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FAQs

What is a Local (Parish) Council? 

Local councils like Rawdon Parish Council are the first tier of local government and were created by statute in 1894. Previously, for many years, parish affairs had been administered by a vestry, or meeting of the village inhabitants. Usually the squire, the parson and the principal ratepayers dominated these meetings. Some became “select vestries” and were only open to those to those people deemed “suitable” to serve.

Due to a general movement towards greater democracy and a desire to break the power of the Church of England over the lives of Nonconformists and nonbelievers, a Bill was promoted to create parish councils. After a difficult passage through Parliament and many amendments, this Bill became an Act in 1894. Its effect was to transfer all non-ecclesiastical functions from the Church to the parish councils. Some other functions were added, such as those relating to the burial of the dead.

The regulations under which the first parish councils operated were not very tight in the beginning and the influence of the Church was not easily diminished. In fact in the early days the Chairman would usually be the parson and would at times be co-opted on to the parish council if he had not been elected in order to take up the role.

There were many anomalies and difficulties encountered in the years between 1894 and 1972, when the present Local Government Act came into being. Nowadays, local councils are closely regulated. The lines of responsibility are clearly laid down, there is generally much more openness, and those people that local councils were formed to serve are fully aware of what is being done on their behalf and are in fact encouraged to participate.

Powers and Responsibilities of Local (Parish) Councils

The Local Government Act 1972 is the one most often referred to when describing the modern powers and responsibilities of local councils but it is by no means the only one. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives them the ability to pay for measures to combat crime and the fear of crime in the parish.

Local councils may only spend public money on projects or actions for which they have a statutory power. If this rule is not adhered to, the auditor has the right to “fail” the accounts and each of the councillors could be required to repay the money illegally spent.

As in 1894 there is still only one power that a local council must consider using, if requested, and that is to provide allotments. All other powers are voluntary.

Local (Parish) Council Income

Local Councils are empowered to raise money for their activities through a tax, called the “precept”, on the residents of the parish. This is collected on their behalf by the principal authority, in our case Leeds City Council, in addition to the normal council tax collected. It is then paid to the local council in two equal instalments.

It is up to the local council how much it demands by way of precept but when setting the annual budget the council must take into account how much it intends to spend and on what. Councils must have a clearly defined budget that will withstand enquiry.

A local council can “borrow” money (i.e. arrange a loan) up to a set limit, but permission must be sought first, it has to be for a defined purpose, and proof has to be given that the loan plus interest can be repaid.

Grants can also be obtained from various sources, including the higher levels of local government but these are usually for specific projects and are therefore no good for general administration and maintenance purposes.

Some Statutory Powers of Local (Parish) Councils

Local Government Act 1972

s.101

Assume a function delegated by another authority

s.111

Ensure effective discharge of council functions

s.112

Employ someone to carry out council functions

s.124

Buy or lease land for the community

s.142

Publicise council and local authority functions

s.144

Encourage tourism

s.145

Provide entertainment

s.150

Raise money by precept (Council Tax)

s.175

Train councillors

s.214

Assume responsibility for a closed churchyard

s.222

Make representation at public enquiries

s.226

Acquire historical records

Sch.13

Borrow money

Sch.16 para 20

Comment upon planning applications

   

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953

s.4

Provide bus shelters

   

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976

s.19

Provide or support recreational facilities

   

Open Spaces Act 1906

s.9

Acquire and manage any open space including valuable habitats.

s.10

Administer open space held in trust
Provide lighting for any open space

   

Commons Act 1899

s.5

Manage common land

   

Public Health Act 1875

s.164
(see also LGA, 1972 sch.
14 para 27)

Acquire and manage land for a village green
Provide parks, pleasure grounds, public walks
Make bylaws to prevent dog fouling or to ban dogs

   

Public Health Act 1961

s.54

Provide a boating lake

   

Public Health Act 1936

s.87

Maintain public toilets

s.125

Use a local water course to obtain water

s.260

Maintain a local water course

   

The Countryside Act 1958

s.27

Erect signs for a right of way

   

Highways Act 1980

s.30

Create a right of way

s.43

Maintain a right of way

s.96

Plant verges with trees shrubs and bulbs (with Highways Authority consent)

   

Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984

s.57

Take action to relieve traffic congestion
Provide Parking facilities

   

Parish Councils Act 1957

s.1

Provide roadside seats (with Highways Authority consent)

s.3 (see also LGA 1972 Sch14, para 34)

Provide lighting for footways and public places

   

Litter Act 1983

s.5

Provide litter bins

   

Smallholding and allotments Act 1908

s.26

Provide allotments

s.34

Acquire land for common pasture

   

Local Government (Records) Act 1962

s.1

Make community records available to the public

s.2

Purchase records of local interest

s.4

Support local archives

   

National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949

s.16

Make agreement with English Nature to manage council-owned land as nature reserve.

   

The Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981

s.39

Local authorities make management agreements with landowners

   

Environmental Protection Act 1990
and Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991

 

Must keep own land free of litter and dog faeces