Devoted servants - or Vicar of Dibley?

editorial image

Town and parish councils – devoted servants of the community or incompetent busybodies?

Our councils are often said to provide a vital role in the towns and villages they serve.

But some observers say many are made up of unelected amateurs who make a mockery of the political system - closer to the bumbling parish council on TV’s The Vicar of Dibley.

Those who attend meetings decry the amount of time spent debating trivial and inconsequential matters, claiming that important topics are often overlooked.

This week Arlesey Town Council has come under fire, and one critic is preparing to launch a campaign which he hopes will pressurise councillors to resign.

Chris Gravett, who has lived in the town for 37 years says he was shocked at what he witnessed at a council meeting last month.

He said: “I was horrified and embarrassed to witness the incompetence of our councillors to even conduct a meeting – I could be excused for thinking that I had stumbled in on a pantomime rehearsal. But it is no laughing matter – these people are charged with being responsible for Arlesey and its future during one of the most important and difficult periods in its modern history.”

Mr Gravett, 60, of House Lane attended the meeting after responding to a council invitation to volunteers to form a new residents’ action group.

The group will work with the council on the planning and implementation of a new development of 1,000 new homes and a relief road in Arlesey.

After the meeting Mr Gravett met council chairman Nick Daniels to air his concerns.

He added: “I felt a lot more positive after the meeting as I had been concerned about the delay in setting up the new group, which will now hold its first meeting on October 29.

“But there is no sign that the general incompetence and shambles at the meetings will improve and I am ready to start a no confidence petition which I can present to the council.

“Too many of the councillors have been co-opted and are therefore unelected and seemingly unaccountable.”

Mr Daniels was unavailable for comment.

What do you think? What are your experiences of town and parish councils? Email your views to or see