What is a town, parish or community council

What is a town, parish or community council?

Parish and town councils in England and community and town councils in Wales are the first tier of local government. They deliver a vast range of services at a community level.

There are around 10,000 community, parish and town councils in England and Wales, made up of nearly 100,000 councillors. These first-tier councils can respond to the needs of the community – delivering the services or representation it most needs.

At present, but not in all locations in England and Wales, there is a three-tiered structure of local government.

Town/Parish/Community Council

District/Borough Council/Unitary Authority

County Council

Powers and duties

Parish and town councils have a large range of powers, and the activities parish and town councils are involved in are immense. Many parish and town councils are involved in planning, promoting tourism, licensing, community halls, representation, management of town and village centres and providing community halls.

How parish councils work

Parish councils are statutory bodies. Members are elected for a term of four years and councils are funded principally by an annual precept. Income and expenditure for the next financial year are calculated in the form of estimates. The net amount (the precept) is added to council tax, collected by the county, borough or district council (principal authorities) and paid to parishes in two six-monthly instalments. Parish and town councils can apply for other funding such as grant and funding awards, but they do not receive funds direct from central government, as principal authorities do.

Creation of parish and town councils in England

The 1997 Local Government and Rating Act introduced a new procedure for creating parishes in unparished or partly unparished areas by petition. A petition may be presented to the district, borough or county council requesting the creation of a parish and a parish council for a defined area. The petition must be signed by at least 250 or 10% of the local government electors in that area, whichever is the greater number. The receiving council must forward the petition to the Secretary of State. It has a right to add its comments but cannot block the petition. The Secretary of State may accept or reject it, or refer it to the Local Government Commission for review on the same basis as a recommendation from a district, borough or unitary council.

This procedure is currently under review.