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What does the Parish Council do?
The Council has many powers to act and spend money for the benefit of its Parish. Some of these require the support of the District or County to facilitate them – and all are subject to normal procedures of planning etc.
What do elected representatives do for me?
Parish Councillors represent the people living in their local area at the closest level to the community. When decisions are being made they are there to put your views across. Coton Parish Council meets every second Tuesday of the month apart from August and December. Additional meetings are notified through the Parish noticeboard opposite the village hall.
What issues can the Parish Council discuss?
It may discuss anything that affects all or part of the community, directly or indirectly. As the democratic representative body for the parish, it may influence decisions made by others too.
How do I get the Parish Council to do something for me?
If you are passionate about something which will benefit the local community then the best person to lead that idea to fruition will probably be you. If the Parish Council believe that your idea will benefit a significant number of residents without disadvantaging a significant number of others, then they will support you within the confines of the resources available. Like the important work done by many other people in our community, Coton Parish Council consists of volunteers who receive no financial reward for their time or effort.
To introduce a problem or idea to the Council come along and talk during the open session held at the start of every Parish Council meeting. You will find that you are more likely to get help or support if you present your ideas constructively. It is then best to proceed by writing a letter to the Parish Clerk summarising your topic of interest, views and suggestions you may have, and ask that this item be added to the next agenda. The Clerk should then put your topic of interest onto the agenda for the next meeting. By introducing the topic and your ideas at the previous meeting in this way, the Councillors will, hopefully, have time to think about the situation, perhaps visit the site and gather any information they may need to address the issue during the following meeting.
Do not expect anything to happen quickly. Because of the legal rules that the Parish Council must abide by, any topic to be discussed must be on the agenda and any motion passed must be agreed to by the majority of Councillors (passed by resolution). If the Councillors believe that more information gathering is needed then this may delay any decision until yet another meeting.
Large expenditures, unless emergencies, must be precepted for. This means that to spend public money on significant projects, expenditure must be agreed by the Parish Council before the end of the preceding financial year (financial year ends 5th April). This may mean significant delays for implementation. The money the Parish Council spends comes from Coton residents; the precept comes from your council tax. For example, when repairs are needed on bus shelter roofs due to vandalism, then that money comes out of all the pockets of Coton residents who pay Council tax. Funding and grants can also be sought from a number of funding bodies.
What is the role of the Parish Clerk?
“The clerk’s overall responsibility is to carry out the policy decisions of the council” (Local Council Clerk’s Guide, 2004, p3), within a framework of procedures framed by legislation and good practice. The Local Government Act 1972 (LGA72) section 112(1) empowers a Council to appoint such officers as they see fit to carry out the work of the council, and typically small Councils will use this power to appoint a Clerk. Many duties are conferred by legislation on an unspecified Proper Officer and it is typical for this role in small councils to be bestowed upon the Clerk, often the sole employee, as in the case of Coton Parish Council.
The Clerk will organise the business of council and ensure through guidance the Council only acts in accordance with the powers it has been given through legislation. The Clerk may offer guidance to council, however it is the lawful decisions of council the Clerk must enact.
The Council may delegate under LGA72s111 certain powers and duties to the Clerk to help with the smooth running of a council’s affairs. The Clerk as Proper Officer is responsible for:-
- Calling of ordinary meetings of Council, to include issuing the public Notice of Meeting and legal summons to councillors to attend signed by the Clerk (LGA72 Sch12 s10(2)(b)).
- The preparation of an agenda clearly detailing nature of the business to be transaction (LGA72 Sch12 s10(2)(a)).
- Minuting (LGA72s41(1)) and implementing the decisions of Council.
Unlike the Parish Councillors, the Parish Clerk is paid a renumeration for their work
What is the role of the Chair?
To be properly constituted a Council must elect a Chair from their number (Local Council Administration, p72) Local Government Act (LGA) 1972 section 14(1),section 15(2).
The Chair’s role includes representing the Council on ceremonial occasions. If present at a meeting of the Council the Chair must preside over the meeting LGA72 Sch12s11(1), and has a casting vote in the event of a tie. The Chair may convene an extraordinary meeting of the Council on three days notice at any time LGA72 Sch12s9(1), and a Parish Meeting usually on seven days notice LGA72 Sch12s15(1)(a), and is duty bound to sign approved minutes of a meeting presided over LGA72 Sch12s41.
The Chair has no legal power to make delegated decisions on behalf of a Council. It is not unusual for the Chair to offer support to the Clerk in their day to day work, but they have no authority over the Clerk.
How to become a parish councillor
The term of office for a Parish Councillor is four years. After that time, the position is open to election. Prospective candidates must complete the appropriate nomination papers available from the Parish Clerk. The chairman and vice-chairman positions are normally elected annually.
By-election – occurs in the event a standing councillor ceases to hold office mid term. From the date of public notification, electors have 14 days excluding weekends, public holidays and certain specified days to request a poll to fill the vacancy. If a poll is claimed by at least ten electors then an election to fill the vacancy must be called within 60 days of the original notification of vacancy.
Co-option – Where a poll is not claimed, then the Parish Council is obliged to co-opt, if the period of time until the next full election is greater than six months. Coton’s policy for co-option is to advertise the position for applications in writing. Applications are considered by Council and the successful applicant co-opted by resolution of Council.
Documents required to be completed by prospective councillors are provided by the Clerk.
When planning applications are submitted to the district council, the Parish Council is allowed to comment and asked to express approval, objection (with reasons) or express no recommendation. These comments are passed on to the South Cambridge District Council planning authority who make the final decision.
Our councillors are: