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A parish council has gone viral. These are the decisions they make that govern your lives

Emily Cleary
·4-min read

Watch: The parish council meeting that became a viral sensation

Clips of a local council meeting descending into chaos went viral this week.

The Handforth Parish Council meeting began with an unseen councillor mumbling “f*** off” under their breath and evolved into a full-scale argument over Zoom.

The name of one of the meeting’s participants - clerk Jackie Weaver - quickly became the fourth trending item on Twitter and by Friday afternoon the original post had been retweeted more than 19,500 times and accrued more than 102,000 ‘likes’.

Weaver had evicted chair Brian Tolver from the Zoom call, the second time he had been removed from a meeting that evening, after he told her to “stop talking” and “you have no authority here”.

Tolver was placed in a virtual waiting room prompting vice-chair Aled Brewerton, joined by an older unnamed gentleman, to shout at Weaver to “read the standing orders”.

If the lively scenes from the meeting have left you wondering what a parish council does - and what decisions they take that impact your daily lives - Yahoo News UK is here to help.

What is a parish council?

The role of a parish council, sometimes known as a town council, is to represent the interests of local residents by discussing matters that affect the community. The council is a civil local authority and is the lowest tier of local government.

A parish council must have an annual meeting and at least three other meetings in a year. Monthly meetings are the most common. The clerk to the council invites members of the public, press, police and ward councillors to attend the meetings, and records all discussions.

Decisions on matters are communicated to higher levels of local government and published by the council.

Hazlehead park view in autumn with yellow leaves on trees and lawns and a large playground for visitors with children, Aberdeen, Scotland
Parish councils have the responsibility for upkeep of local spaces such as parks and playgrounds as well as the maintenance of war memorials (Getty)

Where do parish councils get their money from?

Parish councils are responsible for managing their own budgets. They are financed through the precept, an amount of money calculated as an estimate for the coming financial year and collected as part of a household’s council tax. This money is used to improve facilities and services for local people. Parish councils can also apply for other funding, such as grants and awards.

Parish councils actively encourage input from residents on what the community needs, so that they can budget for that activity.

What powers do they have?

Parish councils have the power to tax their residents to support their operations and to carry out local projects. They can also provide and manage certain facilities, including buildings for community use, such as village halls and town halls, public toilets and parks.

They often take charge of the erection and maintenance of war memorials, and also have the responsibility of appointing trustees to local charities and approving the appointment of new governors at primary schools.

Controls of byelaws fall to a parish council - the power to make bye-laws concerning recreation facilities such as swimming pools, cycle parks, mortuaries and and graveyards. They also have a duty to oversee the problem of litter in an area by providing an adequae amount of bins for the public to use, and organising anti-litter campaigns.

They are responsible for the upkeep and control of of ditches, ponds and footpaths, as well as lighting, parking provision in an area. They are allowed to enter discussions with the district council about new roads, road widening, traffic signs and other notices, tree planting and verge maintenance.

Parish councils have the power to prosecute and defend any legal proceedings in the interests of the local community, and the power to take part in any public enquiry.

Read more

What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

Who can become a parish councillor and how much are they paid?

Any British, EU or Commonwealth citizen on the electoral register who has lived or worked in the parish for a year or more can stand in local elections to become a parish councillor. Elections take place every four years.

All councillors have to abide by a model Code of Conduct set by the local authority.

Parish Councillors are volunteers so they do not get paid. They are allowed to claim legitimate expenses, such as mileage for going to a meeting outside the parish on council business.

A Parish Clerk such as Weaver is an employee of the council who works for and with the council to action its decisions.

Having been approached for her reaction on the meeting video going viral, Weaver said meetings were not usually so lively.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour: “Actually 99.99% of council meetings are just not like that.

“They are often less exciting that we might hope they were and in fact...most of the time I’m trying to get people involved in parish councils to raise their profile. I guess the plus side of this is it’s certainly done that.”

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