What is a Parish Council and why become a Parish Councillor for Publow with Pensford PC?
What is a Parish Council?
A parish council is a local authority that makes decisions on behalf of the people in the parish. It is the level government closest to the community, with the district authority (Bath & North East Somerset -B&NES) above it in the hierarchy. As it is 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.
Why become a Parish Councillor?
If you’ve never been to a parish council meeting before, you may be forgiven for thinking that parish councillors are a group of people who meet now and then in the village hall. If, however, something ‘big’ has happened near you, 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.
A Parish Council works best when its members represent the wide and varying views of the people in the Community. If you don’t feel that your views are currently represented then you should put yourself forward or identify a potential councillor that would represent your interests and nominate them.
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, managing open spaces (eg the Allotments) 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 B&NES, 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?
Councils usually meet once a month for the council meeting, to which members of the public are also invited. Meetings may about two hours, depending on the agenda set for the meeting to discuss. We also have committees and working groups to deal with specific subjects. In addition to the regular meetings, councillors are sometimes required to attend other meetings, representing the council. Such meetings won’t happen every day, so it’s not going to take over your life.
How long does a parish councillor serve for?
Once elected, parish councillors sit on the council for a maximum of four years. If they then want to stay in the post they can stand for re-election.
If you are filling a vacancy and co-opted onto the Parish Council, you will serve until the next scheduled election in 2023.
Am I eligible to be a Parish Councillor?
To stand for election on a parish council, you must:
• be a UK or commonwealth citizen, or;
• be a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, or;
• be a citizen of another Member state of the European Union;
• be a least 18 years old.
To be eligible to stand for an election for a particular parish, you must:
• be an elector of the parish, or;
• for the whole of the previous 12 months have occupied (as owner or tenant) land or other premises in the parish, or;
• during the previous 12 months have worked in the parish (as your principal or only place of work), or;
• for the whole of the previous 12 months lived in the parish or within three miles of the parish boundary.
Disqualifications for election and holding office as a councillor
A person is disqualified from being elected or being a councillor if you:
• hold any paid office or employment (other than the office of chairman, vice chairman or deputy chairman) to which you have been appointed by the council or any committee or sub-committee of the council, or by a paid officer of the council, or by any joint committee on which the council is represented; or
• are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order, an interim bankruptcy restrictions order, a debt relief restrictions order or an interim debt relief restrictions order under Schedule 4ZB of the Insolvency Act 1986;
• have within five years before the day of election or since election, been convicted of any offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least three months (whether suspended or not) without the option of a fine; or
• have been found guilty of corrupt or illegal practices, or was responsible for incurring unlawful expenditure and the court orders his disqualification.
If you do become a parish councillor you will have to sign up to the Code of Conduct.
If you meet the criteria listed above, you are eligible to stand for election or if you know someone that you think would make an excellent councillor you can nominate them. A vacancy may arise between elections due to the resignation of a Councillor. If a vacancy arises it will be advertised on the Parish noticeboard and you can apply by writing to the Clerk.
What powers do parish councils have?
They have a wide range of powers which essentially related to local matters. 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, B&NES, which collects the tax for the parish council.
Publow with Pensford Parish Council has 11 Councillors who stand for election every four years. The duties and functions of a parish council are many and varied.
The Council meets monthly on the second Monday of the month, and considers planning applications and any other matters referred to it by local residents, B&NES and by central government. All meetings are open to the public and during public submissions before the start of the meeting, members of the public can raise concerns and ask questions. There is also an annual meeting which all parishioners are invited to attend. All meetings are advertised on the council notice boards and website. Residents can bring to the attention of the parish council anything that concerns them, either directly or through the clerk. If matters raised are not the responsibility of the council, the clerk can bring them to the attention of the proper authority.
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. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.