Sometimes Parishioners ask me – What does the Parish Council do? It could well take me some 20 pages or more to explain in detail what we do and what our legal obligations are – the following is a short summary which I hope you find of interest.
Firstly the Local Government Act of 2000 established a Code of Conduct which all councillors must undertake to observe. Breach of this Code can, in extreme cases, lead to suspension or disqualification from membership of the council. A Standards Board was established to police the conduct of councillors and many thousands of complaints are made against councillors each year. In reality over 90% of these complaints are dismissed as not worthy of further investigation and are usually referred to the Board as a means of settling a personal grudge.
Other legislation recently introduced included the Freedom of Information Act, new Accounts and Audit Regulations – all of which have greatly increased the work load on Parish Councillors and their Clerks.
Parish Councils are some of the great survivors among our governmental institutions. They were the only councils not abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 and have now been in existence for over 110 years. They are considered to be an admirable example of the benefits to our governmental of local decision making by elected representatives of the people.
A Parish Council must meet at least four times a year, in our case we meet six times each year. All meetings are normally open to members of the public who have their chance to voice their opinions and put questions to the council during the Diplomatic Ten Minutes which starts off each meeting – otherwise silence from the public is the rule. Meetings must not be held on licensed premises – not a problem in Good Easter!
Convening notices and Agendas are published by the Clerk giving at least 3 days clear notice. In Good Easter these are put on the Parish Council Notice Board along with the minutes of previous meetings after approval.
Parish Councils are not big spenders, our own Precept is below £5000 a year with the largest amounts going to grass cutting, administration and insurance along with audit fees. After these payments we are left with a figure below £1000 to meet other obligations such as the maintenance of the churchyard. At the end of each financial year our accounts go through 2 audit procedures before they are legally approved.
Items which are important to our village and which are discussed are – Byeways, all planning applications, cleanliness of our lanes, the Parish Design Statement, the Village Hall and Sportsfield, Broadband development and any apparent nuisances caused by rubbish dumping, sewerage smells, misuse of the playing field – in fact the list is endless.
Parish Councils may well be at the bottom of our governmental system but we exist to ensure that the local area is looked after for the benefit of all residents. We are unpaid and give of our time freely to improve the village and the facilities, no expenses are claimed by any member.
Why not come along to a meeting and learn more?
Alan Hall MBE – Chairman Good Easter Parish Council.