What is a Parish Meeting?

A parish meeting may discuss parish affairs(LGA 1972 s 9(1). In a few cases a resolution is legally binding. In all others a resolution is persuasive only.  A parish meeting is not a corporation and this therefore unable to own property (other than through parish trustees) or to be sued (LGA 1972 s222). Generally speaking it is not a local authority (LGA 1972 s270(1)), though for certain limited purposes it may be regarded at one.  Its alleged lack of legal personality has not prevented Parliament form enabling it to exercise functions and to have legal obligations These are as follows:

  • Allotments: a parish meeting may hold and administer allotments for cultivation.
  • Burials: a parish meeting is a burial authority.  It may therefore provide burial grounds and may contribute towards the cost of burial facilities provided by others
  • Charities:  a parish meeting has the same powers as a parish council to appoint trustees to parochial charities
  • Churchyards: liability to maintain closed Church of England churchyard may be transferred to a parish meeting by the same process by which such liability is transferred to a parish council
  • Commons: a parish meeting may be registered as the owner of common land if it has inherited ownership from the appropriate pre-1894 authority (often the Churchwarden and Oversees of the poor)
  • Data Protection: a parish meeting is a public authority for some of the purposes of the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018
  • Decisions by Officers: the Openness of Local Government Regulations 2014 relating to the recording of decisions by officers apply to parish meetings
  • Discretionary Charges: a parish meeting may charge for the provision of discretionary services
  • Freedom of Information Act: a parish meeting is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It must adopt and maintain a publication scheme for the information it holds
  • Land: a parish meeting has no general power to acquire land, but may acquire land to exercise its allotments or burial powers; it may appropriate land from one purpose to another with the approval of the Secretary of State.  A parish meeting may dispose of land on the same conditions applicable to parish councils
  • Licensing: the chairman of a parish meeting is an interested party in relation to applications for licences for the sale of alcohol and for providing regulated entertainment and should notify the licensing authority of such applications
  • Lighting: a parish meeting may provide footway lighting
  • Open Spaces: the county council may contribute to expenses incurred by a parish meeting in providing a public open space
  • Religious Observances: the business of a parish meeting may include prayers or other religious observances
  • Religious Events: a parish meeting may support or facilitate the holding or religious and similar events
  • Rights of Way: a parish meeting is entitled to be notified of a definitive map modification order, a public path creation order, and extinguishment order and a diversion order.  A parish meeting is also entitled to be consulted by the County Council before a definitive map modification order is made.  A parish meeting is entitled to be notified of an application to the magistrates’ court to stop up or divert a highway and may appear at the hearing.  No application can be made if the chairman of the parish meeting refuses to consent to the application within two months of being notified
  • Village Greens: a parish meeting my prosecute a person who damages or encroaches upon a village green in a parish and commits an offence under section 12 of the Inclosure Act 1857 or section 29 of the Commons Act 1876.
  • War  Memorials: a parish meeting may incur reasonable expenditure on the maintenance, repair and protection of war memorials

It may appoint committees to administer any of its functions (LGA 1972 s108)

A parish meeting must assemble annually between 1st March and 1st June (both inclusive); and where there is no separate parish council it must meet on at least one other occasion in the year (LGA 1972 Sch 12 para 14(1) and (3).  A parish meeting may be convened by the Chairman of the Parish Meeting or by any representative of the parish upon the principal council (LGA 1972, Sch 12, para 15 (1)(a)-(c), or by six electors of the area for which it is held (LGA 1972 Sch 12 para 15(1)(d), and it may be convened as often as may be required. Proceedings must  no begin before 6pm.

Notices specifying the time and place and business of an intended meeting and signed by the conveners (LGA 1972 Sch 12, para 15(2)) must be affixed in some conspicuous place or places in the parish, and in addition, the conveners may give such publicity to the meeting as seems desirable (LGA 1972 Sch 12, para 15(4)).  Ordinarily the minimum notice required is seven clear days (LGA 1972 Sch 12 para 15(2)), but if any of the business relates to the establishment of a parish council is 14 clear days (LGA 1972, Sch 12. para 15(3)).

The quorum of a parish meeting is two (Loughlin v Guinness (1904) NZLR 718, per Dennison J at 754) unless a document has to be executed, in which case it is three (LGA 1972, s13(2)).

Decisions are taken in the first instance by the majority of those present and voting.  If the Chairman is an elector they have an original as well as a casting vote; if they are not an elector they only have a casting vote.  Unless a poll is demanded before the end of the meeting, the Chairman’s declaration of the result is final (LGA 1972, Sch 12, para 18 (1)-(14)).  Only electors are permitted to vote at a parish meeting, therefore it is important to have a system in place at the meeting to ensure that only their votes are counted.

A poll may be demanded no later than the end of the meeting on any question raised at the meeting.  Such a poll must be held only if ten or one-third of the electors present (whichever is less ) insist or if the person presiding insists.  The demand for a poll must be proposed and seconded and that it is voted on at the  meeting.   The cost of a poll can be a considerable burden and historically the turn out for polls is low.

The rules for on the signature and admissibility of the minutes of a parish meeting and its committees are in effect the same as those in force for a parish council.  Parish trustees have no minutes.    The press and public have the same rights of admission to a parish meeting, as they have for a parish council meeting (Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960.

Information provided by Arnold-Baker on Local Council Administration