A Parish Council is a civil corporate entity with its own legal standing. It is run by elected members (Councillors) and has its own ‘chief executive’, the clerk who may have additional staff to carry out specialised work on the Council’s behalf. Councils have been formed by Government statute and have the right to raise money from their constituents via the precept and spend it as regulations permit.
Parish Councils are the third tier in local government, but they are the authority closest to its people and the most community based. Members live in or near the area they represent, and their diverse range of interests and skills ensures they are closely attuned to issues and the needs of their local community. The first tier is the County Council (in the case of Fradley and Streethay, Staffordshire County Council) and the second tier is Lichfield District Council. Each Council has separate duties and responsibilities.
The Councillors must work as a team to devise policy and direction for the Council. Policy and project proposals are voted on at Parish Council meetings (which are held in Public) and the decisions made at the meetings are known as resolutions. Individual Councillors cannot devise policy for the Council but the Council may delegate decisions to Committees provided the terms of reference have previously been agreed by the Full Council. The Clerk is responsible for implementing policies agreed by the full Council and is the proper officer in legislation. They report only to the Council, not individual Councillors, the clerk also provides help and advice to the council, tasks may be delegated by the Full Council to Officers. Officers carry out the day to day administration duties of the Council.
Parish Councils are able to allow members of the public to join certain Committees and Working Groups. This allows the Council to utilise the skills and experience available within the Community and it allows residents to collaborate with the Council on local projects.
Parish Councils have few statutory duties but have many powers they may choose to exercise. Parish Councils must act within their powers permitted by legislation. Acting outside of these powers places the Council at risk of judicial review and any spending outside of the Powers granted would be classed as Ultra Vires.
Parish Councils adopt, at the annual meeting at the start of each financial year, a set of ‘Standing Orders’ and ‘Financial Regulations’. These are the main governance documents which show how the Council will operate. Councillors are expected to adhere to the Council's ‘code of conduct’ and any breach of this code should be reported directly to the Monitoring Officer at Lichfield District Council. The Council elect a Chair and Vice Chair in May, for the year to come, the Chair is responsible for directing the meetings proceedings in line with the Council's Standing Orders. In the event of a tied decision within a meeting, the Chair has the casting vote. The Vice-Chair conducts the meeting in the event the Chair is unavailable. If the event the Chair and Vice-Chair are not present, the Council decide on a Councillor to Chair the meeting as the first order of business.
Parish Councils are committed to ‘making a difference’ and improving their parish. Parish Councillors are unpaid and Council meetings are held in public, members of the Public and Press are welcome and encouraged to attend. It is important to note that Council Meetings are not Public Meetings, they are meetings held in Public, therefore members of the public are not allowed to join in the debate or decision making however in line with best practice Fradley and Streethay Parish Council allow members of the Public to speak on matters that are on the agenda during the Public Participation session towards the beginning of the meeting.
For more information on the role of Town, Parish and Community Councils visit: NALC website