Below is a list of questions that are likely to be asked by parishioners and new parish councillors.
- Becoming a Parish Councillor
- Am I eligible to be a Parish Councillor?
- Register of Interests
- What do Councillors do?
- How much time does it take up?
- More Information
- What is a Parish Council? (from County Durham)
- How does the public participate in a Parish Council Meeting?
- Under what circumstances can a Parish Council meet in private?
- What is the role of West Wratting Parish Council in planning applications?
- What is “The Precept” and how is it calculated?
How does the public participate in a Parish Council Meeting?
The arrangements for meetings and proceedings of Local Councils are set out in Part II of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act 1972, as supplemented by any standing orders adopted by a council.
In general, meetings of a Parish Council are not public meetings but members of the public have a statutory right to attend meetings of the council as observers. They have no legal right to speak unless the Parish Council Chairman authorizes them to do so. However, as part of its community engagement, Parish Council’s can set out a time for public participation at an agreed time when members of the public are invited to speak. Members of the public should not be involved in the decision-making of the Council. The Council should not make any instant decisions at the behest of members of the public on items that are not included in the agenda. As a matter of best practice the public forum will be kept separate from the debate of the councilors. If matters raised are not on the agenda for the meeting these can be used to form part of the agenda for a future meeting at the discretion of the Council. Members of the public are welcome to stay for the Council meeting after the public session as observers, but will not be able to join in the discussion unless invited to do so by the Chairman.
Under what circumstances can a Parish Council meet in private?
Members of the public may be excluded by a resolution of the meeting for specific items which need to be discussed in confidence. This is allowed under Section 1(2) of the Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960. The specific reasons permissible in this regard are listed in Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, but generally fall under the headings of staffing matters, tenders for contracts, and some legal issues.
Becoming a Parish Councillor
Town and Parish Councilors are the essence of local democracy and have a vital role in speaking and acting on behalf of the communities they represent. We try to promote a harmonious local environment. Seeing your community change for the better, as a result of decisions you have helped make, is something that can give you a sense of achievement and pride.
Parish Councilors are elected every four years alongside the District Council Elections. There are seven councilors on West Wratting Parish Council. Sometimes casual vacancies occur during the four year cycle and these can be filled, either by election or by co-option. (Co-option is used when an election is not called – you submit your name with other applicants to the Parish Council; they vote for their choice to fill the vacancy. See our policy on co-option)
No formal qualifications are required to be a Councillor but there are rules to satisfy if you are to submit your name – see ‘More Information’ section below. People of any political or religious persuasion are eligible to become a councilor, although their personal views should not extend into their parish council work. There is no deposit to pay to stand for election.
Training is available for councilors. If you do become a parish councillor you will have to sign up to the Code of Conduct and register your interests.
Am I eligible to be a Parish Councillor?
To stand for election on a parish council, you must:
- be a UK or commonwealth citizen, or;
- be a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, or;
- be a citizen of another Member state of the European Union;
- be a least 18 years old.
To be eligible to stand for an election for a particular parish, you must:
- be an elector of the parish, or;
- for the whole of the previous 12 months have occupied (as owner or tenant) land or other premises in the parish, or;
- during the previous 12 months have worked in the parish (as your principal or only place of work), or;
- for the whole of the previous 12 months lived in the parish or within three miles of the parish boundary.
Please see the Electoral Commission section in More Information below and also the West Wratting Parish Council’s co-option procedure.
Register of Interests
The Localism Act 2011 introduced new standards arrangements for councilors, including parish councilors. This HMG guide gives basic practical information to councilors about how to be open and transparent about their personal interests.
What do Councillors do?
Councillors are all required to attend the main Parish Council meetings, which occur on a Monday early in January, March, July, September, November and December. Councilors often participate in working groups and sub-committees that deal with specific areas of council business, e.g., planning applications. Working Groups may also have members of the public sitting on them. Councillors take collective decisions that form the policy of the council.
They understand local concerns, debate issues within council meetings and use their best judgement to make decisions. We are not paid, but there may be some payment of expenses incurred whilst on official business.
The role of a Councilor is not just confined to meetings – many are active in other community areas and bring that expertise and knowledge to the council meeting to benefit all. Councilors are known locally and are often asked for advice or help; it is their responsibility to seek an answer or solution through the council.
How much time does it take up?
Councils usually meet once every other month for the council meeting, to which members of the public are also invited. Meetings may last two or three hours, depending on the agenda set for the meeting to discuss. Some councils have committees to deal with specific subjects, such as environmental issues. In addition to the regular meetings, councillors are required to attend other meeting representing the council, for example acting as a representative on an outside body, community activities or helping develop a new project for the community. Such meetings won’t happen every day, so it’s not going to take over your life.
We recommend that all members, candidates and interested parties read the latest edition of the “Good Councillors Guide” from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).
“It Takes All Sorts” is a booklet highlighting the difference you can make by representing your community on your local council. It explains the role of local councils and local councillors and tells you how you can get involved. The Booklet