What is a parish council?

There are around 10,000 community, parish and town councils in England and Wales.

Community, parish and town councils are the part of local government closest to the people. They serve the smallest area and are responsible for the most local of matters.

In England they are called parish councils or town councils, if they cover a largely urban area. In Wales they are known as community councils. In both England and Wales they are elected units of local government whose activities are controlled by Acts of Parliament. Scotland also has community councils, but they have fewer powers.  Visit www.ascc.org.uk for more information.

Individual powers of the parish council include the provision and maintenance of community transport schemes, traffic calming measures, local youth projects, tourism activities, leisure facilities, car parks, village greens, public lavatories, litter bins, street lighting, street cleaning, burial grounds, allotments, bus shelters, commons, opens spaces, footpaths, bridleways, and crime reduction measures.

Community, parish and town councils can also comment on planning applications – they are statutory consultees (they have to be consulted if they so wish) and can be represented at public inquiries.

Parish councils are not only found in rural areas. Many metropolitan areas of England have created councils where there were none. Areas of Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham, among others, have created parish councils to deliver the type of local representation residents felt they otherwise lacked. London is the only city in England not legally able to create parish councils – and the government has indicated they may change the legislation that prohibits parishes for London.

You can find more information on parish councils on the National Association of Local Councils website http://www.nalc.gov.uk

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