What is a Parish Council?

In England Parish Councils were formed in 1894 to take over local management of social welfare and civic duties in towns and villages. They took over responsibility for these matters from a variety of groups based around ecclesiastical parishes. The Parish Council is a civil body and is not linked to, or to be confused with, the Church of England’s Parochial Church Council (PCC) which is concerned solely with the welfare of the religious community.

The Parish Council is a corporate body with a legal existence of its own that is separate from that of its members. It is an elected tier of local government and the tier closest to the community it serves. Other tiers are district councils (Cherwell) and county councils (Oxfordshire). It has fewer duties than other authorities but has the legal power to take action and has a greater freedom to choose what action to take.

It plays a vital part in representing the interests of the community and improving the quality of life and the local environment. It has the important role of influencing other decision makers (such as the district council) and can deliver services to meet local needs. Examples of issues that are the concern of the Parish Council include the cemetery, planning, affordable housing, street lighting, local transport, litter and footpaths to name but a few.

Who are the Parish Councillors?

Fritwell is entitled to 7 councillors. In 2019 three were elected without contest. They are Polly Foster, Gillian Simmonds and Sheila Ultsch.

All Councillors have to sign a Declaration of Acceptance of Office and an agreement to abide by the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council to make sure proper standards are maintained. It is a requirement that all Councillors should register any financial interests within 28 days of election. This includes naming an employer, any property holdings or business interests in the parish as well as membership of other organisations. Personal interests in any matter under discussion at a meeting must be declared.

In order to contact any councillors please in the first instance go via the Clerk to the Parish Council: clerkfritwellparishcouncil@gmail.com

Powers and Duties

Various governments of the day have granted powers to Parish Councils, including the power to raise money through taxation. The money raised is called the precept. It is the Parish Council’s share of the Council Tax and is collected by Cherwell District Council from every household in Fritwell along with the Council Tax. At present the annual precept is £6,600 payable in two instalments. The amount of the precept is determined by the Parish Council in December following consideration of current and future income and expenditure. Details of how the Council manages its finances are contained in the Financial Regulations adopted in 2005 and reveiwed in 2018.

A Parish Council must not do anything unless it has a legal power granted by Parliament to do so. The powers to act are given by a variety of Acts of Parliament such as The Local Government Act 1972 and the Public Health Act 1936.

Powers exist to enable the Council to provide financial support when it is asked for (funds permitting and the necessary regulations being met). Over the past few years it has contributed towards equipment for the playing field, the cost of surveys of the village hall, management of trees in the churchyard and travelling costs of the Forget-me-Nots Club. The Council supports all the local organisations and values the contribution they make to the quality of life in the village.

Among the duties of the Parish Council is to provide and manage the civil cemetery (after the churchyard closed), to consider the provision of allotments, and to consider the impact of its decisions on crime and disorder.

It is the duty of the Parish Council to ensure that the rules for the administration of the Council are followed. Therefore there is a Chair, a Clerk / Responsible Finance Officer as well as a Financial Councillor and Audit Councillor to manage the finances in a sound and professional manner.

A further duty is to hold at least four meetings per year and an Annual Parish Meeting for the residents of the Parish. Meetings are publicised by notices throughout the village and individually by email to those who have asked to be on the Clerk’s mailing list. All meetings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged. Those who do attend are given an opportunity to speak on any matter under discussion.

The Fritwell Parish Council Code of Conduct was adopted by the Council to be effective from 1st July 2012. Read here: Fritwell Parish Council Code of Conduct.

To inspect the register of interests for each Councillor, please contact the Clerk to the Parish Council on clerkfritwellparishcouncil@gmail.com. A small charge may be levied for the cost of any photocopying.