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Should Parish Councils be party political?

For many years there has been a feeling among politicos that being a parish councillor "doesn't count." We don't normally include Parish Council by-elections in our listings. Parish Councils don't normally pay an allowance to their members - or if they do it's very modest. Parish Councils (which despite their name are independent of the Church of England) have limited powers and typically represent a community of 1,700. Their powers to do things (and the Council Tax precept they charge for doing them) are relatively modest.

Yet cumulatively they are significant. 14 million people are covered by Parish Councils. There are 70,000 parish councillors - compared to about 20,000 other councillors. The parish councillors have powers over matters concerning the immediate local environment that people really notice and care about: Open spaces, footpaths, litter, village halls, ponds, parking, shelters, signs, public events. They also have influence over decisions imposed from larger councils - whether on planning, or library closures or yellow lines or an array of other matters. 

Certainly the Conservative Councillors' Association has decided that they "count." They are actively encouraging Party members to stand as parish councillors and for Conservative parish councillors to join the CCA.

Much of the work may be non-party political. Some may find this attractive. Often parish councillors stand as independents. But Conservatives who serve in this role still have a part to play in applying Conservative principles - being robust in resisting health and safety excesses, maintaining traditional community activities, keeping costs and bureaucracy to a minimum.

The CCA have produced a useful Parish Councillors' Handbook full of practical advice. It's not available online but if you email [email protected] they will email back a pdf or post you a copy.


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