Town and parish councils have a wide range of powers. The list below summarises some of those powers and duties. It is important to remember that a parish council with 200 residents has the same powers and duties as a town of 10,000 residents.

What is the difference between a power and a duty?

Powers and duties are not the same. A power means that a council may do something. A duty requires a council to do something. Many of the powers are open to a broad interpretation so the definition provided should not be taken too literally.

Town and Parish councils can do many things, they have both powers and duties. A power means that they may do something a duty means that they must do that thing specified in the legislation. For example a town or parish council may provide a mortuary but MUST consider biodiversity in all its decisions.

Powers are sometimes confused with services. This is especially the case when residents fail to understand the differences between what are known as local councils. County, District, Unitary, Town and Parish councils are all "local councils" all of which may provide different services to the community. Town and parish councils have no planning powers other than the right to be notified of planning applications.

They may decide to provide of pay for street lighting, play areas, bus shelters, community buildings and other facilities. A good council will have a list of the services it provides on its web site.

Parish Councils may also discuss anything that affects the community, directly or indirectly. As the democratic representative body for the parish, they may influence decisions made by others. However as some councils have not had a contested election in a generation their views may carry little weight with the principal authority.

Parish Councils should have a business plan – sometimes called a Parish Plan – as a forward planning tool for the delivery for the needs and aspirations of the community.

Where a function is higlighted it has been linked to at least 1 CPALC document.


Powers and Duties

Annual tax to fund activities

Power to charge a tax or precept on its community and households in the parish


Powers to provide allotments,

Duty to consider providing allotment gardens if demand unsatisfied,

Baths & wash houses

Power to provide

Bio Diversity

Duty to consider in decision making

Burial grounds, cemeteries & crematoria

Power to acquire, provide and maintain shelters,

Power to agree to maintain monuments & memorials,

Power to contribute towards expenses of cemeteries,

Bus shelters

Power to provide & maintain shelters,

Bye laws

Powers to provide bye laws for:

  • Pleasure grounds
  • Cycle parks
  • Baths & wash houses
  • Open spaces & burial grounds


Duties regarding parochial charities

Christmas lights

Power to provide to attract visitors

Citizens advice bureau

Power to support


Power to provide public clocks

Closed churchyards

Powers to maintain

Commons & common pastures

Powers in relation to enclosure,

  • regulation and management, providing common pasture.

Conference facilities

Power to provide and encourage use of facilities

Community centres

Power to provide and equip community buildings

Power to provide buildings for use of clubs having athletic, social or educational objectives

Crime prevention

Powers to spend money on various crime prevention measures


Power to deal with ponds & ditches

Energy Saving

Power to promote in the community

Entertainment & the arts

Provision of entertainment and support of the arts including festivals and celebrations


Power to accept


Power to repair and maintain public footpaths & bridle-ways

Power to light roads & public places

Power to provide parking places for vehicles, bicycles and motor cycles

Power to enter into agreement as to dedication and widening

Power to provide roadside seats & shelters

Power to complain to district councils regarding protection of rights of way and roadside wastes

Power to provide traffic signs and other notices

Power to plant trees etc. and to maintain roadside verges


Power to participate in schemes of collective investment


Power to acquire by agreement, to appropriate, to dispose of land

Power to accept gifts of land


Provision of receptacles


Powers to promote

Mortuaries & post mortem rooms

Powers to provide mortuaries and post mortem rooms


Power to provide information relating to matters affecting local government


Power to deal with offensive ditches

Open spaces

Power to acquire land & maintain

Parish property & documents

Powers to direct as to their custody

Postal & telecommunications facilities

Power to pay public telecommunications operators any loss sustained providing post or telegraph office or telecommunication facilities

Public buildings & village hall

Power to provide buildings for offices and for public meetings and assemblies

Public conveniences

Power to provide

Parks & pleasure grounds

Power to acquire land or to provide recreation grounds, public walks, pleasure grounds and open spaces and to manage and control them


Power to provide a wide range of recreational facilities

Provision of boating pools

Town & Country planning

Right to be notified of planning applications


Power to contribute to organisations encouraging tourism

Traffic calming

Powers to contribute financially to traffic calming schemes


Powers to spend money on community transport schemes

Village signs

Power to use decorative signs to inform visitors

War memorials

Power to maintain, repairs, protect and adapt war memorials

Water supply

Power to use well spring or stream and to provide facilities for obtaining water therefrom


  • Preceding list is based on the Good Councilors Guide published by the Countryside Agency,
  • The list is indicative and not comprehensive,
  • References to the relevant acts have been omitted from this summary,