Newsletters,  Uncategorized

Parish Matters – December

A Letter from Brittany

Bonjour tout le monde, I am out in Brittany until the new year and whilst this is wonderful I have been pondering as to what to write in this article being far from the good people of Sutton and Barlavington.

I am staying in a large village called Rochefort en Terre, which is on the South side of Brittany and has a population of roughly 700 people. Last year it was voted by the French to be their prettiest village. The consequences of this accolade is that enormous numbers of tourists descend on the place during the summer and particularly at this time of the year to see the Christmas lights. You may be wondering why I am babbling on about this subject. Well I am curious to ponder and compare the governance and powers of the equivalent of a parish chair and the French Mayor the ‘mairie.’

Both are elected positions, and both chair a council of elected councillors, yet this is where the comparison ends. It is striking the absolute authority of the ‘mairie’. Once elected, the mayor, a paid post, appoint their administration. The mayor’s powers are significant, they spend their budget as they see fit, approval for any new enterprise, the use of any part of the town that is not your property, any planning all has to gain the mayor’s approval, without it you are sunk. Needless to say the opportunity for corruption is plentiful.

Interestingly, though the mayor in France has no authority over raising any tax, 100% of his funds come from regional administration, which in turn comes from central government. In England of course the parish council after government is the only body that can raise taxes, though the precept. So the comparison is interesting— in England the parish council has many responsibilities and no power except to raise a local tax and in France the ‘mairie’ has absolute power in everything except to raise a tax. The result of this arrangement is that in England we are frugal and only what needs attention is acted upon by the unpaid parish councillors, whilst in France everything is managed by the paid administration as funding is never locally accountable. I’ll let you decide which system is best.

Before moving to Sutton, the prettiest village in England, in 2010, we drove through the village many times and admired its classic ‘English-ness’. In 2009 we came to the village on hospitality day in the summer, vernacularly known as ‘hostility’ day, it is this day that set in motion the purchase of our house, which we saw that day. Hospitality day finished in 2009 as everyone became weary of the hard work and energy required for the event. It wasn’t the end of community life in the parish and others things come along, such as the film society, to fill the void. Sadly, the Gentlemen’s Christmas lunch has now come to the end of its run, for the time being. We must not be disheartened it is the natural circle of life, but we must thank those that got that show on the road and gave much time to give so much pleasure to the community and raise good funds for charity. We are still a tight community, I for one feel privileged to be a part of it, and I sure in good time something will again bring us together like the Christmas lunch. Happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

John Cross—Chair of Sutton and Barlavington Parish Council

Next PC meeting at Sutton Church on Monday 8th January 7pm 2018.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *