Parish Council elections May 2015
A Parish Council is a corporate body whose actions are subject to much legislation over the years. It is a non-political Council dedicated to improving the quality of life for those living and working in the village. Sunningdale is a medium sized Parish of some 3,700 electors and an annual Precept of £87,460 in 2015/16.
There are 10 Parish Councillors who are part of the democratic framework of the country representing the interests of your community within a broad landscape of national governance. All Councillors are subject to election on 7 May 2015. At least one Councillor will not be eligible to stand again. The Parish Council is keen to encourage new people to come forward to serve their community as Councillors. If there are ten nominations or less all names will be elected, as a vote will not be required. If there are more than 10 nominations there will be an election where electors will vote on who they wish to see elected.
There are rules on the eligibility of residents to stand for the public office of Councillor. The full set of eligibility criteria can be requested from the Clerk. In summary, a person seeking election must be an elector of 18 years of age or over, must have resided for 12 months in the parish or within three miles of it; and must not have been convicted and imprisoned within five years of the election.
If you might be interested please go to the NALC website http://www.nalc.gov.uk/Publications and look at the publications including “It takes all sorts” and Local Councils Explained. It can be very helpful to understand the work involved, but also how rewarding the role can be. We would be happy to talk this through with you so that your expectations are well matched to the tasks and processes of Council.
The Borough runs the Election process and issues the forms along with instructions on the process, including nomination and timetable. The forms have to be completed and returned to the Borough by the deadline of 4pm on April 9. Full details can be found from the electoral commission www.electoralcommission.org.uk
Work of the Parish Council and Role of Councillors
The Parish Council meets once a month to take decisions affecting all aspects of life in the Parish, establishing policies for action, and deciding how much will be raised and spent on behalf of the community. It is responsible for spending public money lawfully and achieving the best value for money. It is subject to rules on what it must do by law, and what it may only do if it has the powers in law. The Clerk is the proper officer of Council with responsibility for drawing up the agenda of Council, and ensuring that Council’s decisions are implemented.
The role involves Councillors seeking and representing the views of local residents, schools, church, and traders association on a variety of matters affecting the local community; identifying the needs of the Parish through a project and finding ways of resolving this; setting the Annual Precept to meet these needs, and managing the Parish Council’s assets and finances effectively.
The Parish works with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead on a range of civil matters which range from street cleaning, footpath maintenance, road maintenance, and many other issues. There is close co-operation with the Borough and regular attendance at some Borough meetings, such as the Parish Conference and Development Control Panel. Under the Localism Act there is increasing pressure to devolve decision making to the Parishes and to enhance the professional response of Council on a wide range of issues.
Sunningdale Parish Council with the neighbouring Parish of Sunninghill and Ascot has an adopted Neighbourhood Plan, which passed referendum in March 2014 and was subsequently adopted by RBWM. Planning matters take up a significant portion of Council’s time and resource.
The Parish Council has three main Committees: Planning, Finance and Recreation. It also convenes working groups for other tasks as they arise, such as for projects and events. All Councillors attend Planning Committee meetings every 28 days and take on the responsibility for other aspects of the Committee work. The Parish Council is in the process of finalising its Business Plan with its priorities for the coming years.
Parish Councillors take on roles as Representatives for Allotments, Borough in Bloom, Cemetery, Footpaths, Trees, Highways and Police liaison. The Parish owns the Village Hall which operates as a registered charity with two Trustees being Parish Councillors. The recreation ground, the allotments,
and the cemetery are all owned and managed by the Parish Council. Council employs a Grounds Manager to upkeep the properties of Parish Council.
A successful local council depends for its success on the councillors, as well as the Chair and the Clerk, each playing complementary roles to ensure that Council devises appropriate policies and the clerk carries them out. There is a budget for training of Councillors to ensure they are adequately briefed to carry out their function.
The role of a Councillor includes the following:
- Setting the budget. There is a statutory requirement for all councils to prepare an annual budget. Most policy decisions of the council have financial implications and these need to be considered as policy is made.
- Making management policy decisions in Council and ensuring that decisions taken by Council are properly implemented.
- Responsible for community engagement with local organisation such as the schools
- Councillors have a role in representing the views of the Council or the community such as at Rural Development Control Panel.
To suggest new initiatives or developments of existing policies, such as taking forward projects that come forward through the Neighbourhood Plan, and using new development funds wisely in our locality.
- To ensure that the views of the community are put to the relevant persons or bodies, and that the special interests of the community are protected and promoted.
We hope that this article has been useful in helping you to understand the election process and the role of a parish councillor. Please do not hesitate to contact the Clerk at Sunningdale Parish Council if you require any further information.