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Next Meeting

Date of the next Meeting - 21/03/2011
The next meeting will be held on 21st March 2011 at the Marriott Tudor Park Hotel. at 7.30pm.…

Meeting Details

Powers and Responsibilities of Parish Councils

The Local Government Act, 1972, is the one most often referred to when describing the modern powers and responsibilities of Parish Councils but it is augmented by many earlier and later Acts, such as The Criminal Justice and Public Order, Act 1994, which, on the face of it, would not appear to relate to Parish Councils but which gave them a long needed ability to pay for measures to combat crime and the fear of crime in villages.

Parish Councils may only spend public money on projects or actions for which they have a Statutory Power. Breaking this rule is likely to result in a PC’s accounts being refused by the auditor and, possibly, the individual councillors being required to repay the money illegally expended. For those of an enquiring nature, a list of the legislation conferring some of these powers appears at the end of this section.

There is still, as there was in 1894, only one power which the Parish Council must consider using and that is to provide allotments for the labouring poor, if asked for them. All other powers are voluntary - the Parish Council is not obliged to exercise them and indeed the majority would find it difficult to raise enough money to exercise them all on a permanent basis.

Parish Councils are empowered to raise money for their activities through a tax (the "precept") on the village residents which is collected on their behalf by the District Council, as an addition to the District and County Council Tax. This is then paid to the Parish Council in two equal instalments.

Two neighbouring Parish Councils might require the same amount of money to function but the fewer houses there are in a village, the more each household is obliged to pay towards raising this sum. Thus, the actual tax paid by similar houses in neighbouring villages could differ widely. Though not actually ‘capped’ in their expenditure, as are the Principal Councils, the activities of many smaller Parish Councils are effectively limited by this difficulty; to what, in vulgar parlance, ‘the market can stand’. To combat this, smaller councils are being encouraged to combine for some large projects and share the expense across a wider base.

Borrowing is allowed, up to a prescribed limit and with permission, but this is of limited help to a small parish because, of course, the loan (plus interest) has to be repaid from slim resources.

Grants may be obtained for specific purposes from various sources, not least the District Council. Very few, if any of these, can be used for maintenance or general administration purposes.

Limited fund raising can be done but this is so hedged about by restrictions that, in the main, it is hardly worthwhile for a very small council.

Some larger councils are enterprising enough to have obtained property from which a considerable income is obtained. Swanley Council, in Kent, is often mentioned because it owns a seaside hotel!