What is a Town Council? - Let us explain...
As we near election time in May 2023, you may be wondering what the Town Council do or how you can get involved within the Council? We are going to bust some myths for you in this article!
What is a Town Council?
A Town Council is the grassroots tier of the British Local Government System. A Town Council is a type of local authority which is established by legislation and work within a set framework and rules.
Town Council's are 'a-political' and represent the views of local residents. In Patchway, you will elect 15 Councillors to stand in the Coniston, Callicroft and Highwood Wards. Each person you elect will have a legal obligation to deliver what you would like to see happen in Patchway. Party politics should never come into play at this level of Local Government and all decisions are made on a vote of majority, never by an individual unless delegated to the Legal Officer of the Town Council (The Town Clerk). Decisions made by the Council, even if the majority is not unanimous, is still a decision and this should be supported by all members elected under The Nolan Principles.
Now here come's a long list of what we don't do, please try to get to the end and then you can see what we actually do! (Please note this list is not exhaustive)
A Town Council does not have statutory responsibility for services, such as:
A Town Council does have a statutory power to precept (tax) the local government electors (you) in their areas to finance the activities that flow from the exercise of their functions and legal obligations.
Most decisions about local council business are taken at formal meetings of the Council and their Committees.
Patchway Town Council offers this for their residents, under their legal powers:
Monthly public meetings for residents to voice their concerns or questions.
Owning two allotment sites for our residents.
Maintaining the rights for burial at Almondsbury Cemetery.
Fundraising for local groups and organisations.
Employ a dedicated Environmental Operative to litter pick the whole Town.
Employ a dedicated outdoor staff team who maintain all of the Council's parks, play areas, open spaces, verges, trees, ponds, street furniture and buildings.
Employ a dedicated office team who administrate the Town Council ensuring residents' voices are heard and ensure the Council operates legally and efficiently.
Owning community buildings which are open to all local groups.
Play a key role in Twinning with France and Germany.
Maintain high quality sporting facilities at Scott Park.
Grant funding for all community groups.
All-year round events for everyone.
Holding South Gloucestershire Council accountable for roads and street cleansing.
Aiding crime prevention through the installation of CCTV cameras.
Work across multiple local organisations such as schools, police and youth teams to ensure the Council are meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in the Town.
Weekly litter bin collections.
A monthly Town Council newsletter packed with information.
Respond to planning applications, taking into account residents' views.
Maintain public toilets at Norman Scott Park.
Maintain a war memorial at Norman Scott Park.
Having an up to date website, full of information.
Respond to local consultations which effect our residents.
Now, this list is not exhaustive but in short: Patchway Town Council offers a local voice to Patchway residents.
The precept we raise each year, goes towards all of the items above and we see it as investing into our community directly. The amount of money we raise from the Precept is all spent in Patchway and on ensuring our Town thrives.
What is a Town Councillor?
A Town Councillor is an elected official of a Town Council. Every four years, the residents vote for who they think will represent them and their town the best. Town Councillors should be local residents of the area in which they stand however legislation states that they can stand as a Councillor in an area of three miles of the Town Council.
A Councillor is a holder of public office and not a volunteer. Town Councillors are not paid for the work that they do but they can claim back reasonable expenses. A Councillor has no authority to make decisions about council business on their own and the main job of a Town Councillor is to participate in the collective decision-making processes of the Council.
All Town Councillors must declare financial and certain other interests and all Councillors should promote absolute transparency at all times. A Councillor is subject to obligations set out in the code of conduct which is adopted by the Town Council.
A Councillor must sign and return their 'Declaration of Acceptance of Office' form to be considered as a current Councillor. Failing to attend meetings for a period of six months may mean that you stop being a Councillor. Councillors are expected to uphold the Nolan Principles about how they conduct themselves as a representative of the Council, these are:
Each year, the Council will elect a Chairman and Vice-Chairman to preside at meeting's of the Full Council. As we are a Town Council, we refer to our Chairman as our 'Mayor' which is a Civic Role.
A Councillors main responsibilities are to:
Raise matters that the Council can consider and formally decide to take action about at meetings.
Attend Council meetings.
Make informed contributions which influence the debate on the business that needs be decided at those meetings.
Participate in the Council's decision-making process, which in itself is subject to strict rules.
Represent the Council externally.
Being a Councillor is a very rewarding position and one that should not be taken likely. Councillors are key to decision making in your Town and having elected official's who give residents a voice, is something that is vitally important.
What is a Town Council Meeting?
A Town Council meeting is one of the main thing's you will do as a Councillor. Patchway have 11 meetings a year which deal with a whole host of items.
The Clerk of the Council will issue an agenda which gives Councillors and members of the public sufficient notice of a meeting. A meeting cannot proceed unless it is quorate (equal to one third of the Council size).
Most meetings are open to the public unless there are reason to exclude them, such as legal and HR matters. The Council will need to pass a resolution to exclude members of the public.
Meetings can only do with the business on the agenda. No decision can be made if it is not on the agenda.
Decisions at meetings are made by the majority of the Councillors present and voting. As we mentioned earlier, all Town Councillors vote along an 'a-political' background and the motion that is passed should be in the best interest of the residents that they represent.
Standing Orders are necessary to regulate the order and conduct of meetings. These should be adhered to at every formal meeting.
Minutes are produced to document the decisions only that the meeting has taken. These are published on the Town Council's website.
If a Councillor cannot make a meeting, they should send their apologies and a reason to the Clerk of the Council to pass onto the members present. If no apologies are received through the Clerk, the member is classed as absent.
A decision or resolution at a meeting must be preceded by a motion. A motion proposes that a meeting decides upon a course of action. Once seconded, this should be taken to a vote.
We hope this guide has proved useful for you and you can find out more information on becoming a Councillor here - https://www.patchwaytowncouncil.gov.uk/councillor
If you require more information, please contact the Town Clerk on firstname.lastname@example.org or by ringing 01454 868 530.