What is a Parish?
There are two sorts of parishes whose boundaries do not always coincide. These are:
- Ecclesiastical Parishes centered on an Anglican church with a parochial church council, and
- Civil Parishes, which are part of local administration
Some Civil Parishes are called Towns. Ecclesiastic Parishes no longer play a role in local government. The boundaries of Ecclesiastic and Civil parishes may be the same or they may be different.
What is the Civil Parish?
A civil parish is an independent local democratic unit for villages ,for the smaller towns, and for the suburbs of the main urban areas. Each parish has a Parish (or Town) Meeting consisting of all its local government electors and most (where the electorate exceeds 200) have a Parish or Town Council. Over 13 million people in England live in such parishes.
What is the Parish Council?
The council is a small local authority. Its Councillors are elected for four years at a time in the same way as for other councils. The usual election years are 1999, 2003, 2007 etc. but some councils will have elections in 1997, 2001 etc. or 1998, 2002 etc. Bye-elections may be held to fill vacancies occurring between elections. The council is the corporation of its village or town. Each year the Councillors choose a chairman from amongst their number.
What Powers have Parish Councils to do things for their areas?
Parish councils have a number of formal powers. Many provide allotments, look after playing fields, village greens and leisure facilities such as swimming pools. They have a hand in communications by maintaining or guarding such things as rights of way, bus shelters and public seats: smaller scale street lighting. An important matter in which they are concerned is the provision of village halls and meeting places.
How do they do undertake these responsibilities?
The parish council can do these things by actually providing them itself, or by helping someone else (such as a volunteer or a charity) financially to do them. Parish councils are often dependent on voluntary effort for a number of services.
What else do they do?
Plenty of things. Some provide village guides or leaflets to new-comers, or help the Meals on Wheels service, or a local bus service. They make village surveys. Many provide car or cycle parks. Others provide public conveniences, litter bins and seats, and can prosecute noise-makers or litter bugs. Many appoint charitable trustees and school managers. Very often the local cemetery is managed by the Parish Council. They have the power to improve the quality of community life by spending sums of money on things which, in their opinion, are in the interests of the parish or its inhabitants, and many kinds of activities are aided in this way.
How much do they cost?
Parish councils are the most un-bureaucratic and the cheapest kind of local authority in existence. Their funds are a tiny part of the council tax: they get no general government grant: so they have every incentive to keep expenditures low and economical. Parish Councils can apply for grants from government and charitable institutions to carry out improvements and developments in the Parish they serve.
What else is important to know about Parish Councils?
Parish councils have lately become more important because District councils have become larger and therefore more remote. The parish Councillors know the village and can (and increasingly often do) represent its views to other authorities like the District Council, the County Council Health Authorities, providers of transport services, and to Ministries. They are entitled to be consulted on planning applications and are often consulted on such things as schools and roads. They put the parish's case at public inquiries.
Who controls the Parish Council?
You elect its members every four years and you are entitled to go to the annual parish meeting and say what you think. The accounts are strictly audited every year.
Parish and town boundaries are reviewed by the Local Government Commission; the aim is to make existing parish and town boundaries correspond better to the social communities in which people live and to create new councils for areas which have not had them before