What is a Parish Council?
A Parish Council is the most local branch of Local Government and usually represents just one town or locality. It can call itself a Town Council if it represents an urban area but it's powers are the same. (They are civil authorities and have nothing to do with the Church.)
Unlike District Councils, which are set up to have populations of about 100,000 each and are formed by patching communities together until the numbers match, a Parish Council is whatever size is right to cover its community. The smallest has population of fewer than 100, the largest in the region of 60,000 and what they do differs widely, according to the character and needs of their parishes.
Areas without parish councils lack the basic building blocks of democratic local government. They do not have a council which speaks for them alone without having to consider the demands of the area.
What do Parish Councils do?
Parish Councils have a wide range of powers to provide and manage local services, such as village halls, sports and recreation facilities, allotments, cemeteries and churchyards, commons, footpaths and public open spaces.
Parish Councils have the ability to grant-fund* local organisations for pump-priming, i.e. for self-sustaining purposes.
They can support local voluntary activities, stage local events and undertake initiatives such as transport and crime prevention. These powers are mostly discretionary, i.e. they can be used to as great or little extent as their community wishes. A small Parish Council may only run a village hall or manage a village green. A large Town Council may be running a leisure centre, playing fields, playgrounds, swimming pools, local halls, etc.
In what they do, Parish Councils reflect the community they serve.
Parish Councils - get your views heard
Parish Councils are consulted on many matters by other councils and agencies and can ensure that their community’s views are heard.
They have a statutory right to comment on all planning applications in their area and because they know the area better than most of the members of the District Council Planning Committee, these comments are listened to. They also have input into the District Plan, the blueprint that defines the District’s planning policy.
A Parish Council can communicate with such agencies as health authorities, the police, transport companies, gas, electricity and water companies, etc. It doesn’t have to consider issues from other areas when it makes a case. It speaks for you alone. And these agencies cannot dismiss a Parish Council’s views as unrepresentative as they might with those of an unelected group such as a resident’s association.
Councillors serve on local interest groups. They are school governors. They serve on the management teams of youth clubs and sports clubs, on County Council advisory bodies, on the Association of Local Councils. They are involved in representing their community just about everywhere.
You elect the Parish Council. It is the only elected council where the voters are likely to know many of the people they elect. It is equally likely that your parish councillor will know you personally and pay more heed to your comments than can a District or County councillor.
Parish Councils are subject to the same rules as the larger local authorities; their meetings are open to the public, their accounts are audited and are open to public inspection. And they are the only level of local governments that is required to hold a public meeting for all its electors once every year.
You do. The cost of running your Parish Council appears on your council tax bill alongside the costs of the other councils’ services. However, the net cost of having a Parish Council can be as low as zero because, if you do not have a Parish Council, the services it provides will have to be provided by the District Council. If you are parish, this shows up on your bill under Special Expenses. So, if your Parish Council is providing the services at the cost, it is costing its taxpayers no extra. And, of course, because a Parish Council is on site and has lower administration cost, it is likely to be much more cost efficient than a large authority, so your Parish run services may cost you less than they would in an unparished area.
What you don’t pay for is the councillors. Unlike District and County Councillors, Parish Councillors are not paid. Usually, being a councillor costs them money.
So what sort of services is Chorleywood Parish Council providing?
Chorleywood Parish Council manages Chorleywood Common’s 80 hectares of grassland and woodland, seven ponds, three village halls, three allotments, two cemeteries and a closed churchyard, a car park and the Parish’s footpaths.