Headlines: November 20th, 2008

Changes in legislation and new funding arrangements have opened the door for parish councils to be set up in cities, including London.

A parish council is the smallest unit of electoral democracy and they play an effective role in putting power in the hands of local people mainly in rural and some urban areas. The National Association of Local Councils will now help communities create new parish councils in urban areas.

There are 8,900 parish councils and 70,000 elected parish councillors in England, covering 90 per cent of the country. Although small in size, they perform key functions in their local communities, such as managing parks and allotments, maintaining community halls and investing in community transport projects. Nineteen new parish and town councils were set up last year.

The National Association of Local Councils will develop a revitalised National Training Strategy for town and parish councillors, and provide help for them to encourage greater community involvement.

Expanding the influence of parish councils is part of the agenda for empowerment which is at the core of public service reform. By transferring power to users it allows them to play a greater role in shaping the services they use and drive real improvements. It also contributes to building vibrant local democracies and limiting the role of the state to setting national priorities and minimum standards and to deciding on a fair distribution of resources.