Community Governance Review

A petition has been submitted to the determining authority - Mid Sussex District Council - supported by 3 of the 8 current Worth Parish Councillors representing Crawley Down. Mid Sussex District Council are now mandated to perform a Community Governance Review to consider the request to divide Worth Parish Council to give Crawley Down their own Village Council.

This document aims to ensure that the full consequences of a divide are understood and allow informed responses to the initial consultation, which are important to ensure a comprehensive view of both Copthorne & Crawley Down residents/electors is available to Mid Sussex District Council to make a fully informed decision.

The initial consultation ends on the 15 April. You can find further information below. 

Worth Parish Council has submitted a response to the Community Governance Review. You can read it here. 

Cost Implications

The promoters of dividing Worth Parish Council have published a proposed precept budget in the event of a Parish division including set up costs for a new Crawley Down Council. The Community Governance Review Working Party appointed by Worth Parish Council, have examined these and feel there are several significant variances that should face challenge.

Below you will find an alternative budget that Worth Parish Council believe is a more accurate illustration of the basic budget and set up costs for a new Crawley Down Council. Plus Worth Parish Council's definitive figures for the anticipated cost of a division. We also want to demonstrate clearly why there is disparity between the costs suggested by Worth Parish Council against those lower costs quoted by the proposers. 

Also below, is an illustrative budget for what would remain of Worth Parish Council in the event of a division - which would become Copthorne Parish Council.

The impact this would have on the precept portion of the Council Tax for residents is a potential immediate 11% increase for Crawley Down residents alongside a potential 35% increase for Copthorne residents. This equates to an average increase of 20% across both our villages.

Worth Parish Council Definitive Figures for the Anticipated Cost of a Division

Worth Parish Council Copthorne Budget Calculations

Worth Parish Council Crawley Down Budget Calculations

Effect on Band D Precept of Council Division

Worth Parish Council have previously stated “it is not unreasonable to conclude a division of the Council could cost WPC residents circa. £150,000”. We acknowledge the expectation that we should provide the rationale as to how this conclusion was reached. The first thing to say after seeking professional advice is, it is clear NOBODY – including the promoters – can state with any certainty at this stage the costs of executing a division of the Council. There are just too many imponderables within the complexities of the process meaning the final cost will not become clear until after a division if resolved.

Nevertheless, we have made every attempt to do this by obtaining evidence (informed by an FOI request), referencing the most relevant and historical case studies, and seeking independent advice from professionals with significant relevant experience. We still conclude that it is reasonable to expect that the combined internal and external costs at principal and local Council levels of preparing and executing a division of Worth Parish Council will exceed the £100,000 previously suggested to Full Council. This does not include HR costs arising from any division of the Council. Again, there are many variables here in terms of possible outcomes and associated costs. There is also the £20,000 estimated by the promoters as set up costs of creating the new Council. We must also consider the ongoing costs to both resultant Councils due to duplication of many functions and the loss of economies of scale. If you add all these factors together, stating that the cost could potentially be £150,000 is more than realistic in today’s terms.

Community Governance Review Public Meetings

Four public meetings were organised to give the residents of Copthorne and Crawley Down the chance to find out more about the Community Governance Review and to ask any questions they may have. Representatives from Worth Parish Council and the promotors of the division were at these meetings. 

Friday 4 March 2022 7.30-9.30pm at The Haven Centre, Crawley Down 

Meeting Synopsis 

Minutes of the Meeting 4 March 2022

Wednesday 16 March 7.30-9.30pm at The Parish Hub, Copthorne 

Minutes of the Meeting 16 March 2022

Two further public meetings were planned for April. It was agreed by both parties that the two consultation meetings scheduled for 1st April at The Haven Centre in Crawley Down, and for 13th April at The Parish Hub in Copthorne should be cancelled. Both parties urge all residents to submit their responses to Mid Sussex District Council by the deadline of 15th April; a division of the Council would be a significant change in the local governance in the area, and your views are important. 

A reminder that this can done on line via this link. For this you will need the unique reference number supplied with the consultation paperwork. If you have mislaid this, you can still respond by email to communitygovernancereviews@midsussex.gov.uk or by post to Community Governance Review, Electoral Services, Mid Sussex District Council, Oaklands, Oaklands Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1SS. Please include your name and address with any responses via email or post, so that MSDC can locate your reference number on the system, thus avoiding duplication. 

A fair-for-all, not a free-for-all

What is the Stance of Worth Parish Council?

Worth Parish Council as a representative body is neither in favour nor against a divide. Currently 4 of the 17 Worth Parish Councillors fully support the petition. There are concerns related to the lack of transparency and the way the petition came about - being submitted to Mid Sussex District Council without any discussion or case presentation to Worth Parish Council. We have seen little evidence that the proposed change will deliver the claimed benefits and do not have the information required to determine whether the considerable cost, risks and impacts of a divide are justified. Nobody should underestimate the complexity of dividing an existing Parish Council.

 

What are the Cost Implications?

The promoters encourage us to consider the 2006 split from Swanley Town Council to form a small Hextable Parish Council (about 10% of the original Council) as a comparable model. It is not a comparable example. A divide of Worth Parish Council would create a Crawley Down Council that would currently be larger than the remaining Copthorne Council. Worth Parish Council also has a larger consideration of property and assets, a more competent and professional employee setup operating effectively across both villages. There have also been considerable changes to employment laws since 2006. It is not unreasonable to conclude the divide could cost Worth Parish Council residents circa. £150,000 (deflected away from current and future service provisions) and will almost certainly result in an increase to your Council Tax - at the very least to Copthorne residents.

 

Why would we divide Worth Parish Council?

The promoters claim that the identity of Crawley Down village will be better protected. They favour meetings being held in Crawley Down, suggesting a separate Council will reduce bureaucracy and committees/meetings. We refute these claims absolutely. Worth Parish Council have almost completed a full review of their structure and processes that has already achieved most of these goals. A separate Council will still be subject to the same governance and laws as Worth Parish Council in any event. Each village has its own identities and everything Worth Parish Council does is mindful of respecting both the similarities and the unique features of both villages. In summary, the claimed benefits are already being realised without the enormous upheaval and cost of a divide. We remain to be persuaded that losing economies of scale of being a larger Council and having a strong voice as a substantial local authority is justified. Dividing is also counterintuitive to the anticipated direction of changes to local authorities.

 

What Happens Next?

The Terms of Reference for the Community Governance Review are included in this information pack (all Crawley Down and Copthorne residents will have received this pack through their letterboxes week beginning the 14 February). Worth Parish Council encourage all residents to familiarise themselves with the proposal and to respond to Mid Sussex District Council during this initial consultation. Please note that Mid Sussex District Council are particularly interested in views – supporting the proposal or not - so please do respond, but not just with yes/no answers. Use the opportunity to express your views which are important to our residents and the future of our villages.

Please note: The decision will be made solely by Mid Sussex District Council, there is no referendum