There are around 10,000 community, parish and town councils in England and Wales, controlled by Acts of Parliament and they are responsible for the most local of matters. Importantly, they can “precept” – raising a sum collected with your council tax each year to improve facilities and services for local people.
Parish, town and community councils in England and Wales have a number of basic responsibilities in making the lives of local communities more comfortable, many of which are often taken for granted. Essentially these powers fall within three main categories: – representing the whole electorate within the parish; delivering services to meet local needs; and striving to improve quality of life in the parish. Individual powers to spend include traffic calming measures, local youth projects, tourism activities, leisure facilities, car parks, village greens, public toilets, litter bins, street lighting, street cleaning, burial grounds, allotments, bus shelters, commons, opens spaces, footpaths, bridleways, and crime reduction measures. Community, parish and town councils can also comment on planning applications – they are statutory consultees and can be represented at public inquiries.
The Role of a Councillor
What is a councillor?
Councillors are elected to represent an individual geographical unit on the council, known as a ward or – mainly in smaller parishes – the entire parish or town council area. They are generally elected by the public every four years. The are unpaid but a council can choose to provide an allowance. This council (Brundall) has chosen not to provide any allowances for the Chairman or any other Councillors.
What do councillors do?
Councillors have three main components to their work.
Decision-making – Through meetings and attending committees with other elected members, councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented.
Monitoring – Councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.
Getting involved locally – As local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. These responsibilities and duties often depend on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available, and may include going to meetings of local organisations such as tenants’ associations, and organisations affecting the wider community; taking up issues on behalf of members of the public, running surgeries for residents to bring up issues, and meeting with individual residents in their own homes.
Brundall Parish Council is made up of 12 Councillors who, over the period of the 4 year term are initially elected. During their term of office, and with resignations and co-options, there is naturally a mix of elected and co-opted Councillors. They meet at full Council monthly and are expected to be on the various council Committees and attend meeting and if necessary carry out research and work to make improvements to the parish.
But what is life really like on this Council? And what is the perception of a councillor? If you ask residents what they perceive as being a Councillor, they may say they don’t have a clue. Some assume it just involves attending meetings. The country got a particularly bad insight into life on a council with the Jackie Weaver publicity at Handforth Parish Council. This was an example of Councillors that, shall we say, could do with a lot more training!!
A Day in the life of a Councillor
The truth is that there is no typical day. Every day, week and month can bring in unexpected and sometimes challenging issues. They could range from being asked to comment on nationwide, or district consultations by reading lengthy documents trying to fathom complex terminology, to going on patrol in the village to find out about traffic concerns or simply meeting residents to hear their comments and try to help them. At meetings, effective decision-making is key and Councillors must be prepared to back up their reasons as to why they vote in a particular way.
Cllr Kevin Wilkins, Chairman has given this insight:
“The work of a parish council is to a greater extent unsung, but is an important tier of local government representing the local interests of people within the village, namely residents, businesses and visitors.Therefore, to put yourself forward for election as a parish councillor is a privilege to represent those local interests within your own village. As parish councillors we are volunteers and give of our time freely but we are happy to do so and certainly in our council work in a non political environment simply to support the local community. Our main focus is to identify and drive improvements to village life such as the Countryside Park and allotments, Cremer’s Meadow and very soon the Sports Hub and, to follow, the Village Green.Unlike the portrayal of a parish council in the Vicar of Dibley it is not all about quirky meetings and ‘no no’ parking allowed on the field, but a far more dynamic group of twelve volunteer councillors whose key objective is simply to do their best for their village and local community”.
Cllr Mike Savory has given this summary:
“So for me, becoming a councillor was all about giving something back to my local community. I have children and I wanted to try and do my bit to improve the village for them and all the residents of Brundall. Being a member of the Parish Council is very rewarding but also very time-consuming. All members give their time freely for the benefit of the community and spend time working on various subgroups and projects. Two big focuses for me and the council are Road Safety and Recreation in Brundall and I sit on both the Road Safety sub group and Recreation and Wellbeing committee of the council and we are constantly working towards finding ways to improve both of these key issues in the village. There are some very exciting projects being planned with the Sports Hub, the future Village Green in Brundall and working alongside Blofield Parish Council on the Witton Run area. It is projects like these that can have a huge positive impact on Brundall and the future. When those visions come to life it will be very rewarding for all those involved and thanks to the countless hours that councillors have spent on them”.
Ultimately councillors are unpaid and therefore volunteers, but they are held to a higher standard by the Code of Conduct that they pledge to follow when elected and so they must act with the highest integrity. If you might be interested in becoming a Councillor please follow the link below:
Becoming a Councillor – Brundall Parish Council