts, including Highways intrusions.

5) Litter Bins – Provision, repair & Emptying

6) Dog Bins – Provision, repair & Emptying

7) Litter picking In Town and all Wiltshire owned/controlled Land

8) Removal of dead Animals from Wiltshire Controlled Highways

9) Removal of all Fly Tipping, a current Wiltshire Responsibility.

10) Removal of all Graffiti, including that on Wiltshire owned/controlled Buildings

11) Removal of dumped Shopping Trolleys – (Not being done by Wiltshire already)

12) Leaf Clearance everywhere – (Not being done by Wiltshire already)

13) Maintenance of Ponds & Streams in public areas

14) Maintaining Amenity Footpaths, including those on Wiltshire owned/controlled Land

15) Weed Control everywhere, including Wiltshire owned/controlled areas

16) Bus Shelter Maintenance and Replacement

17) Bridges and Other structures, including those on Wiltshire owned/controlled areas

18) Path Gritting in Town Centre & Wiltshire owned/controlled Phelps Parade.

All these and all other possible discharges of duties will involve additional costs to Local Town & Parish Councils. Taking on these responsibilities can mean taking on their Liabilities also.

There will be Insurance and Staffing considerations and significant financial consequences, requiring an increase in the Local Councils Precept, leading an increase in ‘Council Rates’.

As things stand. no additional funding will be coming from Wiltshire Council’s existing income to cover these additional responsibilities being transferred and no ‘Assets’ are actually being transferred, from which Local Councils could generate income. This contradicts Central Government’s requirement on Wiltshire Council.