What is a Parish Council?
A Parish Council is a democratically elected body established by legislation. It is the first tier of local government and has a range of statutory powers and duties and following the Localism Act 2011 the Parish Council has more flexibility to make a difference to its community – however small. Parish Councils have a statutory power to precept (tax) the local electors in the area to finance activities following decisions made by the Parish Council.
A Parish Council does not have statutory responsibility for services such as waste collection, street parking, traffic regulation, planning, licencing and education – these responsibilities lie with the unitary authority, but the Parish Council are consulted when changes to services are proposed, or for planning applications affecting the village.
What is the role of a Parish Councillor?
A Parish Councillor is the holder of a public office, not a volunteer (although the role is unpaid). A Councillor does not have any authority to make decisions about Parish Council business on his/her own. The main job of a Parish Councillor is to actively participate in the collective decision making processes of his/her council. A Councillor’s normal term of office, when elected by a general ballot is for four years. Anyone over the age of 18 who is a citizen of the UK, lives in the Parish or works in the Parish, or lives/works within 3 miles of the Parish may put themselves forward to be a candidate. Occasionally, vacancies will arise during the 4 year period and subject to various statutory notices, consultations and periods of time, these can be filled by co-option. This process is known as Casual Vacancy. Kislingbury Parish Council has 9 councillors.
What Commitment is required of a Parish Councillor?
A Parish Councillor is required to attend each of the monthly meetings of the Parish Council – held on the third Tuesday of every month, usually in the Village Hall starting at 7.30 p.m and usually last about 2 hours. They are expected to attend at the meeting having read the agenda and any accompanying papers which are circulated approximately 1 week in advance of the meeting. They are also expected to participate in the debates and decision making processes.
Kislingbury Parish Council now operates a ‘portfolio’ system where individual councillors report to the Parish Council as a whole on areas that they have agreed to take responsibility. From time to time the Parish Council sets up a working group to help the council respond to a particular issue. Individual councillors can opt to be selected to join any that hold a particular interest, or for which they have a particular skill set which would aid the Parish Council. There are other events held throughout the year, often out of the Parish, to which councillors will be invited. These include meetings with the Police and Crime Commissioner, Emergency Services and West Northamptonshire Council. Attendance at these events is not mandatory, but representation of the Parish Council at these occasions is an important ambassadorial role.
What Qualifications do I need to become a Councillor?
Apart from the residence and age qualifications referred to above – you do not need any formal qualifications. Each new Councillor will be requested to attend a training course for new Councillors, which is held online. They should be computer literate and able to communicate by email. Otherwise all that is required is a genuine interest in what happens in the village – to retain its character and its facilities, but at the same time to be part of the process of planning for the future. It is really important that the Parish Council has a diverse group of people to ensure that we represent the village.