What do Parish Councils do?
Parish councils - also called town councils, neighbourhood councils or community councils in some areas – are responsible for delivering local services.
What do Parish Councillors do?
Parish councillors make decisions about policies and services, keep an eye on how well things are working and represent local residents.
They get involved in community initiatives and events and are passionate about their local community.
How do I become a Parish Councillor?
Most parishes in Northamptonshire have elections in 2020. The information provided here can help you to find out if you are eligible to stand for election and how you can apply.
What's in it for me and my community?
You should consider becoming a parish councillor if:
- You Want To Do Something Positive for Your Community
- You Want To Spend Your Time Productively
- You Can Think, Listen and Act Locally
What Parish Councils do
There are over 10, 000 parish councils (some of which are called town, community or neighbourhood councils) representing around 16 million people across England. They form the most local level of government and cover many rural and urban areas. Northamptonshire has 213 parishes with councils, plus 51 parish meetings (which do not hold elections). Together they cover almost all of the county, with the exception of unparished areas in Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and the centre of Northampton.
Your parish council has an overall responsibility for the well-being of your local neighbourhood. Their work falls into three main categories:
- representing your local community
- delivering services to meet local needs
- striving to improve quality of life in the parish
Your parish council might provide, maintain or contribute to the following services:
- litter bins
- bus shelters
- local illuminations
- local youth projects
- community centres
- parks and open spaces
- community safety schemes
- crime reduction measures
- street cleaning
- festivals and celebrations
- leisure facilities
- traffic calming measures
They will often work with larger councils (borough or county) in your area called "principal authorities" and co-operate to ensure the effective delivery of services to the local community.
What councillors do
Parish councillors are elected to represent a geographical area known as a ward or – mainly in smaller councils – the parish, town, community or neighbourhood council area as a whole. They are elected by people who live in the area.
If the parish council is divided into wards an election is held in each ward, the same way elections are held in district or borough wards. If the council doesn't have wards there is just a single parish council election.
Most parish council elections are on the same cycle as the principal authorities, with elections in 2020, 2025, then 2029 and every four years thereafter.
Councillors have three main areas of work:
- 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
- Monitoring: councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working
- 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
The day-to-day work of a parish councillor may include:
- going to meetings of local organisations
- going to meetings of bodies that affect the wider community, such as the police, the Highways Authority, schools and colleges
- taking up issues on behalf of members of the public, such as making representations to the principal authorities
- running a surgery for residents to bring up issues
- meeting with individual residents in their own homes
Why should I become a councillor?
As a councillor you can become a voice for your community and effect real change. Councillors are community leaders and represent the aspirations of the public that they serve. Parish, town, community and neighbourhood councillors are the most local part of our democratic system and are closest to the public. By standing for your parish council you could make a real difference to your local neighbourhood.
Can I become a parish councillor?
Most people can stand for election, however there are a few rules. You have to be:
- a British citizen, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union, and
- 18 years or older on the day you become nominated for election
You cannot stand for election if you:
- are the subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order
- have, within five years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a prison sentence (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine
- work for the council you want to become a councillor for
There are specific rules around candidacy. The full range of disqualifications for candidates is quite complex and some exceptions may apply. Full details can be found on the website of the National Association of Local Councils.
Which parish council can I stand for?
You can become a parish councillor for any parish in which you on the electoral roll, or during the whole of the preceding twelve months you
- occupied land as owner or tenant in it, or
- had a principal place of work there, or
- resided in or within three miles of it
How much time will I need to spend?
It is possible to spend a lot of time on council work - but most people have jobs, families and hobbies that also demand a lot of time. However, as with most things, the more you put in, the more you (and your community) will get out.
Generally speaking, the larger your community the larger your workload will be. The times of the meetings vary, as do the venues. Parish councils normally meet in the evening. It is important to establish the pattern of meetings and venues to make sure they can accommodate your domestic and/or business arrangements. Most councils meet once a month and many also have committees, in which case you would probably be invited to sit on a committee. These usually meet in between the meetings of the full parish council.
Quite often councillors say that their duties occupy them for about three hours a week. Obviously, there are some councillors who spend more time than this – and some less, but in the main, being a local councillor is an enjoyable way of contributing to your community and helping to make it a better place to live and work.
How do I become a councillor?
To stand for election, you can
- contact the parish council directly, or
- contact the Returning Officer at your borough or district council.
Being a Councillor - Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, 136 Kb)
Frequently asked questions about becoming a parish councillor
- National Association of Local Councils
Information about becoming a councillor and parish councils
- The Electoral Commission
Information about standing as a councillor, including access to a nomination pack
If you would like any more information or advice, or are still unsure about whether becoming a councillor is for you - please get in touch!
You can speak to our Clerk, or one of our existing parish councillors to find out what it's really like.
Remember that applications have to be submitted to Northampton Borough Council by 4pm on 8th April