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In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, a civil parish is a territorial designation, and in parts of the UK the lowest tier of local government, below district and county councils. The civil parish has its origins in the system of ecclesiastical parishes, but civil parishes have often deviated from the latter's borders as time has progressed. As there is no common stratum of local governance across the countries of the United Kingdom, the use of civil parishes varies between England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Some places in England and Wales, typically within cities or towns, may be unparished areas. Civil parishes in the Republic of Ireland have no administrative function but remain defined cadastre units. Civil parishes ranged from individual settlements and their immediate environs to areas of thousands of acres containing many settlements to densely populated divisions of cities.

England

In England, the parish forms a feature of local administration and is the lowest unit of government, below districts and counties. All pre-existing civil parishes in England and Wales, formed in 1894, were abolished as of 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, with new parishes immediately created by or under that Act for England.

Wales

In 1974 the Local Government Act 1972 abolished civil parishes in Wales, and replaced with community councils. Many former urban districts and municipal boroughs that were being abolished rather than succeeded were continued as new parishes. Urban areas that were considered too large to be single parishes were refused this permission and became unparished areas. Every Community Council in Wales must adopt a code of conduct, and parish councillors must comply with its standards, enforced by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. (Scottish community councillors are not subject to similar personal controls.)

Scotland

In Scotland, parishes, as units of local government, were abolished by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929. The geographical area is sometimes still referred to, however, for statistical purposes. (See List of civil parishes in Scotland). A new system of communities was created by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 but, unlike in parish councils in England and community councils in Wales, Scottish community councils have no statutory powers, although in some cases local councils have a legal obligation to include them in consultation exercises.

Civil parishes in Scotland can be dated from 1845, when parochial boards were established to administer the poor law. While they originally corresponded to the parishes of the Church of Scotland, the number and boundaries of parishes soon diverged. Where a parish contained a burgh, a separate landward parish was formed for the portion outside the town. Until 1891 many parishes lay in more than one county. In that year, under the terms of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, the boundaries of most of the civil parishes and counties were realigned so that each parish was wholly within a single county. In 1894 the parochial boards were replaced by more democratically elected parish councils. These were in turn abolished in 1930, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929. Although civil parishes have had no administrative role since that date, they have continued to exist. They were used to define some of the local authorities created by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, they continue to be used for census purposes and they are used as part of the coding system for agricultural holdings under the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) used to administer schemes within the Common Agricultural Policy. According to the website of the General Register Office for Scotland, there are now 871 civil parishes.[1]

Since 1975, Scotland has had bodies called community councils, but Scottish community councils are not equivalent to English parish councils and Welsh community councils, and have no real powers. Some of the community council areas are defined in terms of civil parishes.

Ireland

In Ireland, civil parishes originally coincided with ecclesiastical parishes of the Church of Ireland, the established church from the time of the Tudor reconquest. Church parish boundary changes after its disestablishment in 1869 did not affect the civil parishes. The parishes of the Catholic Church in Ireland are generally unrelated to civil parishes.

Parishes were delineated after the Down Survey as an intermediate subdivision, with multiple townlands per parish and multiple parishes per barony. The civil parishes had some use in local taxation and were included on the nineteenth century maps of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland.[2] For poor law purposes District Electoral Divisions replaced the civil parishes in the mid-nineteenth century.

They have not been formally abolished in either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. One example where the parish is still referenced in Republic of Ireland law is the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988, which allows "any person resident in the parish in which the club premises are situated" to object to the granting of an alcohol licence to a club.[3]

Parishes in other countries

In the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, like Ireland, civil parishes still exist but only as largely obsolete (and obscure) geographical references, used almost exclusively in legal documents relating to land titles, see cadastral divisions of Australia.

Parishes survive as valid administrative units in various other Commonwealth countries such as Grenada (see Parishes of Grenada).

In Norway, the Local Government Act 1837 divided the country into municipalities and civil parishes. The civil parishes had a very few functions in the 20th century (mainly church maintenance), and were abolished in 1950. The parishes are still subdivisions of the Norwegian State Church.

In Portugal there are over 4,200 civil parishes (officially known as freguesias). They resulted from the transformation, starting with the administrative reform of 1836, of religious into civil units. Civil parishes have elected officials, and among their functions are local roads, kindergartens, retirement houses, parks, and cemeteries.[citation needed] Religious parishes (in Portuguese, paróquias) may or may not coincide geographically with civil parishes.

Parishes are used in the U.S. state of Louisiana instead of counties.

See also

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Genealogy

Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

This article is about civil parishes in England; for elsewhere in the world, see Parish (country subdivision).

A civil parish (usually just parish) in England is a subnational entity forming the lowest unit of local government, lower than districts or counties. Civil parishes in their modern form were created in 1894, and although their origins are in the system of ecclesiastical parishes, they no longer have anything to do with the Church of England.

Parishes previously existed in Wales where they have been replaced by communities. They still formally exist in Scotland and Ireland, but are now largely obsolete.

Contents

Geography

Civil parishes do not cover the whole of England, and mostly exist in rural areas and smaller urban areas. Civil parishes were abolished in London in 1965 and in other large urban areas in 1974, and had only had a nominal existence prior to this in urban districts and boroughs anyway.

Civil parishes vary greatly in size, many cover tiny hamlets with populations of less than 100, whereas some large ones cover towns with populations of tens of thousands. The largest civil parish is Weston-super-Mare, which has a population of 71,758. In many cases, several small villages are located in a single civil parish.

Large urban areas are mostly unparished (the government at the time of the Local Government Act 1972 discouraged their creation for large towns or for suburbs), but there is generally nothing to stop their establishment. For example, Birmingham has a parish, New Frankley, whilst Oxford has four, and Northampton has seven. In Greater London, however, the current legislative framework for local government forbids the establishment of civil parishes. This may change, given that in October 2006, the DCLG white paper Strong and prosperous communities proposed ending the legislative bar on the creation of civil parishes in London.[1]

The present government encourages the creation of town and parish councils in unparished areas. The Local Government and Rating Act 1997 created a procedure which gave local residents the right to demand that a new parish and council be created in unparished areas [2] (except in Greater London).

If at least 10% of electors in an area of a proposed new parish sign a petition demanding its creation, then the local district council or unitary authority must consider the proposal. The final decision rests with the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Recently established councils include those for Daventry (2003), and Folkestone (2004). 2003 saw the setting up of seven new parish councils for Burton upon Trent, and in 2001 the Milton Keynes urban area became entirely parished with ten new parishes. In 2003 the village of Great Coates (Grimsby) regained parish status. Parishes can also be abolished, on request, such as Birtley, which was abolished on April 1, 2006.

Parish administration

A parish bulletin board in Willersey in the Cotswolds.

Civil parishes are usually administered by parish councils, which have various local responsibilities. A parish council can also be called a town council or occasionally a city council, but most city councils are not parish councils (being instead metropolitan boroughs or non-metropolitan districts for example).

If a parish has fewer than 200 electors it is usually deemed too small to have a parish council, and instead it can have a parish meeting; an example of direct democracy. Alternatively several small parishes can be grouped together and share a common parish council, or even a common parish meeting. In places where a parish has neither a council nor a meeting, the administration of the Activities normally undertaken by the parish becomes the responsibility of the district or borough council in which the parish is located.

A parish council can become a town council unilaterally, simply by making a resolution to do so. Around 400 parish councils are called town councils. A parish can only gain city status however if it is granted by the Crown. In England, there are currently seven parishes with city status: Chichester, Ely, Hereford, Lichfield, Ripon, Truro and Wells. The chair of a town council or city council will usually have the title Mayor.

There are about 8,700 parish and town councils in England, and about 1,500 parish meetings [3]. Since 1997 around 100 new civil parishes have been created, in some cases splitting existing civil parishes, while in others creating new ones from unparished areas.

Powers and functions

Typical activities undertaken by parish or town councils include [4]:

  • The provision and upkeep of certain local facilities such as allotments, bus shelters, parks, playgrounds, public seats, public toilets, public clocks, street lights, village or town halls, and various leisure and recreation facilities.
  • Maintenance of footpaths, cemeteries and village greens
  • Since 1997 parish councils have had new powers to provide community transport (such as a minibus), crime prevention measures (such as CCTV) and to contribute money towards traffic calming schemes.
  • Parish councils are supposed to act as a channel of local opinion to larger local government bodies, and as such have the right to be consulted on any planning decisions affecting the parish.
  • Giving of grants to local voluntary organisations, and sponsoring public events, including entering Britain in Bloom.

The role played by parish councils varies. Smaller parish councils have only limited resources and generally play only a minor role, while some larger parish councils have a role similar to that of a small district council.

Parish councils receive funding by levying a "precept" on the council tax paid by the residents of the parish.

Councillors and elections

Parish councils are run by volunteer councillors who are elected to serve for four years and it is rare for them to be paid. Different councils have different numbers of councillors.

Most parish councillors are elected to represent the entire parish, though in parishes with larger populations or those that cover large areas, the parish can be divided into wards. These wards then return a certain number of councillors each to the parish council (depending on their population).

Only if there are more candidates standing for election than there are seats on the council will an election be held. It is common in rural parishes for the number of seats available to exceed the number of candidates. When this happens, the vacant seats have to be filled by co-option by the council.

When a vacancy arises for a seat mid-term, an election is only held if a certain number (usually 10) of parish residents request an election. Otherwise the council will co-opt someone to be the replacement councillor.

Charter Trustees

Sometimes a city or town is abolished as a district, and it is considered desirable to maintain continuity of the charter until a parish council to replace it can be set up. In this case Charter Trustees perform some of the functions of a parish council, and maintain traditions such as mayoralty. An example of such a city was Hereford, whose city council was merged in 1998 to form a unitary Herefordshire. The area of the city of Hereford remained unparished until 2000 when a parish council was created for the city.

Deserted parishes

The 2001 census recorded several parishes with no inhabitants. These were Chester Castle (in the middle of Chester city centre), Newland with Woodhouse Moor, Beaumont Chase, Martinsthorpe, Meering, Stanground North (subsequently abolished), Sturston, Tottington, and Tyneham. The last three had been taken over by the British Armed Forces during World War II and remain deserted.

Scotland, Wales and Ireland

Civil parishes in Scotland can be dated from 1845, when parochial boards were established to administer the poor law. While they originally corresponded to the parishes of the Church of Scotland, the number and boundaries of parishes soon diverged. Where a parish contained a burgh, a separate landward parish was formed for the portion outside the town. Until 1891 many parishes lay in more than one county. In that year, under the terms of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889 the boundaries of the civil parishes and counties were realigned so that each parish was wholly within a single county. In 1894 the parochial boards were replaced by more democratically elected parish councils. These were in turn abolished in 1930, under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929. Although civil parishes have had no administrative role since that date, they continue to exist. They were used to define some of the local authorities created by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, and they continue to be used for census purposes. According to the website of the General Register Office for Scotland[1], there are now 871 civil parishes.

Since 1975, Scotland has had bodies called community councils, but these are not equivalent to and have fewer powers than the English parishes and Welsh communities. The area of some of these is defined in terms of civil parishes.

In Wales the equivalent body to a Parish council is termed a community council. Until 1974 the principality was divided into civil parishes. These were abolished by section 20(6) of the Local Government Act 1972, and replaced by communities by section 27 of the same Act.

In Ireland, counties are divided into civil parishes. Irish civil parishes are themselves divided into townlands. Counties are also divided into larger subdivisions called baronies, which are made up of a number of parishes or parts of parishes. Both civil parishes and baronies are now largely obsolete (except for some purposes such as legal transactions involving land) and are no longer used for local government purposes.

For poor law purposes District Electoral Divisions replaced the civil parishes in the mid nineteenth century.

History

The division into parishes is an ancient one, the name is ultimately derived from the Latin parochia, which were divisions used by the early Christian Church. Parishes arose from common law and Church of England divisions, and were originally purely ecclesiastical divisions, but over time, they became used for some purposes of civil administration.[5]

Under the Highways Act 1555, parishes became responsible for upkeep of roads. Every adult inhabitant of the parish was obliged to work four days (and soon after six days) a year on the roads, providing their own tools, carts and horses. The work was overseen by an unpaid local appointee, the Surveyor of Highways. This function was transferred to Highway Boards in 1855 and later to County Councils. See also toll roads.

The poor had previously been looked after by the monasteries until their dissolution. In 1572, the magistrates were given power to 'survey the poor' and impose taxes for their relief. This system was made more formal by the Poor Law Act 1601, which made parishes responsible for administering the Poor Law. They appointed overseers, who could charge a rate to support the poor of the parish. The 19th century saw an increase in the responsibility of parishes, although the poor law powers were transferred to Poor Law Unions. These often later became Rural Districts.

The parishes were run by vestries, meeting annually to appoint these officials. Most were "open" (where all parisioners could attend) but a few were "select" (elected). These parishes were generally identical to ecclesiastical parishes. However some townships in large parishes administered the Poor Law themselves. The latter part of the century saw most of the ancient irregularities in the system cleaned up, with the majority of exclaves abolished. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1866 declared all areas that levied a separate rate (that is, extra-parochial areas and townships, and chapelries) become civil parishes as well. Also borders were altered to avoid parishes being split between counties. Any place that could claim to be free of any poor rate obligation was referred to as "extra-parochial". Such places were often old church lands, and a few still existed in the 20th century.

Civil parishes in their modern sense were established in 1894, by the Local Government Act 1894. The Act abolished vestries, and established elected parish councils in all rural civil parishes with more than 300 electors. These were grouped into rural districts.

Urban parishes continued to exist, and were generally coterminous with the urban district or municipal borough in which they were situated. Large towns originally split between multiple parishes were, for the most part, eventually consolidated into one parish. No parish councils were formed for urban parishes, and their only function was as areas electing guardians to Poor Law Unions. With the abolition of the poor law system in 1930 the parishes had only a nominal existence.

In Scotland, parish councils were established by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1894 and then abolished in 1930. The parishes themselves were formally abolished in 1975, but were replaced with communities.

In 1965 civil parishes in London were formally abolished when Greater London was created, the legislative framework for Greater London did not make provision for any local government body below a London borough (since all of London was previously part of a metropolitan borough, municipal borough or urban district, no actual parish councils were abolished).

In 1974 the Local Government Act 1972 retained civil parishes in rural areas and small urban areas, but abolished them in larger urban areas. In Wales civil parishes were abolished by the 1972 Act, and replaced with community councils. Many former urban districts and municipal boroughs that were being abolished rather than succeeded were continued as new parishes. Urban areas that were considered too large to be single parishes were refused this permission and became unparished areas.

The Act also led to the possibility of sub-division of all districts (apart from London boroughs, reformed in 1965), into multiple civil parishes. For example, Oxford, whilst entirely unparished in 1974, now has four civil parishes, covering part of its area.

The future

In October 2006, the DCLG white paper Strong and prosperous communities proposed a wide-ranging set of reforms to the future of civil parishes. This includes ending the Secretary of State's power to approve the creation of new parishes and by-laws, ending the legislative bar on the creation of civil parishes in London (mentioned above), the power to enforce by-laws through fixed penalty notices and the ability to style parish councils as 'community', 'neighbourhood' or 'village' councils. The power to approve new parishes will now reside with district or unitary councils, who will also have the right to provide for alternative arrangements in non-parished areas such as neighbourhood committees.[1]

Parishes in other countries

In the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, like Ireland, civil parishes still exist but only as largely obsolete (and obscure) geographical references, used almost exclusively in legal documents relating to land titles, see cadastral divisions of Australia.

Parishes survive as valid administrative units in various other Commonwealth of Nations countries such as Grenada (see Parishes of Grenada).

In Norway, the Local Government Act 1837 divided the country into municipalities and civil parishes. The civil parishes had a very few functions in the 20th century (mainly church maintenance), and were abolished in 1950. The parishes are still subdivisions of the Norwegian State Church.

References

  1. ^ a b Department For Communities And Local Government (2006). Strong and Prosperous Communities: The Local Government White Paper (Command Paper). The Stationery Office Books. London. ISBN 0101693923.
  2. ^ What is a parish or town council - From nalc.gov.uk
  3. ^ Office for the Deputy Prime Minister. Local government finance statistics
  4. ^ Full list of powers of parish councils - Downloadable Microsoft Word Document
  5. ^ Winchester, A. (2000). Discovering parish boundaries. Shire Publications. Princes Riseborough, Bucks.:United Kingdom. ISBN 0-7478-0470-2

See also

  • List of civil parishes in England
  • List of civil parishes in Scotland
  • Community councils in Wales and Scotland
  • Freguesia - civil parish in Portugal
  • Communes of France - The French equivalent of civil parishes.
  • Civil township - US equivalent of civil parishes.
  • UK topics
  • Parishes of Grenada

External links

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