Parish and Community Plans

A Parish/Community Plan sets out a vision for the community over the next ten years, identifying local needs and priorities, including key projects and initiatives and setting out an action plan showing how they're going to get there.

Completed parish plans are available to download from the parish pages, see Contact details.

If you would like to develop a Parish Plan please Contact us.

Resources for Town and Parish Clerks

Useful information:

Useful Forms:

Standards information for Town and Parish Councils

Under the Localism Act there is a requirement for all Town and Parish Councils to adopt a Code of Conduct and for councillors to register Disclosable Pecuniary Interests.  The  Register of Interests Form should be completed by councillors and returned to the Monitoring Officer, Mid Devon District Council, Phoenix House, Tiverton  EX16 6PP.he Department of Communities and Local Government have issued a practical guide on Personal Interests, see GOV.UK - Personal Interests Guide.

Partnership charter

The Charter between Mid Devon District Council and Town and Parish Councils sets out how we work in partnership to  promote sustainable social, economic and environmental development for the benefit of local communities. The Town and Parish Charter links with the Town and Parish Planning Charter.

Frequently asked questions

The following information has been compiled by our Parish Liaison Officer. If you have any questions or need clarification, please contact us.

 

Parish councillors hold office for a period of four years (or if elected part way through the cycle, for the remainder of that period only) and retire on the fourth day after the ordinary day of election. The newly elected councillors take office (provided they have made declarations of acceptance of office) on the day on which their predecessors retire (Local Government Act, 1972, Section 16(3)). The chairman of a parish council continues in office until their successor becomes entitled to act as such.

The election period commences with the Notice of Election. For the all-out elections this is mid-March. This gives details of how to stand as a candidate, who to contact and the deadline for candidate nominations. All town and parish clerks will be sent a copy of this for display in the parish.

Where the number of candidates for a parish or parish ward is less than or equal to the number of seats to be filled, those candidates will be declared as elected uncontested.

Some town and parish councils may need to co-opt (see 3. Co-option of Councillors for process) members to make up their full quota of councillors; some councils will have their full quota; while some others will have too many candidates, requiring the election in that parish to proceed to a poll.

If too few nominations are received by the Returning Officer for a quorum the Returning Officer must order a fresh election, which must be held within 35 working days of the date fixed for the original election. In the meantime, we may, by order, temporarily appoint persons to fill the seats in order to establish a quorum for the Council and permit it to undertake any statutory business.

Nomination and Consent to Nomination forms

It is important that candidates’ nomination papers are completed correctly. Whilst it is often the case that the parish clerk will arrange to distribute and oversee the completion of nomination papers (particularly so at scheduled elections), it is the responsibility of each candidate and not the clerk, to ensure that their papers are delivered to the Returning Officer before the deadline specified within the statutory election timetable. The candidate nomination papers should be delivered in person and it is advisable to wait for them to be checked by our Electoral Services team before leaving. This is because if an error is found, candidates will be able to take their paper away to correct it and re-submit it before the deadline.

The nomination paper must be subscribed by a:-

(i) Proposer and

(ii) Seconder

The proposer and seconder must be local government electors of the parish, or if the parish is divided into wards, the correct ward, and their electoral numbers must be given on the nomination paper. Proposers/seconders cannot sign more nomination papers than the number of vacancies to be filled. Whilst the Electoral Services team can provide electoral numbers, they cannot formally validate a nomination paper immediately, as the proposer/seconder may have already signed too many nomination papers.

The nomination form must be accompanied by Consent to Nomination form. This verifies the candidate’s eligibility to stand in that area (i.e. they are a registered elector in the parish, they own land or property in the parish, they have lived in the parish for at least 12 months or their principal place of work is in the parish). This form must be signed by a witness.

It is good practice for the parish clerk not to sign nomination papers or advocate the election of any particular candidate. Strict impartiality will avoid any possible accusation of bias.

Following the close of candidate nominations, the Returning Officer is required to publish a Statement of Persons Nominated and the reasons why any other persons nominated no longer stand nominated. A copy of this Statement will be sent to the parish clerk for display locally.

A candidate may withdraw his or her candidature if, by the time the nomination period closes, he or she delivers to the place fixed for the delivery of nomination papers a Notice of Withdrawal signed by him or her, and attested by one witness.

Uncontested Elections

If the number of people remaining validly nominated after any withdrawals does not exceed the number of councillors to be elected, such people will be declared to be elected as soon as possible after the latest time for the delivery of withdrawals.

The Returning Officer will issue a notice to the uncontested candidates to inform them of their election. This notice will remind the candidates about their duties with regard to the completion of a declaration and return of election expenses.

A notice will be issued to clerks to inform them of the outcome of uncontested elections, providing them with the full names and addresses of new councillors.

Clerks are reminded that a Declaration of Acceptance of Office form should be signed by each councillor and attested by the clerk as the proper officer of the council before or at the first meeting of the parish council after their election. If this is not convenient for a councillor, the council may permit that form to be signed before or at a later meeting. Clerks are reminded that the declaration form used must contain a specific reference to the Code of Conduct for Members. We don't need a copy of the Declaration of Acceptance of Office.

Each councillor must also submit a new Register of Interests form to our Monitoring Officer. Scanned copies of these forms will be made available on our website.

Please note that at scheduled elections, if there are not enough candidates to fill all the vacancies, the Representation of the People Act 1985, Section 21 allows the elected members, provided there is a quorum (i.e. – one third of the whole number of members with a minimum of three) to co-opt members to fill the remaining vacancies, (see 3. Co-option of Councillors below).

If the Parish Council fails to exercise their power to co-opt within seven weeks (35 days computed as under paragraph 3) or if there is no quorum, we may order a fresh election to properly constitute the parish council.

Contested Elections and Polls

When there are more nominated candidates than there are seats on the council there will be a poll.

The Notice of Poll will be published prior to the election and copies will be sent to clerks for placing on the parish notice boards.

Candidates will need to be mindful of the rules governing election expenses and corrupt and illegal practices. These are outlined in the Candidate's Guide included with the nomination pack. Information is also available on the Electoral Commission’s website.

When the result of the poll is known, the Returning Officer or the appointed deputy will:-

(a) Declare to be elected, the candidate(s) to whom more votes have been given than to the other candidates, up to the number of councillors to be elected.

(b) Give notice of the name of each candidate elected to the parish clerk.

(c) Give public notice of the name of each candidate and of the total number of votes given for each (whether elected or not) together with the number of rejected ballot papers.

A notice will be issued to the successful candidates to inform them of their election. This notice will remind the candidates about their duties with regard to the completion of a Declaration of Acceptance of Office and return of election expenses.

First Meeting of the new Council

The clerk summons the elected councillors and holds the Annual Parish Council Meeting on or within 14 days that the new councillors take office. At the meeting all councillors must sign an Acceptance of Office which is retained by the clerk and a Register of Interests form which must be returned to us within 28 days. The first order of business at the meeting is to elect the Chairman and Vice Chairman, followed by the appointment of members to each of the committees and to outside organisations and agreement of the meeting schedule.

Co-option

If a town or parish council has less than its full quota of councillors, but remains quorate, it may co-opt members to fill any vacancies. (see 3. Co-option of Councillors below for process).

The council may co-opt whoever it pleases to fill a remaining vacancy. However, that person must be qualified to serve as a councillor. Some councils advertise for expressions of interest in being co-opted. Although there is no legal requirement to do this, it is good practice to make the vacancy as widely known as possible.

Provided that the meeting has a quorum, the decision must be made by a simple majority of members who are present and voting. The person presiding over the meeting may vote, and if there is an equality of votes they may exercise their casting vote. Members must vote by show of hands unless the council has standing orders that provide otherwise.

The council’s debate and vote on the co-option must be conducted in the public section of its meeting. It follows that the candidates, as members of the public, will be entitled to be present during the proceedings.

Election Expenses

At the end of the election period, even if no poll has taken place, each candidate (whether successful or not) MUST BY LAW submit a Statement of Election Expenses/Declaration to show the expenses (if any) incurred as part of their election campaign.

These documents must be made available for public inspection and failure to return one (even if it is a ‘nil return’) is a reported electoral offence.

Please contact Jackie Stoneman – Electoral Services Manager on 01884 234214 or email elections@middevon.gov.uk for further information.

If a councillor resigns, is disqualified or passes away you must, in the first instance and where practical, obtain confirmation in writing. The next step is to contact our Electoral Services team either by email on elections@middevon.gov.uk or by telephone on 01884 234214.

The vacant post of councillor must then be advertised, through a Notice of Vacancy which you must obtain and log with Electoral Services. This gives registered electors in the parish the opportunity to call an election to fill the vacancy if they wish. They have 14 working days to contact us to do this. (The day the notice goes up does not count in the calculation as it is not a complete day).

The Notice of Vacancy needs to be displayed in public places in the parish as soon as practicable and Electoral Services need to know which day you publish it so they can calculate the 14 working days for the deadline for election requests. Electoral Services will then contact you after the deadline to let you know if the required 10 signatures requesting an election have been received.

ONLY if no election is called can you then go ahead and co-opt onto your council. If you have not advertised the vacancy and you go ahead and co-opt your new councillors will not be lawfully appointed. This has implications for all the decisions taken by the council in which they are involved and may render such decisions invalid or open to challenge.

Elections cannot be requested within 6 months of an ordinary (all-out) election.

Please contact Jackie Stoneman – Electoral Services Manager on 01884 234214 or email elections@middevon.gov.uk for further information.

Councils can only co-opt if the vacancy has been correctly notified to us and a Notice of Election has been completed. Once you have been contacted by our Electoral Services team and told that an election has not been called you can then go ahead and co-opt onto your council.

There are no direct rules for you to pick a candidate to co-opt onto your council; it is whatever procedure your council has agreed. As a minimum though:

  • You should advertise the casual vacancy and invite people to apply for the post of councillor.
  • Some Councils advertise for expressions of interest in being co-opted. Although there is no legal requirement to do this, it is good practice to make the vacancy as widely known as possible.
  • Candidates should complete Consent to Co-opt form and these should be sent to and logged by the clerk. This will ensure that only eligible candidates are co-opted.
  • In filling a vacancy by co‐option, the parish council is not obliged to consider the claims of candidates who were unsuccessful at a previous election.
  • It is good practice to publish a notice giving the date of the meeting which any applications will be considered by the parish council. This can also ask for any person who wishes to be considered for co‐option, to confirm their name to the clerk and that they are qualified to be a member.
  • When filling the vacancy by co‐option, a successful candidate must receive a majority of those present and voting at a meeting of the parish council. If there is more than one candidate for a vacancy, and no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, the candidate with the least number of votes should be taken off the list of candidates and the vote taken again. This procedure should be repeated until a majority is obtained for a particular candidate.
  • The proposer and seconder for each candidate must be recorded in the minutes along with the results of any vote.
  • If there is more than 1 vacancy and the number of candidates equals the number of vacancies, all the vacancies may be filled by a single resolution of the council.
  • A poll cannot be claimed if a vacancy occurs within six month of the next ordinary parish elections. The parish may, but is not bound to, fill the vacancy by co‐option.

Each Parish Council must have a Chairman and it is good practice to have a Vice Chairman. The Chairman and Vice Chairman are elected from sitting Councillors every year.

The nomination and election of Chairman of the Council must be the very first order of business at the first meeting of the Council in the municipal year and should take place every year until the ordinary election year. This is usually your May Annual Parish Council meeting. The nomination and election of Chairman must take place even before apologies are given from absent Councillors or any reports are received from outside bodies.

The nomination and election of the Chairman and Vice Chairman must be noted in the minutes and the proposer and seconder for each candidate must be recorded along with the results of any vote.

The Parish Council is not properly constituted until it has elected its Chairman.

Once the Chairman has been elected they must sign their Acceptance of Declaration of Office, this must be countersigned by the Clerk and noted in the minutes of the meeting. You should inform our Parish Liaison Officer as soon as your Chairman and Vice Chairman are elected so that your District website details can remain up to date.

If a Chairman resigns or passes away during the municipal year the procedure should be repeated to elect a new Chairman.

Council should give statutory notice of meetings to be held and agendas must be published both online and on village notice boards at LEAST 3 clear days before the meeting. This excludes the day on which the notice is published/posted and the day of the meeting itself. So for a meeting to be held on a Tuesday, the notice must be posted by the Friday before.

The Agendas should summon all sitting Councillors to attend and include all details of matters to be discussed including any items that require the Council to make a decision.

Draft minutes should be available in the public domain within 28 days of the meeting taking place. Authorised minutes should be published no later than 28 days after the meeting which agreed them was held.

Meetings of the Parish Council are not public meetings but members of the public have a statutory right to attend meetings of the council as observers. They have no legal right to speak unless the Chairman authorises them to do so or the Council’s standing order provide for public participation. However, as part of its community engagement, Parish Councils can set out a time for public participation in their Standing Orders at an agreed time when members of the public are invited to speak. Members of the public should not be involved in the decision-making of the Council. The Council should not make any instant decisions at the behest of members of the public on items that are not included in the agenda. As a matter of best practice the public forum will be kept separate from the debate of the councillors. Members of the public may be excluded by a resolution of the meeting for specific items which need to be discussed in confidence (e.g. staffing matters, tenders for contracts, some legal issues).

There can be, and often is, confusion between the Annual Parish Meeting and the Annual General Meeting of the Parish Council.

All Parish and Town Councils throughout England are required by law to hold an Annual Parish Meeting, which must take place between 1st March and the 1st June (inclusive). Meetings should not commence before 6.00pm.

The purpose of the meeting is so that the Parish Council can explain what it has been doing over the last year and it enables the electors to have their say on anything they consider is important to the people of the Parish.

The Annual Parish Meeting is a meeting of all the local government electors for the Parish. It is NOT a Meeting of the Parish Council, which the public can participate in. Anyone may attend but only registered electors of the parish may speak and vote.

Any registered elector may ask questions of the Council, which will usually be answered by the Chairman, the Clerk to the Council, or a designated councillor. An elector may also make suggestions and comment on anything pertinent to the people of the parish.

A written record of the meeting will be taken and will be presented at a future meeting of the Council for their consideration.

There is no such thing as an AGM in the world of Parish Meetings/Parish Council meetings, only the "Annual Parish Meeting" and "Annual Parish Council Meeting". It is recommended that the term "AGM" should be avoided as it causes confusion. Some Councils are still holding an Annual Parish Council Meeting followed by a separately convened Parish Council Meeting on the same evening. If there is additional Council business to consider other than that required by law (i.e. election of Chairman) at an Annual Parish Council Meeting then these should be added to the agenda of that meeting. There is no need to convene an extra Parish Council Meeting to do so, unless the Standing Orders of your council require it.

The Annual Parish Council Meeting will also usually appoint members to any council committees (the term of office for committees should be 1 year).

The Annual Parish Council Meeting must by law be held in May. This is a statutory requirement. In an ordinary election year, the requirement is stricter – it must be held within 14 days of election day.

The first business of the Annual Parish Council Meeting must be the election of the Chairman. This is a statutory requirement. If no Chairman can be elected the meeting cannot continue beyond this agenda item.

There is no statutory requirement for a councillor to be present at the Annual Parish Council Meeting in order to be elected as Chairman.

The current Chairman should by law use their casting vote in the case of a tie in the election of Chairman (see NALC Legal Topic Note 2 for full details).

The newly elected Chairman must sign a declaration of acceptance of office form before taking the Chair, which they should do immediately following their election.

The minutes of the Annual Parish Council Meeting should be approved at the next Parish Council Meeting, and must not be held over until the following year's Annual Parish Council Meeting.

In an ordinary election year those councils which have the General Power of Competence must agree that they are still eligible to use this for the next Council term at the Annual Parish Council Meeting.

In an ordinary election year, following the election, all Council’s must approve or renew their Code of Conduct, Financial Regulations and other relevant policies at the Annual Parish Council Meeting.

The Council can only conduct its business if there are sufficient councillors present at Council Meetings and there are a minimum number of councillors that need to be present at a meeting for it to be valid.

A quorum is at least one-third of the total members, or three members, whichever is the greater. Where more than one third of the members are disqualified* from acting the quorum is either three or one third of those remaining. In any event there must be fewer than three.

*Members are disqualified from acting by declaring a disclosable pecuniary interest and will not be allowed to vote.

Councils provide a huge number of services to customers in their local areas. Councils are required to provide some of those services (statutory) whilst others are optional (discretionary). A council should have an understanding of which of their services are statutory and which are discretionary.

As an example, a council has a duty to provide allotments if there is a demand for them and the power to improve and adapt land for allotments, and to let grazing rights.

For more information on specific duties or powers please refer to SLCC or DALC who can provide comprehensive details.

In April 2012, the Government introduced the General Power of Competence (GPC) for eligible local Councils. The GPC is designed to make it easier for eligible councils to act.

It is intended to permit eligible local councils to do anything that an individual might do, as long as other legislation does not forbid it. This could include, for example, the development of land for residential or commercial purposes.

The GPC has replaced the power of well-being, although councils that had the power of well-being at that date can continue to do so until the end of their elected term of office and also beyond that date to complete any project. If you have any questions relating to the situation in your council, ask your clerk for more information.

The GPC enables local councils to respond more effectively to their communities’ needs, encouraging innovation and assisting in shared service delivery. However, you must check with your clerk to make sure you are acting appropriately. If the council does something which is not permitted by legislation (even if it would be popular with the community), then the council could face a legal challenge that it acted beyond its powers.

Councils who are not eligible to use the GPC can undertake an activity only when specific legislation allows it.

Councils are eligible if they have a qualified clerk and two thirds of councillors have stood for election. The criteria are set out in The Parish Councils (General Power of Competence) (Prescribed Conditions) Order 2012. It is important that a council keeps under review its ability to rely on the GPC, particularly if the number of councillors falls below the required two-thirds or there is a change of clerk. The power can only be exercised following a resolution each annual meeting that it meets the criteria.

All Councils must comply with the transparency code in order to be exempt from a Limited Assurance Review.

The Chairman of the parish meeting must ensure that:

1. The certificate of exemption is completed and includes:

a. A statement of annual gross income;

b. A statement of annual gross expenditure;

c. The signature of the Chairman and if applicable the Responsible Financial Officer (RFO);

d. The date(s) on which the certificate of exemption was signed; and

e. The telephone number and email address of the Chairman (or RFO)

2. The completed certificate of exemption is sent to the external auditor;

3. The internal audit report is for the fiscal year is completed, signed and dated by the internal auditor;

4. The annual governance statement is;

a. Completed;

b. Formally approved at a parish meeting, with date and minute reference inserted;

c. Signed by the Chairman and RFO; and

d. Approved before the annual accounting statement;

5. Summary accounting statements are:

a. Completed;

b. Signed and dated by the RFO or Chairman as RFO;

c. Formally approved at a parish meeting with the date and minute reference inserted; and

d. Signed by the Chairman; and

6. Copies of:

a. The completed certificate of exemption;

b. The completed, signed and dated annual internal audit report;

c. The completed, approved, dated and signed annual governance statement; and

d. The completed, approved, dated and signed summary accounting statements are published on a public website and placed on display in a conspicuous place before 2nd July; and

7. Copies of:

a. Analysis of variances;

b. Bank reconciliations;

c. Notice of the period for the exercise of public rights is published on a public website.

The Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) must ensure that:

1. The internal audit report is for the fiscal year is completed, signed and dated by the internal auditor;

2. The annual governance statement is;

a. Completed;

b. Formally approved at a parish meeting, with date and minute reference inserted;

c. Signed by the Chairman and RFO; and

d. Approved before the annual accounting statement;

3. Summary accounting statements are:

a. Completed;

b. Signed and dated by the RFO or Chairman as RFO;

c. Formally approved at a parish meeting with the date and minute reference inserted; and

d. Signed by the Chairman; and

4. Copies of:

a. The completed certificate of exemption;

b. The completed, signed and dated annual internal audit report;

c. The completed, approved, dated and signed annual governance statement; and

d. The completed, approved, dated and signed summary accounting statements are published on a public website and placed on display in a conspicuous place before 2nd July; and

5. Copies of:

a. Analysis of variances;

b. Bank reconciliations;

c. Notice of the period for the exercise of public rights is published on a public website;

6. The external auditor must be sent:

a. The Annual Governance and Accountability Return;

b. A bank reconciliation as of 31st March;

c. An explanation of any significant year on year variances in the accounting statements;

d. Notification of the commencement date of the period for the exercise for public rights; and

e. Annual Internal Audit report.

Tax treatment of Parish and Community Council Clerks in England and Wales: assessment of payments to clerks.

Parish councils and town councils (sometimes known as Community Councils in Wales) usually have only one paid officer, the Clerk, although Town Councils will often have more than one employed member of staff. The great majority of these Clerks work part-time, their hours varying from one to two days per week to a few hours per quarter in connection with Parish Council meetings.

The Clerk is an office holder and emoluments received, whether described as an honorarium, a salary, a payment towards expenses or a combination of these, are chargeable to tax as employment income and are earnings for Class 1 NIC purposes. PAYE must be operated by the Parish Council on the income the clerk earns. A parish clerk can never be considered self-employed for tax or NIC purposes. This is the same position as for any office or employment; there is no other acceptable tax treatment applicable to parish clerks.

In practice, most clerks’ remuneration is expressed as a certain sum per year on the understanding, though this is not always explicitly stated, that the Clerk meets any expenses incurred in performing the duties from that sum. Occasionally, however, a council will, in addition to making a fixed payment to a Clerk, make reimbursement for all or some of the expenses the Clerk meets on its behalf. Parish council clerks are generally paid in accordance with a formula related to the number of people in the parish.

If you are unsure if your council’s current payroll arrangements are in compliance with HMRC you should contact them direct for further information.

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