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What is a Parish Council?

Harrietsham Parish Council has eleven councillors, who are volunteers from all walks of life. People of any political or religious persuasion are eligible to become a councillor, although their Parish Council work must be with the whole community in mind. In that respect, Parish Councillors must adhere to a strict Code of Conduct.

Councillors' individual experiences, skills and views make the Parish Council as diverse as the people they represent. They are all elected (or co-opted if necessary) and serve the local community for four years. After that, they can stand for re-election if they have enjoyed the work.

A Parish Council makes all kinds of decisions by voting on individual matters that affect the local community. For example they might decide to object to a planning application, if they feel approval would be detrimental to the community. However, they have limited powers. The Parish Council's role is more to try and influence organisations like the Borough Council who ultimately have the final say. The Borough Council will respect a Parish Council's views because they normally reflect how their community feels about something. In the case of planning applications, a Parish Council is a statutory consultee.

Harrietsham Parish Council also has two paid members of staff - a Clerk and a Responsible Finance Officer (RFO).

The Parish Clerk is an independent and unbiased employee of the Parish Council who has a key role in advising the Council and its members on governance, ethical and procedural matters. The Clerk also prepares and posts notices, is responsible for writing the agenda and minutes, keeps the council’s records and deals with correspondence received at the office.

The Responsible Finance Officer deals with all matters relating to the budget, annual accounts and audit to ensure proper financial management and transparency.

Finally, Harrietsham Parish Council is permitted to have co-opted committee members/associates who are volunteers with skills the council is especially looking for, e.g - digital media and environmental.