The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has announced that seven new town, parish and community councils have been set up, as part of its New Councils Programme that has been running since 2013.
The programme is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and follows changes in legislation in recent years that make it easier to set up Local Councils.
Parish councils are the most local tier of local government. They are at the very heart of the community, giving neighbourhoods a voice and helping people feel more involved in the decisions that affect them. And yet, only a third of the population is covered by one. Recognising the benefits of local governance, NALC and the government want to change this by supporting local people who want better management of the place where they live.
Cllr Ken Browse, Chairman of NALC, said: "Local (town and parish) councils are popular with people and can really make a difference. They have the ability to deliver services to the community, as well as being able to influence other decision-making bodies."
"There are already over 9,000 first tier Local Councils in England and Wales, working towards improving community well-being and providing better services at a local level. They represent all local residents and businesses, enabling power to be devolved to those who know and care about their local community. They also aim to give tax-payers better value for money."
Campaign funding from NALC has been awarded to 38 campaign groups across the country to date, 31 of which are currently working towards becoming new councils. These include Aldershot, Barking Reach, Bingley, Rickmansworth and Weymouth.
Ros Dawson, chair of Bingley Community Council Group, said: "More than 2,000 residents in the Bingley area of West Yorkshire have signed a petition calling for the creation of a new Bingley Town Council. This is a tremendous result achieved thanks to strong backing for the proposal from all parts of the community. Traders have hosted petition sheets in shops, cafes and pubs. Churches and voluntary groups have also leant their support and many individuals have distributed leaflets and gathered signatures from family, friends and neighbours.
The contribution from so many people and the way everyone has pulled together shows the breadth of support for a new Town Council and we are delighted."
The seven new councils already created include Queen's Park in Westminster, which is the first parish council to be formed in London for decades. The others are Chadwick End in the West Midlands, Badgers Mount in Kent, Penrith and Whitehaven in Cumbria and Macclesfield in Cheshire.
Each of these have been formed through the hard work of a campaign group in the local area.
To set up a new council, a Community Governance Review in the principal local authority area needs to be triggered – either by the principal local authority or by the community, if they are able to secure enough signatures on a petition and make proposals to the principal local authority. In the case of Queen's Park, Westminster council conducted this review over a 12 month period and 69% of local electorates voted for the creation of the new council.
Cllr Angela Singhate was appointed as chair of the newly formed Queen's Park council in May 2014.
She said: "I am over the moon that we have created a new council for Queen's Park. The journey has been exciting, at times challenging and of course extremely rewarding. The feeling in Queen's park is one of excited anticipation as the QPCC works towards its pledge of community representation and demonstrates its value in being an asset to the local area."
The New Councils programme has proven to be successful, with over 80 groups exploring the idea of setting up a new council, including Holborn, Camden and Soho in London and Weybridge, Hulme and Moss Side, Lincoln, Winchester and Dorking.
NALC urges any community group interested in setting up a new council to come forward by Noon on 10 February 2015, when the current funding round comes to an end.