In his latest piece written for this website, Councillor Stewart Palmen, Trowbridge Town Council leader, attempts to clear up some of the confusion surrounding differences between your town council, and the county council . . .

Several residents have recently asked me to clear up one or two matters about who they should contact regarding various issues or support in the town . . . I hope the following helps to answer these questions.

So we have two councils based in Trowbridge – is that correct?
Yes, the two councils are very different both in terms of areas of public service and catchment area, with one covering the whole of Wiltshire, while the other focuses on more local aspects.

Regarding Trowbridge itself, we are lucky (in my opinion) to only have the two councils. In some areas of the UK (for example, Somerset) there are three such authorities –

  • Parish/Town Council
  • District Council
  • County Council.

Wiltshire Council is what is called a Unitary Council (i.e. no district councils), so we only have Trowbridge Town Council and Wiltshire Council. This helps the town run a lot more efficiently.

What are the different areas the two councils are responsible for?
OK –  I am going to have to resort to a list to keep this simple . . .

Wiltshire Council are responsible for:

Adult and Children’s Social Services (this is the largest section of their budget)

Highways (Maintenance and Development)

Street Scene

Waste Collection and Disposal (emptying our bins)

Leisure Centres (most, including those in Trowbridge)

Planning and Development

Education (although most schools are run as academies)

Libraries

Grass-cutting on local green spaces and verges

Some car parks

(This list is not exhaustive, however more details can be found at www.wiltshire.gov.uk/, though admittedly it is difficult to find a concise summary.)

Trowbridge Town Council are responsible for:

The Town Park

Nearly all of the children’s play areas in Trowbridge

Trowbridge Museum

The Civic Centre

Recreation Grounds

Community Centres

Hanging Baskets and Floral Displays around the town

CCTV provision

Closed Churchyard Maintenance

Allotments

Active Trowbridge

(Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but I hope that it gives you the general picture.)

So keeping the Town Centre clean is not the Town Council’s responsibility?
Correct. Currently that is Wiltshire Council’s responsibility, but as it is not high on their list of priorities, they only really carry out the legal minimum work required (e.g. emergency response to complaints). Therefore, as a Town Council we decided that the town deserves better and have taken on some of these responsibilities. To help with this, we lease a road sweeper and own a weed-ripper (sadly, Wiltshire Council were doing practically nothing about weeds growing on paths). I can understand Wiltshire Council’s position, as they have overall budget limitations, and matters such as social care are a more urgent priority.

The Town Centre looks dreadful due to litter – so, who do I call?
Please report to the Town Council via https://www.trowbridge.gov.uk/report-an-issue/ – we can then direct it to Wiltshire Council or maybe take care of it ourselves.

If the drains (gullys) in my street are blocked, who do I call?
This is Wiltshire Council’s responsibility, more specifically that of the Highways Department. Please use their online system or updated app for quick reporting of any issues –  this can be downloaded to your phone (which is great for taking pictures of the issue then sending them direct to Wiltshire Council) https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/mywilts-online-reporting

Who empties the litter bins and dog poo bins?
Wiltshire Council are responsible for this. Their contractors empty all bins apart from a couple around the town which are owned and maintained by Trowbridge Town Council.

I heard there is going to be an ‘asset transfer’ from Wiltshire Council to Trowbridge Town Council shortly . . . what is that, exactly?
Over time, Wiltshire Council have been handing over more responsibilities to parish and town councils to ease the burden on themselves, and also to allow a greater degree of local control by these smaller councils. For example, in Trowbridge we have already taken control of all the children’s play areas. Looking to the future, there are many green spaces and an existing cemetery that Wiltshire Council would like the Town Council to take on. These new responsibilities are currently under negotiation, but there will however be no funding passed on to the Town Council to cover these new responsibilities. Similarly, other town councils have already on this type of arrangement, and as a result have had to significantly increase their portion of Council Tax. We as a town council think we can avoid this, due to careful fiscal planning.

All being well, this should all happen next year, and will allow Trowbridge Town Council to have a town-wide green spaces strategy, focussing amongst other aspects on how the areas are maintained.

Who does my Council Tax go to then? And, what do I pay?
Your Council Tax goes to Wiltshire Council and they pass a portion (known as a precept) on to Trowbridge Town Council. For example, this year a Band D property will pay £1,973 to Wiltshire Council: £1,515 will be retained by Wiltshire Council, with Trowbridge Town Council receiving £165. So as you can see Trowbridge Town Council only receives roughly 8% of your Council Tax payment. The remainder of the funds goes to the Police and Fire & Rescue services.

I realise I’ve tried to fit a quart into a pint pot here, so to speak, but I hope you’ve found the information useful. As we move forward, I can see parish and town councils taking on board more responsibility for local direct service support in their areas. I personally see this as a positive move as it enables us to address local issues far more quickly, and additionally feel that we are not in competition with the whole county for resources. It will of course raise fiscal challenges, but I hope that, as a constantly developing town, we do have an increasing revenue stream from new council tax payers which will hopefully negate the need for a large hike in council tax as seen in other towns across Wiltshire.

I am sure that this article will raise more questions . . . so please do not hesitate to email me on stewart.palmen@wiltshire.gov.uk or call me on 01225 753479.