About Sonning Common Parish Council
The responsibilities of the Parish Council are varied and include:
- Looking after Parish Council properties, for example grass cutting, tree care and insurance for the Village Halls; Car park, Notice Boards, Play Areas at Lea Road, Baskerville Road and Churchill Crescent, Widmore Pond, Allotments, Skatepark, Benches and Bus shelters
- Consultation on allPlanning Applicationswithin the Parish, tree orders and on major applications in neighbouring Parishes.
- Liaison with County Council on highway safety and repair, public transport, footpaths and rights of way.
- Making grants to local organisations.
- Liaising with the police on matters of concern, such as graffiti and vandalism.
- Maintenance of Speed Indicators on Peppard Road and Kennylands Road.
- Litter picking (done so diligently by Mr Mark Weston and Mr Tony Parisi) and provision and maintenance of dog bins.
- Monitoring potholes, drainage and ditches and liaising with County Council.
- Making environmental improvements as necessary.
- Supporting financially as necessary Sonning Common Magazine.
- Maintaining this website for the benefit of village organisations such as the Village Hall and Allotments.
The funding for the Parish Council comes from a Precept charged to all Council Tax payers in the Parish which is collected for us by South Oxfordshire District Council. The current Precept (2020-2021) amounts on average to £90.55 per household so that all our services cost less than £1.74 per week per household.
What is a Parish Council
The Parish Council is a corporate body charged with the provision of the first tier of local government activities. Legally it is made up of three parts:
To ensure that the Parish Council runs smoothly it is essential that each part understands the roles and responsibilities of the others.
The Council is a corporate body
The Parish Council is a single corporate body created by statute originating in the late 19th century to carry out a series of functions for its community:
- It represents and serves the whole community.
- It establishes policies for future action.
- It decides how money will be raised and spent on behalf of the local community.
- It is responsible for spending public money.
- It may not spend money on any item it is not legally empowered to do so.
- In Oxfordshire there are three main tiers of local government, each serving a greater geographical area and a larger population.
- Parish Councils
- District Councils
- The County Council
The Parish Council is the statutory body closest to the local population and the decisions it takes are in response to the community as a whole. The Parish Council must take note of and balance the needs of the different elements of the community to get the best results. The Parish Council as a body can decide to join in partnerships with other organisations and can also agree to serve on other bodies.
The Clerk is employed by the Council to provide executive and administrative support and professional advice to the Council on its activities. The Clerk is not answerable to the individual councillors, or indeed to the Chairman. The Clerk is an independent and objective servant of the Council, recognises that the Council is responsible for all decisions, and takes instruction from the Council as a corporate body. In doing so the Clerk will not favour one Councillor, or group of Councillors, over another.
In law the title of ‘Proper Officer’ is used and the Council must appoint the officers it needs to carry out its duties. For finance the proper officer is known as the Responsible Finance Officer. In Sonning Common the Clerk holds this role.
The Clerk’s workload includes a broad range of activities which are set out in the Clerk’s job description. It also includes research into specific topics on behalf of Councillors in order to give them unbiased information. The Clerk also advises the council on:
- Whether proposed decisions are lawful.
- The way a decision is carried out.
- Performance and financial impact on budget objectives.
The Clerk must keep up to date with developments in law and regulation that may affect the Parish Council.
The Chairman of the Parish Council is a position of authority, responsible for ensuring that effective and lawful decisions are taken at Council meetings. Council must appoint a Chairman annually; the Chairman then signs a declaration of acceptance.
The Chairman works in partnership with the Clerk to ensure that the Council is properly informed for making lawful decisions during meetings. The Clerk is the legal signatory of the agenda with first say over its content. However the Clerk will always consult with the Chairman on agenda content.
The Chairman manages Council meetings under the guidance provided by the Council’s Standing Orders. The Chairman’s role is to:
- Ensure that discussions are kept moving.
- Ensure that the meeting is not too lengthy.
- Ensure that all councillors are involved in discussions.
- Ensure that members keep to the business set out on the agenda.
- Ensure that decisions are made and recorded properly,
The Chairman has the casting vote, a personal vote as an ordinary Councillor, and in a tied vote the Chairman uses his second vote as a casting vote in order to achieve a decision. The Chairman cannot make a formal decision on behalf of the Council, and sometimes the Clerk has to decide whether the Chairman’s advice is lawful.
Councillors as individuals
The Councillors may only act as a group voting on issues together. It is unlawful for an individual Councillor to make decisions on behalf of the council. Their role as the electors’ elected representatives is to:
- Suggest ideas.
- Engage in constructive debate.
- Comment on proposals to ensure the best outcome.
- Vote in Council to enable the Council to reach decisions.
In this key role of representing electors they have a duty to respond to the needs and views of the community. A well run Parish Council will ensure that the decisions made by the Council, or its directives, are effectively carried out by the Clerk. They are also totally responsible as a group for ensuring that the financial operations of the council are in good order, and that the correct financial processes are in place and being applied.
Importantly, they are legally required to conduct themselves ethically and to be open about their own interests. They are required to abide by the Code of Conduct, to register interests and to declare their interests on agenda items at meetings.
This Parish Council conducts some of its detailed business through two committees, Finance and Planning, both of which report back through the Full Council. The council may occasionally appoint a sub-committee to look at a particular issue and report back either to the full council or to a formal committee.