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FALFIELD - Pale brown or fallow open land'. Old English fecal + field.
Taken from A Dictionary of Place-Names Oxford University Press, © A.D. Mills 1998.

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In recent months all the Parish Councils of our villages have been holding their annual meetings. Some have seen a change of personnel and others have experienced difficulties in recruiting members. What are parish councils for? Why should we care about them? To most they are the most local form of elected government. They are allowed to raise money through a compulsory 'precept' which forms part of the Council Tax and is collected on their behalf by District Councils. Parishes can set their precept at the level of their choice. They can also obtain grants for specific projects from District Councils, Government Departments, and charitable foundations.

Powers of Parish Councils

The 1965 Royal Commission on Local Government (The Redcliffe-Maude Commission) recommended that local councils should be empowered to do what they pleased for the benefit of their people, and a consequence of this was the important 1972 Local Government Act which removed many of the restrictions on the activities of parish councils. For example, before the 1972 Act, parish councils couldn’t save money from one year to the next in order to fund a major project. This is something all councils have to do these days to avoid having a massive council tax for each year that anything new is attempted.



Subsequent legislation has added to parish council powers and now local councils can undertake any of the following things:-

• The provision of allotments.

• Provision of bars and laundrettes.

• Cemeteries, crematoria, maintenance of churchyards and the provision of mortuaries.

• Provision and maintenance of public clocks.

• Provision of any form of public entertainment and of any premises for giving entertainments; this includes maintaining bands or orchestras and providing for dancing.

• The provision of buildings for public meetings and functions, indoor sports, physical recreation, for clubs having recreation, social or athletic objectives.

• The provision and maintenance of footway lighting, which lights roads and pavements.

• The provision of litter bins and the support of anti-litter campaigns.

• The provision and maintenance of public open spaces, pleasure grounds and public walks, public lavatories, car parks, cycle parks, public parks and associated facilities.

• Maintenance of public footpaths and bridle ways, planting and maintaining road side verges.

• Maintenance of public seats, shelters for general public use and particularly for bus passengers, erection of signs which warn of dangers, renounce a place name or indicate a bus stop.

• Provision of indoor or outdoor swimming pools or bathing places.

• Provision of facilities for conferences, the encouragement of recreation and business tourism.

• Powers to maintain a village or town green.



In addition to all those things, a parish council can do anything, provided it is for the general benefit of the community, and that the expenditure in any one year does not exceed £5.30 per local government elector in that particular parish or community. Parishes set a level for the Parish tax (known as the 'Precept') which is to be charged each year. The Precept is collected on behalf of the Parish by the District Council.


Smaller civil parishes, typically those with an electorate of less than 200, do not have a formal Parish Council; instead they hold Parish Meetings.


Parish Council procedures

Parish Councils must:

Appoint a Chairman responsible for the smooth running of meetings and for ensuring that all council decisions are lawful.

Appoint a Clerk as the Parish Council's advisor and administrator.

Have at least five members. The National Association of Local Councils recommends seven as the minimum number needed for good administration.

Appoint a Responsible Financial Officer to manage the finances in a sound and professional manner. The RFO is often the Clerk.

Appoint an independent and competent Internal Auditor.

Comply with Employment Law, including equal opportunities and disability legislation, and the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts.

Hold a minimum of four meetings a year, one of which must be the Annual Meeting. In practice most Parish Councils meet monthly.

Parish Council elections are held every four years. Parish Councils have the power to co-opt members if there are insufficient candidates to fill all places.


Quality Parish Councils

The Quality Parish and Town Council scheme was launched in June 2003, following the publication of the Government's Rural White Paper, 2000. The scheme is designed to provide benchmark minimum standards for parish and town councils, and enable them to better represent the communities they serve. The scheme also aims to enhance relationships between local councils, principal authorities and community and voluntary sector organisations.

In order to achieve Quality Status, parish and town councils must demonstrate that they have reached the standard required by passing several tests including;


The tests exceed the statutory duties of parish and town councils and represent the standards that an efficient, well run parish council should achieve.



Localism Bill – Real Planning Powers handed to Parish Councils

The Bill is long and complex but at its heart are four powers that will fundamentally change the role of parish councils. In short, your council will now have the opportunity to play a core role in the planning system. That is not just as a consultee but as a plan maker and decision taker on planning matters.

Roles & Responsibilities of a Parish Council
Power 1: Neighbourhood Plans

Parish councils will have the right to produce Neighbourhood Plans which will shape development at the parish level. Current local plans will take on the strategic role, e.g. housing numbers, strategic infrastructure, etc, and the Neighbourhood Plan will have to broadly follow this. But the detail of what is planned for the future of a community will now be determined by the parish council through the Plan. This includes where housing should be located, what local infrastructure (play areas, doctor’s surgeries, etc) is needed and what development is generally not permissible. A Neighbourhood Plan will have to be independently examined and then pass a local referendum amongst the population of the community it serves. If the majority of those voting are in favour, then a local authority is duty bound to take the plan into account when considering planning applications. The cost of producing Neighbourhood Plans is to be covered through the proceeds of development permitted in the local area and from specific Government funding. What should a Neighbourhood Plan contain? How can we ensure that it reflects what local people really want?’ Navigus Planning can help you to think about the future of your area, to shape your Neighbourhood Plan and to enable local residents to contribute effectively to the plan.

Power 2: Neighbourhood Development Orders

As part of the neighbourhood planning process, any parish council which produces a Neighbourhood Plan will also be able to make a Neighbourhood Development Order (NDO). An NDO automatically grants planning permission for specific development or classes of development. The classes of development which can be granted an NDO will be controlled and must be in accordance with the Local Plan. But they will be decided by the parish council and voted on in a referendum of the local community. If the majority of those voting are in favour, then the NDO will be passed. Where a scheme is brought forward by the parish council itself, it may seek an NDO giving it a ‘community right-to-build’. This will help to deliver a community-led site-specific development which may be homes, businesses or facilities. What types of development should we be seeking an NDO for? Should this have conditions attached and if so, what should they be?’ Navigus Planning can advise you and can help you to prepare a ‘community right-to-build’ NDO. .

Power 3: Duty to consult local communities on major planning applications

The Localism Bill now requires prospective developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for certain developments. Developers have often done this as a way of ‘demonstrating’ that they have consulted locally on plans they have in fact already produced – in other words, a ‘tick the box’ exercise. The new powers mean that they will have to comprehensively consult on all large proposals before the plans have been produced and then show how they have taken the local community’s views into account in the submitted version. Failure to reflect what local people want from development could result in refusal of planning permission.

Power 4: Local referendum on key issues

All too often local people are denied a voice on important issues. The Localism Bill changes this by allowing a local referendum to be held on any matter that the local community wishes. This referendum must be held by a local authority if a minimum of 5% of the local electorate sign a petition. Following the referendum, the local authority must consider the steps it proposes to take and publish its decision and reasons. So if a community held a referendum over, for example, whether a bus service should run at different times or the hours of opening of a day-care centre, the local authority would have to take into account the result of the vote and go on record with its intentions on how to address the matter.

Page last updated: Saturday, January 24, 2015