Parish Councils are the part of local government closest to the people. It is not a voluntary organisation, a charity or something to do with the church. They serve the smallest area and are responsible for the most local matters. Very importantly, Parish Councils can “precept” – raise a sum collected with the council tax each year to improve facilities and service for local people.
Parish Councils were first created under the Local Government Act 1894 and they are still being created. As Parish Councils were created in law, they can only act within the law by exercising those powers and functions, which have been conferred on them by Statute (ie Acts of Parliament).
The Council represents and serves the whole community. Most communities are made up of smaller communities, often with different interest; a Council’s duty is to serve them all. The Council balances the needs of different elements of all the community to get the best results. Frequently, Councils has the difficult task of deciding what the best result might be.
Parish Councils have a number of basic responsibilities in making the lives of local communities more comfortable, many of which are often taken for granted. Essentially these powers fall within three main categories; representing the whole electorate within the parish; delivering services to meet local needs; and striving to improve the quality of life in the parish.
The Parish Council is made up of a group of ordinary people, elected from the parish, who care about Halton with Aughton. We give some of our time and effort because we want be part of maintaining and improving the quality of life within the Parish. We also provide certain services and facilities including; managing the Allotments, Burial Ground, providing and maintaining Play Areas around the Parish and general maintenance e.g. grass cutting, bus shelters, Castle Hill and the Sports Field at The Centre.
Councillors represent their local area and everyone who lives there. To become a councillor a person must be over 21 years of age and fulfil a number of requirements. Having taken office, a councillor signs a Declaration of Acceptance of Office and abides by the council’s adopted Code of Conduct.
They must complete and keep up dated a Register of Interests and declare any interests in matters brought before the Council prior to debate.
Councillors have a responsibility to attend meetings and should advise the Clerk of the reason if unable to for approval by the council. At meetings Councillors should suggest ideas, engage in constructive debate and then vote on business.
Councillors may be appointed to a position of office but they cannot be paid. They may represent the Council in legal proceedings, if appointed, carry out regulatory duties and represent the Council on outside organisations.
Every Parish Council has a Clerk, often referred to as the Parish Clerk. The common understanding is that the Clerk organises meetings, takes minutes and send letters. Over the years as the role and responsibilities of Parish Councils have changed, so has the role and responsibilities of the Clerk.
The Clerk’s overall responsibility is to carry out the policy decisions of the Council. They have overall responsibility for the administration and procedural aspects of the Council. The Clerk is responsible for seeing the business of the Council runs smoothly and efficiently and is conducted in accordance with the law. Normally, they are also responsible for ensuring the Council’s financial transactions are properly authorised and recorded. Most Clerks, as sole Council employees, also have to perform the clerical tasks without which the Council’s business cannot properly be carried out.
Powers to provide facilities
Parish councils have powers to provide some facilities themselves, or they can contribute towards their provision by others. There are large variations in the services provided by parishes, but they can include the following:
- Support and encouragement of arts and crafts
- Provision of village halls
- Provision and maintenance of recreation grounds, parks, children’s play areas, playing fields and swimming baths
- Provision and maintenance of cemeteries and crematoria
- Maintenance of closed churchyards
- Cleaning and drainage of ponds, watercourses and ditches
- Control of litter
- Provision and maintenance of public toilets
- Creation and maintenance of footpaths and bridleways
- Provision of cycle and motorcycle parking
- Acquisition and maintenance of rights of way
- Provision and maintenance of public clocks
- Maintenance of war memorials
- Encouragement of tourism
They may also provide the following, subject to the consent of the county council or unitary authority of the area in which they lie:
- Bus shelters
- Signposting of footpaths
- Lighting of footpaths
- Off-street car parks
- Provision, maintenance and protection of roadside verges
Parish councils must be notified by the district or county council of:
- All planning applications in their areas
- Intention to provide a burial ground in the parish
- Proposals to carry out sewerage works
- Footpath and bridleway (more generally, ‘rights of way’) surveys
- Intention to make byelaws in relation to hackney carriages, music and dancing, promenades, sea shore and street naming
In some cases parish councils exercise the following powers:
- Creation of a neighbourhood plan
- Guardianship of common land
- Withholding of consent to stop up unclassified highways and footpaths
- Consultation on appointment of governors of primary schools
- Appointing trustees of local charities