New parish council meets for first time

STAPLE Hill & Mangotsfield Parish Council has met for the first time.

Twelve of the council’s 13 members were present at a meeting room at Page Community Association in Staple Hill on May 18 to elect their first chair and vice-chair, approve standing orders, financial regulations and a code of conduct, and agree to meet on the last Wednesday of the month in future.

Labour member Ian Campbell, best known locally as the chair of the Staple Hill & District Royal British Legion, is the council’s first chair. Fellow Labour councillor Angela Bragg is the vice-chair.

Before meeting again on June 28, Cllrs Campbell and Bragg, and interim clerk Cate Davidson will draw up proposals to set up committees, bank accounts, a website and email addresses, which will be voted on by the whole council.

The new council, on the lowest tier of local government, was set up by South Gloucestershire Council as part of a drive to ensure all areas in the district had parish or town councils.

It was established despite a lack of enthusiasm from the public: only around 100 of the ward’s electorate of more than 10,000 people supported the idea in a consultation in 2021, with more saying they were against the idea.

But the new parish’s Mangotsfield ward was the only one in the Downend area where an election took place in May.

Contested by seven candidates, the five seats were won by four Labour candidates and a Conservative.

Independent Dave Somers and Simon Budd, who stood without a label, were the two candidates who missed out.

Michael Bell, a South Gloucestershire ward councillor for Staple Hill & Mangotsfield, topped the poll with 768 votes, followed by Mark Dean, Tracy Cannard and Darren Langley.

Andy O’Hara claimed fifth place and the final seat for the Tories, 87 votes ahead of Simon Budd.

The new parish council’s other wards had the same number of nominees as seats.

Elected unopposed were Labour’s Ian Boulton and Mark Whitworth in Page ward; Katie Cooper (Labour) and Diane Roberts (independent) in Pendennis Ward; Labour’s Angela Bragg, Ian Campbell and Julie Snelling, and independent Irene Draper, in Soundwell ward.

Cllr Boulton and Cllr Cooper are also South Gloucestershire councillors.

Parish councillors are not paid wages or allowances for their duties.

The council has an initial budget of £106,000, from a precept set by South Gloucestershire Council this year – next year it must set its own.

Cllr Boulton told the inaugural meeting that while residents had to pay a precept on their bill – £26.68 for Band D tax payers – for the new council, a promised review of South Gloucestershire’s special expenses bill for neighbourhood facilities has not yet taken place; residents’ special expenses bills rose from £31.08 to £43.07 in Band D in April.

The number of people who cast votes to elect the new parish councillors was only a third of those who voted in the South Gloucestershire Council elections for Staple Hill & Mangotsfield ward.

This was partly because three parish council wards had no elections, and also because part of the South Gloucestershire ward is in neighbouring Downend and Bromley Heath parish.