Roles and Responsibilities for Town and Parish Councils

Town and Parish Councils are set up under the Local Government Act 1972 and are an essential part of the structure of local democracy.

Parish councils are the tier of local government closest to their electorate and best placed to serve local communities. They are local authorities created by statute and can only act where there is an express power or duty. Local councils remain outside the jurisdiction of the Local Government Ombudsman.

In law a local council is a single corporate body and decisions taken are the responsibility of the council as a whole. A council is responsible for the services it provides, it establishes policies and decides how money will be raised and spent for the whole community. As a corporate body, the council can work in partnership with other organisations in its area.

A council can comprise of individual councillor’s representing smaller communities (wards or different villages) all of which may have different interests and its duty is to serve them all. A council will always attempt to make balanced, informed decisions, where it has statutory powers and duties to act, based on the differing needs of the whole community.

When certain criteria are met parish councils are eligible to use the General Power of Competence. This power gives them the opportunity to do anything that individuals generally may do (Localism Act 2011 sections 1 - 8, specifically s1(1))

Parish Councils have the power to raise money through taxation (the precept). The precept is the parish council's share of the council tax, which is collected by the Borough council on their behalf. This gives them a degree of autonomy and continuity which may not be available to other community organisations.

Council must hold at least 4 meetings a year, one of which must be the Annual Meeting of the Council.

Town and Parish Councils are an essential part of the structure of local democracy and have a vital role in acting on behalf of the communities they represent.

They:

  • Give views, on behalf of the community, on planning applications and other proposals that affect the parish.
  • Alert relevant authorities to problems that arise or work that needs to be undertaken.
  • Help the other tiers of local government keep in touch with their local communities.

The Government introduced "Quality Status" in 2003. Quality Councils, tested for efficiency, good organisation and active involvement with their communities, could be given a greater say in how services are delivered in their area and the opportunity to take on some of the services currently provided by other tiers of local government.

Within the Slough Borough there are 3 Parish Councils and 1 Town Council. Elections to parish councils are held every four years.

Powers and Duties of Parish Councils

Parish Councils have a wide range of powers and duties.

Duties: A duty is an activity that must be carried out (Mandatory) e.g. local councils must appoint a chairman and a clerk.

Powers: Statutory powers, granted by Parliament give local councils the choice or opportunity to take action and are therefore discretionary.

The powers which have been vested in Parish, Town and Community Councils by Acts of Parliament are summarised below. Each description is intended to be a general indication and it is not a complete list of every single power and duty.

Like all powers given to public bodies the powers of local councils are defined in detail in legislation and these details may include a requirement to obtain the consent of another body i.e. the Borough Council. Local Councils must also exercise their powers subject to the provisions of the general law.

Table of details

The following table describes the powers and duties held by local councils for a number of functions. It also provides details of the regulations under which statutory provisions are made. Information on all these details are available from the parish council Clerk. Where a function is marked with an asterisk (*) a council also has the power to give financial assistance to another person or body performing the same function.

Function

Powers and Duties

Statutory Provision

Accounts

Duty to appoint a Responsible Financial Officer to manage the council's accounts

Local Government Act (LGA) 1972, section 151

Acceptance of office

Duty to sign declaration of acceptance of office (councillors and chairman)

LGA 1972, section 83

Agency arrangements

Power to arrange for the discharge of functions by another local authority

LGA 1972, section 101

Allotments

Power to provide allotments duty to provide allotment gardens if demand exist

Smallholdings and Allotments Act 1908, subsections 23, 26 and 42

Baths and washhouses

Power to provide public baths and washhouses

Public Health Act 1936, subsections 221-223, 227

Borrowing

Power to borrow money for statutory functions

LGA 1972, Sch 13

Burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria*

Power to acquire and maintain

Open Spaces Act 1906, subsections 9 and 10

Power to provide

LGA 1972, section 214

Power to agree to maintain memorials and monuments

Parish Councils and Burial Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970, s 1

Power to contribute to expenses of maintaining cemeteries

LGA1972, section 214(6)

Bus shelters*

Power to provide and maintain bus shelters

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953, section 4

Byelaws

Power to make byelaws for public walks and pleasure grounds

Public Health Act 1875, section 164

Cycle parks

Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 57(7)

Baths and Washhouses

Public Health Act, 1936, section 233

Open spaces and burial grounds

Open Spaces Act, 1906, section 15

Charities

Power to appoint trustees of parochial charities

Charities Act 1993, section 79

Christmas lights

Power to provide to attract visitors

LGA 1972, section 144

Citizens advice bureau

Power to support

LGA 1972, section 142

Clocks*

Power to provide public clocks

Parish Councils Act 1957, section 2

Closed churchyards

Power (and sometimes duty) to maintain

LGA 1972, section 215

Commons and common pastures

Powers in relation to enclosure, regulation and management, and providing common pasture

Inclosure Act 1845; Local Government Act 1894, section 8(4); Smallholdings and Allotments Act 1908, section 34

Community centres

Power to provide and equip community buildings

LGA 1972, section 133

Power to provide buildings for use of clubs having athletic, social or educational objectives

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, section 19

Conference Facilities*

Power to provide and encourage the use conference facilities

LGA 1997, section 144

Consultation

Right to be consulted by principal councils if directed by Secretary of State (England) or by Welsh Assembly (Wales)

Local Government and Rating Act 1997, section 21; LGA 1972, section 33A

Crime prevention*

Power to spend money on various crime prevention measures

Local Government and Rating Act 1997, section 31

Drainage

Power to deal with ditches and ponds

Public Health Act 1936, section 260

Entertainment and the Arts*

Provision of entertainment and support for the arts including festivals and celebrations

LGA 1972, section 145

Flagpoles

Power to erect flagpoles in the highways

Highways Act 1980, section 144

Free Resource

Power to incur expenditure not otherwise authorised on anything which in the council's opinion is in the interests of the area or part of it or all or some of the inhabitants

LGA 1972, section 137

Gifts

Power to accept gifts

LGA 1972, section 139

Highways

Power to maintain footpaths and bridleways

Highways Act 1980, subsections 43 and 50

Power to light roads and public places

Parish Councils Act 1957, section 3

Power to provide parking places for vehicles, bicycles and motor-cycles

Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 57

Power to make a dedication agreement for a new highway or widening of an existing highway

Highways Act 1980, subsections 30 and 72

Right to veto application to magistrates court to stop up, divert or cease to maintain a public highway

Highways Act 1980, subsections 47 and 116

Power to complain to a local highway authority that a highway is unlawfully stopped up or obstructed

Highways Act 1908, section 130

Power to plant trees etc. and maintain roadside verges

Highways Act 1980, section 96

Power to prosecute for unlawful ploughing of a footpath or bridleway

Highways Act 1980, section 134

Power to provide traffic signs and other notices

Road Traffic Regulation Act, 1984, section 72

Interests

Duty to declare an interest

LGA 1972, section 94

Investments

Power to participate in schemes of collective investment

Trustee Act 1961, section 11

Land

Power to acquire land by agreement, to appropriate land and to dispose of land

LGA 1972, subsections 124, 126 and 127

Power to acquire land by compulsory purchase

LGA 1972, section 125

Power to accept gifts of land

LGA 1972, section 139

Power to obtain particulars of persons interested in land

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, section 16

Lighting

Power to light roads and public places

Parish Councils Act 1957, section .3 and Highways Act 1980, section 301

Litter*

Power to provide litter bins in streets and public places

Litter Act 1983, subsections 5 and 6

Lotteries

Power to promote lotteries

Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976, section 7

Meetings

Duty to hold annual parish meeting

LGA 1972, Schedule 12 paragraph 23

Duty to hold annual parish council meeting

LGA 1972, Schedule 12 paragraph 7

Power to convene a parish meeting

LGA 1972, Schedule 12 paragraph 14

Mortuaries and post-mortem rooms

Power to provide mortuaries and post-mortem rooms

Public Health Act 1936, section 198

Newsletters

Power to provide information relating to matters affecting local government

LGA 1972, section 142

Nuisances*

Power to deal with offensive ponds, ditches and gutters

Public Health Act 1936, section 260

Open Spaces

Power to acquire and maintain open spaces

Public Health Act 1875, section 164
Open Spaces Act 1906, subsections 9, 10

Parish documents

Power to give directions as to custody of parish documents

LGA 1972, section 226

Parking facilities

Power to provide parking places for motor vehicles and bicycles

Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, subsections 57 and 63

Parks and pleasure grounds

Power to acquire land or to provide recreation grounds, public walks, pleasure grounds and open spaces and to manage and control them

Public Health Act 1875, section 164; LGA 1972 Schedule 14 paragraph 27; Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890 section 44

Public buildings and village halls

Power to provide buildings for offices and for public meetings and assemblies

LGA 1972, section 133

Public conveniences

Power to provide public conveniences

Public Health Act 1936, section 87

Publicity

Power to provide information about matters affecting local government

LGA 1972, section 142

Records

Power to collect, exhibit and purchase local records

Local Government (Records) Act 1962, subsections 1 and 2

Recreation*

Power to provide a wide range of recreational facilities

Open Spaces Act 1906, section 9-10, Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, section 19

Provision of boating pools

Public Health Act 1961, section 54

Seats and shelters*

Power to provide roadside seats and shelters

Parish Councils Act 1957, section 1

Town and Country planning

Right to be notified of planning applications

Town and Country Planning Act 1990, paragraph 8 of Schedule 1; paragraph 2 of Schedule 1A (Wales)

Town status

Power to adopt town status

LGA 1972, subsections 245 and 245B

Tourism*

Power to contribute to encouragement of Tourism

LGA 1972, section 144

Traffic calming

Power to contribute to the cost of traffic calming measures

Highways Act 1980, section 274A

Transport*

Power to (a) establish car-sharing schemes; (b) make grants for bus services; (c) provide taxi-fare concessions; (d) investigate public transport, road use needs; (e) provide information about public transport services

Local Government and Rating Act 1997, section 26, Transport Act 1985, section 106A

Village signs

Power to use decorative signs to inform visitors

LGA 1972, section 144

Village greens*

Power to maintain, to make bylaws for and to prosecute for interference with village greens

Open Spaces Act 1906, section 15; Inclosure Act 1857, section 12; Commons Act 1876, section 29

Village Halls*

(see Community centres and Public buildings)

 

War memorials

Power to maintain, repair and protect war memorials

War Memorials (Local Authorities Powers) Act 1923, section 1 as extended by LGA 1948, section 133

Water supply

Power to utilise any well, spring or stream to provide facilities for obtaining water from them

Public Health Act 1936, section 125