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About town and parish councils



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CPALC It's Your Town, Parish or Local Council

Town and Parish councils are the 1st tier of Government, elected by you to represent your community. Councillors are democratically elected and accountable to you. CPALC - supporting all Communities, Parish and Local Councils.

A full list of what's new can be found on the Members Home page

Your rights as an electorYour rights as an elector CLICK HERE...

A short Introduction to Town and Parish CouncilsShort introduction to Town or Parish Councils CLICK HERE...

CPALC is independent, promoting and providing information about Town and Parish councils, clerks and councillors to all.

  • Promotes information and knowledge about parish councils  to help raise the standards delivered to their communities,
  • Provides a wealth of information, available to residents, community and voluntary groups, parish and town councils, councillors and clerks,
  • Supports a free forum where issues about communities and their democratically elected councils may be debated,
  • Produces a range of guides, including best practice guides for community and voluntary groups, parish and town councils,

It should be remembered that councils need communities but communities do not need councils. Forget this at your peril.

About CPALCFor more about CPALC Click Here...


Your Rights as an elector in a Town or Parish...

  • To stand for election as a councillor if you meet the legal criteria,
  • To vote and elect town and parish councillors for your parish,
  • To attend and record all council, committee and sub committee meetings unless a specific legal process is followed to exclude the public and the press,
  • To access and view all council, committee and sub-committee minutes irrespective of whether they are draft or not at any reasonable time,
  • To view and inspect all books of account and accounting records of the council for a specific time period after the publication of the notice of completion of the audit,
  • To view the council's accounts at any reasonable time,
  • To call for an election with other electors where a casual vacancy exists,
  • To call for a meeting of the parish with other electors,
  • To attend and vote at meetings of the parish*,
  • To call for a parish poll, ballot or referendum at a meeting of the parish,
  • To call for the dissolution of a council with other electors,

*Note: A meeting of the parish is not a town or parish council meeting but a meeting of electors within the parish.


A short Introduction to Town and Parish councils

This is a short basic introduction to Town and Parish Councils. The members area contains hundreds of in depth articles and guides about councils.

  • Local councils are democratically elected by registered voters to represent you
  • Community responsibility - local money with local accountability leading and delivering for you
  • The elected 1st tier of Government working in partnership with community groups
  • Defining and developing projects to benefit your residents and community
  • A Parish of 100 households has exactly same powers as one of 10,000

Click here to view your Parish Council's powers...

What is a Town or Parish council?

A council is made up of a number of residents who have put themselves forward for election to improve their community and make decisions with the community in which they live or work.

Confusingly all tiers of local government may be referred to as local councils. This includes town and parish councils, unitary authorities, district councils and county councils (principal authorities).

Councils are not charities, residents associations or private members clubs, they are part of local government. Parish councils do not have an all embracing governing document such as a constitution. They are statutory bodies created and governed by acts of Parliament. Legislation defines their powers and duties.

Town and Parish Councils are essentially the same although the title or name is different. The Chairman of a Town Council is the entitled to be called the Town Mayor. The same laws applies to both town and parish councils.

The council has a formal structure based on...

Councillors who are elected to represent their community. In carrying out their duties councillors are expected to be open about interests which may affect their decision making and behave in an ethical way.

The Chairman of the council, who is elected by councillors for a 1 year term of office. They have the responsibility to ensure that the council makes decisions only at council or committee meetings and that what they do does not lead to unlawful decisions being made by council.

The Clerk Legally all councils must have a proper officer who is a statutory office holder. This is usually the clerk who is an officer of the council employed to provide administrative assistance. The role involves protecting the council as a corporate body by providing competent professional advice on making lawful decisions.

All councils must also have a Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) this is also a statutory office. They are responsible for the finances of the council. In most councils this may be the clerk but it is not a legal requirement.

A parish councillor can be the Proper Officer and RFO. If this is the case they cannot be paid as it is illegal to be a councillor and a council employee.

The majority of councils can only afford to employ their clerk on a part time basis and so for clerks seeking to have more working hours in their week the opportunity to work for more than one council gives the possibility of a realistic weekly or monthly wage and allows them to focus on developing their knowledge of council law and procedure.

What is a parish meeting?

A Parish Meeting must not be confused with a meeting of the parish. Parish Meetings have a Chairman, but take their decisions by calling a meeting of all residents in the Parish. Parish Meetings only exists in the smallest of Parishes, with less than 150 electors.


Councils decisions may only be made in properly called and constituted meetings of the council, its committees and sub committees. A valid public notice of the meeting and councillor summons is required for ALL council meetings. Councillors MUST receive details of the meeting's business (an agenda).

All meetings of the council, its committees and sub committees are open to the press and public. Since 1972 Councils no longer have closed or confidential meetings. In limited circumstances councils may exclude the press and public.

Money - The Parish Precept

Town and parish councils do not need to trade or raise funds as they have the power to tax their residents. This is known as the parish precept. It is collected as part of a residents council tax bill.


Councils do not have responsibilities they have have powers and duties. A power is when they may do something. Whereas a duty is that they MUST do something.


Councillors serve a 4 year term of office. Elections are held every 4 years these are known as ordinary elections. If a person stops being a councillor during their term of office this creates a casual vacancy.

Where there is a casual vacancy a by-election must be called. If there are no candidates willing to stand at a by-election then a council may use its powers of co-option.

Code of Conduct

The code of conduct applies to all councillors whether elected or co-opted. Most residents rights were removed with the 2012 Localism Act. The code of conduct is ineffectual and a post code lottery being a self regulation scheme which principal authorities have no legal powers to enforce.

The code of conduct does not apply to the clerk, officers or employees of the council. They are covered by the anti corruption provisions of the 1972 Local Government Act.

Church and State

A parish council is totally independent and separate from the parochial parish council. A parish council is a secular body which represents the local community and has civil powers and duties. The parochial parish council (PCC) is an ecclesiastical body to do with the governance of the church.

The parochial parish council is responsible for the financial affairs of the church and the care and maintenance of the churchyard, church fabric and its contents. As secular bodies town and parish councils have no powers to contribute to the fabric and maintenance of the Church structure.

Why create a new Parish Council?

  • Give your community a democratic voice
  • The Government recognises the benefits of grass roots democracy
  • Creating a New Parish - getting started some useful documents...

Create a new Parish case study

Parishing - Official Guidance

Create a new parish petition

Getting elected - The Requirements and Skills needed

Click on links below to find out more...

To learn more about parish councillors Click here...

Becoming a Councillor

Parish Councillor Job Description

The Good Councillors Guide V3 New MARCH 2011

A Guide to Parish Councillor Skills