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Being a Parish Councillor or Clerk

What is a Parish Council?

A Parish Council is a local authority that makes decisions on behalf of the people in the parish and is the level of government closest to the community.

Parish Councils are the first place that people go to with concerns or ideas and for this reason they are a vital part of any community.

Please see below for information about the roles of the Parish Clerk and Parish Councillor.

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The role of a Parish Clerk

Why become a Parish Clerk?

By becoming a Parish Clerk you become somebody that both your council and your community will look to for help, guidance and support. You will be the person who ensures your council operates effectively and within the law, enabling them to make decisions for the benefit of the people they serve. Seeing your community change for the better, and being able to help residents with enquiries, is something that can give you a sense of achievement and pride.

What does a Parish Clerk do?

The most common tasks that Parish Clerks get involved in include producing agendas and minutes for council meetings and then various administrative tasks such as writing letters, seeking quotes and responding to planning consultations on behalf of the council. The clerk is often the Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) keeping records of income and expenditure and providing reports on the council’s financial status. Depending on the size of the council, the clerk may manage facilities such as open spaces, village halls, cemeteries and/or allotments and with larger councils may manage other staff who are responsible for such facilities and their maintenance.

How much time will it take up?

This will vary from council to council with smaller councils averaging 3 hours a week up to larger councils requiring a full time clerk. Parish Councils typically meet in an evening once a month (often excluding August) with meetings lasting 2-3 hours depending on the number of items to be discussed; the clerk would be expected to attend and take minutes. Some councils also have committees to deal with specific matters such as planning or finance which the clerk would attend. Many councils are flexible about what days and hours a clerk works outside of meetings so it can be an ideal job to fit around other work, caring duties or parenting commitments. Larger councils tend to have an office but many smaller councils ask their clerk to work from home outside of meetings.

Do I need qualifications or experience?

There aren’t any specific requirements to become a clerk, although the nature of the work necessitates a moderate standard of numeracy and literacy and experience in a secretarial or financial role would help, whilst being computer literate is necessary for most councils. The clerk is responsible for ensuring that the council acts within the law so they would be expected to undertake initial training in order to understand the many and varied laws relating to Parish Councils. They would then be required to keep their knowledge up to date with subsequent training whenever legislation changes. There are qualifications such as the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA) which some councils insist upon because it enables the council to undertake more activities, but most councils will offer to support a clerk in achieving this if it is required.

Interested?

Why not talk to your local council clerk and find out what they think about the job or attend a few meetings to see what it is all about. If you decide you want to become a parish clerk look out for vacancies on our website, in your local newsletter or on the noticeboards in the parishes near you.

The role of a Parish Councillor

Why become a Parish Councillor?

By becoming a Parish Councillor you become somebody your community will look to for help, guidance and support, a community leader with the power to influence decisions for the benefit of the people you serve. Seeing your community change for the better, as a result of decisions you have helped to make, is something that can give you a sense of achievement and pride.

What decisions do Parish Councils make?

The most common areas that Parish Councils get involved in include crime prevention, planning issues and managing open spaces and village halls. It is fair to say that on their own Parish Councils have limited decision-making powers, but they do have the ability to negotiate with, and the power to influence, those organisations that do make final decisions, such as District and County Councils, health authorities etc. These authorities know that a Parish Council gives the best reflection of how a community feels about something and its views will be taken seriously.

How much time will it take up?

Parish Councils typically meet once a month (often excluding August) for the council meeting to which the public are invited. Meetings might last 2-3 hours depending on the length of the agenda of items to be discussed. Some councils also have committees to deal with specific matters such as planning and finance. In addition to regular meetings councillors should also be prepared to attend occasional ad hoc meetings, for example with architects or agents concerning planning issues.

How long does a Parish Councillor serve for?

Once elected Parish Councillors sit on the council for a maximum of 4 years at the end of which they can stand for re-election if they wish. If, during the 4 years, you find you can no longer meet the commitment, or you move away, you can stand down.

Interested?

Why not talk to your local councillors and find out what they think about the job. If you decide you want to become a parish councillor you may need to wait until the next election, but not necessarily. Many Parish Councils have casual vacancies and would be happy for you to put your name forward for co-option.

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