“Parish council – The administrative body in a civil parish.” Oxford English Dictionary
“Parochial – relating to a Church parish; OR having a limited or narrow outlook or scope. Derived from the Old French paroche – parish.” Oxford English Dictionary
I usually go ballroom dancing on a Monday. This being the Easter holidays, I had to look elsewhere for entertainment on the 14th of April, so I went to the Stradbroke Parish Council meeting. I was not disappointed. In fact, it’s true to say that if I had not been laughing so hard (inwardly, of course), I would have been carried out of the meeting crying.
Here were all the stereotypes and clichés normally associated with bad novels or with romans à clef from the France of the seventeenth century. Power brokers; hysteria; apologies; low-key manipulators; truth brokers; defeatists; a public gallery split by sentiment and politics and family affiliations; innocents brought to the slaughter; slanderers, libellers and story-tellers. The only thing missing was a love interest, but I’m sure that could soon be invented or arranged.
I don’t intend to dwell on people specifics here; that’s not my style nor my role.
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
· That all men (human beings) are created equal;
· That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights;
· That the opening of the Post Office has been delayed, outcome unknown;
· That some parish councillors do not get on with each other;
· That some members of the public do not like some parish councillors;
· That some parish councillors do not like some of the members of the public;
· That the Parish Council needs a stop watch with a buzzer to keep the time for which members of the public can speak to the 2 minutes as defined by standing orders;
· That it will soon be legal to record by audio and video parish council meetings and indeed to broadcast them live;
· That Laxfield Road is becoming a death trap because of speeding lorries and cars;
· That the Parish Council meeting agendas are very long;
· That the use of web sites is governed by the free market not by individuals;
· That the Parish Council should really have its own web site;
· That all the parish councillors are human beings;
· That all the members of the public are human beings.
Meanwhile, in the real world, MH-370 is still missing; tension is rising over Ukraine; the families of the Hillsborough 96 are still seeking justice; hospices are underfunded; the NHS is underfunded; London house prices are rising to stupid levels; cancer is killing someone every minute, as is poverty; and the few are still profiting from the miseries of the many.
And this is the crux. Local government needs to be forward-looking and strategic; it should be about the few volunteers looking after the needs and interests of the many, and not just within the narrow boundaries of the parish, not just within the narrow boundaries of parochialism. It should not be about building individual empires, nor about appearing to be the most powerful human being in the parish. It should be about making the world a better place. All I can say is that the meeting might have made my world a better place for ninety minutes on a Monday evening because of its entertainment value, but it certainly didn’t make the world a better place because of the flaws of human nature it revealed nor because of the decisions that were made.