What do Parish Councils Do?
Rooksdown Parish Council is independent of other levels of local government (Basingstoke and Deane Borough and Hampshire County), but maintains a close working relationship with both. The powers of parishes vary depending on how large and how active they are. Rooksdown is quite large as parishes go, but many of the facilities within Rooksdown – such as the Community Centre and the green areas – are maintained by the borough rather than the parish.
A parish council must meet at least four times a year, including at least one public meeting. Rooksdown normally meets at least every month – except August and December – with the Annual Parish Meeting in April or May.
Parish councils are democratically elected to serve a defined local area. They are also the voice and conduit of ‘grass roots’ opinion and feeling to higher levels of local government and to other statutory bodies and organisations.
Parish councils have the power to be responsible for the items below. However, not all councils will take on this responsibility. For example, Rooksdown has no burial facilities and therefore takes no responsibility for the care of the dead. That is dealt with by Basingstoke & Deane, as well as the various churches.
Transport and communications – car and cycle parks – footway lighting – public footpaths, bridleways and right of way-signs (warning signs, place names and so on) – postal and telephone facilities (a parish council may act as guarantor to the authorities for any losses to the continued provision of these facilities to a parish) – public transport initiatives (making of grants, fare concession schemes and so on) – traffic calming measures.
Health and well-being – public toilets – water and drainage (cleaning of ponds, ditches and drains) – litter management – crime prevention (installation of equipment, establishment of schemes for detection or prevention of crime).
Outdoors – allotments – sports and recreation, play areas – roadside verges – open spaces, parks and greens – commons (power to protect) – swimming pools – seats and shelters.
Various buildings – provision and maintenance of halls – indoor recreation – public clocks.
Entertainment, the arts and tourism – provision of entertainment, maintenance of bands, erection of flagpoles, advertising to encourage visitors – and so on.
Care of the dead – provision, or contribution to, burial grounds – maintenance of war memorials
Planning – Parish Councils can choose to comment on local planning applications. The borough or district council has to take into account these comments (but it not bound by them), and is obliged to inform the parish council of the outcome of applications on which it has commented
Byelaws – Parish councils have a general power to make byelaws for the good rule and government of its area.
Education – Parish councils have the right to appoint a governor to each county or voluntary primary school in its area.
Charities – Parish councils may be concerned with ‘parochial charities’: charities ‘the benefits of which are…confined to the inhabitants of the parish”.
Parish councils can also spend additional money (up to £8.32 per elector in 2020/21) on other items and initiatives for ‘any purpose which in its opinion is of direct benefit to its area of to the inhabitants’.
Councillors have an active interest and concern for their local community. They represent local people and work in partnership with them and others when necessary. They help facilitate the provision of local services and facilities and take decisions that form the policy of the council.
Councillors are not paid and must abide by a Code of Conduct . They must also declare their financial interests in the parish, which are held in the Register of Interests held by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. Councillors must also declare any prejudicial interest in a matter under discussion at a parish council meeting.