Why parish and town councils?


Author: Darren Tilley, chief executive and town clerk at Braunstone Town Council

I’m often asked what I do and what local (parish and town) councils do? Along with local councils across the country, we are simply committed to achieving the best outcomes for our residents and our community. But what does that mean in practice? While we are not directly responsible for statutory services, the services, and facilities we provide are the foundation on which both community spirit and wellbeing is built and enhanced.

Local councils come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, similarly our communities and their needs are equally diverse.  There is no template or “idiots guide” to say what we should do and how we should do it. At first, that can be quite daunting; but it is also very exciting.     

Often below the radar of national government, it can seem that we aren’t acknowledged or recognised. Consequently, however, there is less interference (comparatively) giving us freedom and flexibility to work with our communities and partners to find local solutions to local issues.

In Braunstone we saved and enhanced our community library, facilitated an expansion of GP services, supported our neighbours through COVID-19, delivered enhanced sporting, recreation and play facilities, created a vital walking and cycling link and reduced our carbon footprint by approximately 40% during 2023. As a result, Braunstone Town Council was crowned NALC Star Council of the Year 2023.

NALC's Star Council Awards are the only awards in England that recognise parish and town councils' contributions to their communities. The awards celebrate local councils, councillors, young councillors, county associations and clerks' positive impact on their communities.  

The NALC Star Council of the Year Award judges how the council:

  • Has established, maintained and managed effective relationships with other local authorities and/or organisations
  • Has ensured effective service delivery to residents, improving the quality and range of local services
  • Maintains two-way communication with the community and how the community has responded
  • Pushes boundaries and works above and beyond expectations

If you are looking for a template, then this is the starting point.

All our achievements have been delivered through collaboration, communication and engagement with our community, principal authorities and with other statutory bodies and partners. Yes, it is hard work, it can be frustrating at times, but in the end it is extremely rewarding.

Once you have the above foundations in place, then you need an ambitious plan! At Braunstone Town Council, reviewing our priorities, alongside the budget and precept setting process, is fundamental to us having the focus to deliver. Again, the depth and breadth of the plan will vary depending on the parish and the community.  What is important is that the council, its councillors, clerk, and staff, along with the community and the council’s partners, are all clear on what the council’s focus is and what it needs to do to achieve it.

Despite all of this, never lose sight of the basics. To win NALC Star Council of the Year, a shortlisted council must win a public vote! Despite our recent achievements, the good people of Braunstone Town and Thorpe Astley would never have voted for their town council if the parks and open spaces were dirty and overgrown, if the play equipment was broken and unsafe, and if the community facilities were cold, damp, and dingy.    

I still don’t know how to answer when I’m asked what I, or parish and town councils do! What I do know is that if Braunstone Town Council wasn’t here, then our residents and our partners would be able to answer the question.    

The following blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional or legal advice. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Association of Local Councils. Any links to external sources included in this blog post are provided for convenience and do not constitute endorsement or approval of those websites' content, products, services, or policies. Therefore, readers should use discretion and judgment when applying the information to their circumstances. Finally, this blog post may be updated or revised without notice.

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