Public Information

Over the years there has been some misrepresentation of local councils leading to confusion with members of the general public as to their purpose and status.

Although Wiltshire Association of Local Councils is a membership organisation and not in a position to advise the public on parish and town council matters, this page should help members of the public clarify the position of local councils in their communities and in the local government structure and perhaps answer some of the frequently asked questions.

There are two sorts of parishes whose boundaries do not always coincide.  These are the Ecclesiastical Parishes centred on an Anglican church with a Parochial Church Council chaired by the vicar or rector and the Civil Parishes which are part of local administration.  These are sometimes called Towns.  A parish or town (local) council is a corporate body that has been granted powers by Parliament and has the authority to raise money through the council tax (the precept).

Local Councils are the first tier of local government with the legal power to provide, maintain and assist a range of services. A list of some local council powers can be accessed below.

The clerk to the council is the council’s proper officer and often the responsible financial officer.  The clerk is chief executive and chief adviser to the council, and has a wealth of responsibilities from maintaining records and putting together agendas and minutes of council meetings to organising insurance, PAYE and the precept.

Local elections take place in England every four years.  It is at this time people stand for election onto their local council.

To qualify as a candidate you will need to be aged 18 or over, during the whole of the twelve months before the day of nomination as a candidate live within a 3 mile radius of, have your principal place of work in, or own or rent land or premises in the parish.

From time to time there may be co-options onto the council, this is where a council decides who will fill the vacant seats if there are not enough candidates at election time or should the electorate not call for an election when a mid-term vacancy arises.

Community First has compiled a number of fact sheets for the public and communities about the work and responsibilities of local councils.  Visit the local councils page of their website to access this information.