What is a Parish Council?

Town and parish councils are the first layer of local government. They are elected local authorities, which aim to engage local people and respond to their needs, through representation as community advocates or by providing services, for example; the administration of parks or promoting tourism in the local area.

What do they do?

The activities parish and town councils are involved in are varied and diverse. They have a range of functions:

  • As community representatives on other bodies
  • Powers to provide facilities
  • Powers to be notified of proposals and surveys
  • Other miscellaneous powers

Parish councils, in general, have powers to provide some facilities themselves, or they can contribute towards their provision by others. There are large variations in the services provided by parishes, but they can include the following:

  • Allotment (gardening)
  • Support and encouragement of arts and crafts
  • Provision of Village halls
  • Recreation grounds, parks, children’s play areas, playing fields and swimming baths
  • Cemeteries and crematoria
  • Maintenance of closed churchyards
  • Cleaning and drainage of ponds etc.
  • Control of litter
  • Public conveniences
  • Creation and maintenance of footpaths and bridleways
  • Provision of cycle and motorcycle parking
  • Acquisition and maintenance of rights of way
  • Public clocks
  • War memorials
  • Encouragement of tourism

They may also provide the following subject to the consent of county council in the area in which they live:

  • Bus shelters
  • Signposting of footpaths
  • Lighting of footpaths
  • Off-street car parks
  • Provision, maintenance and protection of roadside verges

Representative Powers

Parish councils have representative powers and must be notified by the district or county council of:

  • All planning applications in their areas
  • Intention to provide a burial ground in the parish
  • Proposals to carry out sewerage works
  • Footpath and bridleway (more generally, ‘rights of way’) surveys
  • Intention to make byelaws in relation to Hackney carriages, music and dancing, promenades, sea shore and street naming

Many parish and town councils are involved in planning, promoting tourism, licensing, community halls, representation, management of town and village centres and provide local representatives for the Council’s Community Area Boards.

What powers do Parish Councils have with respect to planning applications?

Parish Councils are consulted by the relevant Planning Authority (which could be either the District/Borough Council, the National Park Authority or the County Council) on all planning applications. Any views expressed by the Parish Council will be taken into account by the Planning Authority before a decision is made, providing the points made are relevant to the determination of a planning application. The final decision is made by the Planning Authority, not the Parish Council.

To whom are they accountable?

The electors of the parish. Elections to parish councils are held every four years. The council’s accounts are subject to scrutiny by the District Auditor and the Standards Board for England can investigate alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by individual councillors.

Sutton Benger Parish Council

Sutton Benger Parish Council is made up of 11 Councillors, elected to represent local parishioners from the villages of Sutton Benger and Draycot Cerne.  It employs one Clerk to administrate and support the Council’s work.

The Parish Council is granted a sum of money from County Council via council tax contributions, known as the Precept.  This funding allows the Parish Council to support their operations and to carry out local projects to help meet the needs of its residents. This financial process is regulated and audited annually.

In summary, SBPC is a special committee, enshrined in perpetuity to facilitate and influence County Council decisions affecting the local area.  Its Councillors aim to represent the views and needs of all its parishioners.

To that end, the SBPC meetings are open to the Public.  Members of the Public are permitted to observe the full Council meeting, but they must understand that this does not entitle them to a right to speak.

Local residents are invited to speak during the specially set aside time of the Public Forum where there is a 15 minute period at the start of each Parish Council meeting for members of the Public to raise issues that affect the local area.  This is a good opportunity for residents to make suggestions about local projects.

If you would like to raise an issue or suggest a project idea, please contact the Parish Clerk, a Councillor, or attend a SBPC meeting.