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Committees & Working Groups

Council Structure & Definitions


1. County councils

These are responsible for services across the whole of a county, like:

2. District, Borough and City Councils

These cover a smaller area than county councils. They’re usually responsible for services like:

3. Parish, Community and Town councils

These operate at a level below district and borough councils and in some cases, unitary authorities.

They’re elected and can help on a number of local issues, like providing:

They also have the power to issue fixed penalty fines for things like:

4. Decision making

The full council (a meeting of all council members) is responsible for all decisions. But in practice, most of the work is given to smaller groups of councillors or council officers (paid staff).

Every council must publish:

You can view council meeting agendas, minutes and reports on your council’s website.

You can also attend most council meetings, although usually you won’t be able to speak at them other than in an Open Forum.

5. Spending and accounts

Many local councils provide information on their websites to show how they spend their budget.

You can view details of:

6. Looking at annual accounts

Every year councils must open their detailed financial accounts to the public for 20 working days.

This allows you to check any spending under £500 without having to make a freedom of information request.

Your council must publish on its website and in the local press details of when you can check its accounts.

7. Local councillors and elections

Local councillors are elected for 4-year terms by the local community to represent its views.

You can contact your local councillor online or by going to an advice surgery.

8. When local elections are held

Elections to councils are normally held on the first Thursday in May.

Some councils elect all of their councillors at the same time. Other councils elect half or a third of their councillors at each election.

You can find out more about local council elections from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England.

9. Declaring interests

All local councillors have to declare any interests, gifts or hospitality they get that could influence decisions they make.

Your local council must publish details of these. You can usually access them on your council’s website or at the town hall.

10. Make a complaint

If you feel that a council service hasn’t been properly delivered, you can make an official complaint.

  1. Complain to the council service provider.
  2. If you’re still not happy, complain to your council’s complaints officer.
  3. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you may be able to get the Local Government Ombudsman to look into it.

The Ombudsman considers complaints if you’ve suffered because of:

The Ombudsman usually only considers your complaint once it’s been through your local council’s complaints procedure.

Local Government Ombudsman

Telephone: 0300 061 0614

Full Council

A “Full Council” or meeting there of is the term used for the Monthly or Extraordinary meetings when all members are summoned to attend. Members may send their apologies but when something is said to brought before “Full Council” it is deemed to be under the consideration of all members and in need of a decision or give them opportunity to air their views or raise issue.  

Committees and Working Groups/Parties are two types of body which differ in their remit.

A Committee has to publish an agenda of its meetings in a similar manner to those of the Full Council. They have the power to make decisions and pass back the information to the Full Council.

A Working Group is however a less formal body and whilst matters are discussed members can only make suggestions and requests of the Full Council for a decision to be made and/or action to be taken.

Parish Councils

Council Clerk – Rachel Buckle


Tel: 01366 728 513

Postal Address:

Methwold Parish Council

C/o “The Parish Office”,

St. George’s Hall Complex

16 High Street, Methwold, Thetford,

Norfolk. IP26 4NT

A councillor is a member of the council and is normally elected for a term of four years.  People of any political or religious persuasion are eligible to become a councillor, although their personal views should not extend into their parish council work.

They are elected to represent the interests of the local community as a whole and promote a harmonious local environment. The number of elected councillors depends on the size of the area. In Methwold we are able to have 13 councillors.

Local councils are the first tier of governance and are the first point of contact for anyone concerned with a community issue. They are democratically elected local authorities and exist in England, Wales and Scotland. The term ‘local council’ is synonymous with ‘parish council’, ‘town council’ and ‘community council’.

Local councils are made up of locally elected councillors. They are legally obliged to hold at least one meeting a year. Most meet on a monthly cycle to discuss council business and hear from local residents. District councillors regularly attend parish meetings to report back to the district on developments at parish level. County councillors are also invited to attend parish meetings when the parish council feels it is appropriate, and they have a standing invitation to attend and report at the Annual Parish Meeting.

Councillors must abide by a Code of Conduct; a set of rules on how councillors are expected to behave.  They must also declare their pecuniary (financial) interests in the parish, details of which are kept on a Register at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council.

Being a parish councillor can be an interesting and rewarding experience.

The Clerk is the ‘Proper Officer’ of the Council who is responsible for the smooth running of the Council’s business. They are the first point of contact for the Council and all correspondence comes to the Clerk. Responsibility for implementing the decisions of the Council rests with the Clerk along with giving professional guidance where necessary whilst remaining neutral and discrete. The Clerk is also responsible for financial management.

The Clerk prepares, circulates and displays agendas in public places. She/he signs notices and summonses with a list of business to be transacted but does not have the power to fix the meetings of the Council. The Clerk is required to attend meetings, take minutes, keep Council minutes in a book and hold other documents.

A member of the Council may be appointed as Clerk without remuneration but nowadays it is more usual to appoint someone who is not a councillor to be paid for the work they undertake.

A Chairman is a member of the Council and is elected annually. He/She has the authority at meetings and must be obeyed, is the interface between the public and the Council, the one to welcome speakers and make them ‘feel at home’ and make sure any decision is clear for the Clerk to act upon. Note: The Chairman on his own has no power to make decisions without the Resolution of the Council apart from a casting vote on a tied vote.


In his or her absence, the vice chair must preside at the meeting with the same status. fIf both are absent then the meeting may appoint another councillor to preside.  It is illegal for a clerk to take the chair at a meeting.

Election of a Chair:

If the presiding chair is no longer to be a member of the council then he only has a casting vote.  If he is still going to be a member then he has a vote and a casting vote (he can vote for himself if he wants).  The chairman of the council should give a report to the APM on the activity of the council (in this meeting, if he is not an elector in the parish, he only has a casting vote).

Once voted in, the new chair signs his declaration of acceptance of office and presides over the meeting immediately.

What does a good chairman do?

Plan the meeting with the clerk and ensure that everything on the agenda is legal.

Brief themselves and prepare fully – study all relevant information and anticipate the needs and interests of the members.  The Chairman can then answer questions or deal with requests for information.

Be punctual – the Chairman should set a good example by arriving early to check the arrangements and welcome members, the public and any visiting speakers.

Conduct the meeting  –

Check there is a quorum (minimum number of members needed to make the meeting legal)

Call the meeting to order and declare it open, Welcome members, the public and visiting speakers to the meeting

Introduce the standard items on the agenda – apologies; declarations of interest; confirmation of minutes of previous meeting

Introduce the agenda items and ensure that all members know what they have to achieve and how they might do it encourage participation


The Role of a Parish Councillor

The Role of the Clerk

The Role of the Chairman/Vice Chairman