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Camden News - By RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 10 April 2008
Home Rule proposal for ‘parishes’

‘Lagging behind’: Town Hall to investigate plans to give areas more say on how they are run

A NEW investigation into the way the Town Hall is run is to be launched that could pave the way for the creation of parish councils and a directly-elected mayor.
Suggestions to be reviewed will include handing wards on the borough boundaries, such as Highgate and Kilburn, their own spending powers – a move which has been dubbed “Home Rule”.
Cynics have privately claimed the idea conjures up comparisons with the film Passport to Pimlico, the Ealing Comedy where a part of London decides to govern itself with hilarious consequences.
But Camden’s Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Keith Moffitt has confirmed the idea will be among a range of possible changes to local authority life in a speech at Monday’s full council meeting.
He said a cross-party taskforce will be set up to review the current arrangements and respond to a change in government policy.
Cllr Moffitt said: “It is a subject uppermost in our minds. Labour are clearly thinking about it too. There are serious issues to think about such as single-member wards. There doesn’t seem to be much appetite in London. Another is a proposal to have a directly elected mayor.
“The creation of parish councils is something we have to think about. Listening and responding are a key part of this administration’s agenda. We have to talk to the parties. It is clearly something we have to tackle.”
Cllr Moffitt said new “area forums”, regular meetings win which councillors face the public, had been a success, although opponents have warned of low attendances.
The latest debate was partly sparked by a Labour motion which saw councillors suggest Highgate and Kilburn get special powers.
Labour deputy leader Cllr Theo Blackwell said: “The council are lagging on divesting power and giving power back to communities. Mole Valley District Council in Surrey, for example, has already started a programme of consultation of democratic structures. Why is a council like that ahead of us? I’m encouraged by the new taskforce but why didn’t they do it before? They’ve had to take the lead from Labour.”
Party leader Cllr Anna Stewart added: “We need to have an inclusive and wide-ranging debate.”

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