LOCAL councils come in for a lot of stick – and some of it can be bitter and vitriolic.

There is, of course, a simple reason; you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Whatever a local authority does, there will be some that resent its actions because it doesn’t suit their own agenda.

And sometimes, especially with larger councils, whole communities can be alienated, especially when unpopular planning decisions don’t go the way they hoped.

So why would someone take on the job of councillor, in the knowledge they are likely, at some stage, to face – at the very least – abuse? And why would a bunch of unpaid volunteers give up endless hours of their own time to go one step further and establish a completely new council?

It’s a question that the 16 men and women of Bingley Town Council may well have asked themselves in the two years since it came into being.

Council chair Ros Dawson said: “When it held its first meeting in May 2016, it didn’t even own a pen.

“Two years on, it’s a well-established local authority that’s achieved much to benefit Bingley and the adjoining villages of Cottingley, Crossflatts, Eldwick, Gilstead and Micklethwaite.”

A petition, organised by the Bingley Community Council Group, calling for a new town council for Bingley was formally launched at a public meeting attended by 140 people, at Bingley Arts Centre, in October 2014. It already had 200 signatures.

The district’s MP, Philip Davies, told the meeting he supported the plan because he believed in decisions being taken at the “most local level” but warned: “A local council is not a panacea, a cure-all.”

Terry Brown, vice-chairman of Bingley Civic Trust – who went on to become the Town Council’s first chair – echoed a refrain regularly heard across the district since local government reorganisation in 1974, when he asked: “Bradford is only six miles down the road, but does it have the interests of Bingley in mind?”

It took another year for the new authority to be given the go-ahead by Bradford Council and a further seven months before it held its inaugural meeting. A sign of things to come may have been gleaned from one of its first decisions, the voting down – on the grounds that it might suggest “delusions of grandeur” – of a motion to adopt the title of “mayor” for the chairman’s role.

Voters, however, would have had little cause for concern; the new council quickly immersed itself in the nitty-gritty of the community’s day-to-day life, with issues ranging from litter-picking to saving the town’s loos high on the agenda.

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe the Council is still in its infancy,” said Ms Dawson. “It has been an incredibly busy couple of years packed full of successes and challenges, highs and lows that I never imagined.

“What keeps me going is the huge number of very positive and supportive comments from residents and the endless energy and ideas of my council colleagues. They love the difference and the impact the Council is making – and they love being able to get involved to improve their area.

“Of course, scrutiny and constructive criticism is vital and there will always be detractors, but even those who were sceptical or reticent about the creation of a council acknowledge and welcome the progress that’s been made. There is so much to do and we’ve made a good start!”

Ask her to cite some of the Council’s successes and the list slips off her tongue: “Christmas lights, floral schemes across the parish, work underway on a neighbourhood plan, new litter bins, new grit bins, regular litter picks and a smarter Union flag on our town centre flagpole that is now raised and lowered appropriately to mark celebration and mourning - these are just a handful of the projects and achievements to date.


“Another great success is the grants scheme which has enabled over £20,000 to be invested in local groups and societies. For example, the grant to the Friends of Bingley Pool is helping fund work on how to keep open this vital facility. Recently, the Friends of St Ives received funding to help re-plant trees and there are myriad grants to organisations to promote sport, youth work and the arts or provide defibrillators.”

One of the council’s most popular moves has been to set-up a new programme of summer farmers-style markets, the second of which takes place tomorrow (Saturday) with others to follow on August 4 and October 6, bringing fresh stalls and entertainment and breathing new life into the market square, pleasing residents and traders alike.

“Revitalising the market is one of the projects I’m most involved in at the moment,” said Ms Dawson. “Bingley market dates back to 1212 and, as someone keenly aware of the importance of heritage and enterprise, I believe we cannot let it go.

“Last year, I dug from the National Archives at Kew the original mention in the 13th century charter rolls of the creation of Bingley market. Bingley’s history is enormously inspiring. Over the centuries, so many of our forebears have given their best efforts to this beautiful corner of Yorkshire and we need to continue that tradition and endeavour.”

The new authority has been working hard to build relationships and encourage collaboration between the many voluntary organisations in the area, such as the Green and Clean Forum, organising regular litter picks, the floral displays in tubs and on lampposts around the parish, and buying in plants to give to groups to plant in public areas, including the WI’s Bingley Bloomers and village societies. The Town Council also supports the new Plastic-free Bingley campaign.

“I’m proud the Council is building civic pride and the town is looking a whole lot better,” said Ms Dawson. “I’m also very pleased and reassured that the Council provides a regular forum where residents can raise issues of concern, that the Council responds to residents’ priorities and that it’s a voice for our community.

“Also, for the first time in over 40 years, our planning committee regularly scrutinises planning applications and early on held an exhibition about Bradford Council’s proposed land allocations.”

Councils are also often criticised for a lack of communication but it’s not an accusation that can be levelled in Bingley, with a well-organised website (bingleytowncouncil.gov.uk) and an informative and proactive digital newsletter.

And, to top it all, the Council has one of the lowest precepts of the 19 parish councils in Bradford Metropolitan District, just £16.31 for a Band D household for 2018-19.

Perhaps some of its success lies in the make up of its elected members, with eight independents balancing the eight voted in on political party tickets? After all, there’s little room for party dogma when you’re re-planting flowerbeds.

The current council sits until May 2019, when all 16 seats will be up for election, then the Council goes into the same four-year cycle as other parish councils in the Bradford district, with the next full election in 2023.

And there’s no sign of it resting on its laurels; priorities for the final year of the current council include completing the community asset transfer and re-opening of Bingley’s public toilets, establishing Changing Places facilities at Bingley Pool, more Christmas lights and support for seasonal events and public consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan.

“The Council’s success is the result of collaboration, organisation and a lot of good will and hard work by councillors, council staff (two of them) and volunteers prepared to roll up their sleeves and give their time and talents for the betterment of our community,” said Ms Dawson.

“A lot of work goes on in the background to provide value for money and make the council’s projects happen…”

Perhaps, sometimes, volunteers deserve a few bouquets, instead of the usual brickbats…