About Parish Councils
What is a Parish Council?
A parish council is the level of elected government that is closest to the community, with the district authority (Leeds City 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, recognising the needs of the young and the elderly in equal measure while taking into consideration the legal boundaries in which they work.
The number of councillors making up a parish council varies with the size of the parish – in Bramham we have nine. They are elected to serve for a period of four years and the last election took place in May 2011. 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 Leeds City 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 Leeds Unitary Authority 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 and the Old People’s Shelter.
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 Leeds City Council and with other communities.
Parish Council Meetings
The Council meets on the first Wednesday of each month, except in the month of August, and considers planning applications and any other matters referred to it by local residents, Leeds City Council and by central government. The council meets in the Old People’s Shelter or The Village Hall. The agenda for each meeting is displayed in the Parish Council notice board in the Old People’s Garden 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 Leeds City 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 worthy causes that it considers to be beneficial to the village community. Typical examples have been donations to the parish magazine, contribution to village hall repairs, payment of fees to the sports and leisure association in connection with the pavilion, repairs to the old people shelter, contributions towards crime prevention equipment in the parish, donations towards the Bramham in Bloom projects and donations to help primary school projects.
What powers do Parish Councils have?
Parish councils have a wide range of powers which essentially relate to local matters, such as looking after community buildings, open space, allotments, play areas, street lighting, car parks 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. It’s true to say that on their own, 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 city 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 Bramham 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 new website, door drops, questionnaires and a community conference. The Councillors place themselves at the heart of their community and its activities in order to engage with residents and find out what it is that they want, not what they think you want. Although they are elected to make decisions on your behalf, they want those decisions to be informed by your views and are always willing to listen.
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 Bramham, parish councillors have no party political affiliations.
Don’t take our word for it!
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 Bramham an even better place to live. For more information about please contact our Clerk.