Being a Parish Councillor
To understand what is involved in being a Parish Councillor you first need to know what a Parish Council is and what it can and can`t do.
What is a Parish Council?
A Parish Council is a local authority that makes decisions on behalf of the people in the parish and is the level of government closest to the community. Parish Councils are the first place that people go to with concerns or ideas and for this reason they are a vital part of any community.
Why become a Parish Councillor?
By becoming a Parish Councillor you become somebody your community will look to for help, guidance and support, 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 to make, is something that can give you a sense of achievement and pride.
What decisions do Parish Councils make?
The most common areas that Parish Councils get involved in include crime prevention, planning issues and managing open spaces and village halls. It is fair to say that on their own Parish Councils have limited decision-making powers, but they do have the ability to negotiate with, and the power to influence, those organisations that do make final decisions, such as District and County Councils, health authorities etc. These authorities know that a Parish Council gives the best reflection of how a community feels about something and its views will be taken seriously.
How much time will it take up?
Parish Councils typically meet once a month (often excluding August) for the council meeting to which the public are invited. Meetings might last 2-3 hours depending on the length of the agenda of items to be discussed. Some councils also have committees to deal with specific matters such as planning and finance. In addition to regular meetings councillors should also be prepared to attend occasional ad hoc meetings, for example with architects or agents concerning planning issues.
How long does a Parish Councillor serve for?
Once elected Parish Councillors sit on the council for a maximum of 4 years at the end of which they can stand for re-election if they wish. If, during the 4 years, you find you can no longer meet the commitment, or you move away, you can stand down.
Why not talk to your local councillors and find out what they think about the job. If you decide you want to become a parish councillor you may need to wait until the next election, but not necessarily. Many Parish Councils have casual vacancies and would be happy for you to put your name forward for co-option.