What does the Parish Council do?

Parish Councils are the first tier of local government in England. Although there are often two higher tiers, District or Borough Councils and County Councils, Milton Keynes Council is a ‘unitary authority’ so there is only one higher tier.

However, the Parish Council is an independent body in law and Castlethorpe Parish Council does not ‘report to’ Milton Keynes.

In practice, most of our services are provided by Milton Keynes Council. An important role of the Parish Council is to ensure that Milton Keynes delivers a satisfactory level of service to the village.

The Parish Council is not a ‘Planning Authority’. It cannot approve or reject planning applications. It is, however, a ‘statutory consultee’ which means that it has to be notified of all applications within the parish and the planning authority – Milton Keynes – has to take note of any parish council view. If the parish council objects, then the application cannot be determined by a Milton Keynes Planning Officer but has to go to the Planning Committee of Milton Keynes Councillors.

The Parish raises a ‘precept’ or a levy on the houses within Castlethorpe. This is collected by Milton Keynes with the rates. The precept is about £20,000 or £45 per year per household.

This money is used to provide a number of services within the village but mostly looking after the village hall and the sports ground. There are occasionally other projects such as traffic calming or additional car parking and pathways at the sports ground to which the parish council contributes usually by matching Parish Partnership Grants given to the parish by Milton Keynes Council. The Parish Council may also receive ‘planning obligation’ payments from new developments.

Parish Councillors are elected for four years, the last term started in May 2007, unless a councillor steps down. The councillors are not paid. However, they do have a part-time Clerk and this is a paid position. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bureaucracy from the formality of calling meetings and issuing minutes, to actioning the decisions of the Parish Council and keeping a proper account of the public money that is spent.

The Parish Council meets on the first Monday of each month at 7.30pm at the Village Hall. There are sometimes extraordinary meetings, usually to consider an urgent planning application, or meetings of the Finance Committee. All these meetings are open to the public and the Notice of the Meeting has to be posted, by law, on the village Notice Board three clear days before each meeting.

The practice of Castlethorpe Parish Council is to hold an Open Forum for 15 minutes before each Council Meeting where residents can ask questions. Members of the public are not allowed to speak at the meeting itself by law unless the Chairman decides to suspend the meeting to allow someone to speak.

Each year, there is an Annual Parish Meeting. Although this is chaired by the Chairman of the Parish Council if he is present, it is not a council meeting and residents can put forward resolutions by lodging them with the Clerk with due notice. The resolutions are not normally binding on the Council but clearly good note would be taken. In practice, the Annual Parish Meeting is used to give the various village organisations an opportunity to give an oral report to the village.