Any parish in England and Wales with an electorate of more than 200 people can have a Parish Council. This is a statutory body whose members are elected by the residents in the Parish under the Local Government Acts of 1972 and 2000. Parliament has given various powers to Parish Councils with regard to planning, provision and maintenance of recreational facilities, halls, crime prevention, community transport, public lavatories, tourism, allotments, footpaths, street lighting, commons etc. Within Charvil, the Parish Council represents almost 3,000 residents.
Within its remit, Charvil Parish Council is responsible for the provision and maintenance of certain facilities within the parish, including playing fields, leisure facilities, the village hall, rights of way, bus shelters, public seats, notice boards and some street lighting.
The Council also contributes to joint local projects with other authorities and plays a vital part in obtaining and representing local views on various issues that will impact the community. As a statutory body, Charvil Parish Council is consulted by other public authorities such as borough, district and county councils, health authorities and Government departments on specific issues affecting the parish of Charvil. Of particular relevance, the council has a legal right to be consulted on planning applications and is also consulted on schools and highway matters relevant to the area. To achieve its goals and meet community obligations, Charvil Parish Council works primarily with Wokingham Borough Council, Thames Valley Police and other local authoritative organisations to represent and protect the interests of the Charvil community.
Charvil Parish Council has 10 councillors, each with specific areas of community responsibility, such as planning, highways, finance and village hall management. This unpaid, voluntary team is supported by a Clerk and Assistant and also by our Borough Councillor. Charvil Parish Council holds monthly meetings in the Village Hall and residents are encouraged to attend to find out more about current local issues under discussion, present their views and ideas, and most importantly to highlight new issues that may be of concern to the community.
To raise money for its activities, Charvil Parish Council issues a precept, which is added to the council tax bills of residents within the Parish. This is based on the Parish Council’s calculations of how much money will be required each year and therefore how much each council taxpayer will need to contribute. Additionally, the council occasionally receives donations from members of the community and various local groups, such as the Charvil Village Society.
Funds are not unlimited and therefore the Parish Council has to prioritise and justify any spending carefully. Residents have an important role to play in highlighting key local issues and suggesting effective projects worthy of financial support from the Parish.
The History of Parish Councils
The origins of most English parishes date back over 500 years to a time when England was divided into areas known as “manors” owned by Lords. The Lord of the Manor had a civil responsibility to maintain his starving tenants through the right of levy (taxation). This was imposed using an assembly system of local administration known as a “court”. Over time and as the manor courts’ power declined, the influence, wealth and responsibility of the Church increased. Gradually the Lord of the Manor’s rights and responsibilities were taken over by the Church, which had recognised rights and obligations of charity to the poor. The obligations were managed in each church’s parochial area, which is known as a parish.
These responsibilities were administered through meetings of the inhabitants and were known as Vestries (as they were usually held in the Church Vestry). As the population expanded so did the size of the meetings, so much so that they split into smaller more administratively efficient committees called Select Vestries which in turn each claimed a separate existence. Unfortunately the Select Vestries using their power of levy known as the Church Rate, rapidly became notorious for being corrupt. As the vestries’ origins was in an ecclesiastical institution, considerable damage was done to the old parochial system of authorities.
In the 1800’s the Church Rate was abolished and the poor law administration was withdrawn from the parochial authorities. As society developed new administrative services were created to fulfil the needs of the parish and were assigned to specialised bodies. The organisation of these services proved to be inefficient and complicated. It took Parliament twenty years of legislation and experimentation to resolve the issue.
In 1894 the Local Government Act was passed which created local authorities responsible for the administration of a parish’s services as well as the civil functions of the older parochial institutions – the new authorities were known as Parish Councils.