In England, a civil parish is a unit of local government. Civil parishes are the lowest tier of local government, below districts and counties. It is an administrative parish, in comparison to an ecclesiastical (church) parish.
The parish council can decide to call itself a town, village, neighbourhood or community; and in a limited number of cases has city status granted by the monarch. Civil parishes only cover part of England; about 35% of the population.
The creation of ancient parishes was linked to the manorial system. The parishes often shared the same boundaries as the manor of the local lord. At first the manor was the main unit of local administration and justice in the early rural economy. Eventually the church replaced the manor court as the rural administrative centre and levied a local tax on produce known as a tithe. Responsibility for things such as relief of the poor passed from the Lord of the Manor to the church, but in practice it was administered by monasteries. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the power to charge (levy) a rate to fund relief of the poor was given to the parish authorities by the 1601 Act for the Relief of the Poor.
The creation of town and parish councils is encouraged in unparished areas. The Local Government and Rating Act 1997 gave local residents the right to demand that a new parish and council be created in unparished areas. This was extended to London boroughs by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 - with this, the City of London is at present the only part of England where civil parishes cannot be created.
If enough electors in an area of a proposed new parish (ranging from 50% in an area with less than 500 electors to 10% in one with more than 2,500) sign a petition demanding its creation, then the local district council or unitary authority must consider the proposal.
Powers and functions
Typical activities undertaken by parish or town councils include:
- The provision and upkeep of certain local facilities such as allotments, bus shelters, parks, playgrounds, public seats, public toilets, public clocks, street lights, village or town halls, and various leisure and recreation facilities.
- Maintenance of footpaths, cemeteries and village greens
- Since 1997 parish councils have had new powers to provide community transport (such as a minibus), crime prevention measures (such as CCTV) and to contribute money towards traffic calming schemes.
- Parish councils are supposed to act as a channel of local opinion to larger local government bodies, and as such have the right to be consulted on any planning decisions affecting the parish.
- Giving of grants to local voluntary organisations, and sponsoring public events, including entering Britain in Bloom.
The role played by parish councils varies. Smaller parish councils have only limited resources and generally play only a minor role, while some larger parish councils have a role similar to that of a small non-metropolitan district. Parish councils receive funding by levying a "precept" on the council tax paid by the residents of the parish.
Under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, a civil parish may now be given an "alternative style" meaning one of the following:
The chairman of a town council will have the title "town mayor" and that of a parish council which is a city will usually have the title of mayor.
Civil parishes do not cover the whole of England. There are none in Greater London and very few in the other conurbations. Civil parishes vary greatly in size: many cover tiny hamlets with populations of less than 100, whereas some large parishes cover towns with populations of tens of thousands. Parishes could not however be established in London until the changing of the law in 2007 and as yet none have been established there.
- List of civil parishes in England
Civil parishes in England Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.