What is a Parish Council?
A parish council is the level of elected government that is closest to the community, with the local authority (West Berkshire Council) above it in the hierarchy. Parish councils have no true equivalent in urban areas. Being close to the community, parish councils are very often the first place people will go with concerns or ideas. For this reason, they play a vital part in village life, making decisions on behalf of the people in the parish. A parish councillor must have a passion for making a difference within their local community.
The number of councillors making up a parish council varies with the size of the parish – in East Ilsley we have five. They are elected to serve for a period of four years. Their work is entirely voluntary; no Councillor receives any payment for attending the meetings. Councillors are entitled to be reimbursed for expenditure incurred on Council business according to scales laid down by West Berkshire Council.
Under our present system parish councillors have only limited control over how council tax receipts are spent. Their role is largely an advisory one in which they are consulted by and report to the West Berkshire Council on local issues. They may point out where corrective action is needed on any matters concerning the economic, social and environmental well-being of village residents. Matters requiring action every month tend to be planning applications and problems associated with highways, namely road and pavement surfaces, overgrown hedges, trees and verges, defective road signs and street lighting, plus traffic problems of parking or speeding. Other topics requiring frequent attention are litter or other forms of environmental pollution, refuse, drainage systems and safety. The Parish Council owns and manages the Children’s Playground in accordance with annual RoSPA inspections and maintains parish property such as the Playing Field.
Apart from attending the monthly meetings most Councillors accept additional specific responsibilities requiring them to attend other meetings often outside the parish. These tasks cover such fields as crime prevention, environmental protection, special village projects, and liaison with West Berkshire Council and with other communities.
Parish Council Meetings
The Council meets on a regular basis, and considers planning applications and any other matters referred to it by local residents, West Berkshire Council and by central government. The council meets in the Baptist Chapel on Cow Lane. The agenda for each meeting is displayed in the Parish Council notice board by the Bus Stop on Broad Street for about six days before the start of the meeting. Members of the public are also invited to attend and will be made welcome. There is a forum before the start of the meeting at which members of the public can raise concerns, ask questions and share ideas. If matters raised are not the responsibility of the council, the clerk can bring them to the attention of the proper authority. Meetings may last two or three hours, depending on the agenda set for the meeting to discuss. There is also an annual meeting which all parishioners are invited to attend.
The council has the power to raise money through taxation, the precept. The precept is the parish council’s share of the council tax. Much of the work undertaken in the village is done by West Berkshire Council and is paid for out of the Council Tax. The precept demand goes to the billing authority, the city council, which collects the tax for the parish council. This covers essential administrative costs, management of the playground and in addition allows the council to donate modest sums to causes that it considers to be beneficial to the village community. Typical examples have been donations to the parish magazine, contribution to annual Firework Display, contributions towards the defibrillator equipment in the parish.
What powers do Parish Councils have?
Parish councils have a wide range of powers which essentially relate to local matters, such as looking after open space, allotments, play areas and much more. They make all kinds of decisions on issues that affect the local community. Probably the most common topics that parish councils get involved with are planning matters (they are statutory consultees), crime prevention, managing open spaces and campaigning for and delivering better services and facilities. Parish councils have limited powers to make decisions but they do have the ability to negotiate with, and the power to influence, those other organisations that do make the final decisions (such as the town council, health authorities, police etc). In this respect parish councils can be very influential and the organisations that make the final decisions know that a parish council gives the best reflection of how a community feels about something, and its views will be taken seriously.
Communicating with Residents
For East Ilsley Parish Council to be a successful team councillors acknowledge that the key to that success is via communicating and engaging with residents effectively to earn a good reputation and maintain the goodwill of the community. The council want to keep you informed about its services and what they stand for in order to build trust in the community and to give residents the confidence that councillors are making well informed decisions. The council uses a variety of communication channels in order to share information including the parish magazine, a website and the noticeboard.
Why become a Parish Councillor?
By becoming a parish Councillor you become someone on whom your community will rely to respond to concerns, seek help, offer guidance and lend support to local causes. You will be a community leader with the power to influence decisions for the benefit of the people you serve. Seeing your community change for the better, as a result of decisions you have helped make, is something that can give you a sense of achievement and pride. If you do become a parish councillor you will be required to sign up to the Code of Conduct. Once elected, parish councillors sit on the council for a maximum of four years. If they then wish to stay in the post they can stand for re-election. If you are interested in the role of parish councillor please contact our clerk or chairman in the first instance.
Am I eligible to be a Parish Councillor?
To be eligible for election as a Councillor a person must be over 18 years of age, a British subject, and be an elector for the area. Also, during the whole 12 months before nomination as a candidate he or she must have occupied land as a tenant or owner in the parish (or within 3 miles of it) or have his or her principal or only place of work within the parish. In East Ilsley, parish councillors have no party-political affiliations.
Talk to us
The best way to find out what is happening in your parish and what it is like to be a parish councillor is to come along to one of our meetings and meet the council, give one of us a call, or simply stop and chat. We are always happy to talk about issues related to our parish and hear your ideas on how we can continue to work together and strive to make East Ilsley an even better place to live. For more information about please contact our Clerk: Contact