About Eastchurch Parish Council

A lot of people think that the Parish Council is part of the church. Although the origins of parish councils started as such, this is no longer the case…

Parish councils are the most local elected body within the English system of local government, and are often referred to as the first tier of Local Government. Unlike borough or county councils, a parish council represents the concerns and aspirations of a genuine community or geography.

“Parish” is an old English word that means a local territory or catchment area, and in ancient times played an important role in the lives of people from providing them with a sense of communal identity through to how they were governed. A parish had two principal functions, firstly to act as a civil unit, responsible for the collection of taxes/tithes, the dispensing of justice and the raising of armies; secondly it was an ecclesiastical institution served by a local church, with a clergyman tending to the spiritual needs of local people. By the late 19th Century, the two functions of civil and ecclesiastical parish were formally split in law. The civil parish went on to develop into what is the parish council today; the ecclesiastical parish is now an entirely separate body, usually with entirely different borders to their civil namesakes.

From 1889 and onwards, when civil parishes were officially created, a patchwork of legislation developed the parish council and the powers it could use. Much has changed since then, despite the impression given by the “The Vicar of Dibley” TV series. Parish Councils are closely regulated and the amount of administrational bureaucracy and red tape has increased exponentially in the past few years, with an accompanying rise in costs of audit and insurance. Parish councils are the first tier of local government; there are currently around 8,700 parish and town councils in England with approximately 80,000 councillors. Over 15 million people live in communities served by parish and town councils nationally, which represents about 35% of the population. They are very broad in their range, some have electorates of just 200 people, whilst the largest represents 70,000 people.Information from the 2001 Census shows that Eastchurch Parish Council serves a population of 1410 living in 589 households. This does not include the prison residency (1308), or the influx to the village of holiday makers.

Parish councils are statutory bodies with members elected for a term of four years (there are sometimes one or two who are co-opted to fill casual vacancies). Councils are funded principally by the annual precept. Income and expenditure for the next financial year are estimated and the net amount (the precept) is added to council tax, collected by the borough council and paid to parishes in two instalments. Parish councils can apply for other funding such as grant and funding awards, but they do not receive funds direct from central government, as principal authorities do. Eastchurch Parish Council, has a role in consultation with Swale Borough Council and Kent County Council in certain areas and also the opportunity to influence those bodies for the benefit of the parish. All councillors are obliged to follow the Code of Conduct and to follow rules, regulations and procedures as laid down – ultimately by Central Government. The Parish Council has a responsibility to consider the interests and needs of local residents, and to ensure that they are going forward in line with views of the local community to the benefit of the Parish. The Council comprises of 7 local people who are elected or co-opted as Parish Councillors. They are unpaid except for minimal expenses. Councillors set the policy and make decisions at full meetings of the parish council which are held every month except December. The Clerk is a paid officer of the Council and has overall responsibility for all the financial and administrative processes of the Parish Council, in particular to produce all the information required for making effective decisions and then to implement those decisions .The Clerk is the ‘Proper Officer’ and the “Responsible Financial Officer” of the Council and has a statutory duty to carry out all the functions and issue all the notifications required by the law of a local authority, ensuring that the instructions of the Council as an Authority are carried out.

To keep achieving all of this Eastchurch Parish Council needs your interest and involvement.

Come along to the next Parish Council meeting (4th Tuesday of each month), in the village hall at 7.00pm and see what is going on in the area.