Town and Parish councils are the 1st tier of Local GovernmentGuest and visitor home page

They may also be known as a "Local Council"

They exist to serve all of the community, residents, taxpayers and electors

  • Town and Parish councils are part of local government along with...
    • County Councils
    • District Councils
    • Unitary Councils
    • Borough Councils
  • They are governed by laws and have powers and duties
  • They are not...
    • private member clubs
    • residents associations or
    • charities
    • anything to do with the church


Town or Parish councillors are democratically elected to represent you and all residents in your community.

  • Councillors are elected every 4 years by you to represent you and your community
  • They are NOT unpaid volunteers - they may claim allowances
  • They are accountable to you - the electors

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


wp protocolAbout CPALC

CPALC is the only independent National organisation providing information and a wide range of services about Town and Parish Councils to residents, councillors and clerks.

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

For more About CPALC CLICK HERE...


Contents and Shortcuts - Click a link below


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.


What is a Town or Parish council?

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 basically the same.

  • Town and Parish Councils are essentially the same although the title or name is different.
  • 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
  • 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 members area contains hundreds of in depth articles and guides about councils.


The councils formal structure is based on...


  • 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

  • working for more than one council gives the clerk the possibility of a realistic weekly or monthly wage
  • it also allows the clerk 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 exist in the smallest of Parishes, with less than 150 electors.


Council Meetings

  • 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