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Role of the Parish Council

1.What is a Parish Council?

There are some 9,000 councils at parish level in England. As a tier of local government they are elected bodies, with discretionary powers and rights laid down by Parliament to represent their communities and provide services for them.

2.What services does it provide?

The Parish Council has an overall responsibility for the well-being of the parish. Their work falls into three main categories:

  • representing the local community
  • delivering services to meet local needs
  • striving to improve quality of life in the parish

See appendix A for a list of example of a Parish Council’s Function, Duties and Powers.

3.How does a Parish Council make decisions?

Councillors are elected by the local government electorate and must have a Chair, who must be one of the elected Councillors.  Local Councillors are often referred to as ‘Members’ – for example in the Code of Conduct. The number of Councillors is fixed by Darlington Borough Council (DBC) – currently the number is eight.  A Parish Council's lawful acts, assets and liabilities are its own and not those of its Councillors or any other council.

There are certain obligations which by law a Parish Council must fulfil. For example:

  • it must hold an annual meeting;
  • it must hold at least three other meetings a year;
  • it must appoint such officers as it believes necessary for the proper discharge of its functions. This must include an officer responsible for the proper administration of financial affairs;
  • it must make Standing Orders for the supply of goods and services to it.

Neasham Parish Council (the 'Council) meets ten times per annum on the first Monday of each month at 6:30 pm with the exception of January and August.  In addition it holds an Annual Parish Assembly in April or May and an Annual General Meeting in May.

4.Where does the money come from?

Each year a sum of money called a ‘precept’ is collected through the council tax. This money is invested back into the parish to improve facilities and services.

A Parish Council must act within the law. It can only spend, raise or use money if it has a statutory power to do so, otherwise it acts ultra vires (beyond its powers). A Parish Council has a wide range of powers under different acts of Parliament. Most of these powers are discretionary, i.e. a council may do something, rather than it must do something.

5.What does the Parish Council do?

The Council acts as a sounding board for local opinion. It works with local voluntary organisations and other tiers of local government and has an important role in providing and improving very local services and amenities. Councils are represented nationally by the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), which works with independent county associations to provide routine support for councils and their clerks.

NPC:

  • is consulted on planning applications and has a close relationship and understanding with the planning office of DBC.
  • is encouraged to prepare a parish plan in consultation with the planning office with a view to the plan being taken into account by DBC in considering planning applications and preparing the local development framework.
  • has points of contact with principal council services, such as highways, cleansing, parks, elections etc. and contributes to the way such services are provided.
  • works closely with the standards committee and monitoring officer of DBC on ethical framework matters and the members’ code of conduct.
  • is represented, collectively with other parish councils, on the Local Strategic Partnership.
  • liaises with other stakeholders operating services within the parish council boundaries.
  • is mandated to speak on behalf of the people they represent.

Councillors have three main areas of work:

  1. Decision-making: through attending meetings and committees with other elected members, Councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented.
  1. Monitoring: Councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.
  1. Getting involved locally: as local representatives, Councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. This often depends on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available. The day-to-day work of a councillor may include:
  • going to meetings of local organisations
  • going to meetings of bodies that affect the wider community, such as the police, the Highways Authority, schools and colleges.
  • taking up issues on behalf of members of the public, such as making representations to DBC
  • meeting with individual residents in their own homes.

Appendix A - List of Parish Council Functions, Powers and Duties.

This is not an exhaustive list, and not all functions will apply

Function

Powers and Duties

Allotments

Duty to provide allotments. Power to improve and adapt land for allotments, and to let grazing rights

Baths and washhouses

Power to provide public baths and washhouses

Burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria

Power to acquire and maintain, Power to provide. Power to agree to maintain monuments and memorials, Power to contribute towards expenses of cemeteries

Bus shelters

Power to provide and maintain shelters

Bye-laws

Power to make bye-laws in regard to pleasure grounds, Cycle parks, Baths and washhouses, Open spaces and burial grounds, Mortuaries and post-mortem rooms

Clocks

Power to provide public clocks

Closed churchyards

Powers as to maintenance

Common pastures

Powers in relation to providing common pasture

Conference facilities

Power to provide and encourage the use of facilities

Community centres

Power to provide and equip buildings for use of clubs having athletic, social or recreational objectives

Crime prevention

Powers to install and maintain equipment and establish and maintain a scheme for detection or prevention of crime, Power to contribute to police services e.g. PCSOs, Duty on Parish Councils to consider crime reduction in every policy and action

Drainage

Power to deal with ponds and ditches

Dogs

Power to make a Dog Control Order, Power to take enforcement action, against those who commit an offence against a Dog Control Order

Entertainment and the arts

Provision of entertainment and support of the arts

Flyposting and Graffiti

Power to take enforcement action against those that flypost or graffiti

Gifts

Power to accept

Highways

Power to maintain footpaths and bridle-ways, Power to light roads and public places, Provision of litter bins, Powers to provide parking places for bicycles and motor-cycles, and other vehicles, Power to enter into agreement as to dedication and widening, Power to provide roadside seats and shelters, Consent of parish council required for ending maintenance of highway at public expense, or for stopping up or diversion of highway, Power to complain to highway authority as to unlawful stopping up or obstruction of highway or unlawful encroachment on roadside wastes, Power to provide traffic signs and other objects or devices warning of danger, Power to plant trees and lay out grass verges etc. and to maintain them

Investments

Power to participate in schemes of collective investment

Land

Power to acquire by agreement, to appropriate, to dispose of, Power to accept gifts of land

Litter

Provision of receptacles, Power to take enforcement action against those that litter

Lotteries

Powers to promote

Mortuaries and post mortem rooms

Powers to provide mortuaries and post mortem rooms

Open spaces

Power to acquire land and maintain

Parish documents

Powers to direct as to their custody

Telecommunications facilities

Power to pay public telecommunications operators any loss sustained providing telecommunication facilities

Public buildings and village hall

Power to provide buildings for public meetings and assemblies

Public conveniences

Power to provide

Sustainable communities

Able to be represented on a panel of representatives to be consulted on proposals that would contribute to sustainable communities

Town and country planning

Right to be notified of planning applications

Tourism

Power to encourage visitors and provide conference and other facilities

Traffic calming

Powers to contribute financially to traffic calming schemes

Transport

Powers in relation to car-sharing schemes, taxi fare concessions and information about transport, Powers to make grants for bus services

War memorials

Power to maintain, repair, protect and alter war memorials

Water supply

Power to utilise well, spring or stream and to provide facilities for obtaining water from them

Well-Being

Power to well-being of the area (for eligible councils)