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 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?
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.
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, helping local groups, managing open spaces and campaigning for and delivering better services and facilities.
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 the borough or unitary council, health authorities, police etc).
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?
The Parish Council usually meets once a month for the council meeting, to which members of the public are also invited. Meetings may last two or three hours, depending on the agenda set for the meeting to discuss.
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.
Applicants should note that Councillors are expected to attend regular meetings and any additional meetings as may be arranged, and to represent the electors of Bardsey in raising and discussing those issues of interest and concern on which the Parish Council is empowered to act.
What powers do parish councils have?
They have a wide range of powers which essentially relate to local matters, such as looking after open spaces, play areas, street lighting, bus shelters, and much more. 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, the district council, which collects the tax for the parish council.
The Parish Council has nine Councillors who stand for election every four years. The duties and functions of a parish council are varied.
The Council meets monthly and considers planning applications and any other matters referred to it by local residents and Leeds City Council. All meetings are open to the public and there is a forum at the end of the meeting at which 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 on this website. Residents can bring to the attention of the parish council anything that concerns them, either directly or though the clerk. If matters raised are not the responsibility of the council, the clerk can bring them to the attention of the proper authority.
Role of Councillors
Councillors have three main areas of work:
1. Decision-making: through attending meetings and committees with other elected members, councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented.
2. Monitoring: councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.
3. Getting involved locally: as local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. This often depends on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available.
The Role of the Chairman
The Chairman is in a position of authority, responsible for ensuring that effective and lawful decisions are taken at meetings of the Council. In law, the Council must appoint a Chairman – this is the first business of the May meeting each year – the Annual Meeting of the Council.
The Chairman should be consulted on the content of the agenda, but as the legal signatory, the Clerk has the final say. The Chairman works in partnership with the Clerk to make sure that the Council is properly informed for making lawful decisions during meetings.
The Chairman is responsible for involving all Councillors in discussion and ensuring that Councillors keep to the point. The Chairman summarises the debate and facilitates the resolving of clear decisions.
It is the Chairman’s responsibility to keep discussions moving so that the meeting is not too long. It is unfair and inefficient to ask people to concentrate for long periods.
The Chairman has a casting vote. The first vote is a personal one as an ordinary Councillor. If there is a tied vote, the Chairman (as Chairman) can have a second, or casting vote.
The Chairman is often the public face of the Council, and often speaks on behalf of the Council, but must remember to express the views of the Council and not personal views. If in doubt the Chairman refers to points agreed in the Council minutes. The Clerk should be able to give the Chairman clear guidance on the Councils corporate view.
By law the Chairman cannot make a formal decision on behalf of the Council. Occasionally this can put the onus on the Clerk to decide whether it is lawful to act on the Chairman’s advice.
Role of the 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 of a council’s Proper Officer, and in particular to serve or issue all the notifications required by law.
The Clerk is responsible for ensuring that the instructions of the Council in connection with its function as a parish council 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 council’s activities, and in particular, to produce all the information required for making effective decisions and to implement constructively all decisions.
The Clerk is the Responsible Financial Officer and accountable for all financial records of the Council and the proper administration of its finances.
The Clerk is accountable to the Council for the effective management of all its resources and will report to them as and when required.
The Clerk will understand the issues facing Parish Councils and the environment within which our Council operates, and will commit themselves and the Council to an ethos of public service.