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North Mymms Parish Council explained
By Councillor Bob Horrocks
former chairman of North Mymms Parish Council (NMPC)

Councillor Bob Horrocks, Chairman of North Mymms Parish Council
Councillor Bob Horrocks, former chairman of North Mymms Parish Council
Camera courtesy of Fujifilm

There are about 8,350 parish councils in England. Most of them were established in 1894 by an Act of Parliament which created civil parishes separated from the church. They vary in size, with annual spends ranging from less than £1,000 to £4m.

North Mymms parish is the largest in Hertfordshire with a precept for 2003/4 of £143,100. The precept is part of your council tax and is our main source of income. Other income is derived from hiring out the bowling green, football fields, etc.

Parish councils have legal powers as defined in various acts of parliament, but they have fewer duties than district councils and greater freedom to choose what actions to take.

They represent the interests of the local communities and seek to improve the quality of life and local environment, influencing decisions and delivering services to meet local needs.

Parish councillors must never use their appointment to secure advantage for themselves or their family or friends. Nor must they do anything to bring the council into disrepute. Parish councillors are not paid for their parish council activities.

North Mymms Parish Council (NMPC)

North Mymms parish includes Brookmans Park, Welham Green, Bell Bar, and parts of Little Heath and Colney Heath. There are ten councillors, with four of them representing Brookmans Park ward, four representing Welham Green ward, and two representing Little Heath ward.

The full council meets at 8pm on the last Wednesday of each month, except August and December. These meetings are open to the public. There are five committees. The main ones are Finance, which meets at 7.15pm before the full council meeting, and the Planning and Amenities committees, which meet as necessary, usually part way through the month.

At least one councillor represents NMPC on committees of other bodies, such as the North Mymms Memorial Hall and the NM Youth & Community Centre.

NMPC employs a full-time Clerk, who has part-time help, and three groundsmen. The groundsmen tend the recreation grounds at Hawkshead Road in Little Heath, Gobions and Moffats Open Spaces, and Dellsome Lane in Welham Green. The grounds at Welham Green include a bowling green, football pitches, and the Burns Pavilion, and all contain children’s play areas. The groundsmen also tend the village greens at Brookmans Park and Welham Green and the land at the War Memorial, North Mymms Park. The council owns these areas of land together with some allotments, two bungalows, and the council office.

Who is eligible to be a parish councillor?

You must be over 21 years old and a British national, or citizen of the Commonwealth or European Union. You must have been living in the parish or within five kilometres (three miles) of it for at least a year. You cannot be employed by NMPC.

How to become a candidate for election

Contact the Returning Officer at Welwyn Hatfield Council, Council Offices, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6AE, who will advise you on the procedures. If you are a member of a political party, that party could propose you, or you could stand as an independent. If a vacancy occurs between elections, notices will appear on parish notice boards asking if the electorate want a by-election. If none is wanted, the council can co-opt someone from a list of volunteers.

After you are elected, or co-opted

When you attend your first council meeting you will receive various items of information such as:

  • A schedule of meetings for the year
  • ‘Standing Orders’, defining how NMPC conducts its business.
  • The council’s financial regulations, including its budget
  • The ‘Standards of Conduct’ defined by Parliament and adopted by NMPC
  • Contact details of councillors and the Clerk.
You must sign a register of declarations of acceptance of office of councillor. You must also complete and sign a declaration of any significant interests you have in the parish (not outside), such as any property and business you own which is located in the parish and certain shareholdings. Because these interests might affect your decisions as a councillor, you may have to leave the room or abstain from debating any decisions relating to that interest, for example, a planning application for your property.

You may be invited to join one or more of the committees, as listed above, avoiding any conflict of interest. For example, you cannot be on the NMPC planning committee if you are also on Welwyn Hatfield Council’s Planning Control Committee. Similarly, you cannot be employed by NMPC since you cannot be an employer and employee.

A useful source of information is the ‘Good councillor’s guide’. It is available on the internet on www.nalc.gov.uk. Amongst other things, this 2003-issued booklet sets out the legal powers of a parish council. They range over such items as:

  • Allotments
  • Burial grounds and cemeteries
  • Bus shelters
  • Byelaws
  • Charities
  • Christmas lights
  • Citizens Advice Bureaux
  • Clocks
  • Commons and common pastures
  • Community centres
  • Crime prevention
  • Drainage
  • Entertainment and the arts
  • Gifts
  • Highways
  • Investments
  • Land
  • Litter
  • Lotteries
  • Newsletters
  • Open spaces
  • Public conveniences
  • Recreation
  • Town and country planning
  • Traffic calming
  • Transport
  • War memorials
  • Water supply
Summary

As a councillor you can make a difference in the parish. The council is made up of local people who have a genuine interest in their neighbourhood. A parish council is the first rung of local government and is, therefore, closest to local residents. By giving a little of your spare time you will receive back much more. You may be surprised at the truth behind this rather hackneyed expression.

North Mymms Parish Council

The Council office, Annexe to no. 1 bungalow, Bushwood Close, off Dellsome Lane, Welham Green, near Hatfield, Herts AL9 7TZ. Telephone 01707 268418.

November, 2004


Bob Horrocks is a former chairman of North Mymms Parish Council (NMPC) and the Honorary Secretary of the Green Belt Society North Mymms District Green Belt Society (NMDGBS). He is a regular contributor to this site's news pages, submitting articles and photographs about the activities of NMPC and NMDGBS. Bob also posts to this site's community forum, instigating discussions on local concerns and answers queries about NMPC and NMDGBS issues. Bob lives in the parish and is involved in several community initiatives. He contributed this feature when he was serving as chairman of North Mymms Parish Council because the site lacked a definitive article about the workings of the parish council.

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