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How the Council works

Image 1 for How the Council works
By a mediaeval charter of 1606 Chipping Norton became a town and the chairman of the council is still known as a Mayor. However its statutory powers are identical to those of a Parish.

Parish councils in England and Wales provide the third, but independent level, of local government, below county and district councils. Parish councils were first established by the Local Government Act of 1894 and current powers are based, in the main, in the Local Government Act of 1972. Today they are responsible for managing parish funds and providing local amenities such as monuments, playing fields, footpaths and churchyards - although they should not be confused with parochial church councils, which are directly concerned with church matters.

Parish councils may impose a limited local rate, or precept, which is collected on their behalf by the district council as part of the Council Tax. They may also administer local charities.

Parish councillors have to live work,occupy or own land within a 3 mile radius of their parish and are elected every four years. They are all volunteers and receive no pay for their service. The only person to receive a salary is the parish council's clerk, who deals with all the administrative matters and acts as an adviser to the councillors. The clerk is not allowed to vote at meetings, but he or she is empowered to make certain decisions on the councillors' behalf, and provides a vital link between the parish council and other agencies or public bodies.

Parish councils are publicly accountable and parishioners are entitled to attend all meetings, although there are some confidential matters which may be discussed by councillors in camera. Chipping Norton Town Council meets on the third Monday of every month in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall at 7.15 p.m. Of all local government bodies, it is parish/town councils which are closest to the electorate and, therefore, have the greatest interest in local concerns. Because the councillors live in their parish they are close to what goes on and should be able to find out about the things that really matter to parishioners. Although they have no power over district or county council decisions on issues such as planning,traffic problems or local public transport, they are able to pass on their opinions and these can sometimes influence the decision makers at a higher level.

Council membership is made up of sixteen Councillors Much of the council's work is carried out by its working groups and committees which are :-

Cemetery & Pool Meadow
Finance & General Purposes
Grants to Voluntary Bodies
Health and Safety
Mayoral Selection
Recreation & Greystones
Town Hall & Publicity
Traffic Advisory
(A Joint Committee with Oxfordshire County Council)
William Fowler Allotment Committee
(all Town Councillors are Trustees of the William Fowler Trust)

The Town Council also has representatives on the following bodies :-
Association of Local Councils
Bus Services
Chipping Norton Welfare Charities
Citizens Advice Bureau
C.S.E. Airport
Field Reeves
Greystones Management Committee

Chipping Norton parishioners are actively encouraged not only to attend meetings but also to address them. Several years ago councillors announced that parishioners with something to say about local issues would be given five minutes at the start of the meeting, providing they let the clerk know in advance. Topics raised so far include siting of bus stops, traffic problems, rubbish and a variety of planning concerns. With substantial reserves in the parish coffers the management of parish funds is not a task to be taken lightly and the bulk of the capital is invested safely in a local bank. (Regulations require investments to be "minimum risk"). Local groups and organisations are entitled to apply for grants and the town council also supports a variety of causes, such as The Town Museum, Highlands Day Centre, The Silver Band, The Theatre and other charities that operate in the parish.