What do town councils do?

There are over 10,000 town and parish councils representing around 16 million people across England. They form the most local level of government and cover many rural and urban areas. Northamptonshire has 218 parishes with councils, plus 51 parish meetings (which do not hold elections). Together they cover almost all of the county, with the exception of unparished areas in Kettering and Corby.

Your town council has an overall responsibility for the well-being of your local neighbourhood. Their work falls into three main categories:

  • representing your local community
  • delivering services to meet local needs
  • striving to improve quality of life in the parish

Your town council might provide, maintain or contribute to the following services:

  • allotments
  • litter bins
  • bus shelters
  • local illuminations
  • car parks
  • local youth projects
  • community centres
  • parks and open spaces
  • community safety schemes
  • planning
  • community transport schemes
  • public lavatories
  • crime reduction measures
  • street cleaning
  • cycle paths
  • street lighting
  • festivals and celebrations
  • tourism activities
  • leisure facilities
  • traffic calming measures

They will often work with larger councils (district, borough, county or unitary) in your area called 'principal authorities' and cooperate to ensure the effective delivery of services to the local community.

What do town councillors do?

Town and parish councillors are elected to represent a geographical area known as a ward or – mainly in smaller councils – the parish, community or neighbourhood council area as a whole. They are elected by people who live in the area.

If a town council is divided into wards an election is held in each ward, the same way elections are held in district or borough wards.

Most town and parish council elections are on the same cycle as the principal authorities, with elections in 2021, 2025, then 2029 and every four years thereafter.

Councillors have three main areas of work:

  • Decision-making: through attending meetings and committees with other elected members, councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented
  • Monitoring: councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working
  • Getting involved locally: as local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. This often depends on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available

The day-to-day work of a town councillor may include:

  • going to meetings of local organisations such as tenants' associations
  • going to meetings of bodies that affect the wider community, such as the police, the Highways Authority, schools and colleges
  • taking up issues on behalf of members of the public, such as making representations to the principal authorities
  • running a surgery for residents to bring up issues
  • meeting with individual residents in their own homes

Last updated: Thu, 14 May 2020 10:27