Here’s what you need to know about Parishes and Parish Councils.
What is a Parish?
There are two types of parishes whose boundaries do not always coincide. These are:
- a) Ecclesiastical parishes centred on an Anglican church with a parochial church council, and
- b) the Civil Parishes, which are part of local administration.
A civil parish is an independent local democratic unit for villages, smaller towns and suburbs of urban areas. Each parish has a Parish (or Town) Meeting, and where the electorate exceeds 200, have a Parish or Town council.
The Parish Council
The Parish council is a small local authority. Alverdiscott and Huntshaw is a relatively small Parish Council in terms of the population it represents. Its councillors are elected every four years . Vacancies occurring between elections are filled by by-election (if requested) or co-option.
Each year the councillors choose a chairman. There is also a vice-chairman and a clerk, who is the Proper Officer and the Responsible Finance Officer of the council.
Parish Councils have a number of formal powers. Locally we provide money for the Local Rag, Village Halls and maintenance of the churchyards at Alverdiscott and Huntshaw. Parish. Councils have the power to improve the quality of community life by spending sums of money on things which, in their opinion, are in the interests of the parish or those living there.
Councils are also the focal point for local consultation on matters such as planning applications and District Council strategic planning. The parish councillors know the area and can represent its views to other authorities such as District and County Councils. They are entitled to be consulted on planning applications and are often consulted on things like schools and roads. They put the parish’s case at public enquiries.
How much do they cost?
Parish councils are the most approachable and cheapest kind of local authority. Their funds are a tiny part of the council tax. Councillors are not paid. The Parish Clerk receives a small salary. They get no general government grant, and so have every incentive to be economical. The accounts are strictly audited every year by an internal auditor and the Audit Commission. You can see how much your Parish costs by looking at your Council Tax Bill. In 2010/2011 for a band D house the Parish Precept for Alverdiscott and Huntshaw is £19.66 for the year. This is out of a total of £1507.36.
Who controls the Parish Council?
You do! You can elect Council members every four years should there be enough candidates and you are entitled to go to the annual parish meeting and say what you think. Members of the public are also welcome to sit in on Parish Council meetings, and participate when there is a public session.
Parish Council Meetings
The Alverdiscott and Huntshaw Parish Council has meetings which alternate between Alverdiscott and Huntshaw parish halls. The meetings are usually attended by both District Councillors and a County Councillor. By attending these meetings they find out first hand what local issues are and can often help to resolve issues and provide immediate, useful advice.
Occasionally parish council meetings will have guest attendees and we regularly have updates from the local police. If there are any issues that are felt to need the attendance of other individuals we can ask them to attend.
Public participation at parish council meetings is encouraged. Time is allocated in the meeting agendas for members of the public to have their say. Each contributor is limited to 3 minutes which is generally more than enough time. But if you have any specific questions that you would like to be addressed at a parish council meeting it’s recommended that you contact the parish clerk in advance.
The Alverdiscott and Huntshaw Parish Council provides advice and consultation for the local planning authority (LPA), Torridge District Council, about planning applications in the area. Whilst the Parish Council does not have the power to approve or refuse planning permission its opinions and recommendations form an important part of the ultimate decision making process used by Torridge District Council. The views, opinions and insight provided by local people, regarding proposed planning applications, are recognised as extremely valuable in the decision making process.