(March 1982) English village government

There are two sorts of parishes, which do not always coincide. These are the Ecclesiastical Parish, centred on the Church, with a Parochial Church Council under the chairmanship of the Vicar, and the Civil Parish which is a unit of administration and democracy where, if the electorate exceeds 200, it has a Parish Council.

A Parish Council is a small local authority whose members are elected for four years at a time. A Parish Council can do more things than is often suspected. They can light their streets, provide allotments, look after playing fields, maintain and guard such things as rights of way, bus shelters, public seats and litter bins. Some maintain cemeteries and appoint charitable trustees and school managers.

They have the power to improve the quality of village life by spending money on things which, in their opinion, are in the interests of the parish and its inhabitants. They can do these things by actually providing them or by helping someone else (such as a volunteer or a charity) financially to do them. Parish.Councils thrive on volunteers.

Parish Councils are the most unbeaurocratic and cheapest kind of local authority in existence. The Parish Councillors know the village and can represent its views to the other authorities, like the District and County Councils, and are consulted on planning applications.

You elect its members every four years and are entitled to go to the Annual Parish Meeting and have your say. The accounts are very strictly audited every year. The Parish Council’s meetings are open to the public and an assembly for all the parish electors has, by law, to be held every year in March, April or May.

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There are elections this year. If you feel you have something to offer the village and would like to be considered as a Councillor, or would like to propose someone, do think about it now. There is not usually much time between the District Council issuing the proposal forms and the deadline for acceptance.

John Gilchrist