Local residents are being given the chance to have their say on community governance arrangements for the Stoke Lodge area after a petition calling for the formation of a new parish, independent of Patchway, attracted over 500 signatures last year.
The Stoke Lodge Community Governance Review is being conducted by South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) in response to the petition, which was organised by the three Conservative Town Councillors that represent the Stoke Lodge parish ward of Patchway – Andy Alsop, Sarah Pomfret and Brian Hopkinson.
The move for independence has been opposed by Labour Town Councillors, who claim it is “politically motivated” and that “the three Tories simply cannot accept that Labour won the Town Council elections in May ”.
The petition’s statement begins: “We the undersigned residents wish to remove Stoke Lodge and Patchway Common from the Town and Parish of Patchway and allow us to form our own parish of Stoke Lodge and The Common”.
Formally presented to the October 2011 meeting of SGC’s Full Council by Cllr Alsop, the petition obliged the District Council to instigate a review, which has since had its scope extended to several other areas of South Gloucestershire.
In bringing forward the petition, Cllr Alsop was fulfilling a promise made in his candidate statement for the May 2011 elections, in which he wrote:
“I am very committed to making Stoke Lodge and The Common a parish in its own right. For far too long, Patchway Town Council has acted as an old boys’ club amassing large debts and wasting our money.”
The petition’s statement goes on to describe Stoke Lodge and The Common as being “distinct from the area on the west side of the A38” and concludes:
“It is important to us that we pay tax with representation rather than have it snatched away and have under representation., which we currently have due to our current inclusion in Patchway, paying 30% of the rates wit just three Councillors representing us [and] the other twelve representing a completely different place.”
A letter accompanying the September 2011 petition, delivered to all homes east of the A38, claimed that Patchway Town Council is one of the most expensive in South Gloucestershire, with almost 50% of the precept being spent on staff salaries. It is also critical of the money spent extending Coniston Community Centre.
The campaigners also argued that the Patchway Post Office, in Rodway Road, is inconveniently situated for Stoke Lodge residents and were critical of the other Patchway Town Councillors for failing to oppose the introduction of two extra classrooms at St Chad’s Primary School in Cranham Drive.
Patchway Labour Councillors countered these arguments in an edition of their Patchway Roundabout circular in October 2011, in which they pointed out that many of the issues highlighted by the campaigners resulted from decisions made by the previous Patchway Town Council administration, a “Con Dem” coalition.
At its November 2011 meeting, the Labour-controlled Town Council attempted to derail Cllr Alsop’s petition by proposing to organise an “official survey” of its own, a move which prompted a walk-out of the three Stoke Lodge Councillors. The Town Council was later advised against taking this course of action as it would duplicate the purpose of any SGC-led consultation.
Broadening the scope of the Local Governance Review to the whole of South Gloucestershire was agreed at a meeting of SGC’s Licensing, Regulatory and General Purposes Committee on 26th January 2012, where it became apparent that any resulting changes would be unlikely to be implemented before 2015. Cllrs Alsop, Hopkinson and Pomfret argued for a separate “fast track” review for Stoke Lodge and Patchway Common “so that they could separate from Patchway as soon as possible” but this failed to gain support from the Committee members.
A later meeting of the Committee, on 12th April 2012, agreed the terms of reference of the review, including a timetable that forsees any agreed changes coming into force in April 2015, in time for the next principal town/parish elections in May 2015.
Consultation leaflets explaining the Local Governance Review are currently being delivered to homes in the affected areas. The closing date is 12th November 2012 and responses can be made by post, online or email.
The consultation lists three options for the Stoke Lodge ward: form a new parish, join with a neighbouring town/parish (Bradley Stoke or Stoke Gifford) or maintain the status quo.
Figures in the consultation document show that there are 1,713 registered electors in the Stoke Lodge parish ward and a total of 6,621 in the other two “west of the A38” Patchway wards.
The document warns that “South Gloucestershire Council would need to be satisfied that any new parish council would be large enough to be viable”.
Photo: Stoke Lodge independence campaigners (from left): Cllr Sarah Pomfret, Cllr Andy Alsop, Tracey Harrison-Ashe and Cllr Brian Hopkinson.
Related links (on Google Docs):