About Parish Councils

  • What is a parish or town council?
  • What is a parish or town councillors and how to be come a councillor?

While many people want a say in how their area is run, many do not even know who their Councillors are or what the Parish Council can do.

From the right to make representations on planning applications, the state of footpaths to street lighting, Parish and Town Councils have a wide range of responsibilities. They make decisions which affect your everyday life.

Many people may think their opinions don’t count and public statements over the years have further reduced the hope that local action can or will make any difference. The answer is – you vote, you decide. It’s an important way of having your say on the issues you care about and choosing who will take decisions on your behalf.

To vote in any election you need to be registered to vote. To get on the electoral register contact the electoral services at Scarborough Bourough Council. You can register to vote when you are aged 16 years or over but you need to be 18 or over to vote.

Come along to our meetings, get involved and find out. No matter if you don’t want to become a local Councillor, you might know someone who does. By voting and getting involved, you might be able to ensure a better service. Not voting is inviting someone else to tell you how your life and community should be run.

What is a parish or town council?
There are over 8,700 parish and town councils representing around 16 million people across England. They form the most local level of government and cover many rural and urban areas.

What's the difference between a parish council and a town council?
Not a great deal. They both have the same powers and can provide the same services. The only difference is that a town council has decided that it should be known as a town council instead of a parish council, and has a mayor.

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

It can also work with Scarborough Bourough Council and North Yorkshire County Council for other services, for example:

  • litter bins
  • local youth projects
  • open spaces
  • public toilets
  • planning
  • street cleaning
  • street lighting
  • tourism activities
  • traffic calming measures
  • village greens

How does it make decisions?
The Parish Council is made up of a number of councillors who meet regularly to make decisions on the work and direction of the council. 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.

Where does it 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. Parish councils can also apply for grants and loans.

How are parish or town councillors elected?
Parish or town councillors are elected to represent a geographical area known as a ward or – mainly in smaller parishes, such as West Ayton – the parish or town council area as a whole. They are elected by people who live in the area.

If the parish is divided into wards an election is held in each ward, the same way elections are held in district wards and in county electoral divisions. If the parish doesn’t have wards there is just a single parish election. Most parish elections are on the same cycle, with elections in 2007, 2011, 2015, and so on.

What is a Councillor?
Councillors are elected to represent an individual geographic unit on the Council, known as a ward or - mainly in smaller parishes - the entire parish or town council area. They are generally elected by the public every four years.

What do Councillors do?
Councillors have three main components to their work:-

  1. Decision Making - through meetings and attending 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.
  2. Monitoring - Councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well thinks are working.
  3. Getting involved locally - as local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. These responsibilities and duties often depend on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available, and may include:-
  • going to meetings of local organisations such as tenants' associations
  • going to meetings of bodies affecting the wider community
  • taking up issues on behalf of members of the public
  • running a surgery for residents to bring up issues
  • meeting with individual residents in their own homes

Visiting your council is the best way to find out what happens there. Give the council a call and find out when its next public meeting happens. by law, ordinary people are allowed to be present at most council business.

Am I Qualified to be a Councillor?
Most people are; however there are a few rules:-

You have to be:

  • A British subject, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union and
  • On a "relevant date" be 18 years or over (ie the day of which you are nominated if there is a poll the day of the election)
  • on the "relevant day" a local government elector for the council area for which you want to stand or
  • having during the whole of the 12 months preceding that day, occupied as owner or tenant, any land or other premises in the council area or
  • having during that same period had your principle or only place of work in the council area or
  • during that 12 month period, resided in the local area

In the case of a sitting member of a parish or community council, you can also satisfy the criteria to be elected if you have lived in the council area or within 3 miles of it for the whole of the 12 months preceding the "relevant day".

You cannot stand for election if you:

  • are subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order
  • have within 5 years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine
  • you work for the council you want to become a councillor for (but you can work for other local authorities, including the principal authorities that represent the area)

Election Procedure
Ordinary elections of local councillors take place on the first Thursday in May every four years. For most local councils, election years are 2003, 2007, etc, but where the principal authority (county, district and unitary authority) councillor is elected in some other year that is also the year of the local council election. Reorganisation of local government may cause alteration of the Election Day and election year in some cases.

Nomination Process
A prospective candidate must deliver or send by post to the Returning Office a valid nomination paper. This form is obtained from the Officer. The candidate's surname, forename, residence and description (if required) must be entered and his or her number and prefix letter from the current register of electors. The Returning Officer has a copy of this register, and the clerk of the local council normally has one.

The nomination paper must also contain similar particulars of a proposer and a seconder. They must be electors for the area for which the candidate seeks election (ie the parish, community or town or the ward if it is divided into wards); they must sign it.

What Next?
The Returning Officer appointed by principal authority (district, borough, county or unitary authority) is the person responsible for the conduct and arrangement for community, parish and town council elections. If you are considering becoming a candidate for election it could be wise to contact the Returning Officer to obtain any more details information. Also for more information about what life is like as a councillor contact your local County Association of Local Councils or alternatively your local community, parish or town council.

If a seat becomes vacant mid-term (or if there are not enough candidates to fill all council seats at election time) the council will hold a by-election.

In certain circumstances, the council may then co-opt members to the council.

Information taken from the National Association of Local Councils' website