Parish Councils are elected bodies, with discretionary powers and rights laid down by Parliament to represent their communities and provide services for them. Parish councils are the first tier of local government and the closest to the community they serve. All local authorities are constituted in the same way with councillors elected by the local government electorate and a chairman, who must be one of them.
A parish council must act within the law. It can only spend, raise, or use money if it has a statutory power to do so, otherwise, it acts ultra vires (beyond its powers).
Local councils have a wide range of powers under different acts of Parliament. Most of these powers are discretionary, i.e. the Council may do something, rather than it must do something. The exercise of these powers may be subject to various consents, from, for example, the owner of land or another public body such as the highways authority.
Almost all parish council powers are concurrent with those of the district council, i.e. the power may be exercised by either the parish council or the district council.
A parish council has the right to raise money by precept (a mandatory demand) on the district council. The precept required by the parish council is then collected by the district council as part of the council tax levied on taxpayers in that parish.
Parish councils act as a sounding board for local opinion and have important rights of consultation. The county and district councils are obliged by law to consult the parish council on certain matters affecting the parish.
At a local level, how the parish council exercises its powers and functions is governed by the council’s Standing Orders, Financial Regulations and Code of Conduct.
BAGNALL PARISH COUNCIL OPERATION
Bagnall Parish Council consists of 7 members, and a Clerk (the latter encompasses the roles of Proper Officer and Responsible Financial Officer, amongst others). The Clerk is not a member of the council but an employee. Members are not paid, they are volunteers freely giving their time undertaking roles to minimise any expenditure.
Councillors usually meet once a month on the third Tuesday of the month at half-past seven in the evening (except for the months of August and December). Currently, they meet in the Village Hall.
Councillors cannot discuss anything that the public has not been given notice about. That notice is in the form of a detailed agenda posted on the parish noticeboard and on this website with three clear days (excluding Sundays) from publication to the meeting. Additionally, they cannot decide anything or meet as a group between meetings. All business must be transacted at meetings unless the council has asked someone to act on its behalf.
The meetings are in public and there is a section at the start of the meeting when the public can raise any issues they wish. Because of the above notice having to be given, the council can only agree to discuss the issue at the next meeting or explain previous decisions that have been made about the matter. If you have an issue that you wish to be raised it is much better to write in with your concern so that it can be included on the agenda. Members of the public cannot speak during the meeting unless the chairman asks the council to suspend business to allow someone to speak if s/he feels that clarity can be gained over a matter.
Sometimes the council will create committees to proceed with certain projects. The council will appoint people to these committees. It is rare for a committee to have executive powers and so they must report back to the council with recommendations of what to do and the council makes that decision.
There are specific documents that explain how a councillor behaves when undertaking council business and when s/he must declare an interest in a matter so that the public can be sure that business is being conducted fairly and free from personal bias. These rules are far more restrictive and rigorous than those an MP must abide by.