How many councillors are there on Stansfield Parish Council?
The Council normally has six councillors. Parish councils are the smallest unit of local government and the closest to their electors. Councillors are elected and work to support and improve the area they represent.
Councillors are elected for a period of four years. The next election will take place in 2015. Local volunteers may be co-opted onto the Council when there are not enough candidates for seats at an election or when the electorate does not call for an election when a seat becomes vacant. The Chairman of the Council is elected annually at the Annual Meeting of the Council.
Do councillors get paid?
No, councillors are volunteers though they can claim travel expenses if they attend meetings outside the parish.
How often does the Parish Council meet?
The Council meets every two months in January, March, May, July, September and November. Meeting usually take place on the third Wednesday of these months. There is also a planning sub-committee which meets at short notice to discuss any planning applications that come in between meetings. Occasionally extraordinary meetings may also be called if there is an issue which needs to be dealt with between meetings. Meetings are open to the public and are advertised on this website and on the village notice board.
There is also an Annual Parish Meeting which usually takes place in May. This is an open meeting for all electors of Stansfield and an opportunity to ask questions relating to village affairs.
What does the Parish Council actually do?
The Parish Council's central role is to act in the interests of the community, taking action to improve its quality of life and environment. Councillors try to provide this service responsibly and openly and are bound by a strict Code of Conduct. Community leadership is at the heart of modern local government and principal authorities are taking on new responsibilities for working in partnership with local organisations, including voluntary and community groups, to improve services and the quality of life for its citizens.
Consulting and listening to residents to understand their needs, wishes and concerns is an essential part of a parish councillor's work. The Parish Plan, undertaken in 2006, has provided the Parish Council and principal authorities in the area with a strong mandate to carry out actions identified in the questionnaire and which may be considered and revised up to 2015.
The Parish Council forms a corporate body with a legal existence separate from that of its members. It is accountable to the electorate and can be taken to court. As a body, it is responsible for its actions.
The Council sets the annual precept. This is money that the Council receives to cover the cost of the services it provides and any staff costs. The precept is one element of the Council Tax householders pay. A large portion of the Council's budget is spend on administration (clerk's salary, audit fees, subscriptions and insurance. The Parish Council must publish a budget showing how the precept will be spent. Decisions to approve expenditure are made at meetings and any resolutions are minuted.
The Council is consulted on planning applications within the village. It also supports the Village Hall Management Committee by making an annual donation.
The Council acts as a link with other local government organisations like St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Suffolk County Council. Any problems in the village such as blocked drains, potholes, broken stiles on footpaths or faulty street lights are reported by the clerk.
The Council works closely with Suffolk Police and a member of the Safer Neighbourhood Team regularly attends meetings.
What is the clerk's role?
The Council employs a clerk to oversee its day to day affairs including the Council's finances. The role of the clerk is extremely varied. Her responsibilities include organising meetings, dealing with correspondence and acting as a point of contact for members of the public and other organisations. She may also carry out functions formally delegated by the Council, such as reporting highways or rights of way issues. The clerk provides impartial advice and guidance to councillors to enable them to make decisions and to ensure that current legislation is complied with. She also researches matters brought to the attention of the Council and ensures that all the information required by councillors is made available to them. The current clerk is qualified having completed the Certificate in Local Council Administration.
What happens at meetings?
Parish Councils make decisions on a variety of issues including finance, planning, highways and rights of ways issues. All decisions have to be minuted to provide a true and accurate record of the meeting. Once the minutes have been approved they are signed by the Chairman and cannot be changed.
How can I find out the dates of meetings?
Dates of meetings are set well in advance and publicised in the village newsletter and on the village website.
Could the agendas be published in the newsletter?
No. Agendas are usually only published 3 working days before meetings and are advertised on the village notice board and website. Only matters which have been included on the agenda can be discussed at meetings, which is why agendas are not published too far in advance.
Can members of the public attend meetings?
Yes. Parish council meetings are open to members of the public but they are not allowed to address the Council during the meeting. The Council holds an Open Forum at the start of each meeting to give residents an opportunity to talk to councillors about any items on the agenda or any concerns they may have. 15 minutes is set aside at the start of each meeting, though this can be extended if necessary.
What if I want to become a councillor?
Do you want to support your community and help to improve it? Are you prepared to work with other councillors to make decisions? Are you able to be objective and represent the needs of the whole community? If you want to become a councillor, let the clerk know so that she can contact you if a casual vacancy arises because a councillor has resigned or put your name forward at the next elections. Elections are advertised on the notice board and in the newsletter.
How else can I help?
Each spring, the Council organises a litter pick round the village and in the autumn bulbs are planted on the verges around the village. Volunteers from the community would be very welcome.
We currently have a contractor to assist with the maintenance of the old Chapel burial ground in Upper Street which is owned by the Council. Any volunteers who come forward to help out will not be turned away.