Councillors question ‘democratic mandate’ for creating Scarborough Town Council

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Concerns about the scale of support for creating a new Scarborough Town Council and the precepts that would fund its work have been raised by councillors.

Cllr Subash Sharma has raised doubts about the “democratic mandate” for the creation of Scarborough Town Council and has questioned the funding of the body through precepts.

The process of creating Scarborough Town Council is currently under way, with a second round of consultations taking place.

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While 69 per cent of respondents to the first survey said they were in favour of the plans, only 2.5 per cent of locals responded to the questionnaire.

A new town council is to be created in Scarborough.
Picture by Marisa CashillA new town council is to be created in Scarborough.
Picture by Marisa Cashill
A new town council is to be created in Scarborough. Picture by Marisa Cashill

The town council is set to be divided into five wards: Castle, Falsgrave and Stepney, Northstead, Weaponness and Ramshill, and Woodlands.

Although town councillors do not get a salary, there is likely to be a precept to fund the body’s work which could include some of the services that were previously provided by Scarborough Council.

The MP for Scarborough and Whitby, Sir Robert Goodwill, said that town councils are a “force for good” and their absence would be “a great loss”.

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Speaking at a meeting of the Scarborough and Whitby Area Constituency Committee on March 24, Cllr Sharma asked whether the response rate of of 2.45 per cent – 585 responses, out of almost 22,000 households – was sufficient.

He asked Sir Robert, who was attending the meeting: “Do you think that is a sufficient democratic credence to go forward with this because, in my opinion, I don’t think that is a very good response.”

He added: “I do have sympathy with people who claim that this is another tier of taxation.

"Is there anything you can do on that aspect of it as an MP to make councils take responsibility for these things?”

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Responding to the question, Sir Robert said: “Town councils are actually quite popular and if you look at North Yorkshire, Whitby has a town council, Selby has a town council, Filey has a town council.

“All these towns have a town council and I can’t think of one instance where anyone has decided they don’t want a town council.”

The member of parliament added: “We can’t force people to respond to consultations and the majority of people did respond positively.

‘A mayor on a bike’

Sir Robert also praised the work of town councils and said he had not seen evidence of town councils abolishing themselves because “they are not popular and the small precept that we pay would be too much to pay.”

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He added: “Of course, it would be perfectly possible for candidates to stand for Scarborough Town Council on the platform of abolishing the town council, then everyone would have the chance to vote to abolish it to get rid of the precept.

“But there are advantages to having a town council, particularly if you look at Whitby Town Council and I think they deliver very good results for people and are taking over responsibility on behalf of their people.”

Cllr Sharma also raised the future of civic events in Scarborough and said that the mayor of the town council “would not be the mayor of the kind we have now”.

He said: “You also mentioned the mayor of Scarborough which is a really terrific title to have but the mayor of the town council would be mayor of four or five wards.

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“That mayor will not have the grandeur and it will be a mayor on a bike, rather than a chauffeured limousine, that’s not the image that I find attractive.”

Cllr Sharma added: “There’s nothing wrong with a mayor on a bike, but the idea that it’s a grand title is nonsense.”

Sir Robert replied by stating that Whitby had a mayor who was “very effective” and made their views “very strongly known on behalf of the people of the area”.

Currently, the only parts of North Yorkshire which do not have a parish or town council are Scarborough and Harrogate.

North Yorkshire Council has said it means the areas “have limited ability” to take on subsequent additional responsibilities following the local government reorganisation.