Community Governance Review of Parishes 2021

Uttlesford District Council is to undertake a Community Governance Review during summer 2021.

This provides an opportunity to review and make changes to governance arrangements at parish level. This is to ensure they are working as efficiently and effectively as they should be. It also ensures that they are reflective of the identity and interest of local communities. We will work closely with local councils and parish meetings and with the Essex Association of Local Councils (EALC) as part of this review.

Local councils are the first tier of local government. They play a vital role in engaging with local people and helping to shape their communities. Uttlesford has 55 civil parishes, of which 51 have their own governance body - Parish or Town Council.

For convenience, they are generally referred to as "local councils" or "parish councils."

The four areas that do not have governing body (Parish Council) are:

  • Chickney
  • Lindsell
  • Strethall
  • Wicken Bonhunt

Parish Meetings

Parish Meetings must assemble annually on some day between 1 March and 1 June and on one other occasion during the year. Their meetings are open to the public, but only registered electors for the Parish can speak and vote on any proposal. A Parish Meeting is not a corporate body. A Parish Meeting is unable to own property, sue, or be sued. It is not a local authority. Its powers are not as wide as those of a Parish Council. The above four parish areas have Parish Meetings, which consist of the local government electors for the Parish themselves.

The Local Government Act 1972 states that "for every parish there shall be a parish meeting for the purpose of discussing parish affairs and exercising any functions conferred on such meetings by any enactment..." Section 13 of the Act states that "the parish meeting of a parish shall consist of the local government electors for the parish".

A parish meeting is a public body exercising public functions and as such any decision, action or failure to act in relation to the exercise of its public function is capable of being judicially reviewed.
 

Parish Councils

Parish Councils are required to hold at least four meetings each year which are open to the public, one of which must be an Annual Meeting of the full Council. Parish Councils have certain powers and responsibilities under statute including, for example, the maintenance of community buildings. They usually employ a Parish Clerk and/or other staff to carry out these duties. They also have power to raise money (a 'precept') through the local Council Tax and have a duty to provide accounts.

Uttlesford District Council arrange and run any elections (held every four years at the same time as District Council elections) and by-elections on behalf of Parish Councils.
Askyourcouncil.uk explains more about parish meetings and parish polls.

 

What can the Community Governance Review change?

A Community Governance Review can make a number of changes to parish governance when there is clear evidence to do so:

It can make changes to parish areas - including:

  • changes to boundaries between parishes
  • mergers of two or more parishes 
  • creating a new parish out of part of one or more existing parishes

It can make changes to electoral arrangements within parish areas - including:

  • changes to the number of parish councillors, to increase or decrease its membership
  • introducing or changing parish warding arrangements, such as to ward or de-ward an area

It can accommodate changing the name of a parish

It can accommodate the grouping together of parishes under a common parish council

 

Why has Uttlesford District Council decided to undertake a review now?

It is many years since a full review of community governance arrangements took place across the district. Since then many towns and villages have grown. Some of these developments have crossed parish boundaries or have created new communities with their own local identity.

The role of parish and town councils has also developed significantly since over the last 20 years. The Government sees Community Governance Reviews as an opportunity to ensure communities have effective community governance in place, with parish and town councils that can effectively make use of their new powers and responsibilities.

Uttlesford District Council has to ensure that community governance arrangements are:

  • Reflective of the identities and interests of the community in that area
  • Effective and convenient (this relates to the ability of parishes to provide services for its residents).

Any proposed governance arrangements will need to be considered in that light.
 

How does the Community Governance Review work?

Under the Local Government and Public Health Involvement Act, 2007  Uttlesford District Council is responsible for carrying out Community Governance Reviews. This is in accordance with government guidance.

The conduct of the review will be overseen by Governance, Audit and Performance Committee. The meeting of this Committee on 22 October 2020 agreed to conduct the review and the following timetable:

Community Governance Review 2021 Timetable

 

Consultation process

Between 1 June and 30 July 2021 town and parish councils, local residents and other interested persons, groups or organisations will be able to provide a submission for any particular changes (including no change) they want to make to the current governance arrangements.

These are to be submitted via a link on this webpage. This will be made live on 1 June 2021.

Following the consultation period all submissions will be made public here. These will all be considered and will lead to the publication of a report to the Committee on behalf of the Council to consider the draft proposals.

The decision of the Committee will lead to the creation of a Re-organisation Order and a request will be made to Local Government Boundary Commission for England for a consequential Order to district ward and county electoral division boundaries, as appropriate.

Any approved changes will take affect from the next scheduled Parish Council elections in 2023.