Embleton, Northumberland - Community Guide

Parish Council

The first meeting of Embleton Parish Council was held in the Reading Room on December 31st 1894 when Mr John Stephenson was appointed as provisional chairman until the election of a chairman of the Parish Council took place.

Please click here for the latest Parish Council Meeting minutes

 

Embleton Parish Councillors

Terry Howells
PC Chairman &
PC Rep on Burial Committee

Georgina Armstrong
PC Vice Chairman &
PC Rep on Creighton Hall Committee


Adam Moody

Agenda
24th July 2017

2017 Minutes
26th June 2017
22nd May 2017
24th April 2017
12th April 2017
27th March 2017
27th February 2017
23rd January 2017

Archived versions of the minutes can be found here

Raymond Carss

Richard Manners

 

 

PICTURE
COMING
SOON

 

Vickie Fyffe

Raymond Imeson

 

 

PICTURE
COMING
SOON

 

Monica Cornall

Melissa Gilroy
Clerk to the Council

 

 

Anyone wishing to contact
any of the Parish Councillors
on Parish matters, please do
so using the Parish Council
e-mail address:
embletonpc@hotmail.co.uk.

 

 



Parish Council Accounts

Please see the below documents for the latest Parish Council Accounts

Annual Accounting Statement 2016 / 2017

Governance Statement 2016 / 2017

Public Rights to Inspect Financial Records 2016 / 2017

 

Embleton Joint Burial Committee

Please click on the following link for the Embleton Joint Burial Committee Cemetery Procedures

 

Please click on the links below for the Embleton Joint Burial Committee meeting minutes. The meeting agenda will also be published here as and when available.

Embleton Joint Burial Committee Meeting Agenda

 

Draft Minutes of the March 2017 Meeting

Minutes of the February 2017 Meeting

Minutes of the December 2016 Meeting

Minutes of the October 2016 Meeting

Minutes of the July 2016 Meeting

Minutes of the April 2016 Meeting

Minutes of the January 2016 Meeting

 



Frequently Asked Questions about the Parish Council

Who can be a Councillor?
To be eligible for election a person must be over 18 years of age on the day of the poll, be a British subject, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union.  In addition the person must  be an elector for the area or, during the whole 12 months before nomination as a candidate, must have occupied land as a tenant or owner in the Parish (or within 3 miles of it) or have his or her principal or only place of work in the parish.

Who can vote in Parish Council elections?
A person is entitled to be registered as a local government elector if:-

They are resident in the local government area (but see below)
They are not subject to any legal incapacity to vote
They are a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a citizen of a member state of the European Union
They will attain voting age before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the 1st December next following the relevant date

Second home owners (providing it is not a business) can register to vote at both their main home and second home.  They can vote at only one of these in General Elections but are able to vote at both in local elections. However, an elector may not cast more than one ballot paper in the same ward, or cast a ballot paper in more than one ward of the same local authority.

An elector who satisfies the residence and other registration conditions can, however, vote at elections to two different local authorities as these are two distinctly separate bodies of elected representatives.

Embleton Parish currently has 531 registered local government electors.

When are elections and how long is a Council life?
The term of office of a Parish Council is normally four years and the timing of elections is linked to the election of District Councillors for the ward containing the parish.  When there are an equal number, or fewer, candidates than there are vacancies, all candidates are elected unopposed and no poll is taken.  Where there are fewer candidates than vacant seats, the Parish Council has a duty to co-opt persons to fill the vacancies.  This power may only be exercised if there is a quorum of Councillors present and must be completed within 35 days of the election.  If the Parish Council fails to fill the vacancies within this period, the District Council may dissolve it and order fresh elections.  When a casual vacancy occurs it may be filled either by election or co-option.  Election occurs when, after the vacancy has been advertised for 14 days, there is more than one candidate - each candidate being supported in writing to the returning officer by 10 or more electors.

Embleton is within the Longhoughton Ward and Kate Cairns is the elected Councillor for this Ward.  The last Parish Council elections were held in May 2013.

How many councillors sit on a Parish Council?
The number of councillors on a Parish Council is set by the Unitary or District Council.  The number of councillors can be increased or decreased at the request of the Parish Council if there is an appropriate reason, but the minimum number of councillors is five.  There is no formal link between the number of electors and the size of the council.

Embleton Parish Council is made up of 10 Councillors. A problem is that there is no method of ensuring Christon Bank is fairly represented. At present there is only 1 Councillor from Christon Bank, whereas electoral distribution suggests there should be 3.

What is the difference between the Annual Meeting of the Parish Council and the Annual Parish Meeting?
The Annual Meeting of the Parish Council must be held in May and in an election year must be held between 4 and 14 days after polling day.  This is the meeting where the Parish Council elects the chairman, makes other annual appointments and reviews their insurance etc.

The Annual Parish Meeting can be held between 1st March and 30th June.  This is the meeting where the Parish Council invites the public to hear reports from the chairman etc. There is also an opportunity for the public to express their opinions on what the Council is doing and raise questions about past and future actions.

These two meeting are often held on the same evening.

Am I allowed to speak at a Parish Council meeting?
Residents have the right to attend all Parish Council meetings.  They do not have the right to speak during the formal Parish Council meeting but, if they inform the Chairman before the meeting starts that they wish to raise a matter, he will normally set time aside before the formal meeting commences for them to speak.  They cannot take part in any ensuing discussion.

Can I see Parish Council minutes and papers?
Yes.  The Parish Council is required to make a range of documents open to inspection.  As with any public body the Freedom of Information Act applies to the Parish Council.

What is a quorum of the Parish Council?
Three at least, up to a Council with nine members.  Thereafter, at least one third of the total membership.

Can the public be excluded from a Parish Council meeting?
Yes if there is confidential business or if there is some other good reason.  The exclusion has to be voted for by a majority of Councillors present and the reason has to be stated in the motion to exclude and then in the minutes of the meeting.

What notice is required for a Parish Council meeting?
Three clear days are required not counting the day of the notice or the day of the meeting.  The following ‘don’t count’:- Sundays, a day of the Christmas break, a day of the Easter break, bank holidays and official days of mourning.

Can the Parish Council meet on a Sunday?
Yes.  The Parish Council can meet on any day.

Where can the Parish Council meet?
Parish Councils are allowed to meet in any venue open to the public except licenced premises, unless there is no alternative venue available at reasonable cost.

How often are Parish Councils required to meet?
The minimum is four meetings a year, one of which is the Annual Meeting of the Parish Council.  There is no maximum. 

Embleton Parish Council meets ten times a year on the 4th Monday of each month except August and December, the venue alternating between the Creighton Memorial Hall, Embleton and the meeting room at the Christon Bank Methodist Church.

Can an Agenda include Any Other Business?
Yes, but no decision may be made on an item of business raised in this way.

How does the Parish Council raise money?
Parish Councils are empowered to raise money for their activities through a tax (the precept) on village residents, which is collected on their behalf by the County Council as an addition to the Council tax. This is then paid to the Parish Council in two instalments.  Though not actually ‘capped’ in their expenditure, as are principal Councils, the activities of Parish Councils are effectively limited by what can reasonably be raised from the Parish.

What is the Embleton Parish precept and what does it spend it on?
Embleton Parish Council precept was marginally over £8000 for 2013 – 2014. This is the working capital of the Parish Council.  From this (in round numbers) £300 went on insurance, £900 to Embleton Play park for their insurance and £2800 to the Burial Committee, which is Embleton’s share of the total cost of £5000 divided between three parishes.  £700 is spent on grass cutting etc., £900 in Clerks wages, £200 in Audit fee, £100 membership of NALC, £100 room hire, £550 in donations to the Hospice, Air Ambulance, Whinstone Times and Alnwick Playhouse, £1000 to the Sports Field towards the drainage problem and a contingency of £500.

Powers and Responsibilities of Parish Councils
The Local Government Act of 1972 is the one most often referred to when describing the modern powers and responsibilities of Parish Councils.  However, it is augmented by many earlier and later Acts such as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which, on the face of it, would not appear to relate to Parish Councils but which gave them the ability to pay for measures to combat crime in villages.  Parish Councils may only spend public money on projects or actions for which they have a Statutory Power.  There is still, as there was in 1894, only one power which the Parish Council must consider using and that is to provide allotments for the labouring poor if asked for them.  All other powers are voluntary – the Parish Council is not obliged to exercise them.

Planning Applications
The Parish Council comments on applications for Planning Consent within the Parish.  The Parish Council is a statutory consultee, and reviews copies of all applications and plans when advised of their on-line availability by the County Council.  It has no actual power to refuse or consent to an application.  It acts as the voice of the Parish, rather than for any individual.

How do I complain about my Parish Council?
After having complained to the chairman of the Parish Council, and not having received a satisfactory reply, you should normally complain to the Council with ultimate responsibility (Northumberland County Council).  The Council will probably have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and it will be necessary to complete all stages before moving on.  The final stage is to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.

How is a Parish or Parish Council changed?
Since February 2008 the power to create new Parishes and Parish Councils, to alter Parish boundaries, to dissolve Parish Councils and to abolish Parishes has been devolved to District or Unitary Councils (known as ‘Principal Councils’).  This process is known as a ‘community governance review’.

Principal Councils have the power to make a community governance review at any time for all or part of their district.  It is envisaged that such reviews will occur at intervals of between 10 and 15 years and will take into account population changes, the need for well-defined boundaries and the wishes of local inhabitants.  Reviews may also be triggered by a petition of local government electors for an area.  A petition is deemed valid where it is signed by a sufficient proportion of the electorate (ranging from 50% in an area with less than 500 electors to 10% in one with more than 2500).

What will be the effect on Embleton of the devolution of powers from NCC to the Parish Council?
Quite a lot has been written on the effects of the Unitary Authority (NCC) ceasing to offer certain services and expecting Parish Councils to take over these without providing them with funds.  This would be expected to lead to increases in precepts.

If the communities of Northumberland are to be served in the most efficient manner, the relationship between the County Council and the 150+ Town and Parish Councils is critical. Currently a draft Local Councils Charter is out for consultation with comments to NCC by December 31st.   Parish Councils are statutory bodies and the range and extent of their powers is expanding and it appears that Parish Councils will increasingly play a pivotal role in serving communities.  Without going into this document in detail it contains a list of those services that, as of April 2011, were already the responsibility of all local councils. These include:-

Bus shelters post 2003, play areas, seasonal lighting, town twinning and allotments.

It then goes on to list those Services and Assets that were added to the responsibility of Local Councils from April 2012 as:-

All public seats, provision of new litter bins, public conveniences that meet local needs, war memorials,
‘In Bloom’ competitions and all bus shelters.

And those added from April 2013:-

Local parks, playing fields, provision of local gateway signage and cemeteries.

Embleton is well placed to cope with the changes as the village green, play-park, sports field, village seats, bus shelters and village name signs are already maintained by, or in conjunction with the Parish Council.  Emptying litter bins, maintaining enclosed churchyards, mowing roadside verges and footpaths (Sea Lane) will remain the responsibility of the NCC.  The only extra duties (hence cost) that can be foreseen for Embleton Parish Council are paying for new, or replacement, litter bins (traditionally they only pay half) and paying for the annual safety check of the play-park (previously free).

Changes in Planning Regulations are less clear.  Neighbourhood Planning is a new variation of community-led planning and parish plans, in which the development proposals are given statutory force.  There are talks taking place aimed at establishing a common approach to the provision of support by NCC for Neighbourhood Plans, but it is early days and at present little has come down to the Parish Council.

 



 

The History of Parish Councils with Particular Reference to Embleton
Prepared by T. J. Howells

 

It may be surprising to learn that Parish Councils only started to operate in 1894.

It’s important to realise that a Parish Council is the lowest, or first, tier of government and as such is the closest to the people.  Before 1894 the affairs of parishes had been administered by a vestry, or meeting, of the village inhabitants.  The vestries did not have their powers or composition defined in any law, and there was no rule about who could attend the meetings or who could preside.  These vestries were responsible for the general well-being of the village; they looked after the poor, the old and the sick, and maintained the church and the churchyard and managed the village pound.  They also nominated from amongst themselves the appropriate officials: overseers of the poor, surveyors of the highways, church wardens, sextons, keepers of the pound and, in many cases, the constables.  Up until the late 19th Century to the people of a village the real government was not the cabinet or parliament, but the parish vestry.  It mattered more to them who was the overseer of the poor than whether the Duke of Newcastle or the Duke of Grafton was Prime Minister.  Inevitably these vestry 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.

The Liberal Party came to power towards the end of the 19th century and they began to implement their long-held plans based on the need to reform parish government, thus breathing new life into the moribund parish vestries, and breaking the power of the Church of England over the lives of nonconformists and non-believers.  This policy, together with a general movement towards greater ‘democracy’, led to a Bill being promoted in 1892 to create Parish Councils.  After a difficult passage through parliament and many amendments, the Bill became an Act in 1894. The Act called Parish Councils into existence wherever in a rural district the population of the parish was 300 or more in 1891 (a Census year).  A parish was defined, largely by reference to history and practice, as ‘a place for which a separate poor rate is or can be made, or a separate overseer is or can be appointed’.  The effect of the Act was to transfer all non-ecclesiastical functions, including the Burial Board, from the church to the elected Parish Councils. The Act did not abolish the vestries and they survived as ecclesiastical bodies until 1922 when a Parochial Church Council was established in every ecclesiastical parish.

In late 1894 newspapers began to publish details of the Act and to explain who was entitled to vote. The Alnwick and County Gazette ran a long article in their September 22nd edition giving answers to what would now be classed as Frequently Asked Questions.  It must be remembered this was at a time when only male house owners were entitled to vote in Parliamentary elections and was nearly 25 years before universal manhood suffrage and the vote for women over thirty.  There was much interest therefore in the question ‘Who can vote?’ and perhaps general surprise to discover from the paper that:-

‘To vote you must be a voter in the parish for Parliamentary or County Council elections or
else you must have lived in the village, or not more than three miles from it, during the last
twelve months.  The next thing is to get two other voters to propose you in writing.’

But this was not the greatest surprise because the Act gave the vote not only to single women who were qualified, but also to married women who were qualified (i.e. by occupancy), although a husband and wife could not be qualified in respect of the same property and in practice few married women were qualified.

The excitement this widespread enfranchisement generated can be imagined.

To ensure that parishioners were kept informed meetings were arranged and it was reported in the newspaper that:-


‘On Tuesday evening the 6th  November a meeting of ratepayers of the parish of Embleton
was held in the Working Men’s Club Room for the purpose of taking into consideration the
Local Government (Parish Councils) Act 1894.  There was a good attendance.  The vicar (the
Rev. M. F. Osborn) took the Chair and opened the proceedings by reading over those portions of the Act
which immediately referred to the formation and election of Parish and District Councils, after which he
delivered a few observations upon the workings of the Act generally.  Important discussions ensued, these
being conducted by Messrs Thompson, McLaren, Moore, Atcheson, Appleby and others.  Mr Atcheson gave
a precise outline of the provisions and powers of the Act, which was much appreciated.’

As might be expected, the enthusiasm for the election of the new councils was widespread throughout the country.  In a Flintshire parish there were 90 candidates for 15 seats, in a Devon parish 41 candidates for 15 seats and in a Staffordshire parish 40 for 9 seats.

In Embleton the first Parish Meeting was held in the Reading Rooms at 7pm on December 8th. There were 150 persons present.  It was resolved on the motion of Mr Thompson, seconded by Dr Waterson, that the Rev. M. F. Osborn be appointed chairman of the Parish Meeting.  The Chairman then called for nominations and a show of hands for each candidate.  Eighteen persons were then nominated for the seven seats as Parish Councillors (Mark Appleby 26 votes cast, William Appleby 15, James Atcheson 15, George Bolton 23, Joseph Carr 21, John Conning 31, Robert Coxon 16, George Douglas 20, James Dickinson 21, George Forster 10, William Hornsby 12, James Moore 15, James McLaren 8, Alexander Pitt 8, John Stephenson 16, James Young Jnr 13, James Young Snr 8, William Wake 17.)

A poll was then demanded by Mr James Moore of Embleton, one of the candidates, and this needs some explanation.

Elections, like decisions at other village meetings, were ordinarily decided by a show of hands and in this case each elector had one vote for each vacant seat.  As there were more candidates than vacant seats, then any one elector might demand a poll by secret ballot.  These polls cost money and were to be avoided if possible.  In one Northumberland parish (not Embleton) the candidates were kept locked up until one of them agreed to withdraw to avoid a poll.  Elections by a show of hands led to confusion and errors.  Few chairmen could know by sight who was entitled to vote and fewer still could notice in a crowded meeting how many times any one person raised his or her hand.  It was difficult enough for electors to remember how many times they had voted when there were say 15 vacancies.  It was also a handicap if a candidate’s name began with a letter low in the alphabet and the confusion was compounded by voters trying to indicate their vote to the chairman while avoiding being seen by, say, their employer as failing to vote for him.  It is extraordinary that despite these problems it wasn’t until 1948 that the Representation of the People Act abolished this method of election.

Anyway, the candidates from Embleton were not to be denied and in the December 15th edition of the Alnwick and County Gazette it stated:-


‘The candidates standing for election to the Embleton Parish Council are:-
Mark Appleby – stone merchant and contractor living at Greys Inn aged 42
William Appleby - whinstone quarry man aged 37
James Atcheson – schoolmaster aged 59
George Bolton – boot maker aged 49
Joseph Carr – schoolmaster aged 32 living in school house
John Conning – joiner and cartwright aged 32
Robert Coxon – farmer aged 30 living at Glebe Farm
George Douglas – mole catcher aged 36 living at Christon Bank
James Dickinson – innkeeper and butcher living at Railway Inn aged 35
George Forster – farmer living at North Farm aged 25
William Hornsby shepherd aged 29
James Moore,
James McLaren – civil engineer aged 30
Alexander Pitt – baker and grocer living at Mount Pleasant aged 34
John Stephenson – grocer living at Star Inn aged 25
James Young Jnr – rabbit merchant aged 30 living at Christon Bank
James Young Snr – farmer and grocer aged 62 living at Christon Bank
William Wake – stone sett maker aged 35’

So there were eighteen candidates for seven seats.

In some parishes things turned nasty and at Wroxham, where a working class candidate made an election speech, he found himself sacked and evicted two days later even though he was a steady workman and chapel steward. Working men turned out en-masse to vote for him but it didn’t get him his job or home back.

As far as is known nothing untoward happened in Embleton and the elections were held, probably on the 15th December, and the results were published in the paper on the 22nd:-


‘The results of the Parish Council election in Embleton were:
Mark Appleby 51 votes, William Wake 45 votes, John Stephenson 43 votes, James Atcheson
41 votes, George Douglas 39 votes, James Dickinson 35 votes and William Hornsby 35 votes.
The remaining candidates were not elected’.

The Council thus consisted of a quarry owner, a grocer, a quarry sett maker, a schoolmaster, a mole catcher, an innkeeper and a shepherd.

So the 1894 elections came and went and Councils were formed.  Those who expected the working classes to take over were disappointed.  In a survey of over 1000 parishes it was found the Councils were made up of 31% farmers or yeomen, 14% agricultural labourers, 7% gentlemen, 4% representatives from the drinks trade and 3% Church of England clergy.  The remainder stretched from asylum attendants to well sinkers.  As expected, parishes differed widely.  In Blaxhall, Suffolk the Council was made up of a blacksmith, four labourers, two farmers and a labourers’ agent, whilst in Arrow, Warwickshire the Parish Council of five included the Marquis of Hertford, his brother Lord Earnest Seymore and a Mr Christie his gardener.

In the choice of Chairmen of Parish Councils there was considerable evidence of traditional deference.  In the old vestries the parson had always taken the chair and now many Councils chose the parson as their first chairman, co-opting him for that purpose if he had not been elected to the Council.  Others elected the squire or other leading inhabitants (three dukes became chairmen) but at Bolden in Durham a miner was elected in preference to a bishop.

The first meeting of Embleton Parish Council was held in the Reading Room on December 31st 1894 when Mr John Stephenson was appointed as provisional chairman until the election of a chairman of the Parish Council took place.  Mr Mark Appleby was proposed by Mr William Wake and seconded by Mr James Dickinson.  Mr James Atcheson was proposed by Mr William Hornsby and seconded by Mr G Douglas.  On a show of hands being taken Mr Appleby was duly elected chairman of the Council by four votes to three.  Mr John Stephenson was unanimously elected vice chairman.  Mr Joe Forster, bank agent in Alnwick, Treasurer and Mr J Thompson Clerk to the Council. The following gentlemen were appointed to represent the Embleton Township on the Burial Board; John Craster Esq., Craster Towers, Mr John Stephenson, Embleton and Mr William Wake, Embleton.

And so the Parish Council set to work.  There does not appear to be a record of the second Parish Council meeting in Embleton but the third meeting was held on February 26th.  Present: Messrs Appleby (Chairman), Hornsby, Douglas, Dickinson, Stephenson and Atcheson with Mr Thompson, Clerk.  Minutes of the last meeting were read.  The Clerk was instructed to get Lumley’s Public Health Act.  It was proposed by Mr Atcheson and seconded by Mr Hornsby and carried unanimously that the Clerk be instructed to write to each of the applicants for allotments to ask them to state specifically in what fields they would like to have their lands, so as to enable the Council to enter into agreement with the landlords for the purpose of procuring the land.  It was agreed to let Mr Wake’s motion (for the Council to provide a recreation ground) to stand over until the next meeting as he was not present – notice was given by Mr Atcheson that at the next meeting he would move that the Council provide a public hall for the use of the parish, the said hall to have a room attached so that it can be used for meetings of the Parish Council – proposed by Mr Hornsby and seconded by Mr Douglas that the Trustees of Dunstanburgh Castle Estate be approached to give a site gratuitously for the public hall.  The following are applicants for allotments:-

                                             Grass Land                     Tillage Land
James McLaren                         3 acres                           1 acre
George McLaren                      10 acres                           4 acres
Thomas Murdy                         4 acres                            3 acres
George Bolton (shoemaker)       3 acres                            1 acre
James Moor has applied for an allotment not stating what size he requires.

The fourth meeting of Embleton Parish Council, and the last to be reported on at present, was held on March 26th. Present:  Messrs Appleby, Stephenson, Wake, Dickinson and Atcheson, with Mr Thompson, Clerk.  Mr Wake proposed that the Council provide a recreation ground for the use of the parish seconded by Mr Dickinson.  On a vote Messrs Appleby, Wake, Stephenson and Dickinson were for, and Messrs Atcheson and Douglas against.  It was proposed by Mr Stephenson and seconded by Mr Wake that a committee ‘consisting of the four members who voted for the motion’ be formed to approach various landlords adjoining the village to provide a suitable ground at as reasonable a charge as possible.  Mr Wake gave notice that he would propose at the next meeting that the Council approach the Dunstanburgh Castle Estate to set aside some land for allotments.  It was agreed unanimously to allow the Clerk £2 for his services, including expenses, up to April 15th 1895.

Throughout the country Parish Councils were gradually finding their feet and setting to work to address local concerns. By 1908 nearly a quarter of councils had acquired allotments, about 1000 had adopted lighting powers, 700 had new burial grounds and 500 fire-fighting equipment.  Much of the expenditure went on street lighting and burial grounds.  Many Councils bought land for recreation grounds and playing fields, but only the largest could afford libraries, wash houses and baths.

The first Councils sat for 16 months and the 1896 elections, lacking the excitement of novelty, suffered from a marked feeling of apathy displayed by villagers.

What of women councillors?  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Huxley and Florence Nightingale were amongst those in the 1890s who  urged the participation of women in parish government and the cause was advanced by the Women’s Local Government Society, an upper middle class, Liberal feminist organisation founded in1886.  An article in the Parish Councils’ journal in 1896 entitled ‘Why women are needed as Parish Councillors’ expressed the view that ‘a capable woman, who manages her home well and economically, is just as able to help in the government of her village as her husband and quite as much needed’. The Women’s Co-operative guild reminded its members that they had a particular interest in Parish Council concerns – a proper water supply and sanitation, refuse disposal, and fencing of ponds dangerous to children.  It would be wrong to give the impression that women were strongly represented on Parish Councils.  It is reckoned that only 80 were returned at the first election (out of a total of some 57,000 councillors) although it might have been as high as 200.  One council in Sheffield elected a woman to the chair.  By 1935 women constituted only 3% of Parish Council members and a Dorset woman suggested that her likes were unpopular because they raised matters which protracted meetings until after closing time and the method of election by show of hands told against them.  In the post war years the National Federation of Women’s Institutes did much to encourage women to serve on Parish Councils and by 1966 13% of Parish Councillors were women.  The percentage continued to increase and by 1991 the proportion of female councillors had more than doubled to 27%.  Despite this increase the typical councillor remained a middle aged man.

Interest in the Parish Council never reached anything like the 1894 levels again and to illustrate this, the Alnwick & County Gazette in March 1899 reported that:-


‘The Annual Parish meeting for the election of Embleton Parish Councillors for the ensuing year was held in the Parish schoolroom on Saturday evening last week.  There were only fourteen persons present including the seven old members of the Council, but there was not one member of the respectable class of citizens of the parish present, neither lay nor clerical – Mr John Johnson, mason, was unanimously voted to the Chair.  The number of Councillors required was seven.  Only seven nomination papers were sent in, most of them being signed by Messrs J. Penny and R. Lillie, quarry employees, and found all correct.  As these consisted of
the names of the whole of the old members and no other nominations were forthcoming, the Chairman formally declared the whole of the old members again duly elected for another year.  Questions having been invited, Mr Robert Sanderson asked the old Councillors to give an account of the amount of work done by them during the past year, which they refused to do, one of the old members simply saying that they had made a new footpath in lieu of the old one taken away by the working of the quarry.  He next asked them if they intended to take the necessary steps for improving the water supply at the Blue Row but was ruled out of order and was informed that he must submit his question in writing and not verbally.’

Between 1894 and 1972, when the present basic Local Government Act came into being, there were many difficulties encountered and, despite the impression given by the Vicar of Dibley series, much has changed.  The statutory function of Parish Councils is almost exclusively powers, not duties.  The only remaining obligation is to provide allotment gardens if demand is unsatisfied.  Parish Councils are now closely regulated and the amount of administrational bureaucracy and red tape has increased exponentially.

There are currently more than 8500 Parish Councils in England but not every civil parish has a Parish Council – smaller ones (typically with an electorate under 200) may share a Council with one or more neighbouring parishes, such an arrangement being known as a joint,  grouped, common or combined Parish Council.