The Parish Council is a corporate body, a legal entity separate from that of its members. Its decisions are the responsibility of the whole body.
The Council has been granted powers by Parliament including the important authority to raise money through taxation (the precept) and a range of powers to spend public money.
The Parish Council is an elected body in the first tier of local government. Other tiers, known as principal councils or authorities, have many legal duties to deliver services such as education, housing, town and country planning, transport, environmental health and social services.
Local councils have the legal power to take action, but they have very few duties and greater freedom to choose what action to take. They can play a vital part in representing the interests of the communities they serve and improving the quality of life and the local environment. Furthermore, they influence other decision makers and can, in many cases, deliver services to meet local needs.
There are around 9,000 local councils in England and they are growing in number, especially as councils in urban areas are established.
Most local councils were set up in 1894 by an Act of Parliament. This created the civil parish, separating it from the church after its long history of delivering local services such as care for the poor, maintenance of roads and collecting taxes.