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Power to the people
The Community Governance Review consultation is YOUR opportunity to decide what is best for our town.
This is the biggest decision in the history of Spitalfields & Banglatown: the creation of a new town council to be called ‘Spitalfields & Banglatown Town Council’. If we succeed, this proposal will empower local people and give them the democratic tools they need to make positive changes to our town. It will place Tower Hamlets at the vanguard of localism and progressive local politics in London and hopefully lead to more areas choosing to empower local people.
If a town council is created, there is one thing you can be entirely certain about; Spitalfields & Banglatown remain part of Tower Hamlets. We are proud to be one of the ‘Hamlets of the Tower’ and nothing will change that fact; there will be no barriers, no borders and no walls.
Tower Hamlets Council will continue to do everything it does today unless the people of our town decide (at some later date) that there is something the borough council does which they think the town council may be well placed to do better.
For example, might a town council be better placed to direct the cleaning contractors working in the streets of Spitalfields & Banglatown? Could the town council deliver better value for money for local tax payers if it took control of this service (the money for street cleaning would still come from Tower Hamlets) and directed it according to the interests of the people who live and run businesses in our town? This is an example of the sort of service the town council could consider taking control of in the future.
The town council could take over the roles of many of the active committees operating in the area, thus putting decisions into the hands of people with democratic legitimacy. It could also take over the organising of local festivals and public events to provide transparency and ensure the promotion of the town was responsible and in the interests of everyone.
The creation of a town council would empower the people of Spitalfields & Banglatown by giving them choices. It would put the power to make decisions such as these into the hands of local representatives, elected by you.
More money raised here will be spent here
The town council would not be a “waste of money”. In fact, the existence of a town council would guarantee more of the money raised here was spent here on local priorities. The town council would be due a portion of the funds (called CIL) raised when new developments take place in our town. Most of the money would continue to go to Tower Hamlets to spend as they wish, but we could guarantee a modest portion of it stayed here where it could be spent on the things local people want.
Spitalfields urgently needs new infrastructure to support its growing population as well as the vast numbers of visitors we get day and night. This could include providing public toilets, better pavements, cleaner and safer parks and gardens and measures to reduce crime and ASB. All these things could be paid for through the CIL and we want to ensure our town gets its fair share.
It is right and fair that the people subjected to all the disruption and impacts of so many development projects taking place on the ‘city fringe’ should see more of the benefits meant to derive from those developments spent closer to where they live and work.
A new town council would give the people of our town complete control over a portion of that money and a guarantee it was spent on local priorities determined by you. This is not money being taken away from anyone anywhere else because the Mayor and Borough have already committed to spending “up to 25%” of the CIL money raised in any area in that local area; this is just putting the decision about how that money is spent in the hands of a broader group of local people.
The town council would need to raise a small amount of money in a ‘precept’ to cover its operating expenses. This is collected as part of the Council Tax. The average amount town and parish councils raise in a precept is £1 per week on Band D properties. The amount our town would have to pay to cover its only financial obligation (the salary of a town clerk and their associated office expenses) would be less than this. Town councillors are unpaid and do not get ‘allowances’.
In short, for a small amount of additional funding, the town council would unlock larger amounts of money, already raised here, and direct them to be spent on the things local people think the town needs most.
Revitalising our democracy
The borough council wards are huge. The Spitalfields & Banglatown Ward has about 12,600 inhabitants and is represented by two councillors. These councillors do their best but the ward is enormous and the needs of the people in this part of the borough with its unique pressures are many. It is unreasonable to expect every case to get the attention it deserves.
The creation of a town council would revitalise local society by creating between six and twelve town councillors for about 8,000 inhabitants. These town councillors would champion your interests by listening to local opinion and then leading the work on either supporting or opposing various licensing and planning proposals as and when they arose.
The town council could be our local advocates - champions of the people, not beholden to party politics - fighting every day for what was best for our town.
The existence of the town council would build bridges between communities by providing a fair, transparent and democratic forum for the direction of local resources and cooperation in areas of shared concern.
We propose that this town council is subdivided with three town council wards within it. This would help ensure that the voices of people living in different parts of the town were all represented fairly on the town council.
A note on the name
When the town council campaign began, we were advised it was sensible to propose a name that was different from the existing electoral ward to avoid confusion. The proposed town council area is also a smaller area than the existing wards and is more or less the same as the existing Spitalfields Neighbourhood Planning Area. So the name ‘Spitalfields’ seemed most appropriate at the time.
When we first began talking to a wide variety of local residents about the possibility of creating a new local council to be called ‘Spitalfields Town Council’ there was no indication that this name would be controversial. The feeling was that Spitalfields is a name well-known nationwide, it is the name used in common parlance, it is a neutral, historical and geographic place name that every resident should be proud about and every visitor knows. However, as the consultation began it became clear that Banglatown meant a great deal to many local people and the decision was taken to review the name.
Banglatown is a cherished part of Spitalfields and an integral part of our local heritage. We think the existence of the council and the many benefits it will provide its inhabitants are far more important than the name. We would not want a minor change to the name to be an impediment to the creation of a town council. We appreciate how much names matter to people, we have listened and we are now officially recommending that the town council is named ‘Spitalfields & Banglatown’.
Please use the CGR to let everyone know what you think the town council should be called and we will support whatever version of the name people think is best.