Friday, 6 June 2008

Dividing the spoils

One of the messiest aspects of winding up the Borough Council is dividing up the civic assets and ceremonial.

Some items came from previous councils eg Castle Ward (Ponteland) or Morpeth Borough Council - and could justifiably be returned to the relevant Town or parish council (if they want and can afford to keep them).
Some items were given in trust to the Borough Council and perhaps shoud be returned to the original donors or their families - if they can be tracked down.
Or there is a strong argument for establishing them in a (one or more) museum - if there were funding to do this.

Then there is the ceremonial - should we retain the Castle Morpeth mayoralty (aldermen, Freedom of the Borough) which dates right back to 1974 or give it up and have Town and parish councils creating mayors? Or even try to create Mayors of the emerging 'belonging communities'.

There are two ways of doing all this - either 'in-house' at the Borough Council before the end of March (when all Borough ceremonial disappears) - or by creating 'charter trustees' who will inherit all the Council's civic assets and maintain the Borough ceremonial is a sort of 'shadow' form. The snag is that government legislation is needed to create 'charter trustees' - and so we need to make a decision this month. The Civic Committee is meeting on Thurs 19th, and Full Council will be making a final decision on Thurs 26th.

And what are 'charter trustees'? From what I can gather (and I stand to be corrected):
* they will be the eleven unitary authority councillors representing area of the Borough
* they will rely on the new unitary authority for resources or they'll exercise a right to precept (raise their own council tax)
* only one of the eleven can be appointed Mayor
* while the power to appoint a Mayor of Castle Morpeth exists (even if not exercised) - the power of any parish or Town council to name their chairman 'mayor' is suppressed
On the other hand - the creation of 'charter trustees' will mean that 'division of the spoils' is not rushed.

In my opinion - most of the troubles of the Borough Council in the first fifteen years of its existence arose from a poor and unclear division of roles and responsibilities with the County, Town and parish councilsin 1974. We should at least try to avoid that mistake this time.

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