Parish Councils are set up by an Act of Parliament as the first tier of local Government.
We do not work for either District or County Councils and do not (and cannot) compete with them for any of the services they already offer.
However, there are many other things we can do, as given in specific Powers through Acts of Parliament. We also have a general power to do anything for the benefit of our community not covered by these regulations (with limits on the amount we can spend and provided the benefit justifies the cost).
So, what does the Council actually do? There are three main headings.
We have a legal right to be consulted on planning applications, within the Parish and to express our views. We do not make decisions on planning, this is done by the District Council through its planning committee and officers. Any comment we do make will have no impact unless it is a material consideration, in other words it relates to the legal framework for planning and the Local Development Framework
The Parish has maintenance responsibilities that continue every year, these grass cutting and general maintenance. We review the spend on these and always aim to operate at the best cost to the Parish.
Anyone can suggest new things the Parish Council might do (contact the Parish Clerk or any Councillor). Before it can be discussed it must be added to the agenda of a Parish Council meeting, which gives everyone the chance to make their opinions known before the meeting.
Parish Councillors do not represent any political party or interest group — we make our own decisions although we do try to represent the interests of the Parish as a whole.
Anyone over 18 can stand as a Councillor. There are elections every four years, unless a casual vacancy triggers one. Often, we gain new councillors when somebody has to leave, and we co-opt (elect by the remaining Parish Councillors) a volunteer to fill the vacancy.
The Parish Council must hold at least four meetings every year; one of these must be an annual meeting at which a Chairman and Responsible Financial Officer is appointed. There is also an annual Parish Meeting for everyone in the Parish to attend; this can be a good opportunity to present what the Council has been up to and get your opinions on current issues.
Councillors are required (summonsed) to attend Parish meetings. They must declare if they will benefit from any decision the Council makes and leave the meeting while the item is discussed.
All new Councillors are given training, presented by the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC), and a range of training is available for all Councillors at any time.
All meetings are open to the public, and the agenda is posted at least five days in advance. Once the Parish Council Meeting has started, we can only discuss those items which have been published in advance as the Agenda for the meeting. Our purpose is to come to a clear decision which is supported by the majority of Councillors and is properly recorded in the Minutes of the meeting.
The Chairman’s role is to ensure these meetings run smoothly and to represent the Parish to outside bodies. He or she has no more power than any other Councillor, only an additional vote on decisions where the vote is tied.
There are a few other things the Parish Council must do as a whole, including: