Parish councillors are elected by the electors of the Parish, under section 16 (2) of the Local Government Act 1972, every four years. The next election will be on Thursday 2 May 2019, which will coincide with elections to South Somerset District Council. A councillor may also be ‘returned’ by by-election, co-option, appointment by the District Council or by return after a successful election petition. All councillors are required to complete a Declaration of Acceptance of Office and to provide a written undertaking that they accept the Council’s Code of Conduct, which governs their behaviour and ensures that they act in an ethical manner. Councillors are required to behave in an ethical way and to declare an interest when necessary.
Individual councillors cannot act alone, but only as part of the corporate body, the Parish Council, through which decisions are made. They work together to serve the community to help at Parish Council Meetings and to make decisions on behalf of the local community. Parish Councillors contribute to the work of the Parish Council by suggesting ideas, engaging in constructive debate and by responding to the needs and views of the community representing their constituents. Councillors comment on proposals to ensure the best outcome and vote to enable the council to make decisions, they must accept the decisions of the Council as a whole even if they do not agree. In such circumstances a councillor may ask for a vote against a resolution to be recorded.
The Chairperson and Vice-chairperson are elected by the members of the Council at the Annual Parish Council Meeting in May each year and serve for twelve months under Section 15 (1) of the Local Government Act 1972. The Chairperson’s main role is to run council meetings. The Chairperson, on the advice of the Clerk, is responsible for ensuring that effective and lawful decisions are taken at meetings and is responsible for involving all councillors in discussion. The Chairperson summarises the debate and facilitates the making of clear resolutions. The Chairperson has a casting vote so his/her first vote is a personal vote as a member of the Council; in the instance of a tied vote, the Chairperson can have a second, casting vote. The Chairperson will often be the public face of the Council and will represent it at official events. He/she may be asked to speak on behalf of the Council and in such circumstances will only express the agreed views of the Council. The Chairperson cannot legally make a decision on behalf of the Council. Decisions can only be made at full Council meetings where councillors act as a corporate body.
The Council represents and serves the whole community and is responsible for the services it provides. It establishes policies for action and decides how money will be raised and spent on behalf of the community. It is responsible for spending public money lawfully and achieving the best value for money. The Council as a body decides whether to work in partnership with other organisations and it often serves (through representatives) on other bodies. The Council also is a statutory consultee on planning matters within the parish, and can provide views on applications to the planning authority, South Somerset District Council. The Council also allocates grants for activities within the Parish, and liaises with other elected representatives that cover the parish at district and county level.
The Council hosts an annual Parish Meeting (sometime between 1 March and 1 June each year), where reports and discussion can take place about parish matters and local groups and representatives can report on their activities.