Election time, what next for the Parish Council? - by Sarah Hill Wheeler

Updated: Apr 9

Election time, what next for the Parish Council?

Local government elections take place on 6 May , and this includes Lydiard Millicent Parish Council. But what does this really mean, and does it even matter? Here are the answers to some of your questions.

Why doesn’t Lydiard Millicent currently have a regular parish council?

In December, all bar one of our local councillors resigned. A Parish Council needs a minimum number of councillors to function (four in Lydiard Millicent’s case). So, Wiltshire Council made an order appointing temporary parish councillors. These are all Wiltshire County Councillors.

Since then, three residents have become parish councillors through co-option (This means they’ve put themselves forward and become parish councillors formally, but without an election). However, the Parish Council still does not have enough local members to function independently.

What does the Parish Council do?

People often look upon parish councils as the lowest tier of local government. Technically, this isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s a good enough working definition.

The Parish Council has power (but generally no duty) to provide facilities and services for the community. To do this, each year it agrees a budget and precept, which forms part of the Council Tax you pay as a resident.

For example, in Lydiard Millicent, the Parish Council provides and looks after the play equipment, the recreation field and the Jubilee Club House, the cemetery and the flower beds by the Church. It arranges for the grass to be cut (where it’s not done by Wiltshire Council). It may also undertake specific projects (like provision of a car park or footpath improvements) and may increase the precept to fund them.

How should the Parish Council be run?

The Parish Council is a statutory body, and there are shed loads of rules and regulations which govern how it is run.

In essence though, local residents put themselves forward for election as councillors. Once elected, they collectively determine, through formal resolutions in public meetings, what the Council does. Individual councillors don’t have power to act on behalf of the Council.

Without a formal structure in place and meetings only taking place periodically, getting things done can be hard. So, in practice, much of the day-to-day running of the Council is done by the clerk under delegated authority. Unlike councillors, the clerk is a paid employee of the Council. Effectively, he or she should implement and oversee the policy agreed formally by the councillors as well as ensuring the Council meets all its legal obligations.

What happens on 6 May?

In theory, as electors, you get to choose your new parish council. There are eleven spaces. If there are more than eleven candidates, there is an election. If there are eleven or fewer, then they will be elected unopposed.

Many parish councils struggle to fill all their vacancies. In addition, the problems which led to all the original councillors in Lydiard Millicent resigning, means potential candidates may feel wary about putting themselves forward. So, it is unlikely we’ll see a contested election.

What happens if the election is not contested?

If there are enough candidates to form a working council (four or more), then they will all become councillors and can co-opt others to join them. So, in theory, Lydiard Millicent would then have a functioning council of local residents.

If there are insufficient candidates, then it’s less clear what will happen. I’ve contacted Wiltshire Council and the Parish Council Clerk and am waiting for clarification. However, the returning officer/Wiltshire Council could call another election to fill the vacant spaces and, if that fails, make another order (or a continuation of the existing one) appointing temporary councillors.

When will we know more?

The deadline for nominations for parish councillors closed on Thursday and publication of nominations should take place by 4pm Friday 9 April. So, it may soon become clear if there are enough candidates to form a new council.

In addition, a Zoom meeting of the Parish Council is planned for 29th April, when the interim Chairman of the Parish Council, Bob Jones, has said he will give an update.

In the meantime, we’ll post any further information here. So, watch this space.

Sarah Hill Wheeler

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