A Cornish supporter points out a distinct lack of value when it comes to their parish council. Feock Parish Council has one of the highest annual precepts in Cornwall, at more than £100,000, but this year the parish council has budgeted a staggering £73,320—nearly three quarters of its annual expenditure—on staff salaries and administration. The council currently employs a Parish clerk and two assistants. Staff costs in nearby parishes are a fraction of the levels in Feock and they employ clerks on a part-time or voluntary basis.
Furthermore, the parish council is refusing to share its taxpayer-funded assets with the local community. Feock Parish Council has recently relocated its offices to Devoran Market Hall, a 2,600 square feet space, but has refused generous offers of £12,000 per annum from Devoran Preschool and Devoran Primary School for the part of the site that is not occupied by the parish offices.
‘Our charity community preschool currently operates in a cramped space at the back of Devoran Methodist church,’ says local resident Ben Shankland. ‘We now understand the parish council intends to rent out the spare space on an hourly basis, competing directly with our village halls.’
In the meantime, the cost of the relocation has spiralled and the council has racked up costs of more than £55,000 refurbishing the Market Hall site. This is being financed with a long-term low-interest government loan but these costs now mean that the parish council’s debts exceed 50% of its annual income.
This controversial situation has led a group of concerned residents of the parish to form the New Parish Partnership, a non-partisan group, to contest the parish elections on May 2nd. ‘We will be standing on a platform of value for money, smart localism, and an end to the current parish council’s culture of secrecy and intimidation,’ says Mr Shankland.