In law, the town council is a parish council. A town council covers a town whereas a parish council covers a village or a group of villages.
Parish councils have their origins in the development of villages, all over England, during Saxon and Norman times – 1000 or more years ago. At this time a village was ruled by the Lord of the Manor. As communications were poor and central government often weak, there was little national control. Sometimes the villages all met to make decisions, which affected the whole community. Gradually, it seems that parish priests and sometimes schoolmasters joined the Lord of the Manor to become a kind of ruling group. Often in small villages they were the only people who could reason correctly. It was probably they who formed the first effective parish councils.
After the Second World War the National Association of Parish Councils was formed, and by 1952 half of all parishes in the country were members. The Association became a national force and raised the profile and consequently the activity of parish councils.
A parish council is democratically elected to serve a defined and local area.
Parish councils exist to protect and promote the interests of their communities and to provide local services.
There are 11,000 parishes in England and Wales. In Wales a ‘parish’ is known as a ‘community’. Some smaller parishes do not have parish councils; others are grouped with other smaller parishes and are served by one parish council. Parish councils serving large, mainly urban, populations are generally known as Town Councils.
Parish council powers cover allotments; arts and entertainments; baths and wash houses; burial grounds; bus shelters; byelaws; cemeteries and crematoria; charities; clocks; closed churchyards; commons; conference facilities; community centres and village halls; footpaths; bridleways; lighting; litter; parking places; parks; open spaces; playing fields and recreation grounds; and planning.