What is a local council and what does it do?
There are many types of local councils, all with different responsibilities. The thing they have in common is that they all provide local services for local people.
There are around 8,500 local councils representing around 16 million people across England and they form the most local tier of government making decisions on behalf of their residents. In Worcestershire there are three levels of local government; parish and town councils are known as the first and most local level of government. The next level is the district councils which cover an area that includes a number of parish councils whilst the county council covers the whole of Worcestershire. There are six district councils in Worcestershire - Bromsgrove, Malvern Hills, Redditch Borough, Worcester City, Wychavon and Wyre Forest.
Parish and town councils were established by the Local Government Act of 1894 and there are 150 parish and town councils and 10 parish meetings in the county. There is no legal difference between a parish and a town council; they both have the same powers and functions, the only difference is in the name and the fact that the chairman of a town council is referred to as the town mayor.
The main role of parish and town councils is set out in law and they have a wide range of functions and powers to provide a variety of local services. Parish and town councils also have by law the right to be asked about their view on some services that are the responsibility of other levels of local government.
Their work falls into three main categories -
- Representing the local community.
- Delivering services to meet local needs
- Striving to improve the quality of life in the local area
Each year a sum of money raised locally called a ‘precept’ is collected through the council tax. This money is invested back into the local neighbourhood by the local council to improve facilities and services. Local councils can also apply for grants and loans and, if they own property, can receive money from rents or leases.
Councils usually meet once a month and meetings may last two or three hours depending on what is to be discussed. In addition to regular meetings a number of councils have additional meetings to look at specific areas or services.
Council meetings are open to the public,and the annual parish or town meeting for all parish/town electors has to be held, by law, every year between 1st March and 1st June.
The purpose of a local council is to improve the lives of people in their local community and to give their local community a voice and the means to achieve this.