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Contacting Town / Parish Councils
What is a Town or Parish Council?
Parish and Town Councils are the democratic bodies with the closest direct links to their communities and as such can contribute significantly to the priorities contained in the community strategies which principal local authorities are responsible for preparing. Each of our Parish Councils has two Principle Authorities to deal with. First and closest to home is Tendring District Council with whom most of their business is conducted, then Essex County Council for matters such as Highways, Street Lighting, Social Services and Schools.
Tendring has a close liaison with Parishes through the Tendring District Association of Local Councils (TDALC) and the Parishes themselves work with the Essex Association of Local Councils (EALC) who have representatives from the County on their Executive Committee.
Parish and Town Councils are the first tier of local government. They have a large range of responsibilities including planning, community halls, street lighting, play areas, village greens, promotion of respective communities. Although this is not an exhaustive list they work closely with the local district Council who are the second tier in local government. The third tier in the structure is the County Council.
Quality Parish Councils
The Rural White Paper, 'Our Countryside: The Future. A Fair Deal for Rural England', published in November 2000 created an opportunity for a Parish Council to become a ‘Quality Parish Council’. Achieving Quality Parish Status demonstrates that a council has met certain minimum standards expected from an effective, representative and active Parish Council. To achieve this a Council had to meet a number of requirements such as the electoral mandate, meaning members should have been elected not appointed, their Clerk had to be properly qualified, they had to hold regular meetings, distribute to residents reports of their activities, produce an Annual Report and work with local voluntary organisations. In the first round of certification in 2003, a Parish Council in Tendring was one of the first seven Councils so designated in England.
Within Tendring we have three Parish Councils with Quality status. These are:
To learn more about "Quality" Parishes please visit the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) website.
How Parish and Town Councils Began
Parish Councils were formed in 1894 when the Gladstone’s Government passed the Local Government Act of that year. This Act created the Local Government entities known as a Parish Councils which continued to use the word Parish, a word familiar to rural residents who knew of Parochial Church Council’s who had dealt with all local affairs, until this Act removed civil matters previously dealt with by the Church Councils, transferring them to the new Parish Councils, even conforming in most cases to the ecclesiastical parish boundaries.
It would be true to say that Parish Council’s varied enormously and in reality were not highly regarded by successive governments. Shortly after the Second World War a report was prepared, by Lord Redcliffe-Maud, to strengthen parishes, but a change of government shelved the draft proposals and his reforms of Parish Councils, intended to turn them into real local government bodies had to wait until to Local Government Act 1972. In Tendring we have 27 Parish and Town Councils. There are over 10,000 Parishes in England.
A Parish Council conducts its business in accordance with its powers. It has 34 distinct powers, each under an Act of Parliament, from the ability to own and manage allotments and cemeteries to village greens. Governments add additional powers from time to time and for example from 31st December 2008, new legislation will create a ‘Power of Wellbeing’, that will enable a Parish to undertake any work in its area to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of the Parish, without reference to any other statutory power. To use this power a Parish will need to undertake training and be judged capable of using the power, which when obtained will open the horizon of activity almost without limit, always provided what it does is judged by its members to be for the economic, social and environmental well-being of the Parish
It seems likely that future governments will continue to encourage Parish Councils to play a more important role in their respective communities, stressing their closeness to the electorate and the relative speed with which a local Parish Council can respond to a local issue. The days of Parish Council membership being akin to joining a good club have gone forever. A Parish Councillor today has a responsible role to discharge for the benefit of his or her local community!
Rural Services Community
The Rural Services Community is the community voice for rural services, designed to provide smaller organisations with information and best practice relating to rural affairs. Their forums give members the opportunity to discuss issues relating to rural services and to share information.