Lack of support may lead to closure of Leys parish council

JOIN US: Chairman Gordon Roper says Blackbird Leys Parish Council needs some new blood

JOIN US: Chairman Gordon Roper says Blackbird Leys Parish Council needs some new blood

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

MORE members are desperately needed by Blackbird Leys Parish Council to prevent it being shut down.

The parish councillors are elected representatives who volunteer to meet regularly to discuss issues of concern for the residents of the Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys estates.

The council has space for 14 members, but currently only eight seats are filled.

The six vacancies include three councillors from Northfield Brook ward and three from Blackbird Leys ward.

If the number of councillors drops to five, there will no longer be a quorum, and the council will have to disband.

Chairman Gordon Roper is concerned that the group has been made up of the same people for too long, and that if any choose to step down the council will be in danger.

He said: “We’re getting too old – everybody’s getting on a bit.

“It’s quite worrying. If we can’t get some of the youngsters to come on with fresh ideas and help out the community we may not make it.”

Mr Roper, 75, who now lives in Garsington but still has family on the Leys, said: “We need more people.

“We want younger people to come, with different views, and shake things up a bit.

“It’s always been the same.

“The only time we had a full complement is when there were city councillors on the team, which we don’t do any more.

“Considering how many people there are on the estates and how much we do for the estates, I’m surprised there’s so few people involved.”

In February 2012, the parish council reduced its official numbers from 16 to 14 as it struggled to get new people interested in the role.

In 2007, former chairman Brian Lester resigned because of “apathy,” but returned to the council after three years, saying he had more to give to the community.

He said: “People still think that the parish council means it’s something to do with the church, which it’s not.

“It’s a real shame that people are reluctant to participate.”

Mr Lester, 66, said he understood why people did not get involved, but said they should make the effort.

He added “People work hard during the day, they come home, shut the door, and they can’t be bothered.”

The Pegasus Road resident added: “It’s about two hours a month when you have to attend meetings.

“There’s so much that could be done if we had a full complement.

“I believe that people on the estates are missing a golden opportunity to get involved.

“We’re pursuing a better lifestyle for the residents of the estates.”

He agreed with former chairman Gerry Webb, who said in 2010: “We have got a lot of ethnic groups on the estate and I would like to see representatives from them supporting the community.”

Official nominations for Thursday’s elections have closed, but new members could be co-opted with “no problem”.

Parish council meetings are held on the last Tuesday of the month at 7pm in the Blackbird Leys Community Centre in Blackbird Leys Road.

For more information, contact the parish clerk on 07754 271831 or email bblparishcouncil@gmail.com

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Comments (6)

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11:45am Tue 20 May 14

Myron Blatz says...

Despite having originally been established by City Council in trying to give Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys some sort of credibility and identity, instead of simply being large housing estates, he truth is that not even just 14 of the12,000-plus people want to become Parish Councillors and give freely of their time - which does mean that the people who live there don't really want a Parish Council. At the same time, it is wrong for Oxford City Councillors to get themselves elected onto any Parish Council, even if to keep the Parish Council from falling apart and closing-down. However, apparently it isn't true that Parish Councillors have to live in - say - Blackbird Leys, as they can (like Mr Roper) live up to three miles away, or if they don't live within the Parish, can still stand for election if they work within the Parish. That said, Parish Councils only seem to flourish in more rural communities where there is probably a greater sense of genuine 'community spirit' and where the Parish isn't overshadowed by the likes of Oxford City Council - if only because Parish Councils should be independent local authorities, not a convenient way to control local commumities by a larger authority. Finally, that it's not just the likes of Blackbird Leys Parish Council which has suffered from the effects of urban and suburban public apathy, because Oxford City Council Tenants and Residents Associations (TRAs) meant to bring together communities on Council estates and give them a 'local identity' have also been seriously affected by an unwillingness of communities to get involved in a unified way. Don't get me wrong - there are many groups across Oxford who do care about their communities, and get involved, but that seemingly there isn't the desire to organise into more formal bodies, such as Parish Councils or even TRAs. Just remember when talking about 'apathy' that with the local City Council (and MEP) elections happening later this week, the turnout of those eligible to vote in 2012 was less than 30%, which meant 70% couldn't be bothered to vote - for anyone!
Despite having originally been established by City Council in trying to give Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys some sort of credibility and identity, instead of simply being large housing estates, he truth is that not even just 14 of the12,000-plus people want to become Parish Councillors and give freely of their time - which does mean that the people who live there don't really want a Parish Council. At the same time, it is wrong for Oxford City Councillors to get themselves elected onto any Parish Council, even if to keep the Parish Council from falling apart and closing-down. However, apparently it isn't true that Parish Councillors have to live in - say - Blackbird Leys, as they can (like Mr Roper) live up to three miles away, or if they don't live within the Parish, can still stand for election if they work within the Parish. That said, Parish Councils only seem to flourish in more rural communities where there is probably a greater sense of genuine 'community spirit' and where the Parish isn't overshadowed by the likes of Oxford City Council - if only because Parish Councils should be independent local authorities, not a convenient way to control local commumities by a larger authority. Finally, that it's not just the likes of Blackbird Leys Parish Council which has suffered from the effects of urban and suburban public apathy, because Oxford City Council Tenants and Residents Associations (TRAs) meant to bring together communities on Council estates and give them a 'local identity' have also been seriously affected by an unwillingness of communities to get involved in a unified way. Don't get me wrong - there are many groups across Oxford who do care about their communities, and get involved, but that seemingly there isn't the desire to organise into more formal bodies, such as Parish Councils or even TRAs. Just remember when talking about 'apathy' that with the local City Council (and MEP) elections happening later this week, the turnout of those eligible to vote in 2012 was less than 30%, which meant 70% couldn't be bothered to vote - for anyone! Myron Blatz
  • Score: 1

12:25pm Tue 20 May 14

King Joke says...

THese smaller localised bodies will only attract serious attention if they are given a budget to actually get things done. If they are just a forum for feeding back complaints or suggestions to the local authority, Thames Water, bus companies etc then there are plenty of channels for that these days eg LA councillors, social networking etc.
THese smaller localised bodies will only attract serious attention if they are given a budget to actually get things done. If they are just a forum for feeding back complaints or suggestions to the local authority, Thames Water, bus companies etc then there are plenty of channels for that these days eg LA councillors, social networking etc. King Joke
  • Score: 0

10:27pm Tue 20 May 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

King Joke wrote:
THese smaller localised bodies will only attract serious attention if they are given a budget to actually get things done. If they are just a forum for feeding back complaints or suggestions to the local authority, Thames Water, bus companies etc then there are plenty of channels for that these days eg LA councillors, social networking etc.
They are allocated the income from the parish element of the council tax bill aren't they?
[quote][p][bold]King Joke[/bold] wrote: THese smaller localised bodies will only attract serious attention if they are given a budget to actually get things done. If they are just a forum for feeding back complaints or suggestions to the local authority, Thames Water, bus companies etc then there are plenty of channels for that these days eg LA councillors, social networking etc.[/p][/quote]They are allocated the income from the parish element of the council tax bill aren't they? Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

7:51am Wed 21 May 14

King Joke says...

I don't know - are they?

It also depends on the level of funding. If they get a few hundred quid a year to cover room hire and photocopying this isn't going to excite anybody. How about a few £10ks which would enable them to buy benches, street lighting, run youth schemes, pensioners' clubs or whatever else they voted to spend it on?
I don't know - are they? It also depends on the level of funding. If they get a few hundred quid a year to cover room hire and photocopying this isn't going to excite anybody. How about a few £10ks which would enable them to buy benches, street lighting, run youth schemes, pensioners' clubs or whatever else they voted to spend it on? King Joke
  • Score: 0

8:29am Thu 5 Jun 14

Myron Blatz says...

Parish Councils can and do have income, via the Parish Precept - in Blackbird Leys case, via Oxford City Council. It's also wrong to see Parish Councils as having no clout - they are as powerful and important within the communities which they serve, as Town Councils such as Witney, Didcot and Bicester. However, the Parish Councils in Oxford are dominated by City Council - the power-greedy local council. As for Parish Councils such as Blackbird Leys being unable to attract 'new blood' and people younger that OAPs and retired persons, this is probably more to do with many of those who could be active and useful in their communities, are often involved in mono-focus groups and activities, rather than wanting to be being interested in general issues and challenges, and prefer to be identified and involved with supporting one cause - and maybe that it's more difficult to complain about and criticise local authorities like Parish Councils with your mates, if you are a Parish Councillor! And yet, the humble Parish Council continues to be an important tier in local authorities across the country. Many County Councillors, MPs and MEPs started as Parish Councillors - including local LibDem MEP Catherine Bearder (recently re-elected and the only LibDem MEP) and Bill Buckingham - one of Oxford's best-known former Labour politicians, who was for many years a Parish Councillor with Littlemore - which unlike Blackbird Leys (and according to my Auntie's copy of the Littlemore Local) recently celebrated no less than 120 as a Parish Council.
Parish Councils can and do have income, via the Parish Precept - in Blackbird Leys case, via Oxford City Council. It's also wrong to see Parish Councils as having no clout - they are as powerful and important within the communities which they serve, as Town Councils such as Witney, Didcot and Bicester. However, the Parish Councils in Oxford are dominated by City Council - the power-greedy local council. As for Parish Councils such as Blackbird Leys being unable to attract 'new blood' and people younger that OAPs and retired persons, this is probably more to do with many of those who could be active and useful in their communities, are often involved in mono-focus groups and activities, rather than wanting to be being interested in general issues and challenges, and prefer to be identified and involved with supporting one cause - and maybe that it's more difficult to complain about and criticise local authorities like Parish Councils with your mates, if you are a Parish Councillor! And yet, the humble Parish Council continues to be an important tier in local authorities across the country. Many County Councillors, MPs and MEPs started as Parish Councillors - including local LibDem MEP Catherine Bearder (recently re-elected and the only LibDem MEP) and Bill Buckingham - one of Oxford's best-known former Labour politicians, who was for many years a Parish Councillor with Littlemore - which unlike Blackbird Leys (and according to my Auntie's copy of the Littlemore Local) recently celebrated no less than 120 as a Parish Council. Myron Blatz
  • Score: 0

8:37am Thu 5 Jun 14

King Joke says...

A good assessment Myron - generalist bodies losing support to single-issue groups.

If as you say parishes are a good breeding ground for district and county councillors will we see a lack of supply for the latter and a general ageing of the demographic? Already I read about one Cherwell of County councillor on Otmoor standing unopposed as nobody could be bothered to stand against him!

Worse, will we see County bodies populated by career politicians like we have in Westminster?
A good assessment Myron - generalist bodies losing support to single-issue groups. If as you say parishes are a good breeding ground for district and county councillors will we see a lack of supply for the latter and a general ageing of the demographic? Already I read about one Cherwell of County councillor on Otmoor standing unopposed as nobody could be bothered to stand against him! Worse, will we see County bodies populated by career politicians like we have in Westminster? King Joke
  • Score: 0

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