Many countries have quite a reputation for red tape, a myriad of organisations seemingly doing the same thing and unnecessary bureaucracy. Luckily, Britain isn’t considered that sort of country, but in one area of government here there’s a fair amount of confusion, not to mention a good deal of frustration, about what councils do, and which is responsible for what services.
Now to put this in context, if I went and asked people on the street who is responsible for emptying the bins or education, for example, I expect I’d mostly receive the vague reply, ‘the council’. This is not wrong of course, but it fails to take into account there are often three tiers of councils in most parts of the country and in most parts of Hampshire and each has very separate areas of responsibility.
So this article is a brief aide memoire to which council does what. I will add the rider it’s not an exhaustive list – that would be a seriously long article.
First is parish councils. These authorities are responsible for small scale issues such as allotments, bus shelters, drainage, footpaths, some parking, open spaces, like village greens, and war memorials. It is the level of local government closest to electors and many people who read this magazine will be very familiar with its important functions.
Next up the list is the district or borough and occasionally city council. These are responsible for much larger scale functions and it’s the authority that does in fact empty your bins. It also collects council tax, offers parking permits, scrutinises food safety and nuisances such as noise and pest control. It is also importantly the planning authority and it often manages housing and leisure centres.
Then we have Hampshire County Council and that is responsible for an even bigger budget and even larger services such as education, social services, roads (other than major routes like motorways and major A roads), trading standards, libraries, waste management, recycling centres and in some cases planning. It is also the authority in this potential age of fracking here in Hampshire that looks after licences for mineral rights.
So you can see that this is all far from straightforward, and you can see where the confusion might occur. And I haven’t even started on unitary authorities that do all these things as one authority – Southampton and Portsmouth City Councils here in Hampshire, for instance.
So it’s best to check and see who does what to avoid frustration, confusion and large phone bill, if you ever need any one of them.
Just to help, here are the contact details of the district and county councils:-
Winchester City Council: 01962 840222 http://www.winchester.gov.uk
Havant Borough Council: 023 9247 4174 http://www.havant.gov.uk
East Hampshire District Council: 01730 266551 http://www.easthants.gov.uk
Hampshire County Council: 0845 603 5638 http://www.hants.gov.uk