These details have been taken from the series of notes published in the Parish Newsletter by Ian Hancock (Chairman of the Parish Council).
First, some basic facts:
Parish Counclls are the lowest tier in the local government structure. Councillors are elected for 4 years (though at the 2007 election Slaley was one of only four parishes in Tynedale Ward that had a contested election, due to the shortage of candidates in most other places). The PC’s work is governed by a set of “Standing Orders” based on the laws governing all local authorities. Parish Councillors are not paid and have to abide by a local government code of conduct and declare their financial interests in the parish. Councillors must also declare any personal or prejudicial interest in a matter under discussion at a parish council meeting.
The Parish Council’s money comes from what is known as the Parish Precept. Each December the PC estimates its likely expenditure for the coming year, and the County Council collects this for us from the people of Slaley parish with the Council Tax (this is shown in the annual council tax statement). This is the PC’s precept and it must fund all the PC’s activities, including the salary of the Parish Clerk. In calculating its precept the PC has to bear in mind that excluding the clerk’s salary it is only allowed to spend a sum amounting to a maximum of £6.15 for every person on the electoral roll of the parish. For Slaley, this amounts to about £3800 this year. For more expensive projects the PC must apply for competitive grants.
The job and powers of the Parish Council
Roads and Footpaths:
The general construction and maintenance of roads and paths is the job of the County Council. However, the PC is allowed to provide additional street lighting, car and cycle parking, verge maintenance and planting, village signs, roadside seats and shelters and litterbins.
Public buildings, open spaces and playgrounds. Although not relevant to Slaley, PCs are often responsible for village greens and village halls. Until recently, children’s playgrounds and sports fields have been provided and managed by the District Council or County Council. However, Northumberland County Council is now transferring the management of these to PCs. PCs are also responsible for providing allotments. A PC has the right to purchase or lease land for these purposes, if it has the money and land is available.
The County Council:
The Parish Council is a direct route of communication between local people and the County Council. The PC has direct contact with relevant County Council officers which means it can ensure that problems are directly reported to the right people, explained in detail and followed up. This has proved particularly valuable for road problems. The PC’s annual review of the parish roads is acknowledged by the Highways department as a vital contribution to their annual road maintenance programme. For reports of emergencies such as potholes, blocked drains, floods and verge damage the PC has been able to call out the road team for site visits to ensure that the problems are properly understood and to continue to issue reminders when required. The PC’s direct contact with our County Councillor is equally important. Successive CCs have regularly attended PC meetings and have provided substantial financial help from their councillor’s allowances for projects too expensive for the Parish Precept. Recently, these have included the provision of roadside parking bays and resurfacing the school hard play area.