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Parish Council Meetings - A quick guide

As community members, we often hear about parish council meetings but may not fully understand what goes on behind closed doors. Whether you're a concerned resident, a local business owner, or simply curious about how decisions are made in your Parish, attending a Parish Council meeting can provide valuable insights into the workings of local governance. In this guide, we'll explore what you can expect from attending such meetings and why your participation matters.

What is a Parish Council Meeting?

First things first, let's define what a parish council is. A parish council is a local authority that represents the interests of the community in a particular area, often within a town or rural district. These councils typically consist of elected or appointed members who volunteer their time for the good of the Parish.

These representatives hold meetings in public, usually once a month, to work together to address issues affecting the community and make decisions on local matters.

Why Attend?

Attending a parish council meeting allows you to engage directly with the decision-making process that impacts your daily life. It's an opportunity to voice your opinions, raise concerns, and contribute to the development of your community. By participating in these meetings, you play an active role in shaping the future of your Parish and ensuring that the needs of residents are addressed.

It is worth noting that some items, such as staffing and HR or items which may breach GDPR if discussed openly, may be held at the end of the meeting under what is known as 'Exclusion of Public and Press'. Decisions made under this section will still be in the minutes and made available to the public, but the discussions themselves are not held publicly.

What to Expect:

  1. Agenda Items: Parish council meetings must follow a predetermined agenda, which outlines the topics to be discussed during the session. Common agenda items may include planning applications, budget allocations, community projects, and updates from local authorities. These agendas must be created at least 5 days before the meeting and decisions can only be made regarding items on that agenda.
  2. Public Participation: Parish council meetings often provide a short time for public participation, allowing attendees to ask questions, raise issues, or present their views on agenda items. Here at Bestwood, that is usually one of our first items, following a few formalities. This is your chance to speak up and make your voice heard on matters that affect you and your community. Following this public session, members of the public are not allowed to take part in the meeting and must not disrupt the running of the meeting by chipping in, trying to distract Councillors or chatting amongst one another. If you have a lot to say, or you would like a written response to your questions, please email the Clerk and they will pass this on to the Councillors.
  3. Decision-Making: Council members will deliberate on agenda items and make decisions that impact the community. These decisions may range from commenting on planning applications to allocating funds for local initiatives. Attending meetings gives you insight into the decision-making process and allows you to understand how and why certain choices are made. The Council is restricted  by legislation to discussing/resolving on items listed on the agenda only. This does mean that you may not get an “instant fix”. That said, Councillors are keen to work for you, our residents, so please do stay behind after the meeting, or e-mail in at any time. Councillor’s contact details can be found on our website and in our newsletters.
  4. Community Engagement: Parish council meetings also serve as a platform for community engagement and collaboration. You'll have the opportunity to network with fellow residents, local business owners, and council members, fostering a sense of unity and shared responsibility for the well-being of the Parish.
  5. Transparency and Accountability: By attending parish council meetings, you hold local authorities accountable for their actions and ensure transparency in governance. You have the right to access information about council decisions, financial matters, and future plans, promoting openness and trust within the community.

How to Prepare:

Before attending a parish council meeting, consider the following tips:

  • Review the meeting agenda to familiarize yourself with the topics to be discussed.
  • Prepare any questions or concerns you wish to raise during the public participation period.
  • Respect the meeting etiquette and follow any guidelines set by the council for public participation.
  • Take notes during the meeting to keep track of important discussions and decisions.
  • Remember, amongst the Clerk's many roles, they are there to help you navigate the confusing world of Parish Councils. If you have any questions, get in touch with them using the contact form on this website.

Attending a parish council meeting is more than just a right; it's an opportunity to actively participate in the democratic process and make a positive impact on your community. By engaging with local authorities, voicing your opinions, and staying informed about local issues, you contribute to the collective efforts to build a stronger, more vibrant Parish for everyone.

So, mark your calendar, attend a meeting, and be a part of the change you want to see in your parish!