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What is a Parish Council?

What is a Parish Council?

Parish Councils were formed under the Local Government Act 1894 to take over local oversight of social welfare and civic duties in towns and villages. Before this date a variety of groups based around ecclesiastical (church) parishes had responsibility for these matters, in a system of local government that dated back to the feudal system of the 8th century.

A Parish Council should not be confused with a parochial church council (PCC) which is legally responsible for the financial affairs of the church parish and the maintenance of its assets, such as churches and church halls, and also acts as a focus for church affairs in the parish.

Parish Councils are statutory bodies and are the first tier of local government in England. They serve electorates ranging from small rural communities, towns and small cities; all are independently elected and raise a precept – a form of council tax – from the local community. Together, they can be identified as among the nation's most influential grouping of grassroots opinion-formers.

Parish Councils work towards improving community well being and providing better services at a local level. Through an extensive range of discretionary powers local councils provide and maintain a variety of important and visible local services. Their powers were recently strengthened by powers contained in the Localism Act including the extension of the General power of competence to eligible local councils.

A Parish Council's work falls into three categories:

 

1.   Representing the local community to outside bodies particularly the District and County Councils and – in Brockenhurst’s case - the New Forest National Park Authority

2.   Delivering services to meet local needs

3.   Striving to improve the quality of life in the community

 

A parish council collects its funding through a precept, or a charge which is collected through the council tax by – in Brockenhurst’s case – The New Forest District Council.

What does a parish councillor do?

The Parish Council makes decisions through its regular meetings with the elected Parish Councillors.  Parish Councillors are voluntary and give their time freely as community leaders to represent the views and aspirations of local people and as such they make a real difference to the community.  Brockenhurst Parish Council has 11 members who are elected every four years. 

Councillors have three main components to their work:

1.    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.

2.    Monitoring - councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.

3.    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 residents associations.
• Going to meetings of bodies affecting the wider community.
• Taking up issues on behalf of members of the public.
• Running a surgery for residents to bring up issues.
• Meeting with individual residents in their own homes.

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. By law, ordinary people are allowed to be present at most council business.

If you would like to help make a difference to Brockenhurst and become a Parish Councillor please contact the Parish Office.

 

 

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