Introduction to Orton Waterville Parish Council (OWPC)
The Parish of Orton Waterville consists of two parish wards:
- Waterville (12 members)
- Goldhay East (1 member)
The boundaries of Orton Waterville Parish do not coincide with those of the City Council ward called Orton Waterville, as the Parish Ward of Goldhay East is in the City Council Ward of Orton Longueville.
Elections are normally held in May every four years. If a vacancy occurs following an election or between elections, OWPC may co-opt a new member providing there is insufficient demand for a further election.
Note: Co-option – OWPC chooses someone from a list of volunteers.
OWPC is a corporate body with a legal existence of its own quite separate from that of its members. Its decisions are the responsibility of the whole body. OWPC 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.
OWPC is the lower tier of elected local government. The Peterborough City Council (PCC) is the principal authority and has a legal duty to deliver services such as education, town and country planning, environmental health and social services. OWPC has the legal power to take actions, but has fewer duties and greater freedom to choose what action to take. OWPC plays a vital part in representing the interests of the communities served; not least in ensuring the realisation of commitments from PCC, improving the quality of life and the local environment. Furthermore OWPC influences other decision makers and can, in many cases, deliver services to meet local needs. The OWPC can make a difference by making a unique response to the needs of the local community with a sensitivity that is more difficult for principal authorities to achieve.
The Council has declared itself to have the ‘Power of Competence’. The Council fulfils all of the conditions required to do this and, in making the declaration, confers upon itself much greater power to act in many more areas which are to the benefit of the community. The Power of Competence enables the Council to make any decision an individual may (legally, of course) make. The restrictions upon actions which were previously applied, by law, upon matters upon which the Council was allowed to act, are largely removed.
OWPC wants to improve the quality of life and the environment for people in the parish. Councils may do almost anything provided they act lawfully. Parish councils can offer funding, equipment and premises, to help others provide services. Giving grants to parish organisations that run child care, services for the elderly, arts activities, pond clearance or sport can improve the quality of parish life. The Council provides and manages allotments and has a burial ground for parish use.
OWPC has a number of assets for which it is responsible. Below is a list of those assets as at 1st September 2016.
OWPC receives copies of planning applications and has the right to express its views to the authority. Whilst the city council, as the planning authority, doesn’t have to agree with the parish view it must give consideration to it.
OWPC recommendations on a planning application must fit in with the local development framework (LDF); e.g. the local plan, otherwise they will be ignored. The planning authority must, by law, be guided by the statutory documents in the LDF.
Central to the decision making process are material considerations – issues that are, in law, material or relevant to a planning application. Such matters must be taken into account when making a recommendation on a planning application.
Material considerations include:- development plan documents in the LDF a site’s planning history (including earlier applications accessibility traffic roads and parking archaeology a parish plan or design statement area character and design impact human right of neighbours to enjoy their home without detrimental effect.
Below is the Council’s preferred procedure to be followed should any parishioner have a complaint about the services provided by OWPC. Note that there is a separate protocol for complaints about councillors which is shown on the ‘Your Councillors’ page.
Clerk of OWPC
The clerk is appointed and employed by the Parish Council. The current Clerk is Alison Brown. The clerk provides advice and administrative support, and takes action to implement council decisions. The clerk may have to act as a project manager, personnel director, public relations officer or finance administrator. The clerk is not just a secretary and is not at the beck and call of the chairman or other councillors; the clerk is answerable only to OWPC as a whole. The clerk is the proper officer of OWPC in law. Legally councils can agree to delegate decisions to clerks. Delegation must be formally agreed by the full council. The Clerk is the Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) of OWPC and is responsible for managing the OWPC finances. The clerk provides information upon which OWPC decides its budget for the next financial year, which runs from April 1st to March 31st each year.
The role of clerk is a salaried part time position.
Volunteers may also provide the Council with services and advice such as Pond Warden, Flood Warden and Tree Warden
OWPC meets on the last Wednesday of each month – except August – at the Orton Waterville Village Hall on Glebe Avenue at 7.00 pm. On occasions presentations are made to the council at the start of the meetings; on such occasions the main council meeting will commence at 7.30 pm.
The chair is in charge, and the clerk supports OWPC as it discusses business. Council meetings are formal events, not social occasions. They have a clear purpose – to make decisions – and are not just talking shops. Furthermore, they are public events; the press and public have a right to observe how OWPC operates. Exceptions are when sensitive issues are discussed (such as legal, contractual or personnel matters) and then the council can agree to exclude the press and public for just that item. OWPC usually makes its decisions in council. All councillors are expected to attend.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN OWPC MEETINGS
Members of the public are encouraged to attend meetings of OWPC to observe and speak during the Agenda item Public Forum. A time limit of 15 minutes is set aside for the Public Forum as stated in the current Standing Orders clause 3,f, however the chair can use their discretion to extend this period of time. Excepting during that Agenda item however the public observers have no right to interrupt the meeting in any way. The chair, however, has the discretion to temporarily close the meeting while a member of the public is invited to speak. The meeting must then formally re-commence prior to any further discussion amongst the councillors. The chair may choose to exercise this discretion but is not obliged to.
Immediately after a general Parish Council election or annually in May is the annual meeting of the OWPC at which a chair and vice chair for the year is elected and other appointments are made.
The ‘Annual Parish Meeting’ is not a council meeting. It is a meeting of the parish electors at which the chair of OWPC customarily gives a report on OWPC activities and local issues in the community can be debated. Electors can set the agenda. The chair of OWPC calls the Annual Parish Meeting and, if present, will chair it but it is parishioners that decide upon the matters to be discussed.
The most important source of income for OWPC is from the Precept. The Parish Council has the right to instruct the City Council to add this parish tax to the council tax for the parish. The precept is applied proportionally to council tax payers in the parish. OWPC decides the total amount required annually. There is also income from allotments and the burial ground.