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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.

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What's New

The 10 latest public articles and FAQs

Now is the time to be thinking about assessing the clerks performance before budgeting a pay rise. Pay rises are earned not given. It's easy to forget in the run up to setting the precept. The Town or Parish clerk is not responsible for setting...

Found in: The Parish News October 2014
The guide is a series of practical questions that all councillors should consider when reviewing their council's budget and proposed precept. Each question is followed by related matters and potential consequences to help councillors raise matters...

Found in: The Parish News October 2014
Elections are the cornerstone of democracy. They are the basic right of all registered electors in the Town or Parish. By-elections can be expensive and the costs can and do vary across the country. In a democracy elections are a certainty. All Town...

Found in: About Town, Parish and Local Councils October 2014
Parish meetings polls, ballots and referenda are all part of the legal framework for town and parish councils. The same legislation applies to both town and parish councils but not to district and county councils. They can be used by residents as...

Found in: About Town, Parish and Local Councils October 2014
First you should put your complaint in writing to the Clerk whose contact details should be available on your notice board and on the Parish Council website, if it has one. The Council should have a complaints procedure which is readily available to...

Found in: About Town, Parish and Local Councils October 2014
An additional £8 million of funding to boost the Charity Commission’s ability to tackle abuse, including the use of funds for extremist and terrorist activity, will be announced today by Prime Minister David Cameron

Found in: The Parish News October 2014
Armchair auditors will be able to hold their councils to account over how they spend parking profits, clamp down on fraud and collect household rubbish as part of a new wave of town hall transparency, ushered in by Local Government Minister Kris...

Found in: The Parish News October 2014
Under the Freedom of Information Act (“the Act”) it is the duty of every public authority to adopt and maintain a publication scheme. This includes town and parish councils as well as parish meetings. A parish meeting is a parish council without...

Found in: About Town, Parish and Local Councils October 2014
Town and Parish councils have no planning powers. They are statutory consultees with the same rights as a member of the public. They may comment on planning applications whether within in the parish or not.

Found in: About Town, Parish and Local Councils October 2014
Town and parish councillors are democratically elected for a 4 year term of office by the communities they represent and are supposed to be community leaders. This means getting involved within the community. Town and parish councils are part of...

Found in: About Town, Parish and Local Councillors October 2014

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About Parish Councils

 An Introduction to town and parish councils

This is a short basic introduction to Town and Parish Councils. There are hundreds of frequently asked questions both in this public area and the members area of the site. The members area contains many more 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 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?

Getting elected - The Requirements and Skills needed

Click on links below to download documents to help you


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Your Rights

CPALC (Communities, Parish and Local Councils) is independent, promoting and providing information about Town and Parish councils, clerks and councillors to all.

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

Your Rights as an elector in a 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.

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Why Join CPALC?

CPALC is the only independent body which promotes local democracy by aiding and supporting all whether residents, town and parish councillors or parish clerks.

CPALC (Communities, Parish and Local Councils) offers...

  • Open access to all - Residents, Councillors and Clerks - much is free to registered users
  • 24*7 365 days a year availability *
  • Information and support when you need it. A place to shape and share your ideas
  • A community network , all registered users can use our extensive social networking features
  • Free open user  forums for debate, discussion and help

* Terms and Conditions may apply

Original content which is ONLY available here.

  • During 2013 we published...
    • 10 Best Practice Guides,
    • 1 How to Guides,
    • 37 60 Second Guides,
    • 95 Editorials,
    • 66 Members blogs
    • 200+ News items,
    • 375+ Frequently Asked Questions and articles,
    • 25 Newsletters,
    • 3735 Directory Pages,
    • The forum now has 691 subjects and 2,831 messages covering support and debate.
  • Mobile and tablet friendly and ready
  • Free town and parish council  support forum which is available to all
  • Free private forums for residents, councillors and clerks
  • Free editorials, news and members blogs
  • Free social networking
  • Free skills assessments such as "Are you a competent councillor"
  • Detailed Best Practice, 60 Second and How To Guides*
  • PayCheck to see if your town or parish clerk is on the correct grade*
  • Why pay for expensive help  you might not be able to use?

* Requires a small subscription

CPALC (Communities, Parish and Local Councils) advanced content...

  • is written by the in house CPALC team
  • is unique to CPALC, you'll not find it any where else
  • is clear, our Best Practice Guides and How To Guides are written in plain English - no need to be a lawyer to understand them
  • is affordable £30 p.a. (inc VAT) , unlike some organisations where you have to buy each document
  • is included in simple one annual subscription. Giving you access to all our advanced content
  • is electronic, no paper, no delays - available on demand


  • 50p a week ex vat
  • Is "virtual" having no expensive London HQ to maintain or duplication of regional services
  • Has no expensive consultants waiting to visit you
  • Is all electronic - no paperwork, no hassle and no waiting
  • Offers what you need when you need it, Best Practice Guides, detailed articles, FAQ's and How To guides
  • One annual subscription of £30 (VAT included) Click here to find out more...
  • Upgrade your account at any time. Why pay for expensive help and support  you might not use?

What do we do?

  • 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 best practice guides for community and voluntary groups, parish and town councils,
  • Sifts through and publishes press releases for those items affecting communities and councils,
  • Promotes the development of social networks and communication in communities using its social networking features. These features are designed to promote the sharing of ideas and information between groups of individuals,
  • Openly consults and campaigns for changes to legislation and policies affecting communities and their local councils

CPALC is independent and receives no Government funding or public money from residents council tax or any parish council's precept. It is funded by membership subscriptions and advertising.

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