About Parish Councils

A little bit of history...

Parish Councils – first formed in 1894 by an Act of Parliament.

Prior to that all local matters were dealt with by the Church.  The initial problem was the literacy of the local Parishes. The leaders in the Villages were the Squires (because of their wealth), and the Parson. Even though this act was passed it took 60 years for councils to emerge as an effective level of local Government.

Parish Councils today...

Chairman and Vice Chairman are elected annually. There has to be a quorum to pass resolutions, i.e. minimum of three or one third of the Council.

Councillors are elected for a 4 year term. If a vacancy occurs during this term, it can be filled by either an election or by co-option.

In Backwell we have one main Council Meeting per month and two weeks later we have a Planning Committee Meeting.

What do we do as Councillors? What can we do? What must we not do?

A Council must do what Parliament requires it to do. A Council may do only what Parliament says it may do. A Council must not do anything unless it has a legal power to act, granted by Parliament. This is the most important as we always have to ask this question when making any decision, especially if it involves spending public money. We do, however, have a power (section 137 local government act 1972) to spend money where there is no other specific power governing the action. From 1 April 2011 we can spend up to £6.44 per elector (3,500 electors in Backwell) but this money must be commensurate with the benefit to the community. We represent local views. It is, therefore, important to get feedback from Parishioners. In 2007 the Council successfully arranged a complimentary "Over 60's Afternoon Tea" with entertainment and raffle prizes with over 100 parishioners in attendance, and have continued to do so on an annual basis. This year's Over 60's Afternoon Tea will be held on Thursday 27th October 2011.

Also since 2007 the Council have erected a Christmas tree in the centre of the Village and in conjunction with the Churches arranged for Carols to be sung around it. Due to the success of both of these events it is hoped that this will continue.  This year the date for the carol service is Monday 19th December 2011 at 6.30pm.

We can put pressure on other organisations (i.e. Members of the European Parliament, or local MPs). We are non political ALL Parish Councillors are volunteers. Probably one of the most important things we do is to set a local precept (tax) for the year which is spent on local organisations.

We give grants to local organisations who ask for help. This is not automatic and has to be approved by the Council.