What is a Parish Council?

Parish Councils are the first tier of local government and the closest to the community they serve. As a tier of local government they are elected bodies, with discretionary powers and rights laid down by Parliament to represent their communities and provide services for them.

All local authorities are constituted in the same way with Councillors elected by the local government electorate and a Chairman, who must be one of them.

Local Councils vary in size and capacity; many are very small, representing a few hundred people, others represent communities of over 30,000 people with budgets over £1m. It is formed with a Chairman, and Councillors, who are often referred to as “Members”, and the number of Councillors are fixed by the District Council.

Here in St Margaret’s Parish Council, we have a budget of approximately £16k and have 7 Councillors in total –  three representing the East Ward of the Parish (St Margarets) and four representing the West Ward (Great Amwell).

How it works and who does what?

County Councils:

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC)

They are responsible for services across the whole of a county, like:

  • Education
  • Transport
  • Planning
  • Fire and public safety
  • Social care
  • Libraries
  • Waste management
  • Trading Standards
  • Highways


District, Borough & City Councils:

East Herts District Council (EHDC)

They cover a smaller area than county councils. They’re usually responsible for services like:

  • Rubbish collections
  • Recycling
  • Council Tax collections
  • Housing
  • Planning applications
  • Environmental Issues

Parish, community and town councils

These operate at a level below district and borough councils and in some
cases, unitary authorities.

They’re elected and can help on a number of local issues, like providing:

  • allotments
  • public clocks
  • bus shelters
  • community centres
  • play areas and play equipment
  • grants to help local organisations
  • consultation on neighbourhood planning


What must a Parish Council do?

  • Hold an annual meeting;
  • Hold at least three other Council meetings a year;
  • It must appoint such officers as it believes necessary for the
    proper discharge of its functions
    (this may be a Councillor unpaid, but in common practice is a
    Clerk and/or Treasurer);
  • It must make Standing Orders for the supply of goods and
    services to the Council.

The arrangements for meetings and proceedings of Local
Councils are set out in Part II of Schedule 12 to the Local
Government Act 1972, as supplemented by any standing orders adopted by a Council.

There is a list of Parish Council Powers with statutory provisions
located on the Parish Council Toolkit produced by NALC (National
Association of Local Councils)

What does the Parish Council currently do?

  • Track and consult on local planning applications to the District Council
  • Working on a joint local neighbourhood plan with Stanstead Abbotts & Great Amwell
  • Works with the District Council concerning infrastructure,
    projects and funding