What are Parish Councils?
Parish Councils (also known as local councils) are the first tier of local government in the UK. They serve electorates, are independently elected and raise their own precept (a form of council tax).
A Parish Council may also be known as a ‘town’, ‘community’, ‘village’ or ‘neighbourhood’ council. We refer to them collectively as parishes.
Within the Bath and North East Somerset area there are 51 parishes (including 3 parish meetings). The City of Bath is not parished.
What do parishes do?
Parishes have a range of powers including provision of recreational facilities, halls, crime prevention, community transport, public toilets, tourism, allotments, footpaths and commons but they are not obliged to use these powers and carry out these functions. Their activities fall into three main categories:
- representing the local community
- delivering services to meet local needs
- striving to improve quality of life and community well-being
Parishes are made up of a number of councillors appropriate to their size and responsibilities. There is also a clerk which is often the only paid member of staff, unless there are other staff such as caretakers or groundspeople. Their councillors are elected volunteers who serve for four years. Parish and town council elections are held on the first Thursday in May every four years, in combination with Bath & North East Somerset Council's election. See the May 2023 results.
How are they funded?
Parishes raise their funds through a charge (precept) made against all households in their area which is collected through council tax. The level of the charge is set by the parish and reflects the funding it will need for the coming year. They may also obtain funds from other sources such as Community Infrastructure Levy (CiL), the local authority, income from facilities and other external sources.
How does Bath & North East Somerset Council work with Parishes?
Town and Parish Councils perform a number of important roles as providers and supporters of services; as signposts and access points to services; as representatives and community leaders. As Principal Council, Bath & North East Somerset works closely with the parishes in its area year round. We also consult with parishes on matters which affect their area and residents. This includes planning applications and policies, highways issues and any other proposals or plans which will affect, or be of interest to the parish. The views of parishes must be considered when making decisions.
The Parish Charter and Parish Liaison Meetings
As part of our commitment to working in partnership with parishes we have developed a Parish Charter.
The Parish Charter provides a framework for Bath & North East Somerset Council and the parishes within the district to work together, maintain good working relationships and develop an effective partnership to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area. The Parish Charter was first adopted in 1999; and updated in 2006 and 2018. It is currently in the process of being reviewed and updated.
In addition, parishes attend the Connecting Communities Forums and meet with the Council at Parish Liaison - a joint consultative body set up to consider issues of common interest. There are normally three Parish Liaison meetings per year. Parishes are each entitled to send their nominated representative and Clerk to the meetings. The Avon Local Councils Association (ALCA) is entitled to send representation to the meetings in their own right. Cabinet Members may attend to represent their portfolio. The Agendas for Parish Liaison are set in conjunction with a group of Parish representatives. This group also works with the Council on updating the Parish Charter as required or dealing with any concerns relating to it.
A Guide for Parishes - 'The Parish Toolkit'
To aid parishes to quickly find the information they need to understand the responsibilities of Bath & North East Somerset Council, its services and how best to engage, we have created a Parish Toolkit, last updated in September 2022. Click on the bold text to open it.