Woodhurst Parish Council was formed as a result of the Local Government Act of 1894 which created urban and rural districts and reorganized civil parishes with elected councils in all areas of England and Wales.
The creation of institutions of civil origin, status and affiliations excluded the Church from formal participation in local government and its civil functions were taken away.
Our Parish Council deals with many aspects of village life and is consulted by the District Council about planning and development within the parish. Although the Parish Council does not make planning decisions itself, it does try to influence the District Planning Committee by putting the views of the village to them as cogently as possible…
To enable it to better represent village opinions and aspirations the Council is moving towards Quality Council status and will be carrying out a ‘village appraisal’ using the findings to produce a Parish Plan. Recent legislation makes it imperative that such a plan is produced as without it we cannot attain Quality Council status and we will find it increasingly difficult to promote parish issues with the County and District Councils and other external authorities.
The Parish Council is the link between the parish and other agencies such as Huntingdon District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and the Police and it lobbies these groups on behalf of the parish on matters of importance.
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The Parish Council has a number of legal responsibilities as well as powers; some of these are listed below and may be among the topics in the village appraisal. In general the Parish Council has powers to provide/maintain or otherwise deal with:
- Bus shelters
- Community centres
- Community transport schemes
- Crime prevention measures
- Entertainment & the Arts
- Public footpaths and bridle ways
- Recreation grounds
- Recreational facilities
- Roadside seats and shelters
- Trees etc. and roadside verges
Recent legislation has given some Quality Councils additional powers in the area of crime and disorder, dog offences, litter, graffiti, abandoned vehicles and fly-tipping.
Over the years the scope and detail involved in the Councils work has been increasing steadily against a background of more complex and demanding legislation. This is particularly relevant in planning, finance and ethics where there now have to be clear audit trails. Informal arrangements common in the past are no longer acceptable and decisions on council expenditure have to be based on a critical analysis of the needs of the parish, taking into account the Government's overriding principle of "Best Value'. It is in this context that the Parish Action Plan is important as it will focus on and prioritise the issues and interests of the community.It is mandatory each year for the Council to formulate its budget and it is this which is used as the basis for setting the precept. The precept is the specific levy relating to this parish and is the smallest component of the council tax which funds the county, district and parish expenditure. Woodhurst parish levy per household has been, and still is, one of the lowest in the District
Composition Of The Parish Council
All parish councils have a Clerk, known as the Proper Officer, who is a bona fide employee of the council and is in receipt of an incremental salary based upon the hours worked. The Clerk's role is pivotal as he/she is responsible for attending meetings, preparing agendas and minutes, preparing the accounts and ensuring that the Council functions properly.
The status of the Parish Council is that of a body corporate and is distinct from its members, either as individuals or collectively. Its lawful acts, assets and liabilities are its own and not those of its members.
Who Can Be A Councillor ?
A person is qualified to become a council member if he/she is a Commonwealth citizen [which includes a British subject] or Euro-national and is an elector over 18 years old.In addition he/she must, for twelve months prior to nomination, have either:
- resided in the parish or within three miles of it
- or occupied as owner or tenant any land or premises there
- or had his/her principal or only place of work there.
There are a number of ways in which a person may be disqualified from being elected, the more obvious being employment by the Council, bankruptcy or having been sentenced within the last five years to not less than three months imprisonment without the option of paying a fine.
As a parishioner why not consider standing for election? Just a few hours a month can make a difference to our community and provide an interesting and rewarding experience.
Elections & Meetings
An election is held every four years with the next being May 2016. This is a time when all councillors must stand down though they will remain eligible for re-election. Candidates must be nominated by two electors.
If we have seven candidates or fewer, then those nominated are elected without a ballot. These councillors can then fill casual vacancies by co-option.
It might be thought that being a councillor is an onerous task with all the activities and responsibilities involved. However we aim to keep meetings to a couple of hours and are as informal as we can be when dealing with formal business and light hearted moments frequently punctuate the formal proceedings.
Once elected, councillors are required to declare prescribed interests and to state during each meeting if they have either a personal or prejudicial interest in any subject which may come under consideration. If the interest is not prejudicial members may contribute to the discussion and vote. If it is prejudicial, they must leave the room and cannot participate in discussion or cast a vote.
Our Council normally meets at two monthly intervals although by law the Council is required to meet on a minimum of only four occasions per year. The "Annual Meeting" of the Council usually takes place in May but in an election year must be held on the day, or within fourteen days, of the day new councillors take office. Part of the business of this meeting is the election of the chairman and vice chairman.
The Annual Village Meeting, usually in April, is a public meeting and is an opportunity for the Council to report its activities and accounts and for parishioners to express their views to the Council.
Public meetings can be held on other occasions for specific purposes but there are strict rules governing their administration. All council meetings have a formal agenda and are open to the public and press and time is set aside to hear individual views and comments of parishioners. We also invite our local District and County Councillors and community policeman to every meeting.
Council meetings are held in the Village Hall and the agendas and minutes are posted on the parish notice boards; individual copies are available from the Parish Clerk on request.
Town Lands CharityThe Parish Council, as trustees of the Town Lands Charity, owns Clay pits field which is currently let to a local farmer for agricultural use. The rent that the Charity receives for this field is distributed annually among parishioners who are in receipt of a State Retirement Pension and who have registered for this benefit. Pensioners not presently registered and who wish to become recipients should contact Mrs. Amanda Augstein, Clerk to the Parish Council. Please note that only one person per household may apply
Village Hall CharityAs custodian trustee of the village hall charity their main duty is to hold the property of the charity and to have the custody of all securities and documents relating to property owned by the charity. A custodian trustee cannot manage a charity - that is a matter for the managing trustees; it cannot act for the managing trustees even if there are none and must carry out the managing trustees' instructions unless that would involve the custodian trustee in a breach of trust or some personal liability.
Local PlanningThe parish council considers all planning applications within the parish at regular council meetings, calling extraordinary meetings if necessary to meet planning deadlines.
Conservation AreaThere is a village conservation area maintained by the Parish Council which is situated a short distance outside the western village boundary. The management regime of this area is designed to encourage the natural flora and fauna whilst providing a pleasant, peaceful and safe environment for villagers to visit.
Bus shelterThe parish council owns, maintains and arranges the cleaning of the bus shelter within the village - please notify the Clerk if the shelter is damaged or in need of cleaning.
Telephone BoxThe parish council has 'adopted' the phone box from BT and is responsible for the maintenance and cleaning.
BenchesThe parish council owns a number of seats and benches around the village and ensures that they are maintained.
The Tree Warden Scheme
Trees, woods and hedges have been lost over many years due to a variety of causes including disease, agricultural intensification and development. This scheme is intended to help protect what we have and replace what we have lost.
Tree Wardens work closely with their Parishes to encourage a respect for trees and hedges in their community. They may or may not be members of their Parish Council but are expected always to work closely with them. Tree Wardens are not expected to be experts but must have a genuine love for trees and the natural environment. The local scheme is run by the Tree Warden Co-ordinator of the Tree and Landscape Section within the Planning Department in Huntingdonshire District Council. The local scheme forms part of a National Scheme organised by the Tree Council and has over 118 Local Authorities participating with over 8,000 Wardens.
It's well known that many people prefer to be able to talk to a local person who can give advice or point them in the right direction rather than enquire direct with the local authority. To this end Tree Wardens have an advisory role and are expected to be both gently reactive and proactive in the care of trees in their parish. Naturally they have different interests and different amounts of time available but as volunteers they are happy to give their time freely to act as a 'friend of their parish trees'. The level of knowledge amongst Tree Wardens varies; some are able to give detailed advice about management of trees and how to deal with a damaged branch, fungal decay, tight tree guards and ties, whilst others may consult with the District Council Tree or suggest that their enquirer do so.
Contacts within the Tree and Landscape Section are:
- Bridget Halford Tree Warden Co-ordinator 07752 188421
- Brian Ogden Tree Officer 01480 388437
Damage can often be caused to trees or woodland by ignorance such as lighting fires too close to trees, bad practice by builders and site contractors or by the work of unqualified tree surgeons. Local people often spot harmful activities or diseases before council officers notice them and should inform their local tree warden.
Where trees are in Conservation Areas, are subject to planning conditions or are covered by Tree Preservation Orders permission from the District Council Tree Officer must be obtained before any work is carried out. The tree warden will advise on the process of obtaining this permission. Huntingdonshire is currently undertaking an Elm survey to identify surviving large Elm trees in the District. Tree Wardens play a valuable role in surveying their area and recording the information which is used in two ways:
- Protecting those healthy trees which may be considered at risk of felling
- Identifying apparently disease resistant trees so new trees can be grown from them.
Tree Wardens may also work with local groups enhancing local areas of open space, footpaths and bridleways, school grounds or cemeteries by planting trees and hedges. Trees and hedging for these purposes are available through the Parish Planting Scheme. Guidance notes and training sessions are available so that the most appropriate planting scheme can be designed for the area and instruction is given about aftercare to ensure survival.
Parish Paths Partnership (P3)
Cambridgeshire County Council works in partnership with local parishes to improve, maintain and promote the public rights of way network within individual parishes. The scheme is called the Parish Paths Partnership and parishes that are members receive the support of the Parish Paths Liaison Officer based at the County Council. The Cambridgeshire Parish Path Maintenance Scheme was started in 1988. This encouraged parish councils to take a more active role in the upkeep of public rights of way. This County scheme formed the basis for the Countryside Commission's Parish Paths Partnership, which was launched in April 1992. Countryside Commission funding for the scheme ended in March 1998, but new partnerships have been formed between the County Council and the four District Councils - East Cambridgeshire, Fenland, Huntingdonshire, and South Cambridgeshire to secure the future of this valuable local scheme.
Parish Paths Partnership Grants are available for:
- survey of the rights of way network
- maintenance of field-edge paths
- clearance of vegetation (not overhanging vegetation, which is the landowner's responsibility)
- repairs to stiles and gates
- replacing stiles with kissing gates
- promotion of paths through maps or events
The work can be tackled by parish volunteers, landowners or by employment of a local contractor.