This year the two councils of the Ferris and the Gower explored ways in which they might share their separate Annual Parish Meetings in a single celebration of our combined Sibfords Community. As part of his Chairman’s Report for the year, Gower’s Hugh Pidgeon explores some of the surprises he encountered when he started looking into the Meeting’s origins:
It was something of an experiment, and the more we looked into the history of the 1972 Local Government Act which underpins the declared purposes of this day, the more contradictions and anomalies we found. Within the same Act, the responsibilities of Parish and Town Councils as an arm of local government are defined right alongside this once-a-year Parish Meeting. The meeting itself is defined more as a form of direct democracy – uncommon in the United Kingdom, which primarily uses representative democracy.
For this first occasion we were content to stay with the primary declared purpose:
An Annual Parish Meeting is a meeting of the electors of a parish and the purpose of the meeting is for the community to come together to discuss parish affairs.
This we did, and I believe with great success. But we recognize that there is a delicate balance to be drawn between the primary purposes of the Community Meeting under the auspices of the Annual Parish Meeting, and the interests of the two elected Councils as they seek to respond to the wishes and concerns of their electorate.
Happily we did not get mired in some of the more dramatic collisions of view that have come to characterize the current debate between the direct democracy of the 2016 referendum and the responsibilities for the outcome claimed by the representative democracy of local members of Parliament!
Following our experience for the very first time of coming together as two Parishes to hold a shared meeting of the community as a whole, the two councils of the Gower and the Ferris have agreed to set up a cross-parish group to continue to investigate in a further developed structure and design for the event how best to honour the spirit of the original legislation that it should continue to be actively supported by the two councils but not be led by them.
The remainder of the Chairman’s report can be found as an appendix to the minutes of the Gower Parish Council Meeting of 21 May, in the Meeting Archive (190521).
Hugh’s tribute to the Annual Parish Meeting event and thanks to all those involved is in an earlier news item, and there is a full account of the event itself in the official minutes in the Meeting Archive (190509).