What is a parish council?
There are over 9,000 parish and town councils representing around 16 million people across England. They cover many rural and urban areas. A parish council is the first tier of local government and the closest to the community it serves.
Its councillors are elected for four years at a time and an election is only held if there are more people wanting to be parish councillors than there are vacancies available. Vacancies occurring between elections are filled by a by-election (if requested) or co-option.
Each year the councillors choose a Chairman from amongst their number. There is also a Vice-Chairman and a paid Parish Clerk, who is the Proper Officer and the Responsible Financial Officer of the council. A Parish Council must hold an annual meeting during May and at least three other meetings during the year. Parish Councils must provide a set of accounts at the end of each financial year, audited by an internal and an external auditor.
Barham parish council chooses to meet monthly – details of the meetings must be published in advance on the noticeboard at the village hall. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meetings and actively encouraged to attend and express their views or concerns on Parish matters. An adjournment of the meeting is scheduled early in the meeting for members of the public to speak and or ask questions. Don’t miss out, have your say!!
At a parish council meeting, Members of the Parish Council discuss, report, monitor and, most importantly, make decisions on matters concerning the village. As an elected body, the Parish Council is an “it” and, through its councillors, is responsible to the people it represents – that’s the local community.
Attending a council meeting is the best way to find out what it does. Have a look at the other pages on this website to see what the Parish Council has been dealing with recently.
Minutes are produced shortly afterwards and published as draft minutes until approved at the next Parish Council Meeting.
Meetings are held at the village hall, Valley Road, with doors opening at 7pm to view any planning applications, and the meeting starting at 7.30pm. Click for the meeting dates.
The Parish Council has the power to improve the quality of community life by spending money on things which, in their opinion, are in the interests of the parish or its inhabitants.
Barham Parish Council is also the focal point for local consultation on matters such as planning applications, district and county council strategic planning, schools and roads. On all these issues the parish councillors represent the parish’s views to the city and county authorities and agencies such as the environment agency and water companies.
Much of the Parish Council’s time is spent on planning issues. Canterbury City Council is the local planning authority and consults Barham parish council as a statutory consultee on any planning applications that might have an impact on the parish.
Over recent years, the ‘Localism’ agenda has been developing and the role of the Parish, Village and Town Councils is becoming more important. In 2010, the new Coalition Government launched the ‘Big Society’, which is aimed at local communities taking a stronger role in their community and making decisions It is within this framework that Parish, Village and Town Councils will start to agree what services are needed and wanted.
During this period, parish councils are more and more being called collectively ‘Local Councils’ with the Districts, Boroughs and the County Councils being referred to as ‘Principal Authorities’.
If after exploring these web pages you want to find out more about the Parish Council or are interested in becoming a Parish Councillor contact the Parish Clerk
What services can it provide?
A parish or town council has an overall responsibility for the well-being of its local community. Its work falls into three main categories:
· representing the local community
· delivering services to meet local needs
· striving to improve quality of life in the parish
A Parish Council might provide and/or maintain some of the following services: allotments, burial grounds, car parks, community transport schemes, footpaths, bridleways, bus shelters, commons, crime reduction measures, leisure facilities
Where does the parish council get its money from?
Each year a sum of money called a ‘precept’ is collected through your council tax. This money is used by the parish council to improve facilities and services for local people and run the Council. Barham parish council also undertakes some services on Canterbury City Council’s behalf – these are called concurrent items, and include maintenance of open spaces and grass cutting, closed burial ground maintenance and street lighting. The parish council submits an application each year for reimbursement of this expenditure, but over recent years as Canterbury City Council has cut its budget the parish council has not been fully funded, and this means the difference has to be made up on the precept or through other savings.
Parish councils can also apply for grants and loans.
What do parish councillors do?
Councillors have three main areas of work:
· Decision-making: through attending meetings and committees with other elected members, councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented;
· Monitoring: councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working;
· Getting involved locally: as local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their parishioners and local organisations. This often depends on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available.
The day-to-day work of a councillor may include:
o going to meetings of local organisations
o going to meetings of bodies that affect the wider community, such as the police, the Highways Authority, schools and colleges
o bringing parishioners concerns to the attention of the council
Could I be a parish councillor?
As a councillor you can become a voice for your community and affect real change. It helps if you're a "people person" who enjoys talking to other residents but, more importantly, you need to have the concerns and best interests of the parish as a whole at heart. Councillors are community leaders and should represent the aspirations of the public that they serve.
Parish Councils are the most local part of our democratic system and are closest to the public. Why don’t you stand for your local parish council and see what difference you can make to your local community? *
How much time does it take up & when?
On average, around four hours a week. Obviously there are some councillors who spend more time than this – and some less, but in the main, being a parish councillor is an enjoyable way of contributing to your community and helping to make it a better place to live and work. Council meetings are always held in the evening – as are most meetings of the other groups which councillors attend on the Council’s behalf.
Talking and listening to your fellow parishioners can be done at any time but you must be able to spend two to three hours once a month on a Monday evening attending the Council meeting.
Am I qualified?
Most people are. However there are a few basic rules. You have to be:
· a British citizen, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union, and
· 18 years or older on the day you become nominated for election, and
· live or work in or near the parish.
You cannot stand for election if you:
· are the subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order
· have, within five years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a prison sentence (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine.
There are also some other disqualifications relating to candidacy, but they are too complex to outline here.
*At the present time there are no vacancies on the Council. However you can register an interest with the Clerk and be contacted if and when a vacancy arises.
Alternatively you may stand at the 4-yearly elections – the next one being due in May 2019.