THE ROLE & POWERS OF PARISH COUNCILS
There are over 9,000 parish and town councils in England and they form the tier of local government closest to the people. The term "town council" is synonymous with "parish council" in that any parish council can style itself "town council" if it considers it appropriate so to do. Collectively, parish and town councils, and community councils in Wales, are often termed "local councils". The chairman of a town council may be styled "town mayor".
Parish and town councils are local authorities and have a limited number of duties. They do, however, have wide powers, should they decide to use them and they may, with agreement of the district or county council, exercise certain functions normally carried out by those councils.
By their very nature, parish and town councils should maintain a close relationship with the local community. They encourage the public to attend council meetings as observers and they are obliged to organise at least one town or parish meeting each year which all local electors may attend and may raise issues of local concern.

THE POWERS OF PARISH AND TOWN COUNCILS
Some of the more important powers of parish and town councils are listed alphabetically below. Where a power is marked with an asterisk a parish or town council may, in addition to exercising the power itself, help another body to act by giving financial assistance.

FUNCTION

POWERS

Allotments

Power to provide and maintain allotments for cultivation

Borrowing

Parish and Town Councils can borrow money for up to a maximum of 25 years, provided official consent has been obtained.

Burial Grounds, Cemeteries and Crematoria -
see also Churchyards *

Powers to provide and maintain and power to agree to maintain monuments and memorials.

Bus Shelters  *

Power to provide and maintain bus shelters

Bye Laws

Power to make bye-laws in regard to:

  • Pleasure grounds
  • Cycle parks
  • Baths and Washhouses
  • Open spaces and burial grounds
  • Mortuaries and post-mortem rooms

Charities

Duty to receive accounts of parochial charities

Churchyards - see also Burial Grounds, Cemeteries and Crematoria

Power to contribute to the costs of a churchyard in use

Clocks  *

Provision and maintenance of public clocks, on churches or elsewhere.

Community Centres - see also Halls, Public Buildings and Village Halls

Power to provide and equip buildings for use of clubs having athletic, social or educational objectives

Conference Facilities

Power to provide and encourage the use of conference facilities

Crime Prevention  *

Powers to spend money on various crime prevention measures

Drainage

Power to deal with ponds and ditches

Entertainments and the Arts  *

Provision of entertainment and support of the arts

Footpaths - see also rights of way

Power to repair and maintain public footpaths and bridleways

Gifts - see also land

Power to accept

Halls - see also Community Centres, Public Buildings and Village Halls  *

Provision of buildings for public meetings and functions, for indoor sports or physical recreation, or for the use of clubs or societies having recreational, social or athletic objects.

Highways

Power to light roads and public places
Power to provide parking places for vehicles, bicycles and motor-cycles
Power to enter into agreement as to dedication and widening
Consent of parish council required for ending maintenance of highway at public expense, or for stopping up or diversion of highway
Power to provide traffic signs and other notices
Power to plant trees, etc and to maintain roadside verges

Land

Power to acquire by agreement, to appropriate, to dispose of
Power to accept gifts of land

Legal Proceedings

Power to prosecute and defend any legal proceedings in the interests of the inhabitants. Power to take part in any public local inquiry.

Lighting

Provision and maintenance of any footway lighting which lights roads or pavements provided the columns are not above specified heights.

Litter  *

Provision of litter-bins in streets and support for anti-litter campaigns.

Open Spaces - see also Parks, Playing Fields, Recreation and Village Greens

Power to acquire land and maintain open spaces for the benefit of the public

Parking Places

Provision and management of car and cycle parks.

Parks - see also Open Spaces, Playing Fields and Recreation

Provision and maintenance of public parks and appropriate facilities.

Planning

Local councils have a right to be notified of any planning application affecting their area and to make comments which the planning authority must take into account.

Playing Fields - see also Open Spaces, Parks and Recreation  *

Provision and maintenance of land for any kind of outdoor recreation, including boating pools.

Postal and Telecommunication Facilities

Power to pay a public telecommunications operator any loss sustained in providing post or telegraph office or telecommunications facilities

Public Buildings and Village Halls

Power to provide buildings for offices and for public meetings and assemblies

Public Conveniences

Provision and maintenance of public lavatories.

Recreation

Power to acquire land for or to provide recreation grounds, public walks, pleasure grounds and open spaces and to manage and control them
Power to provide gymnasiums, playing fields, holiday camps
Provision of boating pools

Rights of Way

Maintenance of public footpaths and bridleways.

Roadside Verges

Power to plant and maintain roadside verges.

Seats  *

Provision and maintenance of public seats

Signs

Power to erect signs which warn of dangers or announce a place name, or indicate a bus stop.

Swimming  *

Provision of indoor or outdoor swimming pool or bathing places.

Tourism  *

Power to contribute to organisations encouraging

Traffic Calming

Powers to contribute financially to traffic calming schemes

Transport  *

Powers to spend money on community transport schemes

Village Greens - see also Open Spaces  *

Power to maintain the village or town green

War Memorials

Power to maintain, repair, protect and adapt war memorials.

General Expenditure Power

In any situation not covered by one of the specific powers described above a council may spend a limited amount of money on any purpose which in its opinion is of direct benefit to its area or to the inhabitants.