What is a Parish Council?
The civil parish is the most local unit of government in England. A Parish Council is a statutory local authority established under the Local Government Act 1972. It operates in the area of a defined civil parish or group of parishes.
How does the Parish Council fit within the broader scheme of local government?
There are three tiers of local government in the Ribble Valley of which the Parish Council is one.
- Lancashire County Council (which is a non-metropolitan county council) (access Lancashire County Council’s website here);
- Ribble Valley Borough Council (which is a district council); and
- Parish or Town Councils (access Lancashire County Council’s Parish Councils website here and access information on Ribble Valley Parish Councils here).
Legislative provisions set out the respective powers of each of these authorities.
The Ribble Valley district contains 35 Parish Councils including the two Town Councils of Longridge and Clitheroe.
Information from the 2001 census on parish populations is available here.
What are the powers of Parish Councils?
Parish Councils have a wide range of powers, essentially relating to local matters.
A Parish Council:
- has the power to raise money by precept (a mandatory demand) on the district council. The precept is the Parish Council’s share of the council tax;
- must act within the law. It may only do things if it has statutory power to do so; and
- must fulfil certain obligations – for example, it must hold an annual meeting and at least three other meetings a year. Arrangements for meetings and proceedings of Parish Councils are set out in Part II of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act 1972, as supplemented by any standing orders adopted by the Parish Council.
The Parish Clerk should be aware of, and ensure compliance with, these legislative requirements.
Lancashire County Council and Ribble Valley Borough Council are obliged by law to consult with the Parish Council on certain matters affecting the parish.
The role of the Parish Clerk
The Parish Clerk is the principal executive and adviser to, and (usually also) the officer responsible for maintaining the financial processes and records of, the Parish Council.
S/he is the Proper Officer and employee of the Parish Council
Correspondence to a Parish Council should be sent to its Parish/Town Clerk.
Information on Parish Clerks is available from Lancashire County Council’s Parish Councils website (access this here).
The role of the Parish Councillor
Parish Councils are democratically elected to provide strong, confident leadership at the heart of their communities.
The number of Councillors (or “members”) in each Parish Council is fixed by the district council (i.e. by Ribble Valley Borough Council).
The law prescribes that there shall be at least five councillors in each Parish Council.
Elections to parish/town councils are held every four years.
Where a parish is divided into parish wards, a separate election of parish councillors is held for each ward.
The Local Government Act 1972 (Section 79(1)) establishes who is qualified to be elected and to be a member of a Parish Council. The Parish Clerk will be able to advise further about these requirements.
The role of the Chairman
A chairman is elected annually by the Parish Council from among the Parish Councillors. The main rules of law governing the role of the Chairman of a Parish Council are set out in the Local Government Act 1972, and, in particular, in Schedule 12 to this.