Parish councils are the tier of local government closest to their electorate and best placed to serve local communities. They are local authorities created by statute and can only act where there is an express power or duty. Local councils remain outside the jurisdiction of the Local Government Ombudsman.
In law a local council is a single corporate body and decisions taken are the responsibility of the council as a whole. A council is responsible for the services it provides, it establishes policies and decides how money will be raised and spent for the whole community. As a corporate body, the council can work in partnership with other organisations in its area.
A council can comprise of individual councillors representing smaller communities (wards or different villages) all of which may have different interests and its duty is to serve them all. A council will always attempt to make balanced, informed decisions, where it has statutory powers and duties to act, based on the differing needs of the whole community.
When certain criteria are met parish councils are eligible to use the General Power of Competence. This power gives them the opportunity to do anything that individuals generally may do’ (Localism Act 2011 sections 1 -8, specifically s1(1))
Local councils have the power to raise money through the local council tax. This gives them a degree of autonomy and continuity which may not be available to other community organisations.
Council must hold at least 4 meetings a year, one of which must be the Annual Meeting of the Council
Town and Parish Councils are an essential part of the structure of local democracy and have a vital role in acting on behalf of the communities they represent.
- Give views, on behalf of the community, on planning applications and other proposals that affect the parish.
- Alert relevant authorities to problems that arise or work that needs to be undertaken.
- Help the other tiers of local government keep in touch with their local communities.
The Government introduced “Quality Status” in 2003. Quality Councils, tested for efficiency, good organisation and active involvement with their communities, could be given a greater say in how services are delivered in their area and the opportunity to take on some of the services currently provided by other tiers of local government.