A Village Community
Parish Councillors do not represent any political party or interest group — we make our own decisions although we do try to represent the interests of the Parish as a whole.
Anyone over 18 can stand as a Councillor. There are elections every four years. Like most Parishes we find that there are only as many candidates as there are seats (the number varies according to the size of the Parish). More often we gain new Councillors when somebody has to leave and we co-opt (elect by the remaining Parish Councillors) a volunteer to fill the vacancy. If you are interested then contact the Parish Clerk as we can never tell when a vacancy will come up.
The Parish Council must hold at least four meetings every year (we have 11, missing out August for holidays) and one of these must be an annual meeting at which a Chairman and Responsible Financial Officer is appointed. There also must be an annual Parish Meeting for everyone in the Parish and which is a good opportunity to present what the Council has been up to and get your opinions on current issues.
Councillors are required (summonsed) to attend Parish meetings, they can be excused if something comes up but not on a regular basis. They must declare if they will benefit from any decision the Council makes and leave the meeting while the item is discussed. Otherwise their opinions are just as important as any other Councillors, they only have to give a few hours of their time and as a Quality Council we give training to new Councillors on what they can do.
All meetings are open to the public and we give an opportunity for anyone to talk to the Parish Council before our meetings. This may also include a report from our District Councillors and from our local Police. Once the Parish Meeting has started we can only discuss those items which have been published in advance as the Agenda for the meeting (there are complicated rules about the required notice, our agenda is normally published a week before the meeting). Our purpose is to come to a clear decision which is supported by the majority of Councillors and is properly recorded in the Minutes of the meeting.
The Chairmans job is to ensure these meetings run smoothly and to represent the Parish to outside bodies. He or she has no more power than any other Councillor, only an additional vote on decisions where the vote is tied.
There are a few other things the Parish Council must do as a whole. We must
Appoint a Parish Clerk ( a professional who helps the Council do it's work and stay within the rules but has no say in our decisions)
Have our Accounts audited (this is called an Internal Audit and simply means a check on our accounts by an independent Auditor)
Appoint a Responsible Financial Officer, in our case the Parish Clerk, who checks that our spending is in line with the Budget we have set for the year.
Set a Budget for the year, the money that the Parish will require in order to do it's work. This is called a Precept and is collected through the Council tax but is not controlled by District or County Councils.
(please note that I have simplified the rules and Councillors will have both training and all the information they require to do the job properly. The role is no more complicated than what I have set out above, the work is easy and fun and you will have a chance to make a difference in Bramford if you take part, by attending our meetings or even becoming a Councillor)