Agenda item

Public Participation - To receive only in relation to the business for which the Extraordinary Meeting has been called any questions, statements or petitions from the public in accordance with Council Procedure Rules 14,15 and 16

The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.


For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.


Temporary measures during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Due to the temporary legislation (within the Coronavirus Act 2020, which allowed for use of virtual meetings) coming to an end on 6 May 2021, the council’s committee meetings will now take place in the office buildings within the John Meikle Meeting Room at the Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton. Unfortunately due to capacity requirements, the Chamber at West Somerset House is not able to be used at this current moment.  


Following the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the council meeting rooms will have very limited capacity.  With this in mind, we will only be allowing those members of the public who have registered to speak to attend the meetings in person in the office buildings, if they wish (we will still be offering to those members of the public that are not comfortable in attending, for their statements to be read out by a Governance and Democracy Case Manager).  Please can we urge all members of the public who are only interested in listening to the debate to view our live webcasts from the safety of their own home to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). 


The following members of the public spoke on agenda item 7, Community Governance Review of the Unparished Area of Taunton and Adjoining Parishes:-

Somerset County Councillor Rod Williams:-

He asked the Council to listen to the comments made by the members of the public with an open mind.  He believed the first consultation had been unsatisfactory with far too little information included and that it had not been distributed to the relevant parishes.  He asked what the relevance was for a phase two consultation when the first consultation had not been listened to.  He believed it should just be for the Unparished Area of Taunton.  He stated that the Local Community Networks would be an important part of local services going forward.  He urged Somerset West and Taunton Council to act in a democratic way and to listen to the local parishes.


Ian Talbot from Staplegrove Parish Council:-

Q1 Please could you explain the “Post Card Drop” which was referred to in the Working Group minutes.  What part was it supposed play in the consultation process and why did it not take place?
Q2 Reference was made in paragraph 9.50  to evidence being “heard” on identity etc.  Was oral evidence given?  The arrangements for consultation did not mention oral presentations.  Where was this evidence in the report?


Alan Debenham from Staplegrove Parish Council:-

These proposals were completely out of context with the whole thinking behind this "define the new Town Council boundary" project, as I see it, and I'm one all for making the boundary fit modern town population spread but only if that’s what residents want and can prove it. Yes, in the name of residents' democratic involvement, I think any proposal to radically change any parish's boundary in favour of modern town expansion must be backed by a clear majority ( minimum 56% say) of affected residents supporting this change, otherwise it should not even be considered.  If there was an expression of interest from certain residents within a declared area, with say at least 4 residents sending a signed letter request to the parish clerk, then there should be a simple 'street poll' taken by an independent official to determine whether or not a certain area should be placed either in or out of the new Town Council's boundary. We should not have Councillors nor employed officials, however much they are interested, putting forward new town boundary proposals unless they are proven by poll/s to be democratically approved by local residents living in that particular area.


Jason Woollacott from Cheddon Fitzpaine Parish Council:-

Cheddon Fitzpaine had built a very good community which included the three new housing estates that had recently been built.  He understood why certain areas were being included in the review but did not believe that applied to the area of Cheddon Fitzpaine.  He did not believe that the previous responses submitted by the residents of Cheddon Fitzpaine had been listened to in the first phase of the consultation as many of the local residents had expressed that they did not want to be part of the ‘Greater Taunton’ review.  He wanted to represent and defend the area of Cheddon Fitzpaine.


Jo Pearson from Cheddon Fitzpaine Parish Council:-

I was the Parish Clerk to Cheddon Fitzpaine (CFPC) from 2011 until 2021 – retiring nearly a year ago.  I strongly disagreed with any proposal to reduce the whole of Cheddon Fitzpaine Parish down in size for the following reasons.

The Parish Council, Parish Councillors and myself had worked tirelessly to unite the ‘new’ estates into the Parish, and I believed have successfully done this.  A bi-monthly newsletter had been hand-delivered by volunteers to each household;  approximately 700 houses in 2011, and 1,100 to date. 

The CFPC survey suggested 99% of parishioners had stated they wished the Parish Council to remain. SWT Council had a duty to follow the wishes of this community.

The growth in the community was noted by the Church Commissioners in 2016, who provided the funding for a home/office, and Pioneer Ordinand, who had been resident within Northwalls estate for four years; she had worked tirelessly to engage and unite the new residents into local Parish life.  Cheddon Fitzpaine Primary School was full, the Church well supported, and the Memorial Hall all provided a wide variety of activities;  This did not happen by accident, but by active interaction between the Parish Council, the establishments, and the local residents.  None of this work would be carried out by the new Town Council.

Please note, that should the Parish be reduced in size to 309 residents as quoted in SWT Working Party Report, that those residents had already held all the positions as Chairman/Secretary/Treasurer/Trustees etc, over the past 50 years, and there would not be enough people left within the Parish to administer these roles.

The word ‘Land Grab’ was countered by Cllr Mike Rigby at the CFPC meeting in early December 2021 as ‘untrue’.  I disagreed; I absolutely felt that SWT was claiming a Land Grab, to claim all the CIL money.  At this time, the two developments coming forward would provide approx. £1m in CIL money to the Parish of CFPC (having a Neighbourhood Plan qualifies for 25% of the total CIL available).  This money was required for projects that had already been planned, including the ongoing commitments to the Maidenbrook Country Park.

I beg all District Councillors to put politics to one side, and to vote to keep Cheddon Fitzpaine in its entirety as it was now.


Alan Paul from Comeytrowe Parish Council:-

My question was about what Parish councils (and the Town council) might be taking on if they took on devolved services, and how the Unitary could achieve savings by economy of scale if there was as much devolution of services as the Fothergill Business Case envisaged. It was relevant to all the Parish councils involved in this Consultation and the Unitary Council that would subsume SWT . I realise that it was also an SCC issue but they had so far not addressed it in the Local Government Advisory Board meetings that I attended.  Here's the question :-

Imagine that one of SCC's services was to deliver Mop Handles. The 4 District Councils delivered Mop Heads. If the new Unitary decided to deliver whole Mops, there would be savings through economy of scale. But if all the Town councils and many larger Parish councils agreed to deliver Mops of varying standards and the Unitary had to deliver mops (probably of inferior standard)  to the rest of the County, there could be well over 20 or 30 Councils all delivering Mops. The result could be that the service of Mop delivery costs a lot more than before the Unitary. SCC had promised that devolved services would be "cost-neutral" and claimed that they were not trying to 'dump' costs onto Town and parish councils. How might this be done whilst still achieving the savings promised in the new Unitary ?  Was it not likely that Parishes which took on devolved services would see the parish precept rocket, whilst those who decided not to take on devolved services would receive an inferior level of services directly from the Unitary ? 


Somerset County Councillor Giuseppe Fraschini:-

He raised concern that the views of the local residents were not being listened to.  He believed that the Somerset West and Taunton Council administration were acting on a political gain.

He was aware that a Town Council was part of the Unitary Business Case and was important to the Unparished Area of Taunton.  He did not agree that a ‘Wider Taunton’ area was in the best interests of the local residents.

He gave details on the West Monkton and Cheddon Fitzpaine area and concern on their local services being delivered.  He raised concern on the council tax precept and that it would not cover the local services for any parishes that were reduced in size such as Cheddon Fitzpaine.

He urged that the councillors voted on a review of the Unparished Area only.


Somerset West and Taunton Councillor Dixie Darch on behalf of Kingston St Mary Parish Council:-

She requested on behalf of the Parish that with the exception of the areas described at A (viii and ix) above, the area of Kingston St Mary Parish Council be completely removed from further consideration of the review and its inclusion in any new Taunton Parish/Town Council.