1. What is a Parish or Town Council?
  2. Who is on the council?
  3. What powers do Parish Councils have?
  4. To whom are they accountable?
  5. Can I attend meetings of the council?
  6. Can I speak at the meeting?
  7. Can I see the minutes of council meetings and other papers?
  8. How do I find out who the councillors are?
  9. How do people get elected to the council?

What is a Parish/Town Council?

A Parish Council is a statutory local authority established under the Local Government Act 1972. It operates in the area of a defined civil parish or group of parishes. A Town Council is a Parish Council which has resolved to call itself a Town Council. The term “Parish Council” is therefore used throughout this site to refer to both Parish and Town Councils.

Who is on the council?

The council is made up of councillors elected by the electors of the parish. Every year the council elects one councillor to be the Chairman of the council (The Mayor if a Town Council). The council has a paid officer who organises meetings and helps to carry out the council’s decisions – this officer is known as the Clerk.

What powers do Parish Councils have?

Parish Councils have a wide range of powers. See List of legal powers and duties which essentially relate to local matters, such as looking after community buildings, open space, allotments, play areas, some street lighting, bus shelters, car parks and much more. They also have the power to raise money through the council tax.

To whom are they accountable?

The council is accountable to the electors of the parish. Elections to parish councils are held every four years. The council’s accounts are subject to scrutiny by the external auditor, but since the Standards Board for England was abolished, any alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by individual councillors can be discussed initially with the Chairman of the Council to see if a resolution can be found, if not then the District or Borough Monitoring officers can be consulted.

Can I attend meetings of the council?

Yes, all meetings of the council and its committees must be open to the general public and the press, except in very exceptional circumstances. The time and place of meetings must be advertised beforehand – usually on the parish noticeboard and website. The notice must be posted at least three days before the meeting.

Can I speak at the meeting?

You cannot speak whilst normal business (standing orders) is being conducted. However, nearly all councils allow some time at the meeting when standing orders are suspended, at which point the public are invited to address the council on an issue that concerns them.

Can I see the minutes of council meetings and other papers?

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2010 you may see and have a copy of the ‘recorded’ information held by the council (unless it is classed as exempt information in the Act). This includes reports, minutes, correspondence and emails. The information has to be provided within 20 working days. There may be a photocopying charge.

How do I find out who the councillors are?

From the Clerk. There is often a list on the parish noticeboard and on their website.

How do people get elected to the council?

Elections are held every four years and will usually coincide with a District Council election. A Public Notice of a forthcoming election will be placed on noticeboards and website.

There are occasions when the number of people who put their names forward for election is less than the required number of seats on the council. In these circumstances an election is not required and those who stood for election are deemed elected. In order to fill the vacancies, the council is required to co-opt other residents.

If a seat on the council becomes vacant between normal elections then a special procedure has to be followed which can lead to an election or, more usually, the co-option of a new councillor. It is good practice for a council to advertise widely in the parish if it is seeking to make a co-option.

What powers do Parish Councils have with respect to planning applications?
Parish Councils are consulted by the relevant Planning Authority (which could be either the District/Borough Council, the National Park Authority or the County Council) on all planning applications. Any views expressed by the Parish Council will be taken into account by the Planning Authority before a decision is made, providing the points made are relevant to the determination of a planning application. However, the final decision is made by the Planning Authority, not the Parish Council.

Are councillors required to declare any financial or other personal interests.
Yes, all councillors have to abide by a Code of Conduct. See Model Code of Conduct as a guide, which sets out which interests have to be declared. They also have to enter relevant financial and other interests in a special Register that is open to inspection by the public.


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