Role of a Parish Council

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.