Information on Parish & Town Councils
The Parish Council is a corporate body, a legal entity separate from that of its members. Its decisions are the responsibility of the whole body. The council has been granted powers by Parliament including the important authority to raise money through the precept and a range of powers to spend public money. The Parish Council is an elected body in the first tier of local government. Other tiers, known as principal councils or authorities, ours is Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and have many legal duties to deliver services such as education, housing, town and country planning, transport, environmental health and social services.
Parish and town councils are the foundation of local government. They are the level of government closest to the people and have a vital role to play in improving local quality of life. They can influence decisions that affect local people, help bring life to local communities and offer a way of making sure services meet the needs of residents.
Powers and Responsibilities of
Parish and Town Councils
The Local Government Act, 1972, is the one most often referred to when describing the modern powers and responsibilities of Parish Councils but it is augmented by many earlier and later Acts,
Parish Councils may only spend public money on projects or actions for which they have a Statutory Power.
Parish Councils are empowered to raise money for their activities through a tax (the “precept”) on the village residents which is collected on their behalf by the District Council (City of Wakefield), as an addition to the Council Tax. This is paid to the Parish Council in two equal instalments.
Borrowing is allowed, subject to strict regulation by the Secretary of State and grants may be obtained for specific purposes from various sources. Income can be obtained from property lettings
Some Statutory Powers of
Parish and Town Councils
Local Government Act 1972
s.101 Assume a function delegated by another authority
s.111 Ensure effective discharge of council functions
s.112 Employ someone to carry out council functions
s.124 Buy or lease land for the community
s.142 Publicise council and local authority functions
s.144 Encourage tourism
s.145 Provide entertainment
s.150 Raise money by precept (Council Tax)
s.175 Train councillors
s.214 Assume responsibility for a closed churchyard
s.222 Make representation at public enquiries
s.226 Acquire historical records
Sch.13 Borrow money
Sch.16 para 20 Comment upon planning applications
Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953
s.4 Provide bus shelters
Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976
s.19 Provide or support recreational facilities
Open Spaces Act 1906
s.9 Acquire and manage any open space including valuable habitats.
s.10 Administer open space held in trust
Provide lighting for any open space
Commons Act 1899
s.5 Manage common land
Public Health Act 1875
s.164 (see also LGA, 1972 sch.14 para 27) Acquire and manage land for a village green
Provide parks, pleasure grounds, public walks
Make bylaws to prevent dog fouling or to ban dogs
Public Health Act 1961
s.54 Provide a boating lake
Public Health Act 1936
s.87 Maintain public toilets
s.125 Use a local water course to obtain water
s.260 Maintain a local water course
The Countryside Act 1958
s.27 Erect signs for a right of way
Highways Act 1980
s.30 Create a right of way
s.43 Maintain a right of way
s.96 Plant verges with trees shrubs and bulbs (with Highways Authority consent)
Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984
s.57 Take action to relieve traffic congestion
Provide Parking facilities
Parish Councils Act 1957
s.1 Provide roadside seats (with Highways Authority consent)
s.3 (see also LGA 1972 Sch14, para 34) Provide lighting for footways and public places
Litter Act 1983
s.5 Provide litter bins
Smallholding and allotments Act 1908
s.26 Provide allotments
s.34 Acquire land for common pasture
Local Government (Records) Act 1962
s.1 Make community records available to the public
s.2 Purchase records of local interest
s.4 Support local archives
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949
s.16 Make agreement with English Nature to manage council-owned land as nature reserve.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981
s.39 Local authorities make management agreements with landowners
Environmental Protection Act 1990 and Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991
Must keep own land free of litter and dog faeces
There are many other Acts and Statutes which govern the activities of Parish Councils and these are being added to every few months and advice is regularly received from the Yorkshire Local Councils’ Association (YLCA) and the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC). Training and attendance at various conferences are now considered essential for both Town Councillors and Staff.
Councillors’ conduct and interests
Adoption of the New Codes of Conduct
Notice is hereby given that Upton and North Elmsall Parish Council adopted a new Code of Conduct on 13th June 2012 to meet the requirements of the Localism Act 2011 which came into force on 1 July 2012.
All Councillors are required to abide by a Code of Conduct adopted by the Council which sets out the standards of conduct expected of members of the Council. The Code of Conduct applies to all Councillors and to co-opted members of Committees.
Protocol on Member/Officer Relations
The Nolan Committee’s Report on Standards of Conduct in Local Government recommended that every Council should adopt a formal protocol setting out guidance for appropriate relationships between Councillors and Officers. The Protocol adopted by the Council forms part of the Council’s Constitution.
There seven Nolan principles apply to the conduct of people in public life. They are:
- Selflessness: you should act in the public interest
- Integrity: you should not put yourself under any obligations to others, allow them improperly to influence you or seek benefit for yourself, family, friends or close associates
- Objectivity: you should act impartially, fairly and on merit
- Accountability: you should be prepared to submit to public scrutiny necessary to ensure accountability
- Openness: you should be open and transparent in your actions and decisions unless there are clear and lawful reasons for non-disclosure
- Honesty: you should always be truthful
- Leadership: as a councillor, you should promote, support and exhibit high standards of conduct and be willing to challenge poor behaviour.
THE ROLE OF THE PARISH COUNCIL CLERK
The Clerk to the Council is the Proper Officer of the Council and as such is under a statutory duty to carry out all the functions, and in particular to serve or issue all the notifications required by law of a local Authority’s Proper Officer.
The Parish Clerk works for and with the Council to action its decisions The Clerk is responsible for ensuring that the instructions of the Council in connection with its function as a Local Authority are carried out.
The Clerk is expected to advise the Council on, and assist in the formation of, overall policies to be followed in respect of the Authority’s activities and in particular to produce all the information required for making effective decisions and to implement constructively all decisions.
The Clerk must recognise that the Council is responsible for all decisions and that she takes instructions from the Council as a body. The Clerk is not answerable to any individual Councillor – not even the Chairman.
The Council must be confident that the Clerk is, at all times, independent, objective and professional.
Proper Officer is a title used in statute. It refers to the appropriate officer for the relevant function. In town and parish councils, the Proper Officer is normally the Clerk. In financial matters, the Proper Officer is known as the Responsible Financial Officer.
The Clerk is the Responsible Financial Officer and responsible for all financial records of the Council and the careful administration of its finances.
THE ROLE OF THE PARISH COUNCIL
The role of the Parish Council is to represent the interests of the whole community. It is a part of local government supporting the democratic process. Local Councils provide a focus for the community to identify concerns and projects, and endeavour to solve them locally themselves.
The Parish Council is a corporate body, and a legal entity, separate from that of its Members, and is accountable to the local community.
Its decisions are the responsibility of the whole body and are made collectively and by majority. The Parish Council has been granted powers by Parliament including the authority to raise money through taxation – the precept, and a range of powers to spend public money.
A Parish Council is an elected public body in the first tier of local government and Councillors vote as member of the Parish Council. Elections take place every 4 years. Other tiers, known as principal councils or authorities, have many legal duties to deliver services such as education, housing, town and country planning, transport, environmental health and social services. Parish Councils have the legal power to take action, but they have very few duties and greater freedom to choose what action to take. They can play a vital part in representing the interests of the communities they serve and improving the quality of life and the local environment.
The Parish Council is an employer.
The Parish Council is a public body (the lowest tier of local Government) and Councillors vote as a member of the Parish Council.
There are 10 seats for the Parish of North Elmsall and 5 seats for the Parish of Upton.
ROLE OF PARISH COUNCILLORS
The main role of a Parish Councillor is to represent the views of all residents within the Parish and to listen to, and understand, the views and needs of different groups in the community (such as young and older people). As a Councillor, there is a responsibility to be well-informed, especially about diverse local views. Councillors cannot assume that they represent the interests of electors without consulting them.
Parish Councillors are elected representatives, not volunteers or employees, and serve for a 4-year term, unless co-opted or elected in a bye-election when they serve until the next election. They must apply the law and comply with the Code of Member Conduct.
Councillors contribute to the work of the Council by suggesting ideas, influencing policy, engaging in constructive debate and by responding to the needs and views of the community. Councillors comment on proposals to ensure the best outcome and vote to enable the Council to make decisions.
Individual Parish Councillors cannot make decisions on behalf of the Council, but they can actively lead and engage with local projects. Parish Councillors have no powers outside of the Council meeting.
Diversity is encouraged. Councillors from different backgrounds better represent the whole community and possess different enthusiasms, skills, attitudes and interests. Some Councillors work with ideas while others are very practical; some like accounts while others prefer reports. The Parish Council needs a wide range of skills to work as a team.
Occasionally there will be a conflict of interest requiring sensitive judgement, and the need to take difficult decisions in an open, honest and reasoned way. Councillors are also required to act in an ethical way and to declare an interest when necessary.
A Councillors main task is to bring local issues to the attention of the Council, participate in debate and help the Council to make decisions on behalf of the local community.
• As part of the Parish Council, Councillors may have responsibility for running local services such as public open spaces, play areas, village halls, allotments and potentially much more.
• Deciding how much to raise through the precept in order to deliver the Council’s services.
• Influencing and shaping the long-term development policy for the Parish, and as part of the planning process, commenting on planning applications in the Parish.
• Improving the quality of life and the environment in the local area.
• Working to identify issues which are important to the lives of the residents you represent.
• Working to bring about improvements through local projects, lobbying other service providers and working in partnership with other Parishes, local authorities and agencies.
• A Councillor agrees to attend all meetings (reasonably possible) that he or she is summoned to.
• Councillors together as a team are responsible for the financial decisions made and implemented.