What is a Parish Council?
Parish councils are the lowest tier of government in England. They are no longer anything to do with the church, although they were in times past. The parish council is responsible for a parish, a small area normally enclosing one community. If the community is sufficiently large the council may be called a town council, rather than a parish council but its responsibilities and powers are identical. In some small parishes there is no parish council, just the annual parish meeting.
The next tier above parish councils is the district council, which covers a much wider area, and above that comes the county council. As town councils sometimes exist as an alternative to parish councils you sometimes find city councils in place of district councils, Cambridge City Council being an obvious example.
Not every community has a parish council. In Cambridge for example there are none. Finally, the last re-organisation of local government introduced the concept of unitary authorities combining the function of district and county councils. Peterborough is an example of this.
The parish can get money from its residents in the form of a “precept”, which is added to the figures requested by the county council, the police and fire authority and the district council and is then collected by the district council in the council tax (previously called the community charge or “poll tax” and, before that, the rates).
Where Does Milton Parish Council fit?
Milton Parish Council is responsible for an area bounded by the River Cam to the east and the byway called the Mere Way to the west. The northern boundary runs just south of Landbeach and then across the fields between Milton and Waterbeach. The southern boundary from the Mere Way follows the course of the old St Ives railway line encompassing the Cambridge Science Park and the Regional College but not the “Milton” sewage works (which are inside the city boundary). Instead the boundary turns north, following the line of the old A10 before turning east again just north of the A14 towards the river Cam. Included in Milton Parish is a detached area south of the A14 taking in the old railway sidings, and the caravan parks and businesses on Chesterton Fen Road from a point about 200m North of the level crossing.
The parish has a population of approximately 4,300 with 3,200 being on the register of electors. It has no offices as such. The council normally meets in the Bowls Pavilion on Coles Road Recreation Ground and the parish records are held by the parish clerk at his office next door. There are a maximum of twelve councillors plus the clerk who is a paid employee of the council.
The district council for the area is South Cambridgeshire District Council. This covers the southern quarter of the county, excluding the city of Cambridge itself. Their offices are at Cambourne.
The county council is Cambridgeshire County Council and its offices are at Shire Hall on Castle Hill in Cambridge. As of April 1998 Peterborough became a unitary authority, leaving Cambridgeshire County Council to administer the rest of the county.
What Does the Parish Council do?
The council has little power but a reasonable amount of influence. A prime example of this is planning applications. The planning authority is South Cambridgeshire District Council, but they give details of every planning application within the parish to the Parish Council for review and will take into account the councillors’ comments when coming to a decision.
Similarly the Cambridgeshire County Council is the highway authority, but it consults the parish when it’s considering any road scheme, for example the placing of double yellow lines, or the implementation of a cycle path.
The parish council is directly responsible for providing the following services to the village:
- mobile warden – who helps elderly people in the village maintain their independence
- play areas throughout the village – including the provision, regular inspection and maintenance of play equipment
- bus shelters
- street cleaning
- christmas lights
- advice on trees (through the tree warden)
- the cemetery
- many small bits of land around the village (mainly green spaces and beds in the new estates)
- providing and planting the daffodils which delight the village each spring
- the war memorial and leading the Two Minutes’ Silence
- managing facilities for youth, including the youth club and Bus project
- commenting on all planning applications
- taking a lead in getting things done in the village, such as sheltered housing, or new sports facilities
In addition the Sycamores and Coles Road recreation grounds and the community centre belong to the parish council, but these have been leased by the Council to the Milton Community Centre charitable foundation who manage these facilities on behalf of the village.
To help the council fulfil its responsibilities the council has a written policy, both in general and for purchasing.
When Does the Council Meet?
The full council normsally meet on the first Monday of every month at the Bowls Pavilion (except in August). The Planning Committee normally meet on the third Monday of every month, if there is any planning business to consider. Other committees (Adobe/PDF, 23KB) meet throughout the year as necessary. Notice of all meetings is given on the Parish Noticeboard, which is located behind the war memorial on the corner of Coles Road and Fen Road and is also given here (Adobe/PDF, 63KB). The dates can also be found in the Milton Village View and are announced in Milton News.
All meetings are open to the general public. You have no right to speak, but the chair may, at their discretion, let you address the council if the matter being discussed is of particular interest to you.
Minutes of past meetings can be found on the Parish Noticeboard, or here on these pages.
How Do I Get in Touch with the Parish Council?
A list of all parish councillors and the clerk can be found here together with the main email and telephone contact details.