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Clerk's Briefing Note 25-1212

BECOMING A COUNCILLOR ON SEDLESCOMBE PARISH COUNCIL

INTRODUCTION

Sedlescombe has nine parish councillors elected every four years by people living in the parish. (Election to be held May 2015) From time to time, vacancies occur following the resignation of existing members. If an election is not demanded, the Council fills the vacancy by co-opting an eligible person to the Council. Their term of office will expire at the same time as all other councillors.

 

FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS

1. What is a parish council? There are over 8,700 parish and town councils representing around 16 million people across England. They form the most local level of government and cover many rural and, increasingly, urban areas. A parish council is a statutory local authority which represents an area known as a parish. Parishes vary in size and parish councils have a varying number of councillors.

 

2. Where does Sedlescombe Parish Council fit in to the wider local picture? Sedlescombe is one of the three tiers of statutory local authority in this area, the others being Rother District Council and East Sussex County Council. Sedlescombe is part of the Rother District where there are 29 parish councils, 2 town councils and one parish meeting. Sedlescombe is situated in the centre of the Rother District (shown "SED" below).

 

Parishes

 

Sedlescombe Parish Council was established in 1894 and has met regularly since then to make decisions under legal powers granted to it by Acts of Parliament. Neither the District Council nor the County Council have any powers over the parish councils.

 

3. What's the difference between a parish council and a town council? Not a great deal. They both have the same powers and can provide the same services. The only difference is that a town council has decided that it should be known as a town council instead of a parish council and has a mayor. In Rother, Battle and Rye are the only town councils.

 

4. What services does Sedlescombe Parish Council provide? The Parish Council's responsibilities centre on its land and property ownership as follows:

  1. Freehold Ownership of East View Terrace Kickabout Area including two football/basket units.
  2. Freehold Ownership of Red Barn Field Nature Park including street furniture.
  3. Freehold Ownership of the village hall car park which is leased to the Sedlescombe Village Hall charity.
  4. Freehold Ownership of Sedlescombe Sportsfield, including the pavilion and Sportsfield Car Park. The field and pavilion are leased to the Sedlescombe Sports Association voluntary organisation.
  5. Freehold Ownership of Sedlescombe Village Green.
  6. Sole Trustee of the Sedlescombe Playing Field & Recreation Ground charity. Known locally as the "Riverside Playing Field". This includes the children's playground and the tennis courts and all equipment and street furniture.
  7. All seats in the parish on public land.
  8. All litter and dog bins in the parish on public land apart from the ones outside the shop and the Queen's Head.
  9. The bus shelter including the land it stands on.
  10. Noticeboard on wall of Sedlescombe Stores.
  11. Tourist information panel on wall of Sedlescombe public conveniences.
  12. Information panel on board in Red Barn Field.
  13. Two wooden noticeboards in Red Barn Field.
  14. Maintenance of public footpaths and bridleways in association with East Sussex County Council.

Quarterly Bulletins (including the Annual Report and Directory) are delivered to every home in the parish.

An informative and useful website is maintained including a monthly e-Noticeboard.

 

Councillors are representatives on various village bodies.

 

Information leaflets/booklets are published from time to time by the Council:

  • Walks around Sedlescombe - a colourful leaflet, published in 2002, describing six walks on public footpaths in the Parish of Sedlescombe. On sale in Sedlescombe Stores, price £1.
  • Walk through History in Sedlescombe - a colourful leaflet, published in 2002, detailing some of the interesting historical parts of the Village. Included in Welcome Packs and free on application to the Clerk.
  • What you need to know as a dog walker in Sedlescombe - a black and white leaflet, re-published in 2010. Included in Welcome Packs and free on application to the Clerk.
  • Please help preserve Gorselands' grass verges - a black and white leaflet, free on application to the Clerk.
  • Sedlescombe Annual Report & Directory - a useful booklet published each April. Included in Welcome Packs and free on application to the Clerk.
  • Sedlescombe Pump and Pumphouse - a brief history - a partially-coloured booklet, published in 2010. On sale in Sedlescombe Stores, price £1.

5. How do parish councils make decisions? Parish councils meet regularly to make decisions on the work and direction of the Council. As elected bodies, parish councils are responsible to the people they represent - the local community. A series of policy documents have been agreed by the Council and these are updated from time to time.

 

In Sedlescombe, in 2002, following consultation with residents and visitors, Sedlescombe Parish Council published a Parish Plan detailing its main and subsidiary aims. These are still appropriate today and, in brief, are as follows:

  • MAIN AIM. To make Sedlescombe a vibrant place that values its past but looks to the future and where people are proud to live and work and be part of a caring community.
  • Aim 1: To achieve an Informed and Participating Sedlescombe Community.
  • Aim 2: To achieve a Safe and Healthy Sedlescombe Community.
  • Aim 3: To help provide Amenities and Services in Sedlescombe.
  • Aim 4: To support Business & Rural Employment in Sedlescombe.
  • Aim 5: To protect and enhance Sedlescombe's Built and Natural Environment.

All Council Meetings are open to the public and anyone may ask to speak on any agenda item. Also, any resident can ask for a matter to be included on an agenda for discussion by the Council or a Committee.

 

From time to time, the Council carries out surveys in the Village and, sometimes, the Chairman or others will call a parish meeting to gauge residents' opinion on matters of importance.

 

Decisions are made by resolution of the Council or Committee. Only councillors present at the meeting can vote.

 

6. Where do parish councils get their money from? Each year a sum of money called a 'precept' is collected through your council tax by Rother District Council. The parish councils decide how much will need to be collected through the council tax. This money is used by your parish council to improve facilities and services for local people. Parish councils can apply for grants and loans and, if they own property, can receive money from rents or leases.

 

In Sedlescombe, applications are made for grant aid whenever this is appropriate. In 2011-12, Rother District Council granted the Parish Council £13,500 towards the Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) at the tennis courts.

 

Particularly when interest rates are low, it is advantageous for the Council to obtain loans to help pay for capital projects. In 2009, a £52,500 loan was obtained by the Parish Council in order to help pay for the new sports pavilion. Repayments will take place over 15 years. In 2012, a £9,000 loan was obtained by the Parish Council to help pay for a new Multi-Use Games Area. Repayments will take place over 10 years.

The Parish Council provides the sportsfield and village hall car park at peppercorn rents.

 

7. Who can vote in parish elections? To vote in any election you need to be registered to vote. You can register to vote when you are aged 16 years or over but you need to be 18 or over to vote. To vote in a parish council election you need to be a British citizen, Irish citizen, European Union citizen or citizen of a Commonwealth country (including Cyprus and Malta).

 

8. What do parish councillors do? As a councillor you can become a voice for your community and affect real change. Councillors are community leaders and represent the aspirations of the public that they serve. Councillors have three main areas of work:

  1. 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.
  2. Monitoring: councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.
  3. 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 councillor may include:
    • going to meetings of local organisations;
    • going to meetings of bodies that affect the wider community, such as the police, the Highways Authority, schools etc.;
    • taking up issues on behalf of members of the public, such as making representations to the district council;
    • running a surgery for residents to bring up issues.

9. How much time does it take up? Quite often councillors say that their duties occupy them for about three hours a week. Obviously there are some councillors who spend more time than this - and some less, but in the main, being a parish councillor is an enjoyable way of contributing to your community and helping to make it a better place to live and work.

 

Sedlescombe Parish Council's main Council Meetings are held in January, March, May, July, September and November with Committee and Working Group meetings in between. The Annual Parish Assembly (not a Council Meeting but one of the Parish Meeting and one which councillors should try to attend) is usually held in April. Some councillors represent the Council on other bodies and, therefore, attend their meetings and some become involved with fact-finding meetings of one sort or another say at the School or with Pestalozzi. Some councillors become involved with practical work and there is often delivery to homes in the parish to do. All should allot some time for studying background documents and papers in between meetings.

 

10. Am I qualified? Most people are. However there are a few rules. In brief, you have to be

  • a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a Euronational, and
  • 18 years or older on the day on which you are nominated and, if there is a poll, the day of the election.

In addition, you must during the whole of the twelve months before the day on which you are nominated as a candidate, or the day of election,

  • either have lived in the parish or within three miles of it for the last twelve months
  • or be a local government elector for the parish
  • or have occupied as owner or tenant of any land or premises in the parish
  • or had your principal or only place of work in the parish. Such work need not be paid, but must be substantial.

One effect of these rules is that it is possible to be a member of more than one local council.

 

You cannot stand for election if you:

  • are the subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order
  • have, within five years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a prison sentence (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine
  • work for the council you want to become a councillor for
  • are disqualified under any enactment relating to corrupt or illegal practices or were responsible for incurring unlawful expenditure and the court orders disqualification.

11. How do I apply to be a councillor?

  1. At normal elections, there is a timetable published by the District Council.
  2. Co-options are dealt with by the Parish Council after allowing time for a request to be made for an election to be held. Contact the Parish Clerk (01424 870508) for further details. The Council is always pleased to hear from any qualified person who would like to be considered for co-option to the Council. If there is no current vacancy, your name will be added to a list for consideration at the due time. PLEASE CONSIDER CONTACTING THE PARISH CLERK NOW.

Published by Sedlescombe Parish Council on 30 December 2012