Local councils in County Durham are split into two categories.
- Parish and town councils and
- Parish Meetings
Parish and Town Councils
Parish and town councils must, by law hold at least four meetings a year, one of which must be its Annual Meeting. Most hold ten and have a recess in the summer and at Christmas.
Parish and town councils must also hold an Annual Meeting of their parish sometime between the 1 March and 1 June each year. All representatives from Community Groups etc are invited to attend this meetings for example, community and resident associations, sporting clubs, scout and guide groups etc.
The Annual Parish meeting gives all community groups and, importantly, the parish council, the opportunity to inform their community as to what is available in their area and update residents of their activities for the previous and forthcoming year. This meeting is the ideal meeting for parish councils to disseminate details of their Annual Report.
During the month of May every parish and town council must meet for its Annual Meeting, this can be one of the four meetings required by law. It is at this meeting that parish councils choose their Chairman (or Mayor in the case of a town council) for the forthcoming year. Parish council representatives to other bodies are also selected at this meeting.
Some parish and town councils operate a Committee system, for example some create Planning, Finance, Personnel,committees etc. These committees normally consist of a selected number of councillors and operate under the auspices of the full council.
Depending on the councils determination these committees can either operate with full executive, decision making powers without reference back to the full council or the council can decide that the committee can meet, make decisions which then need reporting to full council for approval. This decision rests with the parish council and should be reflected in their Standing Orders.
Decisions such as ratifying the Councils Annual Budget and precept request cannot be ratified by a committee as full council approval is always required.
Parish meetings are slightly different to parish councils. The first difference is that the chairman of a parish meeting is not elected through an election process as is the case with parish councillors. They also have a vastly reduced number of powers compared to a parish council.
There are 22 parish meetings in County Durham and these are required to meet once between the 1 March and the 1 June inclusive. They must also must meet on one other occasion throughout the year.
Parish meetings are normally called by the Chairman of the meeting who is community representative selected from within their community to discuss matters of importance to their communities.
Parish meetings usually have very small electorates. The smallest in County Durham has ten electors.