‘Gold-plated bus shelters?’ - Calls for review into how parish councils are funded

Trevor Wainwright, Great Yarmouth borough councillor, and Keith Kyriacou, chairman of Hemsby Parish

Trevor Wainwright, Great Yarmouth borough councillor, and Keith Kyriacou, chairman of Hemsby Parish Council. Picture: Ella Wilkinson/Nick Butcher. - Credit: Archant

A borough councillor has called for a review into how parish councils are funded after one such body requested almost £4,000 for maintaining bus shelters in a seaside village.

Hemsby Beach

Hemsby Beach - Credit: Archant

In 2020/21 Great Yarmouth Borough Council will dish out £142,313, split between its 21 parish councils, with the funds covering beach cleaning, bus shelters, parks and open spaces.

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the borough council's Labour Party group, has said: "What we're asking for is that the donation be reviewed, if it's any value for money."

He said Great Yarmouth Borough Council is one of only two local authorities in the UK giving such funding, known as a concurrent function grant, to parish councils.

The grant is to compensate parish councils where they are delivering services which would otherwise fall to the principal local authority to provide.

"If it was such a wonderful idea, you'd have every local authority doing it," Mr Wainwright said.

The issue was raised last Thursday (February 20) at a full council meeting, where Mr Wainwright mentioned Hemsby Parish Council.

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He said he was "not singling out Hemsby but using it as an example".

Its budget for 2020/21 includes £54,000 raised from precepts paid by residents in the parish, £27,000 from the concurrent function grant and £7000 from BID, totalling £87,000.

"It's a considerable amount," Mr Wainwright said.

"One of the things they are spending the grant on is £5,899 toward bus shelters, so they must have gold-plated bus shelters.

"It seems like a lot of money, £5,000 in one year, in a time when councils are being asked to cut back.

"There is a lot of money slushing about, all we're saying is it should be reviewed," he said.

But Keith Kyriacou, chairman of Hemsby Parish Council, has said their budget is "nowhere near enough to fund ongoing projects in the village".

He said a lot of money flows from Hemsby to the borough council, in particular from tax paid on chalets in the holiday parks.

The parish council's budget contributes to maintaining the public toilets, as well as employing a permanent litter picker and looking after the village's six bus shelters.

"Whatever money we get we put back into the village," Mr Kyriacou said.