About the Parish Council
What is a Parish Council?
Any parish owes its existence to “statute” (a law passed by government) hence all parish councils are statutory bodies. This means that how they are constituted, how meetings are run and what they can make decisions about are all defined in law.
What can it do?
Some of the things which parish councils can be involved in include: cemetery provision or contribution to churchyard maintenance, entertainments provision, rights of way, provision of public halls, allotment provision, playing field provision, erection of signs announcing village name or amenity, provision of bus shelters, public lavatories and maintenance of roadside verges. Of course, not all these amenities would make sense for a village the size of Curry Mallet.
Local parish councils also work closely with the district council, in particular making the views of the village known on district-provided services such as planning control, road maintenance, waste collection, etc. Curry Mallet falls within South Somerset District Council (SSDC) – they break their district down into several areas and we are within “Area North” – for more details on our District Council visit www.southsomerset.gov.uk.
How is it funded?
Parish councils draw their funds from the council tax paid by residents of the parish. Next time you get your bill, you may notice a small portion of the fees goes to the local council. These funds are known as the precept. Parish councils must hold insurance, have a paid clerk and pay for their accounts to be audited, so a good portion of the precept goes on these requirements. The remainder can be used to fund local amenities which fall into the categories listed above, or within strict financial limits, they can also spend on anything which will be, in the council’s opinion, in the interests of the parish. In practice, Curry Mallet tries to keep its precept as low as practically possible which means that there are only limited funds available to spend on specific projects. Projects are usually funded by applying for grant money from a variety of sources (e.g. the lottery, SSDC, various government departments, etc.) each of which have their own funding criteria, for example the parish plan was funded by the then Countryside Agency.
ACCOUNTS FOR YEAR ENDED 31 MARCH 2016
click to open pdf documents
Who can be a Parish Councillor?
Broadly speaking, anyone resident or working in the parish is eligible to become a councillor (there are some constraints, e.g. over twenty-one, lived here for twelve months etc.). Parish councillors are volunteers, working on behalf of the parish without remuneration. Our parish council consists of 7 councillors and occasional vacancies are usually filled by “co-opting” a new member as and when someone is found who is willing to become a councillor! Parish council elections are held every four years (the next one is 2015, then 2019, etc., etc.). If more people put their name forward that there are vacancies, or if ten or more parishioners request an election, then councillors are appointed by election. However, in small parishes like ours, it is unusual for more than seven people to volunteer!
What happens at a meeting?
By statute, parish council meetings must be held in public. The chairman leads the meeting ensuring that all items on the agenda are given an adequate amount of time for discussion. Proposals are made and then appropriate councillors vote to decide on a course of action. Most councils provide a time at the beginning of the meeting for any member of the public to speak – this is your opportunity to raise any concerns to the council or provide feedback on any issues relating to the council’s work. Thereafter the public is there to witness the council at work – although sometimes the chairman may invite comment from the public at others points in the meeting. Curry Mallet parish council values parishioner attendance and input. All agendas and minutes of a parish council must be publicly displayed.
When does the Parish Council Meet?
The council meets in the village hall on the second Monday of each month. These meetings start at 7.30pm and are open to the public. Time is allotted at the start of each meeting for any members of the public to raise issues or comment on facilities and services in the village. Full minutes and agendas of meetings are displayed on the parish noticeboards opposite the village shop and at Popes Cross and a full year of minutes and agendas are shown here on the website. Minutes prior to these dates can be sought from the clerk.
The Annual Parish Meeting
An annual parish meeting must be held in April and it is a wonderful opportunity to hear about everything going on within the parish. This is not a meeting of the council but a meeting of the parish itself (i.e. everyone who lives in the parish). At this meeting, the chairman of the parish council gives a presentation on what the council has achieved over the last year and representatives from local groups and businesses are invited to give a short talk about their achievements and activities and there is normally a guest speaker as well.