Garforth does not currently have a parish council but historically it has a fine tradition of parish councils. In 1844 the Garforth Township/Parish meeting was established, to be replaced by a Garforth Parish Council in 1894. This in turn was replaced by Garforth Urban District Council in 1908 which lasted until 1974 when Leeds Metropolitan district was formed. Leeds is a merger of eleven former local government districts; the unitary city and county borough of Leeds combined with the municipal boroughs of Morley and Pudsey, the urban districts of Aireborough, Garforth, Horsforth, Otley and Rothwell and parts of the rural districts of Tadcaster, Wharfedale and Wetherby from the West Riding. Some of these communities reformed a parish council, others, including Garforth didn't, relying instead on the new Leeds Metropolitan district.
How to Set up a Parish Council
The process to establish a parish council is well defined. We have to create a parish area and collect the signatures of 7.5% of the registered voters in that area. Once we have the signatures and deliver them to Leeds City Council, they call a Community Governance Review (CGR) which is basically a survey of residents. If they conclude that the residents want a parish council then they set one up. LCC determine the boundaries and the number of parish councillors needed. Then a shadow Parish Council is put in place until parish councillors can be elected at the next local elections (the next elections will be in May 2018). This CGR (apart from the elections) must be completed by LCC in 12 months. So in total, it takes about 2 years to set up a parish council. We are about 6 months into it.
The proposed parish boundary is set out on the petition. It has to be, so that people know what they are signing up for. Garforth Neighbourhood Planning Forum (GNPF) took the view that if developers build houses on land adjoining Garforth then they are building Garforth homes and any CIL money generated should be spent on Garforth infrastructure projects rather than in neighbouring Parishes several miles away. Also the parish boundaries should follow real boundaries rather than historical tracks and streams. We took the view the boundary should be the M1, the A63 and the Ridge Road.
Three of the main areas of concern, regarding housing development around Garforth on lands currently belonging to other parishes, are the fields to the east of Garforth ( Makin's land), the Barwick lands between the railway bridge and the motorway on Barwick Road and the land at the back of the Old George (Swillington land). Our boundaries were set to address these specific concerns. Whilst Barwick and Swillington PCs might argue their lands are not pencilled in for development at this time, we know that there are developers with options on some of that land and even if they don’t have one at this time, a planning application can be submitted very quickly, but it would take 6 years for Garforth to change the boundary again ( i.e. 2 years to set up a PC,) then there cannot be another governance review for 2 years, then a repeat of the signature collecting followed by a new governance review) . We also note that the neighbouring parishes have not included these 3 areas of land in their own parish plans. We see unplanned land as an invitation to potential developers and if parishes are not prepared to include these areas in their own parish plans then they can't care that much about them, can they?
How Much Does a Parish Council Cost?
A precept is a piece of additional council tax that pays for the parish council. How much this precept is each year is set by the parish council. There is the cost of physically running the PC which is quite low. The rest of the precept is spent by the parish council on local projects. In Leeds the lowest precept is zero and the highest is about £90 per household per annum. The average is about £27. A parish council has to employ a parish clerk. He/she is the only paid member of the council. They work part time and receive payment according to a scale set by the government, which is about £4,000 a year per day worked. They are vital because they make sure that everything is done properly, all the rules are followed, the money is properly accounted for and parish council activities are communicated to residents. It's basically an insurance that the PC doesn't run amok. It is money well spent.
We are a lot like Kippax and if we had a town council we believe it would be set up very similarly to their parish council. They recently published their accounts for the year and we can see they employ a clerk for 2 days a week, spend a couple of thousand on insurance and a couple of thousand on communication. In total they spend about £12,000 a year to run their parish council. If we followed that format we would have a similar bill. In round numbers, there are 6,000 households in Garforth and 12,000 Garforth residents on the electoral role. Therefore the cost of a Garforth parish council would be £2 per household a year or £1 per year for each adult. For every additional pound added to the precept the parish council would have around £6,000 to spend on Garforth projects. This would mean the whole community is collectively funding improvements to our community. The current Kippax precept is £15. The first £3 pays for running their PC, the other £12 is spent on local projects. So £12 x 4,000 households = £48,000 a year more than us to spend on their community each year. If Garforth was to also have a precept of £15 then we would need £2 to pay for the PC and have £13 x 6,000 households = £78,000 to spend on our own community. Other communities, that have had parish councils for years, have been investing in their own community, year after year after year. And this is on top of the money that their city councillors can get for them from LCC. Unlike Council Tax the precept can go up or down. It all depends on the spending plans of the parish council for that year. A resident can always go to a parish council meeting and complain about what is being spent, or they can go along and suggest projects that should receive money from the PC. Meetings would be held in Garforth, so it is easy to do. Each area of Garforth will have its own parish councillors and every resident can stand as a councillor.
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)
This is the levy paid by developers for each house built. As a parish council, with a plan, we would be entitled to 25% of this levy money to be spent on Garforth projects. For every house built, the developer pays the council around £4,000 and Garforth parish council would be entitled to a quarter of that money. So if they built 2,500 houses at Peckfield and we had a parish council that included all that land within its boundary, then Garforth PC would receive £2.5 million to be spent in Garforth. If Garforth PC had £2.5million in the bank would they charge a precept at all? If we do not form a parish council the CIL money will remain with LCC and the LCC Outer East Community Group would decide how it was spent. This group is made up of councillors from the following wards: Garforth and Swillington
, Kippax and Methley, Temple Newsam and Crossgates and Whinmoor . They would inevitably ensure that the money was spent on projects across east Leeds rather than just Garforth. Communities that have accepted very few houses in their area would benefit from the levy generated by houses built in Garforth and the levy would not be spent where we believe it was intended to be spent ie Garforth
Why Does GNPF Support a Parish Council for Garforth?
When you are creating a plan to influence the way in which new housing is developed in and around Garforth, it is fundamental that your plan covers those areas that are likely to be built on. And that is the problem that Garforth Neighbourhood Planning Forum (GNPF) has, much of the land abutting our current settlement belongs to neighbouring parishes and GNPF believe we should be responsible for it.
- GNPF cannot produce a plan for these neighbouring parished lands
- Our neighbouring parishes have not included these lands in their own plans
- Responsibility for these parished lands cannot be transferred to a Forum, it can only be transferred to another parish council
- GNPF have been advised by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and our MP Alec Shelbrooke that the solution to this problem is to form a parish council and include these disputed areas within its boundaries
Why does it Matter who is Responsible for this Land?
Whoever is administratively responsible for the land that is being built upon receives a share of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to spend in their community. The levy is paid by the developer and is used to boost the infrastructure and amenities of the community that is responsible for the land.
- A parish council/Forum with a neighbourhood plan receives 25% of the CIL
- A parish council/Forum without a plan receives 15% of the CIL
- A parish council is paid its share of the CIL, Leeds City Council (LCC) retains a Forum’s CIL and promises to include them in the consultation on how it will be spent
The amount of levy paid per home depends on the square metres of the building and the levy rate that applies to that area of the city. In and around Garforth the levy is £45 per sq metre. An average home is around 90 sq metres, therefore each new home in this area would generate a levy of about £4,000
For example: One developer has proposed building 3,000 homes on land north of the railway line at Sturton Grange. If this was allowed to go ahead, 3,000 homes x £4,000 would create around £12 million of CIL monies
At present, this unplanned land in Aberford Parish would generate CIL payments as follows:
- Leeds City Council £10.2 million, Aberford Parish £1.8 million , Garforth £0
If this land was part of a Garforth Parish and included in the Garforth Plan, CIL would be shared as follows:
- Leeds City Council £9 million, Aberford Parish £0, Garforth £3 million
In summary, regardless of who was responsible for the land, Garforth would have 3,000 additional homes, at least 6,000 additional residents and possibly an additional 3,000 cars. If we do not act, Aberford Parish Council could bank £1.8m and we would get nothing. If we create a Garforth Parish Council incorporating these lands, covered by the Garforth Plan, Garforth Town Council would receive £3million to spend on facilities in Garforth.