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The Role of a Parish Councillor

Elham Parish Council has the opportunity to co-opt new Parish Councillors. For you that means that as a resident of the Parish you might like to consider standing, upholding democracy and helping make the Parish a better place. You do not have to be a member of any political party. Indeed on the contrary good parish councils are concerned with local community matters and not politics. Parish councils are democracy on your doorstep and the following might help you to understand what being a Parish Councillor means on a daily basis and to encourage you to stand for election. 

What is a Parish Council?

There is a common misunderstanding that parish councils are something to do with church administration – they are not. Parish councils are the elected first layer of local government and, as such, are closest to the electors. The next levels are the district (Folkestone and Hythe District Council) and county (Kent County Council). Parish councils are funded by a precept and take responsibility for a whole range of local matters and community needs such as, allotments and maintenance of local facilities. Beyond this, they identify, support and manage local project initiatives and can fund grants to local organisations such as youth clubs and charities. Parish councils are consulted by the district council over matters such as planning applications in the parish. 

Why become a Parish Councillor?

You become someone 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, see your community change for the better, as a result of decisions you have helped make, is something that can give you a sense of achievement and pride.

The role is a voluntary and unpaid, you do not have to be highly educated or have a trade of profession. The Elham Parish Council meet on the first Monday of each month for a full council meeting in the evening, to which members of the public are invited. Being a Parish Councillor is an enjoyable way of contributing to your community and helping to make it a better place to live and work. You may be responsible for dealing with specific subjects such as, planning, environmental issues or finance, whilst contributing at least a couple of hours each week.  


What do Parish Councillors do?

Once elected, parish councillors sit on the council for a maximum of four years. If they then want to stay in the post they can stand for re-election. Councillors have three main areas of work:

1. Decision-making: through attending meetings and 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.

2. Monitoring: Ensuring decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.

3. Getting involved locally: Having the responsibilities towards their parishioners and local organisations. This often depends on what the Councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available. Training can be required with the support from the Parish Clerk.

Eligibility to be a Parish Councillor
To stand for election or co-option on a parish council, you must: 
• be a UK or commonwealth citizen, or; 
• be a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, or; 
• be a citizen of another Member state of the European Union; 
• be a least 18 years old. 
• be eligible to stand for an election for a particular parish, you must: 
• be an elector of the parish, or; 
• for the whole of the previous 12 months have occupied (as owner or tenant) land or other premises in the parish, or; 
• during the previous 12 months have worked in the parish (as your principal or only place of work), or; 
• for the whole of the previous 12 months lived in the parish or within three miles of the parish boundary. 

The best way to find out what it’s like to be a Parish Councillor is to telephone or meet with me as the Parish Clerk or talk to someone who’s doing it now. Come along to a Parish Council meeting, speak to one of the councillors and find out what they think of the job. If you want to become a parish councillor there are two things you need to do; get yourself nominated and get voted in at the election or co-option. If you choose not to stand as councillor please urge someone else to do so and remember to vote in any case.