There isn’t much of a difference. Both parish and town councils have the same powers and can provide the same services. The only difference is that a town council has decided that it should be known as a ‘Town Council’ instead of a parish council, and may have a mayor.
The parish or town council acts within the framework of legislation conferred on it by Parliament. The functions of the council are mainly discretionary, that is they amount to powers as opposed to duties. Parish councils derive their powers from a number of sources but in general terms the important source is the Local Government Act of 1972 and subsequent amendments and enhancements. Parish and town councils can delegate power to the clerk or a committee but never to individual councillors or chairmen.
Your parish or town council has an overall responsibility for the well-being of your local community. Their work falls into three main categories:
The parish or town council will work with larger councils in your area called ‘principal councils to agree which of these services the parish or town council should be in charge of.
Principal councils are larger councils such as a district or county in need of support.
Your parish or town council is made up of a number of councillors who meet regularly to make decisions on the work and direction of the council. As elected bodies parish and town councils are responsible to the people they represent – that’s your local community.
Attending a council meeting is the best way to find out what they do. Give the council a call and find out when its next public meeting is scheduled to take place.
Each year a sum of money called a ‘precept’ is collected through your council tax. This money is used by your parish or town council to improve facilities and services for local people. Parish or town councils can also apply for grants and loans and, if they own property, can receive money from rents or leases.
Councillors have three main areas of work:
1. Decision-making: through attending meetings and 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.
2. Monitoring: councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.
3. Getting involved locally: as local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. This often depends on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available.