RESIDENTS have demanded a referendum be held into the future governance of Swindon during a lively discussion hosted by Better Swindon.

Earlier this autumn Swindon Borough Council revealed plans were being drawn up to devolve services - including grass cutting and graffiti cleaning - to parish councils. In areas where a parish council does not already exist, a new council would be created.

This would include areas such as West Swindon, Central Swindon, Old Town, Lawn, as well as Walcot, the Parks, Eldene and Liden.

At a meeting held on Thursday evening chaired by Chris Barry, of Better Swindon, residents put their concerns to borough councillor Des Moffatt and former Haydon Wick parish councillor John Stooke, who spoke of the benefits Haydon Wick had enjoyed from being its own parish.

He said: “It is a hell of an ask to make this work, but what is the alternative? Now we have the chance and opportunity to put something together – it may not be perfect, but I think it is worth looking at.”

Colin Doubleday, of Old Town, said: “I quite like the idea of parish councils, but I do not think now is the right time for this and I think it is for the wrong reasons.

"Most councillors are self-employed, retired or unemployed. I am sorry, but I don’t want my town run by those people alone.

"There is a whole lot more in this town, but the vast majority of people just don’t have the time to devote to it.

“I will be as angry as hell if this is enforced on people. We have to ask the almost 220,000 people in Swindon, is this what you want?”

Resident Martin Wicks went further to call for a democratic movement in the town to oppose the proposal. He said: “We know these people don’t want a referendum because they would be frightened to death by the result of it.”

He also pointed out that each individual parish would have a variable amount of income due to the value of the homes within that area, with The Parks being at a disadvantage to Old Town.

He added: “If Swindon Borough Council cannot afford to carry out services, how in god’s name do they expect parishes to afford to carry them out? This is about destroying local services, if they are put out to parishes they will wither on the vine.”

Councillor Des Moffatt said: “This is not just about parishes, it is about a lot more than that - it is about how Swindon organises itself. There is a real financial constrain on Swindon Borough Council and an expectation to do a whole lot better.

“If we are to do it, it has to be done on the basis of reason. We have done it the wrong way around: ‘we need to save £7m let’s start parishes’. It needs to be the other way around.”

“We can’t pull up the ladder and pretend the problem isn’t there.

"Somebody somewhere will have to make the decision, will we cut the grass, or will we employ someone to follow up that claim about the abused child. That is where we are, there is no doubt about it.”