Your Parish Council
What Is a Parish Council?
Parish councils are the first tier of local government and the closest to the communities they serve. They are elected bodies with discretionary powers laid down by government to represent their communities and provide services to them. Parish councils establish policies for action and decide how funds will be raised and spent on behalf of the community.
Note that parish councils are not linked to the church in any way.
There are 17 town and parish councils across the Wokingham Borough. The number of councillors required to sit on a parish council depends on the size of the parish and is determined by the borough council.
The parish of Swallowfield consists of the villages and settlements of Swallowfield, Riseley, Farley Hill and Stanford End.
What Do We Do?
The range of services provided by parish councils varies depending on the size and location of the parish.
Traditionally parish councils were limited in what they may do by statute and have to strictly keep within their powers. Such powers are mostly discretionary and included the ability to:
- provide buildings for public meetings, assemblies or community usage
- acquire land for recreational purposes, allotments, open space or common pastures
- deal with ponds and ditches
- provide entertainment and support of the arts
- maintain and repair public footpaths (but not footways) and bridleways
- provide lights to roads and public places provide roadside seats, shelters and litter bins
- plant trees and plants
- provide traffic signs and other notices
- maintain roadside verges
- provide burial grounds, cemeteries, monuments and memorials
Note that many of these things are not necessarily or uniquely the responsibility of a parish council. In the case of Swallowfield Parish Council, it is not responsible for any burial grounds or the war memorial and Wokingham Borough Council is primarily responsible for things such as the provision of most street furniture and lighting, traffic signs and roadside verge maintenance supplemented in some cases by the parish council.
The Localism Act 2011 introduced the General Power of Competence and this gave qualifying parish councils the power broadly speaking to do anything an individual may generally do that is within the law. To qualify, a council must have resolved to adopt the power, have at least two thirds of its members declared as elected and a clerk who holds an appropriate qualification such as the Certificate in Local Council Administration. Swallowfield Parish Council has adopted the General Power of Competence and used the power to redevelop the Fieldfare site.
Parish councils are required to conduct their business in an open way, with properly organised meetings, agendas and minutes.
Swallowfield Parish Council provides a link with other authorities, such as Wokingham Borough Council, a Unitary Authority, and Thames Valley Police. Because all parish councillors live locally it has the benefit of knowledge of the area and links with other residents. This means that it can be a focal point where local issues can be raised, discussed and acted upon.
The members of your Parish Council work hard on behalf of residents of the parish and become involved, not only in local issues, but also wider matters which impact upon residents and the local area, including crime and anti-social behaviour, planning, waste and recycling, public transport, the provision of services and the climate emergency declared by Wokingham Borough Council.
Who Are We?
Swallowfield Parish Council has nine councillors. A Parish Councillor is the holder of a public office, not a volunteer, although the role is unpaid. They are elected by residents in the parish every four years. If there are not a sufficient number of councillors, following an election or the resignation of one or more councillors during their term, the parish council may elect to co-opt members to fill such vacancies. In most cases this requires consent from Wokingham Borough Council. Parish Councillor’s work together to serve the community by actively participating in the collective decision-making process of their council. A Councillor does not have any authority to make decisions about Parish Council business on their own.
The council employs Proper Officers who are legally empowered to implement the formal decisions of the council. Swallowfield Parish Council employs a Clerk who is required to give clear guidance to councillors before decisions are reached and to ensure that statutory and other provisions governing the running of the council are observed and a Responsible Finance Officer (RFO) who is responsible for all financial records of the council. In addition, it employs a caretaker and warden. All staff are employed part-time.
When Do We Meet?
The Parish Council meets on the second Tuesday of the month throughout the year. Local residents are able to attend and observe but may not participate in the conduct of the council’s business although there is an opportunity for them to make representations to the council, most commonly in relation to planning matters.
If a separate planning meeting is required, it is held on the fourth Tuesday of the month.
The Parish Council is required to organise an Annual Parish Meeting once a year, with local residents invited to attend. This is not a formal council meeting but an opportunity for councillors to engage with residents. This normally takes place in early summer.
Please see further information on Parish Council meetings.
Located in Berkshire and part of the borough of Wokingham, the parish of Swallowfield consists of the villages and settlements of Swallowfield, Riseley, Farley Hill and Stanford End. Swallowfield Parish Council has nine councillors.