Origin and role of Parish Councils
In centuries past, the absence of any developed system of local government meant that Church of England (C of E) parishes (often in conjunction with a prominent local landowner), represented the only ‘natural’ authority in many villages in England and Wales. Over time, the charitable activities of many parishes, e.g. caring for the poor, became a formal responsibility, i.e. with the introduction of the Elizabethan system of Poor Relief. By Victorian times church parishes were beginning to accrue responsibility for wider local services, e.g. basic schooling and highways, which were increasingly regarded as needing to be a civil, rather than church, responsibility.
The need for a formal system of civil local government was finally recognised in the Local Government Act of 1894, which created the system of Parish and Town Councils we have today. In setting them up, it is perhaps not surprising that their boundary areas often closely matched well established church parish boundaries – by which communities already identified themselves. That said, and despite use of the word ‘parish’ in their title, Parish Councils have no responsibility for church affairs.
Parish (or in larger communities Town) Councils form the bottom tier of Local Government; their role being to allow communities to have a say in how some of their local affairs are conducted, and to otherwise liaise with higher tiers of government.
Burwarton Parish Council
Our Council has 7 Councillors, who are all unpaid volunteers, and 1 Clerk, who is a paid employee of the Council.
The Council meets every 2 months to discuss a diverse range of issues such as road traffic issues, assistance to local groups and charities, planning applications, and any other local matter that may arise, e.g. sponsoring the Parish Plan.
Where a matter under discussion is not within our direct responsibility, we will make representations to those who do have responsibility for it. For example, we provide formal comment on all local planning applications to Shropshire Council and maintain regular contact with our local Shropshire Councillor, Robert Tindall.
Members of the public are encouraged to raise any issues of local concern with the Council, either via an approach to an individual councillor or The Clerk.
The public are welcome to attend meetings of the Council but should note that they cannot normally participate in the meeting itself. However, where a matter is clearly of local concern, or in response to a specific request, it is our practice to temporarily suspend the formal meeting to allow members of the public to address councillors.
The Annual Parish Meeting, held in May every year, is used to provide a summary of Council activities. Members of the public with an interest in Council affairs are particularly encouraged to attend this meeting during which they can to raise any issue. These will be minuted as the meeting is specifically for the general public to raise any relevant matter they wish to discuss. Once the public have finished their contributions the Annual Parish Council Meeting commences.
The Annual Parish Council Meeting is when Councillors are re-elected and/or voted to act as representatives to other bodies. Members of the public do not have any input to this meeting..
All of our Councillors take a pride in the Parish, work hard to ensure the community is represented/supported and aim to provide good local amenities for the benefit of all.
Councillors are elected to represent the residents of their Parish and have statutory duties and responsibilities. Their actions are governed by statute.
The following are all under the remit of parish councils (obviously most do not apply in Burwarton):
- Burial Grounds, Cemeteries, Churchyards and Crematoria
- Bus Shelters
- Bye-laws – the power to make bye-laws concerning:baths and washhouses (swimming pools), cycle parks, mortuaries and pleasure grounds
- Clocks – public clocks can be provided and must be maintained
- Community Centres, Conference Centres, Halls, Public Buildings
- Drainage – of ditches and ponds
- Entertainment and the Arts
- General Spending – parish councils can spend a limited amount of money on anything they deem of benefit to the community that is not covered by the other specific responsibilities described in this list
- Gifts – parish councils may accept gifts
- Highways – lighting, parking places, right to enter into discussions about new roads and road widening, consent of parish council required for diversion or discontinuation of highway, traffic signs and other notices, tree planting and verge maintenance
- Land – acquisition and sale of
- Legal proceedings – power to prosecute and defend any legal proceedings in the interests of the community, power to take part in any public enquiry
- Litter – provision of litter-bins and support for any anti-litter campaigns
- Planning – parish councils must be notified of, and display for residents, any planning applications for the area. Any comments submitted to the planning authority by the parish council must be taken into account
- Postal and Telecommunication Facilities – power to pay a public telecommunications operator any loss sustained in providing services in that area
- Public conveniences – provision and maintenance of public toilets
- Recreation – provision of recreation grounds, public walkways, pleasure grounds, open spaces, village greens, gymnasiums, playing fields, holiday camps and boating ponds
- Rights of Way – footpath and bridleway maintenance
- Seats (public)
- Signs – danger signs, place names and bus stops signs
- Tourism – financial contributions to any local tourist organisations allowed
- Traffic Calming
- War Memorials
- Water Supply – power to utilise stream, well or spring water and to provide facilities for general use