West Hill bid for independence is ‘biggest decision’ in the parish to date

Margaret Hall of the West Hill Campaign Group handed a petition over to Mark Williams, Chief Executi

Margaret Hall of the West Hill Campaign Group handed a petition over to Mark Williams, Chief Executive of EDDC. Ref sho 7796-23-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Councillors vow to give residents more information

A bid for West Hill to have independence has divided opinion amid accusations the full implications for residents have not been made clear.

Civic leaders this week struggled to overcome their differences on how to respond to a consultation on whether the woodland village should break away from the governance of Ottery Town Council and form its own parish council.

Speaking at a meeting on Monday, Mayor Glyn Dobson spoke of his concerns that proceeding with the bid could leave a £52,000 hole in the town’s finances which would potentially mean an increase in the precept (the town’s portion of the council tax) for residents.

But the chairman of West Hill Parish Council Campaign (WHPCCG), Margaret Hall, hit back at criticism, saying any financial shortfall would be matched by a drop in overheads as the village would no longer need town council services.

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Councillors eventually agreed to focus all their efforts on providing more information for people on what Councillor Dobson called ‘the biggest decision’ for the parish he has had to make yet.

An early supporter of the bid – that is now under an East Devon District Council-led consultation – Cllr Dobson has now said it’s important to be fair to everyone in the parish.

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Addressing the meeting, Councillor Lyn Harding said: “We have been given the pros of what will be good for West Hill, but have they been given the cons?”

She added a new West Hill authority could end up with financial problems without a proper business plan.

Councillor Josefina Gori said information provided by WHPCCG is ‘one-sided’, while Councillor Elli Pang argued the parish is ‘better together’ and claimed there is still a lack of factual information.

But West Hill councillor Robin Mitchell said: “No one can suggest to me that West Hill could not manage its own affairs.”

He likened the bid to a child being ready to grow up and leave home and spoke of his attachment to Ottery and West Hill, having lived for years in both.

Councillor Jessica Bailey said there is no reason West Hill could not run a council as many smaller villages do.

In a statement this week, Dr Hall said the 500 new homes due to be built in Ottery will provide a significant boost to its income in years to come.

She said: “We feel this is a real opportunity for West Hill, which has both grown and changed in recent years, to take direct responsibility for its affairs.”

If the bid is successful, a West Hill Parish Council could be formed by May 2017.

For further information, visit the campaign website: www.westhillparishcouncilcampaign.org or get in touch with Ottery Town Council on 01404 812252.

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