Role of Local 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.




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.  

Please click on the functions below to view the powers: 



Power to provide and maintain allotments for cultivation


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.


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.


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.


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 reaction, or for the use of clubs or societies having recreationsal, social or athletic objects.


Power to:


  • light roads and public places
  • provide parking places for vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles
  • 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
  • provide traffic signs and other notices
  • plant trees etc and to maintain roadside verges



Power to acquire by agreement, to appropriate, to dispose of and to accept as 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.


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


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.


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 recreations, including boating pools.

Postal and Telecommunication Facilities

Power to pay a public telecommunications operator for 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.


Power to:

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


Rights of Way

Maintenance of public footpaths and bridleways.

Roadside Verges

Power to plant and maintain roadside verges.


Provision and maintenance of public seats.


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


Provision of indoor or outdoor swimming pool or bathing spaces.


Power to contribute to organisations encouraging tourism.

Traffic Calming

Power to contribute financially to traffic calming schemes.


Power 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 opionion, is of direct benefit to its area or to the inhabitants.