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Cuts could have hidden impact in rural areas, parish council fears
PARISH councillors fear they may have to take responsibility for additional local services in the future, as a borough council looks to make budget cuts of more than £17m.
Darlington Borough Council (DBC) leader Bill Dixon attended a meeting of Hurworth Parish Council (HPC) last week.
He updated members on a variety of topics, including town hall austerity measures, which could result in the removal of subsidies provided by by DBC in rural areas, such as litter-picking.
HPC has taken Coun Dixon’s comments as a clear warning that the parish needs to brace itself for adverse funding and the likelihood it will be faced with a choice of taking on more village services or risking the quality of amenity enjoyed by residents.
Parish council chairman Tony Winnett said: “DBC has yet to fully review its budget cuts, so while we received a warning from Coun Dixon that things will get tighter, there are no specific proposals as yet.”
Parish council members also quizzed Coun Dixon over recent chances to the planning system, which parish councils fear have robbed them of a chance to play a role in decision making.
Coun Dixon reassured HPC members that parish councils will still be heard, but mainly through their ward councillors.
HPC will still be able to attend planning committee meetings and raise objections, but the DBC planning department has greater powers.
Parking issues – another hot topic in Darlington – were also debated, with £2.9m being raised through parking fees and fines.
Coun Dixon assured members that surplus cash is funnelled directly into the highways department budget.
Finally, Coun Dixon raised the issues surrounding the impact of the Gypsy and traveller community in Hurworth and other parishes.
He told members about the recently-approved plans for another site adjoining the existing camp near The Northern Echo Arena, as reported in the D&S Times last week.
This will provide 20 new pitches, which will largely fill DBC’s outstanding quota of Gypsy and traveller berths that it must provide by law.
So-called smaller ‘infill sites’will still receive consideration, to the general concern of HPC members.
Coun Dixon said there is nothing that can be done to prevented travellers buying up land from farmers and other landowners.
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