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
- Civil Parishes, which are part of Local Government administration.
A civil parish is an independent local democratic unit for villages, smaller towns and suburbs of urban areas. Each parish has a Parish (or Town) Meeting, and where the electorate exceeds 200, have a Parish or Town council. The two types of parish is rather confusing at times. This is true in Brown Edge as the civil boundary changed to include old parts of Endon including Hill Top and the Breech Road area in 1984. Some parts of Norton Green mainly those on the Brown Edge side of the Trent are also still in the Church Ecclesiastical boundary.
The Parish Council
The Parish Council is a small local authority. Its councillors are elected for four years at a time. The last election in this parish was in May 2011. Vacancies occurring between elections are filled by bye-election (if requested) or co-option. The council is the corporation of its village or town.
Each year the councillors choose a chairman from amongst their number. There is also a vice-chairman,a clerk (which is a paid office) and the Responsible Finance Officer of the council.
How much do they cost?
Parish councils are the most unbureaucratic and cheapest kind of local authority in existence. Their funds are a tiny part of the council tax. They get no general government grant, and so have every incentive to be economical. The accounts are strictly audited every year by an internal auditor and the Audit Commission.
Who controls the Parish Council?
You do! You elect it’s members every four years and you are entitled to go to the annual parish meeting and say what you think. Members of the public are also welcome to sit in on the monthly council meetings, and participate when there is a public session.
Contrary to popular opinion Parish Councilors are not paid and are strictly controlled on what they can say, do or vote on. The code of conduct for Parish Councilors is available here Parish Council Governance Toolkit 09 (2).
Parish Councils have a number of formal powers. Many look after playing fields, play areas and village greens, They maintain and guard things such as rights of way, bus shelters, public seats, small scale street lighting, and often provide village halls and meeting places. The Parish council can do these things by actually providing them itself, or by helping someone else (such as a charity or volunteers) financially to do so. Parish councils 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 it’s inhabitants.
Councils are also the focal point for local consultation on matters such as planning applications and Borough Council strategic planning. The parish councillors know the village and can represent its views to other authorities such as District and County Councils. They are entitled to be consulted on planning applications and are often consulted on things like schools and roads. They put the parish’s case at public enquiries.
Parish Councils currently have a limited number of duties but they all impact directly on the community. The following are all under the remit of local councils: (taken from Government website)
- Provision of Allotments
- Provision of Burial Grounds,
- Cemeteries, Churchyards and Crematoria
- Bus Shelters
- Bye-laws – the power to make bye-laws concerning: baths and washhouses (swimming pools), Cycle parks, mortuaries and pleasure grounds
- Clocks – public clocks can be provided and must be maintained
- Community Centres, Conference Centres, Halls, Public Buildings
- Drainage – of ditches and ponds
- Entertainment and the Arts
- General Spending – parish councils can spend a limited amount of money on anything they deem of benefit to the community that is not covered by the other specific responsibilities described in this list
- Gifts – parish councils may accept gifts
- Highways – lighting, parking places, right to enter into discussions about new roads and road widening, consent of parish council required for diversion or discontinuation of highway, traffic signs and other notices, tree planting and verge maintenance
- Land – acquisition and sale of
- Legal proceedings – power to prosecute and defend any legal proceedings in the interests of the community, power to take part in any public enquiry
- Litter – provision of litter-bins and support for any anti-litter campaigns
- Planning – parish councils must be notified of, and display for residents, any planning applications for the area. Any comments submitted to the planning authority by the parish council must be taken into account
- Postal and Telecommunication Facilities – power to pay a public telecommunications operator any loss sustained in providing services in that area
- Public conveniences – provision and maintenance of public toilets
- Recreation – provision of recreation grounds, public walkways, pleasure grounds, open spaces, village greens, gymnasiums, playing fields, holiday camps and boating ponds
- Rights of Way – footpath and bridleway maintenance
- Seats (public)
- Signs – danger signs, place names and bus stops signs
- Tourism – financial contributions to any local tourist organisations allowed
- Traffic Calming
- War Memorials
- Water Supply – power to utilise stream, well or spring water and to provide facilities for general use