Published: 13:00, 04 February 2022
| Updated: 13:26, 04 February 2022
Opinion is divided over plans to introduce a new town council for Canterbury.
Much like the numerous parish authorities in operation throughout the district’s rural areas, a ‘town’ council would focus on grassroots issues.
It would have very limited power, with Canterbury City Council and Kent County Council continuing to work in their current form.
But supporters believe the area is in need of a third tier of local government. They want to help reconnect residents with decision-making processes and create a strong local voice within the community.
For it to work, people living in the city would have to fork out about £75 a year on top of their usual council tax.
But campaigner Chris Stanley is confident there is a desire for its formation. He believes that by 2025 there will be serious plans for east Kent to be managed under one authority, with the powers of KCC, the city council and neighbouring district councils merged into one.
He says such a move would leave a void in the management of localised issues.
'There are a lot of town councils in Kent, so we feel a bit neglected not having that lower tier...'
Speaking at a virtual Canterbury Forum meeting, Mr Stanley said: “Town councils can raise money, borrow money and make grants.
“They can run sports facilities, youth projects, arrange litter, community centres, bus shelters, allotments, street lighting, and it goes on and on.
“There are a lot of town councils in Kent, so we feel a bit neglected not having that lower tier. They can be a very useful bit of local government.”
Cllr Nick-Eden Green said he would welcome the town council plan if a unitary authority was created, in favour of KCC and CCC.
“Town councils could then really drill down into their local communities and represent the views of residents,” he said.
“I’ve got a parish council (Thanington) within part of my ward, and it works extremely well.”
The likes of Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Faversham, Sandwich and Deal all have town councils - and there are plans for Whitstable and Herne Bay to each have one by 2025.
Those leading the formation of Whitstable’s local authority want Canterbury to follow suit, but Labour leader Cllr Dave Wilson fails to see many positives.
“I think having three tiers of local government is going to completely confuse people - they won’t know who’s responsible for what,” he said.
“I’d love it if a lot of people were really engaged in local government issues, but the bottom line is, they are not.
“They get confused by what KCC and the city council each do, and people don’t understand where the division of responsibilities lies.
“So we need to declutter that rather than create another body, which won’t be able to do much.”
A petition to form a town council would need the signatures of at least 7.5% of local electors, which equates to about 4,500 city residents.
If successful, this would trigger a community governance review by the city council.