By John Packman, Chief Executive
In the Queen’s Speech today the Government announced plans to introduce a Governance of National Parks and the Broads Bill. This would allow direct elections to be held for key positions in England's ten National Park Authorities and the Broads Authority.
The Government has been reviewing the governance of national park authorities since 2010 and the issue of direct elections has been debated as part of that. In seems unlikely that any trial elections would take place for at least another three years, assuming all the necessary legislation has gone through. The New Forest and Peak District have been identified for a potential trial of such elections and our understanding is that it would be only after the performance and cost of those elections had been evaluated that other national parks, including the Broads, would be considered
There are already various measures in place already to provide local accountability in our current board structure including members appointed by the two district councils and six district councils and various ways in which we engage the public, through our parish forums, online comment forms and social media as well as public meetings.
Even so the Broads Authority has supported the principle of direct elections when it was consulted by the Government. One of the questions that was raised was the nature of the electorate because, if the boundary of the Broads Executive Area was used, then less than 6,000 people would be eligible to vote and yet there are many more who live in and around the Broads who take a close interest in the work of the Authority and might feel they deserved to take part in any election.
We look forward to finding out more detail as to what the Government intends in due course.