What are Parish, Village and Town Councils?
There are around 10,000 Parish, Village and Town Councils in England, they are corporate bodies and local authorities. They exists to serve the people of the Parish by:
- Providing services appropriate to their needs and expectations where they are legally empowered.
- Representing people without discrimination and involving them in decisions where necessary.
- Working in partnership with voluntary agencies, the private sector, other local authorities and public bodies.
- Keeping the parish a place where people want to live, work and enjoy themselves.
What do these councils do?
Parish, Village and Town Councils are the part of local government closest to the people, very importantly; these councils can “precept” – raising a sum collected with the council tax each year to improve facilities and services for local people.
The parish, village and town council acts within the framework of legislation conferred on it by Parliament. The functions of the council are mainly discretionary, that is they amount to powers as opposed to duties.
Their powers and duties cover many things that we take for granted in making the lives of local communities more comfortable. These include the provision and maintenance of community transport schemes, local youth projects, tourism activities, leisure facilities, car parks, village greens, public lavatories, litter bins, street lighting, street cleaning, burial grounds, allotments, bus shelters, commons, opens spaces, footpaths, bridleways, and crime reduction measures.
Parish, Village and Town Councils can also comment on planning applications and can be represented at public inquiries.
Dramatic Change in Recent Years
For some time, Parish, Village and Town Councils in England and Wales were thought of as the neglected part of local government.
But things have changed dramatically over the last few years. Parish, Village and Town Councils have been empowered to develop their role in providing services and functions to their local community. And this, after all, is right, because this is the closest tier to the local community.
During the years to 2010 the ‘Localism’ agenda has been developing and the role of the Parish, Village and Town Councils is becoming more important. Areas without these local councils are missing out on being able to influence and deliver local services.
In 2010, the new Coalition Government launched the ‘Big Society’, which is aimed at local communities taking a stronger role in their community, making decisions and agreeing a precept for future funding. It is within this framework that Parish, Village and Town Councils will start to agree what services are needed and wanted.
During this period the Parish, Village and Town Councils are more and more being called collectively ‘Local Councils’ with the Districts, Boroughs and the County Councils being referred to as ‘Principal Authorities’.
What do Elected Representatives do for me?
Parish, Village and Town Councillors represent the people living in their local area at the closest level to the community. When decisions are being made they are there to put your views across. These Councillors must ensure that they represent the whole community and must have a good strong communication and community development program to develop the future.
Even if you did not vote for them, they still have a duty to represent you and your interests.
If there is an issue that you feel strongly about, let them know. They are elected by you. They are there to represent your views and interests.
Could I be a Councillor?
To be a Councillor you need to:
- Care about getting the best for your Community
- Have a willingness to represent your electorate
- Want to make a difference
- Undertake training courses
- Adhere to the Code of Conduct
- Register your interests
- Have the time
- Be committed and enthusiastic
How much time does it take?
Quite often Councillors say that their duties occupy them for a couple of hours a week. Some Councillors spend more time than this and others less, it depends on their level of involvement.
Training can open Councillors’ eyes to new possibilities, and it is essential that they undertake training to fully partake in their role. A wide range of training for Councillors is available through the Norfolk Association of Local Councils.
Standing as a Parish or Town Councillor
Anyone who fulfils the following criteria may stand as a Parish, Village or Town Councillor.
A Parish or Town Councillor must be:
- A British subject, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union;
- On the ‘relevant date’ (ie the day on which you are nominated, or if there is a poll on the day of the election) be 18 years of age or over.
- Be a local government elector for the Council area for which you want to stand on the ‘relevant date’;
- OR have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the council area during the whole of the 12 months preceding that day;
- OR had your principal or only place of work in the council area during that same period;
- OR have resided in the council area during that 12 month period;
- You can also satisfy the criteria to be elected if you have lived in the council area or within 4.8km (3 miles) of it for the whole of the 12 months preceding the ‘relevant date.’
You cannot stand for election if:
- You are the subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order;
- You have, within five years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine;
- You work for the Council you want to become a Councillor for (but you can work for other local authorities, including the principal authorities that represent the same area).