What is a parish council?
There are over 9,250 parish and town councils representing around 16 million people across England. They cover many rural and urban areas. Over 16 million people live in communities served by these local councils, which is around 25% of the population, and about 80,000 councillors serve on these councils. It is calculated £1 billion is invested in these communities every year.
A parish council is the first tier of local government and the closest to the community it serves.
Its councillors are elected for four years at a time and an election is only held if there are more people wanting to be parish councillors than there are vacancies available. Vacancies occurring between elections are filled by a by-election (if requested) or co-option.
Each year the councillors choose a Chairman from amongst their number. There is also a Vice-Chairman and a paid Parish Clerk, who is the Proper Officer and the Responsible Financial Officer of the council. A Parish Council must hold an annual meeting during May and at least three other meetings during the year. Parish Councils must provide a set of accounts at the end of each financial year, audited by an internal and an external auditor.
Chestfield parish council chooses to meet bi-monthly – with resident ‘surgeries’ in all months except August. The Parish Clerk must publish details of the meetings in advance on the website and noticeboards. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meetings and actively encouraged to attend and express their views or concerns on Parish matters. An adjournment of the meeting is scheduled early in the meeting for members of the public to speak and or ask questions. Don’t miss out, have your say!!
At a Parish Council Meeting, Members of the Parish Council discuss, report, monitor and, most importantly, make decisions on matters concerning the village. As an elected body, the Parish Council is an “it” and, through its councillors, is responsible to the people it represents – that’s the local community.
Attending a council meeting is the best way to find out what it does. Have a look at the other pages on this website to see what the Parish Council has been dealing with recently.
Minutes are produced shortly afterwards and published as draft minutes until approved at the next Parish Council Meeting.
Meetings are held at the WI Hall, Chestfield Road, starting at 7.30pm.
In addition to being published on this web site, the Agendas are always posted on the village notice boards located at Chestfield Medical Centre, near Maydowns Road entrance, the WI Hall, the Play Park, Chestfield Road and the noticeboard in Birkdale Close.
The Parish Council has the power to improve the quality of community life by spending money on things which, in their opinion, are in the interests of the parish or its inhabitants.
Chestfield Parish Council is also the focal point for local consultation on matters such as planning applications, district and county council strategic planning, schools and roads. On all these issues the parish councillors represent the parish’s views to the city and county authorities and agencies such as the environment agency and water companies.
Much of the Parish Council’s time is spent on planning issues. Canterbury City Council is the local planning authority and consults Chestfield parish council as a statutory consultee on any planning applications that might have an impact on the parish.
During the years to 2010 the ‘Localism’ agenda saw the role of the Parish, Village and Town Councils is becoming more important. In 2010, the new Coalition Government launched the ‘Big Society’, which is aimed at local communities taking a stronger role in their community and making decisions It is within this framework that Parish, Village and Town Councils will start to agree what services are needed and wanted.
During this period our Parish Council is more and more being called collectively ‘Local Councils’ with the Districts, Boroughs and the County Councils being referred to as ‘Principal Authorities’.
If after exploring these web pages you want to find out more about the Parish Council or are interested in becoming a Parish Councillor contact the Parish Clerk
What services can it provide?
A parish or town council has an overall responsibility for the well-being of its local community. Its work falls into three main categories:
· representing the local community
· delivering services to meet local needs
· striving to improve quality of life in the parish
A Parish Council might provide and/or maintain some of the following services:
community transport schemes
crime reduction measures
Where does the parish council get its money from?
Each year a sum of money called a ‘precept’ is collected through your council tax. This money is used by the parish council to improve facilities and services for local people and run the Council. Parish councils can also apply for grants and loans.
What do parish councillors do?
Councillors have three main areas of work:
· Decision-making: through attending meetings and 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;
· Monitoring: councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working;
· Getting involved locally: as local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their parishioners and local organisations. This often depends on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available.
The day-to-day work of a councillor may include:
going to meetings of local organisations
going to meetings of bodies that affect the wider community, such as the police, the Highways Authority, schools and colleges
bringing parishioners concerns to the attention of the council
Could I be a parish councillor?
As a councillor you can become a voice for your community and affect real change. It helps if you’re a “people person” who enjoys talking to other residents but, more importantly, you need to have the concerns and best interests of the parish as a whole at heart. Councillors are community leaders and should represent the aspirations of the public that they serve.
Parish Councils are the most local part of our democratic system and are closest to the public. Why don’t you stand for your local parish council and see what difference you can make to your local community?
How much time does it take up & when?
On average, around six hours a week. Obviously there are some councillors who spend more time than this – and some less, but in the main, being a parish councillor is an enjoyable way of contributing to your community and helping to make it a better place to live and work. Council meetings are always held in the evening – as are most meetings of the other groups which councillors attend on the Council’s behalf.
Talking and listening to your fellow parishioners can be done at any time but you must be able to spend two to three hours once a month on a Monday evening attending the Council meeting.
Am I qualified?
Most people are. However there are a few basic rules. You have to be:
· a British citizen, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union, and
· 18 years or older on the day you become nominated for election, and
· live or work in or near the parish.
You cannot stand for election if you:
· are the subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order
· have, within five years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a prison sentence (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine.
There are also some other disqualifications relating to candidacy, but they are too complex to outline here.
Chestfield Parish Council is committed to providing a quality service to the residents of the parish, and
to anyone who deals with the Parish Council.
Chestfield Parish Council takes all complaints seriously and it is our experience that many complaints can
be resolved quickly and effectively on an informal basis. In the event that informal discussion is unable to
resolve the complaint a formal complaint may be made.
You can complain about elected councillors, or co-opted members, of Chestfield Parish Council.
(A co-opted member is a voting member of the parish council or one of its committees, who was
appointed to their position rather than being elected.)
If you wish to make a complaint you should contact either the Clerk to the Council or the Chairman.
You may then be given or you may ask for a full copy of the Council’s policy for dealing with a formal complaint.