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 at [insert link to powers page].
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, be and continue to be an elector for the area and, 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. When this happens, the council will advertise the vacancy to the public, both on its websites and on local notice boards.
To read more about local councils, you may download the publication “All about local councils” from the National Association of Local Councils’ website at www.nalc.gov.uk/publications
Please be aware, WALC does not deal with complaints about local councils, local councillors or local council staff. If you have a matter about which you wish to complain, you may either contact the council itself, with reference to its complaints’ procedure, or, if the matter relates to a breach of the council’s code of conduct or interests, contact your principal authority via its code of conduct website page.