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Have you ever thought about becoming a Parish Councillor? In fact, have you ever wondered what a Parish Council is and what it is supposed to do? Hopefully, the next few paragraphs will help to explain the role of a Parish Council and the Councillors in Friston.
What is a Parish Council?
A Parish Council is the elected first layer of local government and, as such, is the group who work closest with the electorate. However, it is not a politically aligned organisation. The District council (East Suffolk) is the next level up in the hierarchy. Friston elects 9 councillors to the Parish Council.
A Parish Council can make decisions on a number of items such as allotments, playgrounds, local facilities such as bus shelters, funding local organisations through grants, and consulting with local people and organisations regarding improving services.
A Parish Council also has a statutory right for consultation on planning matters although District Council makes the decision. It can own property – for instance, the Village Hall – and spend money to improve the facilities that it provides.
Another, really vital role, is to bring to the attention of District and County Councillors, items that are causing concern to the area such as the state of the roads, flooding, maintenance of public services as well as asking for grants for bigger projects to benefit the community.
A Parish Council is elected every 4 years but if a vacancy occurs between the elections, a new Councillor can be co-opted if no election is requested.
The Parish Council is funded by a share of the Council Tax (also known as the Precept). The amount of money required is decided by the Parish Council every year through looking at the budget at a meeting, usually in November.
Why become a Parish Councillor?
It may seem that a Parish Council just meets every so often in the Village Hall and issues the minutes. But, there is much more to it than that. As a Parish Councillor you will have the opportunity to influence decisions made at meetings, become actively involved in projects such as helping lobby County Council regarding the Highways problems. You can often be the first port of call for local people when they have problems.
A Parish Councillor may also represent the council on local bodies and committees and keep the Parish Council informed.
As a Parish Councillor, it may be necessary to visit proposed planning developments so as to prepare a response to the District Council.
The championing of local projects and problems in the community with the persistence to deal with local authorities and utilities is essential.
As a Parish Councillor, you have to have common sense, integrity and be pragmatic in the solutions. Sometimes, some of the projects or solutions will not suit everyone in the community however, a Parish Councillor has to take a balanced approach and accept that “you can’t please all of the people, all of the time”.
Of course, all this involves time. The Council meets every 6 weeks and there can sometimes be extra-ordinary meetings to review planning applications or urgent issues. There will be emails to read and phone calls to receive and you could be involved with working parties or other outside bodies however, nothing is compulsory……
All Councillors are offered training in being a Parish Councillor and also any seminars or briefings in specialist subjects that may be of interest. There is no remuneration for being a Parish Councillor although expenses such as travel costs will be reimbursed. The Parish Clerk (a paid position) is available to offer help and guidance for all councillors and at meetings.
Are you eligible to be a Parish Council?
To stand for election on a parish council you must:
- Be a UK or commonwealth citizen or the Republic of Ireland or a Member state of the EU.
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Be an elector in the parish or for the whole of the previous 12 months have occupied (as owner or tenant) land or other premises in the parish or
- During the previous 12 months have worked in the parish (as your principle or only place of work) or
- For the whole of the previous 12 months lived in the parish or within three miles of the parish boundary.
Want to know more?
The best way to find out about becoming a parish councillor is to speak to one of the current councillors and/or come to one of the meetings. Alternatively, speak to the Clerk about it. Friston Parish Council is a friendly group who work as a team.