The small village of Shearsby held an open meeting to discuss its transformation from a parish meeting to a parish council.
This is a rare occurrence in Britain nowadays and came about following discussions as to who would become the next chairman of the parish meeting.
The current chairman Sylvia Reid is due to stand down from the post at the March annual general meeting and no obvious candidate appeared (although a couple who would have taken it on reluctantly) and a question was raised about changing the status and what would be involved in a changeover to a council.
A small steering committee was formed to explore the differences between the two and the procedures necessary to make any transformation.
A parish meeting has a chairman who handles all the paperwork and takes on the full responsibility of planning, parks and lighting etc. For the most part it is an interesting job for someone who has the time and aptitude for such tasks.
A parish council, on the other hand, employs a clerk to take on the paperwork and see to the day-to-day running of the parish. To make the decisions for the work that the clerk has to carry out, there are councillors. The workload is therefore distributed amongst councillors and a clerk.
At a meeting in January, it was felt people would be more likely to come forward and take on the role of councillor with its shared responsibilities, rather than take on the demanding role of chairman. Accordingly, they voted to make the change.
This move raised many questions such as the employment of a clerk, finances, individual responsibilities and involvements for councillors, election procedures and so on, and an open meeting was called on Monday, February 25, to help answer these points and to allay any fears.
To help with this, the village invited a number of councillors and other experts. These included Bill Piper, a Lutterworth Town Council member and former Mayor of Lutterworth who is also an executive member of the Leicestershire and Rutland Association of Local Councillors (LRALC).
Richard Ellis and Sheena Mortimer from the electoral services department at Harborough District Council, county councillor Graham Hart (Bruntingthorpe division) and experienced parish clerk Phillip Baildon were also called upon for their expertise.
Villager Martin Reynolds, who held the parish meeting chairmanship from 2008-2010, said: “There was a sizeable turnout from the village at the meeting. It went well and the villagers went home satisfied that we were doing something worthwhile and that we were in good hands with Richard Ellis and Sheena Mortimer heading up the election and transformation.
“In May, elections will be held to find five councillors to run the parish. We now need the people of the village to come forward and take on the role. The new councillors will then have to employ a clerk as its first order of business.”
The meeting was supported by Asda from Magna Park, near Lutterworth, which provided refreshments, volunteers and notice boards as part of its Community Life scheme.
The Shearsby steering committee thanked the invited guests and Asda for their support and the meeting augers well for Shearsby’s place as a parish council within the Harborough district.