Be a Councillor

What is a Parish Council?

A parish council is a local authority that makes decisions on behalf of the people in the parish.

It is the level of government closest to the community, with the county and district authority above it in the hierarchy.

As the authority closest to the people, we are often the first port of call people go to with their concerns or ideas.

For this reason, we are a vital part of any community.

Why become a Parish Councillor?

If you’ve never been to a parish council meeting before, you may be forgiven for thinking that parish councillors are a group of (probably older) people who meet now and then in a draughty village hall.

If you live in a community where something big is planned or has happened, the parish council can help to provide support and guidance to the community.

Seeing your community change for the better as a result of decisions you have helped make, is something that will give you a sense of achievement and pride.

What decisions do Parish Councils make?

Probably the most common topics that parish councils get involved with are planning matters (they are statutory consultees), managing open spaces and campaigning for and delivering better services and facilities.

On their own, parish councils have limited powers to implement decisions.

However, they do have the ability to negotiate with, and the power to influence, those other organisations that do make the final decisions and, in this respect, parish councils are extremely influential.

The organisations that make the final decisions know that a parish council gives the best reflection of how a community feels about something and our views are taken seriously.

Parish Duties

Moretonhampstead Parish Council has 12 Councillors.

We meet once a month (except August) and meetings usually last an hour though they may last up to two hours, depending upon the items on the agenda to be discussed.

We discuss and decide upon planning applications and any other matters referred to it by local residents.

There is also an annual parish meeting which all parishioners are invited to.

All meetings are advertised on the council notice board.

Residents can bring to the attention of the parish council anything that concerns them, either directly or through the clerk. Residents are also welcome to attend meetings of the Parish Council.  Time is allocated at the beginning and end of the meeting for members of the public to speak on matters which concern them.

If matters raised are not the responsibility of the council, the clerk can bring them to the attention of the proper authority.

Moretonhampstead Parish Council has compiled a document showcasing what it does.

How much time does it take up?

The business of the Parish Council is managed by several sub committees, such as Finance and Policy, Open Spaces and Planning. So apart from meeting for a couple of hours a month (except in August) as a full council, depending on how many committees you want to be involved with, you may have another meeting or two in between the full council meetings.  The frequency of such meetings often depends on what matters need to be discussed before coming to the next full council meeting for a decision.  So, you can tailor your involvement, depending on what time you have to give to the Parish Council and what skills or interests you may have.

In addition to the regular meetings, some councillors have specific duties requiring them to attend other meetings to represent the council, e.g., acting as a representative on an outside body or helping develop a new project for the community.

Such meetings don’t happen often, so it’s not going to take over your life.

How long does a parish councillor serve for?

Once elected, parish councillors sit on the council for a term of four years.

If they then want to stay in the post, they can stand for re-election.

If there is a vacancy, Councillors can also be co-opted. This requires the prospective candidate to write a brief resumé and attend a parish meeting for a short informal interview. The councillors will then take a vote and appoint the most suitable candidate.

Am I eligible to be a Parish Councillor?

To be able to become a councillor for Moretonhampstead Parish Council, you must:

  • be an elector of the parish, or;
  • for the whole of the previous 12 months have occupied (as owner or tenant) land or other premises in the parish, or;
  • during the previous 12 months have worked in the parish (as your principal or only place of work), or;
  • for the whole of the previous 12 months lived in the parish or within three miles of the parish boundary and
  • be a least 18 years old.

Don’t take our word for it!

The best way to find out what it’s like to be a parish councillor is to talk to someone who’s doing it now.

Come along to a parish council meeting, or speak to one of our councillors and find out what they think of the job.

Find out more

Teignbridge District Council has a dedicated ‘Be a councillor’ web page where you’ll find some short videos of their councillors explaining why they stood for election. We are also signposting interested people to The Local Government Association website and the National Association of Local Councils website which have a lot of useful information for people thinking of becoming a councillor. 

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