What is a Parish Council?
A parish council is a local authority that makes decisions on behalf of the people in the parish and has an overall responsibility for the well-being of its local community.
It is the level of government closest to the community, with the district authority next above it in the hierarchy. As the authority closest to the people, parish councils are invariably the first place people will go with concerns or ideas. For this reason, they are a vital part of any community.
Parish Council 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
Why become a Parish Councillor?
If you live in a community where something ‘big’ has happened, you’ll know that when people in the community need support and guidance, it is sometimes the parish council that is turned to.
By becoming a parish councillor, you become someone your community will look to for help, guidance and support: a community leader with the power to influence decisions for the benefit of the people you serve.
Seeing your community change for the better, as a result of decisions you have helped make, is something that can give you a sense of achievement and pride.
What decisions do Parish Councils make?
Parish councils make all kinds of decisions on issues that affect the local community. Probably the most common topics that parish councils get involved with are planning matters (they are statutory consultees), crime prevention, helping local groups, managing open spaces and campaigning for and delivering better services and facilities.
It’s true to say that on their own, parish councils have limited powers to make decisions. But they do have the ability to negotiate with, and the power to influence, those other organisations that do make the final decisions (such as the district or county councils, health authorities, police etc).
In this respect parish councils are extremely powerful. The organisations that make the final decisions know that a parish council gives the best reflection of how a community feels about something, and its views will be taken seriously.
How much time does it take up?
Our council meets once a month for the council meeting, to which members of the public are also invited. Meetings usually last two hours, depending on the agenda. In addition to this, much of the work is done through emails including discussing planning applications and progressing local projects. Occasionally, an additional meeting may be convened when a decision is needed on a particular urgent issue.
How long does a parish councillor serve for?
Once elected, parish councillors sit on the council for a period of four years until the next election, unless they resign beforehand.
Am I eligible to be a Parish Councillor?
To serve as a Parish Councillor you have to be:
- a British subject, a citizen of the Commonwealth or an eligible citizen of the European Union
- over 18 years of age.
- registered to vote in the area or have lived, worked, or owned property there for at least 12 months before an election.
You cannot stand for election if 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).
- Are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order.
- Have been sentenced to prison for three months or more (including suspended sentences) during the five years before election day.
- Have been convicted of a corrupt or illegal practice by an election court.
- Are subject to any relevant notification requirements, or a relevant order, in respect of a sexual offence.
What powers do parish councils have?
They have a wide range of powers which essentially related to local matters, such as looking after community buildings, open space, allotments, play areas, street lighting, bus shelters, car parks and much more. The council also has the power to raise money through taxation, the precept. The precept is the parish council’s share of the council tax. The precept demand goes to the billing authority, the district council, which collects the tax for the parish council.
Don’t take our word for it!
The best way to find out what it’s like to be a parish councillor is to talk to someone who’s doing it now.
Come along to a parish council meeting or speak to one of our councillors and find out what they think of the job.