South Kirkby and Moorthorpe Town Council, as a successor body to the former South Kirkby Parish Council,  is an independent corporate body created under the Local Government Act 1972; the legislation which was responsible for the wholesale reorganisation of the local government system in England with effect from 1st April 1974.

The Town Council forms part of the City of Wakefield Metropolitan District in West Yorkshire.

What is a Parish or Town Council?

It is the first tier of Local Government and was created by statute in 1894.

Before 1894, for many years, the affairs of the parishes had been administered by a vestry, or meeting of the village inhabitants. Inevitably these meetings were dominated by the squire, the parson and the principal ratepayers and some became ‘select vestries’, only open to those people deemed ‘suitable’ to serve. In many parishes, particularly rural ones, the system worked perfectly well, in others it was virtually non-existent or very inefficient.

For a variety of reasons, including a general movement towards greater ‘democracy’, and a desire to break the power of the Church of England over the lives of nonconformists and non-believers, a Bill was promoted to create Parish Councils. After a difficult passage through parliament and many amendments, this Bill became an Act in 1894. Its effect was to transfer all non-ecclesiastical functions from the church to the elected Parish Councils. Some other functions were added, such as those relating to the burial of the dead, which had, many years before, been vested in Burial Boards.

Much has changed since 1894. Parish and Town Councils are now closely regulated by statute and must satisfy standards of openness and transparency with particular reference to conduct of councillors, freedom of information, corporate governance and public accountability.

Powers and Responsibilities of Parish and Town Councils

The Local Government Act, 1972, is the one most often referred to when describing the modern powers and responsibilities of Parish Councils but it is augmented by many earlier and later Acts,

Parish Councils may only spend public money on projects or actions for which they have a Statutory Power.

Parish Councils are empowered to raise money for their activities through a tax (the “precept”) on the village residents which is collected on their behalf by the District Council (City of Wakefield ), as an addition to the Council Tax. This is paid to the Town Council in two equal instalments.

Borrowing is allowed, subject to strict regulation by the Secretary of State and grants may be obtained for specific purposes from various sources. Income can be obtained from property lettings

Some Statutory Powers of Parish and Town Councils

Local Government Act 1972

s.101 Assume a function delegated by another authority
s.111 Ensure effective discharge of council functions
s.112 Employ someone to carry out council functions
s.124 Buy or lease land for the community
s.142 Publicise council and local authority functions
s.144 Encourage tourism
s.145 Provide entertainment
s.150 Raise money by precept (Council Tax)
s.175 Train councillors
s.214 Assume responsibility for a closed churchyard
s.222 Make representation at public enquiries
s.226 Acquire historical records
Sch.13 Borrow money
Sch.16 para 20 Comment upon planning applications

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953
s.4 Provide bus shelters

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976
s.19 Provide or support recreational facilities

Open Spaces Act 1906
s.9 Acquire and manage any open space including valuable habitats.
s.10 Administer open space held in trust
Provide lighting for any open space

Commons Act 1899
s.5 Manage common land

Public Health Act 1875
(see also LGA, 1972 sch.
14 para 27) Acquire and manage land for a village green
Provide parks, pleasure grounds, public walks
Make bylaws to prevent dog fouling or to ban dogs

Public Health Act 1961
s.54 Provide a boating lake

Public Health Act 1936
s.87 Maintain public toilets
s.125 Use a local water course to obtain water
s.260 Maintain a local water course

The Countryside Act 1958
s.27 Erect signs for a right of way

Highways Act 1980
s.30 Create a right of way
s.43 Maintain a right of way
s.96 Plant verges with trees shrubs and bulbs (with Highways Authority consent)

Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984
s.57 Take action to relieve traffic congestion
Provide Parking facilities

Parish Councils Act 1957
s.1 Provide roadside seats (with Highways Authority consent)
s.3 (see also LGA 1972 Sch14, para 34) Provide lighting for footways and public places

Litter Act 1983
s.5 Provide litter bins

Smallholding and allotments Act 1908
s.26 Provide allotments
s.34 Acquire land for common pasture

Local Government (Records) Act 1962
s.1 Make community records available to the public
s.2 Purchase records of local interest
s.4 Support local archives

National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949
s.16 Make agreement with English Nature to manage council-owned land as nature reserve.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981
s.39 Local authorities make management agreements with landowners

Environmental Protection Act 1990
and Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991
Must keep own land free of litter and dog faeces

There are many other Acts and Statutes which govern the activities of Parish Councils and these are being added to every few months and advice is regularly received from the Yorkshire Local Councils’ Association (YLCA) and the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC).  Training and attendance at various conferences are now considered essential for both Town Councillors and Staff.