Setting up a town or parish council

Parish councils

A parish council is an elected body made up of local people representing the interests of their community. A new parish council would be in addition to - and not instead of - Thurrock Council.

Parish councils are bodies defined by law, and funded mainly by an budget collected annually through our council tax billing. They can apply for other funding such as grant and funding awards, but they do not receive funds direct from central government.

Parish councils are subject to requirements similar to the requirements on principle authorities such as Thurrock Council. While most councils deliver a range of services to their communities, some choose not to do so.

Some of the services that can be delivered by parish councils include:

  • providing allotments
  • acquiring, maintaining and providing burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria
  • maintaining monuments and memorials
  • contributing towards the expenses of cemeteries
  • providing mortuaries and post-mortem rooms
  • making laws for public regulation that apply only in a certain area, known as byelaws - these could cover pleasure grounds, cycle parks, open spaces and burial grounds
  • enclosing, regulating and managing commons - land that people have traditional rights to use in certain ways - and providing common pasture
  • providing and equipping buildings for use by athletic, social or educational clubs
  • spending money on crime-prevention measures
  • providing entertainment and support for the arts
  • repairing and maintaining public footpaths and bridleways
  • providing lights for roads and public places
  • providing litter bins, parking places for vehicles, bicycles and motor-cycles, roadside seats and shelters, bus shelters, traffic signs and other notices
  • planting trees and maintaining roadside verges
  • dealing with blocked ditches, ponds, pools and gutters where stagnant water can collect
  • acquiring and maintaining land to be used as open space
  • providing public toilets
  • acquiring, providing and managing land for recreation grounds, public walks and pleasure grounds
  • providing gyms, playing fields, holiday camps and boating pools
  • being told directly about planning applications in the parish and submitting comments on them
  • making financial contributions to organisations encouraging tourism
  • helping pay for traffic-calming schemes
  • spending money on community transport schemes

Running a parish council

Councillors are elected to a parish council for a term of 4 years. They will be called on to make decisions at meetings on its activities and what areas it should spend its money on.

By-elections are held to fill any vacancies that may occur.

The parish council must elect a chairman, who is the leader of the council and who will oversee and lead its meetings. Often the chairman will be the public face of the council.

The parish council must also appoint a clerk, who is a paid member of parish council staff and who advises councillors on financial, legal and procedural matters. The clerk will often be the point of contact for local residents.