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  • Writer's pictureTunbridge Wells Alliance

Does Royal Tunbridge Wells need a town council?

Currently, Southborough and Paddock Wood have town councils, with the rest of the borough, Cranbrook, Pembury, and everywhere else, having parish councils, except for the actual town of Royal Tunbridge Wells which is un-parished and has no town or parish council.

Being independent of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, a Royal Tunbridge Wells town council could take over a number of the services that the borough council currently undertakes for the town, especially if these services could be at risk of cuts in the current financial climate.

As a local council, a Royal Tunbridge Wells town council could also apply for grants, opening doors to new sources of finance for the town. The message seems to be that you can look upon a town council as an enabler to provide enhanced benefits and services especially for the currently un-parished area and its residents.

A town council would, of course, cost money, although the councillors would not be paid. Additional costs would be incurred in hiring a town council clerk plus any additional staff, contracts and services, rent for offices and meeting rooms and day to day operating costs. The additional costs for a town council would be charged as a ‘precept’ through your council tax bill. The average town council precept across the country is £57, but this varies a lot depending on the population, house values and services provided. Royal Tunbridge Wells is large, which reduces costs per head. A town council precept is not capped. Many towns have a mechanism whereby they consult with their residents on what services they want. It should also be noted that people in Bands A, B and C pay less and those on low incomes and/or benefits are entitled to an 80% reduction, depending on their circumstances.

A quick scout around the Internet provides a number of case studies showing the benefits of town councils. Having formed a town council in Aylesbury (population 40,000), they were able to form an agreement with the county council to deliver minor maintenance to footpaths and roads. In addition, Aylesbury town council now maintains street furniture and signs and tackles what they call ‘grot spots’. A funding package was also agreed with their county council colleagues to match the spend of the town council, opening the door to investment in staff and equipment for maintaining and regenerating the appearance of the town.

I believe a town council could open up great opportunity to really get behind Royal Tunbridge Wells’ community events such as Local & Live. It would also give residents a democratic say in helping to shape a prosperous and vibrant new future for the town. It is bizarre that the residents of the un-parished area of Royal Tunbridge Wells do not have an official say in such important matters as planning like other parishes and towns in the borough.

Had there been a town council years ago, perhaps we would not have the eternal grot-spot gracing our town’s centre.


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