Sir George criticised new plans by the Government to erase parish boundaries from Ordnance Survey maps, and accused it of being yet another snub to North West Hampshire's parish councils. The new development was buried in a written Parliamentary Question.
“This is yet another snub to Hampshire's parishes. Senior Labour politician, Mo Mowlam, has called for parish councils to be abolished to make way for regional assemblies. The Government has introduced a draconian code of conduct forcing honest parish councillors to resign in droves. And the Countryside Agency has labelled a third of all parishes as ‘barely active’ or ‘sleeping’. Now, literally, parishes will be wiped off the map.
“I value the work of my parish councillors. Yet I fear that erasing parishes from local maps is further evidence of an agenda to regulate and streamline parish councils out of existence. This just shows how the Government don’t understand rural communities.”
Notes to Editors
In an answer to a Parliamentary Question (HC Debs, col. 111W, 10 March 2003), Labour’s Local Government Minister, Tony McNulty, admitted, “Following Parliament's decision to widen public access to the English and Welsh countryside under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW), Ordnance Survey has concluded that this access land should be shown on the 1:25000 Explorer series, which is designed specifically for use during outdoor activities… There is much additional information to be added to the mapping. Therefore, to avoid clutter and ensure clarity, it will be necessary to take off some existing information. Consultation and research among users indicates that the removal of the national park, civil and parish boundaries while adding the access land, significantly improves clarity and helps avoid confusion on the ground.” (emphasis added). Ordnance Survey is owned by the Government, and is overseen by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Writing in The Times on 26 August 2002, former Labour Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam asserted, “By increasing regional government we need to see a simplification of local and central government, for example the end of parish councils, to be replaced by local district councils”.
Parish councils have faced a series of initiatives from Whitehall over the last year: (i) a new draconian Code of Conduct, causing many parish councillors to resign across the country; (ii) under Government plans for ‘Quality Parish Councils’, in order to obtain new sources of funding, parish councils will be obliged to meet rigid Whitehall-set targets, (iii) large parishes face new audit and inspection costs of up to £30,000 a year under the imposition of ‘Best Value’, (iv) the Countryside Agency insultingly graded a third of all parishes in England as ‘sleeping’ or ‘barely active’.