Make a Difference in Your Community
Carol sets out the responsibilites of a Parish Council to whet our appetite for the upcoming Parish Council elections
Make a Difference in Your Community -Become a Parish or Town Councillor
There are 10,000 community, parish and town councils in England and Wales, controlled by Acts of Parliament and they are responsible for the most local of matters. Importantly, they can "precept" - raising a sum collected with the council tax each year to improve facilities and services for local people.
Parish, town and community councils in England and Wales have a number of basic responsibilities in making the lives of local communities more comfortable, many of which are often taken for granted. Essentially these powers fall within three main categories: representing the whole electorate within the parish; delivering services to meet local needs; and striving to improve quality of life in the parish. Individual powers include traffic calming measures, local youth projects, tourism activities, leisure facilities, car parks, village greens, public lavatories, litter bins, Street lighting, Street cleaning, burial grounds, allotments, bus shelters, commons, opens spaces, footpaths, bridleways, and crime reduction measures. Community, parish and town councils can also comment on planning applications - they are statutory consultees and can be represented at public inquiries.
The Role of a Councillor
What is a councillor?
Councillor's are elected to represent on individual geographical unit on the council, known as a ward or mainly in smaller parishes - the entire parish or town council area. They are generally elected by the public every four years.
What do councillors do?
Councillors have three main components to their work:
Decision making - Through meetings and attending 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.
Monitoring - Councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.
Getting involved locally - As local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. These responsibilities and duties often depend on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available, and may include going to meetings of local organisations such as tenants' associations, and organisations affecting the wider community; taking up issues on behalf of members of the public, running surgeries for residents to bring up issues, and meeting with individual residents in their own homes.
How much time does it take up?
Quite often councillors say that their duties occupy them for about three hours a week. Obviously there are some councillors who spend more time than this - and some less, but in the main, being a community, parish and town councillor is on enjoyable way of contributing to your community, and helping to make it a better place to live and work.
Am I qualified?
Yes - most people are. However there are a few rules. You must be:
1 A British subject, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union;
2 On the 'relevant date' (i.e. the day on which you are nominated, or if there is a poll on the day of the election) be 18 years of age or over. Also:
1 Be a local government elector for the Council area for which you want to stand on the 'relevant date';
2 or have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the council area during the whole of the 12 months preceding that day;
3 or had your principal or only place of work in the council area during that same period;
4 or have resided in the council area during that 12 month period;
5 You can also satisfy the criteria to be elected if you have lived in the council area or within 4.8km of it for the whole of the 12 months preceding the 'relevant date,'
You cannot stand for election of:
1 You are the subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order;
2 You have, within five years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine;
3 You work for the Council you want to become a Councillor for (but you can work for other local authorities that represent the same area).
But I'm too young
Some parish councils also run youth councils, comprising a number of young people representing their local schools and colleges. They are granted their own political forum by having a space and a time to meet and discuss matters that affect them. These youth councils are in direct communication with their parish councils so they can also be involved in decision-making. If there is not a scheme, or a parish youth forum in your community, get together with friends and put a proposal to your local community, parish or town council.
Further in formation
Visiting your council is the best way to find out what happens there. Give the council a call and find out when its next public meeting happens
Stoke Ferry Parish Clerk