Powers and Duties Of Parish Councils

Parishes are the smallest areas of civil administration in England and provide the tier of local government closest to the people.

Town and Parish Councils are an essential part of the structure of local democracy and have a vital role in acting on behalf of the communities they represent.

Parish Councils have a wide range of powers and duties.

Duties: A duty is an activity that must be carried out (Mandatory) e.g. local councils must appoint a chairman and a clerk.

Powers: Statutory powers, granted by Parliament give local councils the choice or opportunity to take action and are therefore discretionary.

The powers which have been vested in Parish, Town and Community Councils by Acts of Parliament are summarised below. Each description is intended to be a general indication and it is not a complete list of every single power and duty.

Like all powers given to public bodies the powers of local councils are defined in detail in legislation and these details may include a requirement to obtain the consent of another body i.e. the Borough Council. Local Councils must also exercise their powers subject to the provisions of the general law.

The following table describes the powers and duties held by local councils for a number of functions. It also provides details of the regulations under which statutory provisions are made. Information on all these details are available from the parish council Clerk. Where a function is marked with an asterisk (*) a council also has the power to give financial assistance to another person or body performing the same function.

Functions Powers And Duties Statutory Powers
Agency Arrangements Power to arrange for the discharge of functions by another local authority Local Government Act 1972 s.101
Allotments Powers to provide allotments Duty to provide allotment gardens if demand unsatisfied Small Holdings Allotments Act 1908 ss 23, 26 and 42
Archives Power to make records held available to the public and support local archives Local Government (Records) Act 1962, ss1 and 4
Baths and Washhouses: Power to provide public baths and washhouses Public Health Act 1936 ss 221, 222,223 and 227
Borrowing Power to borrow money for statutory functions Local Government Act 1972 Sch. 13
Burial Grounds, Cemeteries and crematoria* Power to acquire and maintain Open Spaces Act 1906, ss 9 and 10: Local Government Act 1972, s 214
Power to provide Local Government Act 1972, s.214
Power to agree to maintain monuments end memorials Parish Council and Burial Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 19970, s. 1
Power to contribute towards expenses of cemeteries Local Government Act 1972
Bus Shelters Power to provide and maintain Local Government (Miscellaneous) Act 1953 s.4
Bye Laws Power to make byelaws for public walks and pleasure ground Public Health Act 1875, s 164
Cycle Parks Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 s.57 (7)
Swimming pools, bathing places, baths and washhouses Public Health Act 1936, s 223
Open Spaces and Burial Grounds Open Spaces Act 1906 ss 12 and 15
Mortuaries and post-mortem rooms Public Health Act 1936 s. 198
Public Bathing Public Health Act 1936 s. 231
Hiring of pleasure boats in parks and pleasure grounds Public Health Amendments Act 1907, s 44(2): Public Health Act 1961, s54
Charities Duty to receive accounts of parochial charities Charities Act 1960, s 32
Power to appoint trustees of parochial charities Charities Act 1993, s 79
Clocks* Power to provide public clocks Parish Councils Act 1957,s 2
Closed Churchyards Powers (and sometimes duty) as to maintain Local Government Act 1972, s.215
Commons Land and Common Pastures Powers in relation to inclosure as to regulation and management and as to providing common pasture Inclosure Act 1845; Local Government Act 1984, s 8(4); Smallholding and Allotments Act 1908, s.34
Power to protect unclaimed common land from unlawful interference Commons Registration Act1965,s.9
Power to manage commons and village greens under a district council scheme Commons Act 1899, ss 4 & 5
Conference facilities* Power to provide and encourage the use of facilities Local Government Act 1972, s.144
Consultation Right to be consulted by principal councils if directed by Secretary of State (England) of by Welsh Assembly (Wales) Local Government and Rating Act1997, s21; Local Government Act 1972, s 33A
Community Centres and Village Halls Power to provide and equip premises for use of clubs having athletic, social or educational objectives Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, s.19
Crime Prevention* Powers to spend money on various crime prevention measures Local Government and Rating Act 1997, s 31
Power to (a) install equipment, (b) establish schemes and (c) assist others in so doing for the prevention of crime Local Government and Rating Act 1997, s 31
Delegated Functions Power to assume a function delegated by another authority

Power to ensure effective discharge of Council functions

Power to employ someone to carry out Council functions

 

Local Government Act 1972ss. 101, 111 and 112

Drainage Power to deal with ponds/ditches Public Health Act 1936, s. 260
Education Right to appoint governors of primary schools School Standards and Framework Act 1988, para 15 of Sch.10
Entertainment and the Arts* Provision of entertainment and support of the arts Local Government Act 1972,s145
Environment Power to act for the benefit of the community by tackling and promoting awareness of environmental issues Local Government Act 1972,ss 111 and 137
Flagpoles Power to erect flagpoles in highways Highways Act 1980, s 144
” Free Resource” Power to incur expenditure not otherwise authorised on anything which in the council’s opinion is in the interests of the area or part of it or all or some of the inhabitants Local Government Act 1972,s139
Gifts Power to accept Local Government Act 1972 s139
Highways Power to repair and maintain footpaths and bridleways Highways Act 1980, ss 43 and 50
Power to light roads and public places Parish Councils Act 1957 s 3:  Highways Act 1980, s 301: Local Government Act 1972,Sched. 14 para 27
Provision of litter bins Litter Act 1983, 5 and 6
Power to provide parking places for vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, ss 57 and 63
Power to enter into an agreement as to dedication and widening Highways Act 1980. ss 30 and 72
Power to provide roadside shelters, and omnibus shelters Parish Councils Act 1957, s 1
Consent of Parish Council required for ending maintenance of highway at public expense, or for stopping up or diversion of highway Highways Act, 1980 ss 47 and 116
Power to complain to District Council as to protection of rights of way and roadside waste  
Power to provide traffic signs and other notices Highways Act 1980, s 130
Power to plant trees, etc., and to maintain roadside verges Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, s 72; Countryside Act 1968
Power to complain to local highway authority that a highway is unlawfully stopped up or obstructed Highways Act 1980, s 96
Power to prosecute for unlawful ploughing of a footpath or bridleway Highways Act 1980, s 130 Highways Act 1980, s 134
Investments Power to participate in schemes of collective investment Trustee Investments Act 1962,s11
Land Power to acquire land by agreement, to appropriate land and to dispose of Local Government Act 1972, ss 124, 126 and 127
Power to accept gifts of land Local Government Act 1972s139
Power to acquire land by compulsory purchase Local Government Act 1972, s 125
Power to obtain particulars of persons interested in land Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976,s 16
Power to acquire land for or to provide recreation grounds, public walks, pleasure grounds and open spaces and to manage and control them Public Health Act 1875, s 16; Local Government Act 1972, Sched. 14, para 27; Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1980, s 44; Open Spaces Act 1906, ss 9 and 10; Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, s 19
Lighting Power to light roads and public places Parish Councils Act 1957, s Highways Act 1980, s 301
Litter* and dog fouling Provision of receptacles Obliged to keep own land free of litter and dog faces Litter Act 1983, ss 5 an Environmental Protection Act 1990; Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991
Lotteries Power to promote Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976, s 7
Mortuaries and post-mortem rooms Powers to provide mortuaries and post-mortem rooms Public Health Act 1936, s 198
Nature Reserves Power to designate statutory to the nature reserves and marine nature reserves – English Nature can designate sites of specific scientific interest National Parks and Access Countryside Act 1949, ss 15, 16 and 21; The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1982, ss 36 and 39 and Sched.12
Powers to make management agreements with landowners and the English Nature to manage council-owned reserve land as a nature reserve  
Nuisances Power to deal with offensive ditches, ponds and gutters Public Health Act 1936, s 260
Open Spaces Power to acquire land and maintain Public Health Act 1875, s 164; Open Spaces Act 1906, ss 9 and 10; Commons Act 1899
Power to acquire land for or to provide recreation grounds, public walks, pleasure grounds and open spaces, and to manage and control them. Public Health Act 1875, s 164; Local Government Act 1972, Sched 14, para 27; Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1980, s 44; Open Spaces Act 1906, ss 9 and 10; Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, s 19.
Parish Property and Records Powers to direct as to their custody Local Government Act 1972, s226
Parking Facilities Power to provide parking places for motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, ss 57 and 63
Planning Right to be notified of and power to respond to planning applications Town and Country Planning Act 990, Sched. 1 para 8; Local Government Act 1972, Sched. 15 para 20.
Postal and telecommunications facilities Power to pay the Post Office, British Telecommunications or any other public telecommunications operator any loss sustained in providing post or telegraph office or telecommunications facilities Post Office Act 1954, s 51; Telecommunications Act 1984,s97
Public Buildings and Village Halls Power to provide buildings for offices and for public meetings and assemblies Local Government Act 1972 s 133
Public Conveniences Power to provide Public Health Act 19336, s 87
Public Enquiries Power to make representations at public enquiries Local Government Act 1982, s222
Publicise functions Power to publicise council and local authority functions Local Government Act 1982, s. 142
Raising of Finances Power to raise money through them precept Local Government Act 1982, s150
Records Power to collect, exhibit and purchase local records Local Government Act Records) Act 1962 ss 1 and 2
Recreation* Power to acquire land for or to provide recreation grounds, public walks, pleasure grounds, and open spaces and to manage and control them.

Power to provide gymnasiums, playing fields, holiday camps

Public Health Act 1875, s 164; Local Government Act 1972, Sched 14 para 27; Public Health Acts Amendment Acts 1890, s 44; Open Spaces Act 1906, ss 9 and 10; Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, s 19; Commons Act 1899
Provision of boating pools Public Health Act 1962, s 54
Seats and Shelters* Power to provide roadside seats and shelters Parish Councils Act 1957, s 1
Tourism* Power to contribute to the encouragement of tourism Local Government Act 1972, s. 144
Town and Country Planning Right to be notified of planning applications Town & Country Planning Act 1990, Sched. 1 para 8
Town Status Power to adopt town status Local Government Act 1972, ss 245 and 245B
Traffic Calming Power to contribute financially to traffic calming schemes Local Government and Rating Act 1997, s 26
Training Power to train Councillors Local Government Act 1972. s175.
Transport* Power to (a) establish car sharing schemes (b) make grants for bus services, (c) provide taxi-fare concessions; (d) investigate public transport, road use and needs; (e) provide information about public transport services

Community Transport Schemes

Local Government and Rating Act 1997, s 26-29
Village greens Power to maintain, to make bylaws for and to prosecute for interference with village greens Open Spaces Act 1906, s 15 Inclosure Act 1857, s 12, Commons Act 1876, s 29
War Memorials Power to maintain, repair, protect and adapt war memorials War Memorials (Local Authorities Powers) Act 1923, s 1 as extended by Local Government Act 1948, s 133
Water Supply Power to utilise well, spring or stream and to provide facilities for obtaining water therefrom. Public Health Act 1936, s 125

This list is intended as a summary of the principle functions of Local Council. It is not intended to be a definitive list of such functions.