It struck me that some readers may have thoughts on what the Parish Council is and what it does etc.  I have therefore anticipated some of the questions (and a few more besides) and hopefully provide some of the answers - in consultation with the council of course.

This text is the result of over seven years experience as a councillor in the past and continual contact with the council.
 

This page is NOT meant to be the definitive answer to EVERY likely question.  It is meant to give a general idea.

It is all my own work.
  It is not an official parish council document!


If YOU have a specific question, of a more specific nature, either EMAIL the council and they will reply OR attend a council meeting and use the PUBLIC QUESTION TIME slot to voice your concern. OR you may find the answer in the council's minutes of meetings (on this web site).
 

At the bottom of the page is an opportunity for YOU to put a question to the council.


Mike Lyons (website editor).

 

Last updated May 2017

Where is the parish of Box
The Parish of Box in the county of Wiltshire covers an area of over 7 square miles and as well the village of Box itself, it embraces several smaller communities including Ashley, Ditteridge, Kingsdown, Rudloe and Wadswick.   It is located about 5 miles east of Bath & 6 miles west of Chippenham.  The A4 road from London to Bath & Bristol passes right through the village.
Is it big
Fairly.  Compared with most parishes it is quite large - surface area wise
What's its claim to fame
It is in an area known for its fine stone. Box quarries were famous for their stone for centuries. Today Box is best-known for its Brunel-designed Box railway tunnel.
Occupation in Box dates back at least to Roman times.  There is a large Roman villa buried under domestic gardens in the middle of the village.
Back to the parish council .  How many councillors are there
Fifteen
Seems a lot, do you need that many.
We have no choice, that number of councillors is set in law.
Ok - so how do they get the job
Parish councillors are elected by the residents of the parish every time there is a local election, normally every four years . The most recent was 2017.  As well as the ballot paper you get for electing Wiltshire councillors (it's a Wiltshire UNITARY rather than a county council - so there is no DISTRICT council), parishioners will also be given a voting slip for the parish council
So it gets competitive does it
Regrettably no.  At some elections, there aren't even enough candidates (15) putting themselves up.  So in fact no election is actually held.  In which case, all those who put their names forward are elected unopposed.
Can anybody become a candidate
No.  There are qualifications,  To qualify as a candidate a person must satisfy the following criteria on both the day they are nominated and on polling day:

They must be 18 years of age and be a Commonwealth citizen, citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a citizen of another Member State of the European Union

A candidate must also meet a least one of the following four criteria on the day they are nominated and on polling day:

  1. Be registered as a local government elector within the Parish; or
  2. Have occupied as owner or tenant any land of other premises during the whole of the previous 12 months within the parish; or
  3. His/her principal or only place of work during the whole of the previous 12 months has been within the parish; or
  4. Have resided in the parish for the whole of the previous 12 months or within 4.8 kilometres (3 miles) of it.

Nomination papers must be signed by a proposer and seconder who must both be local government electors for the parish. No deposit is required at local government elections.

There are also a number of things that can DISQUALIFY you as well !!

Rather than take up a lot of room here, go the ELECTORAL COMMISSION'S
website via this link  < HERE >.  This is a PDF file issued by them.

So do the political parties put up candidates. 
Box Parish Council does not work along political lines.  It considers itself  'non-political'.  Some candidates do put their political allegiance on the ballot paper however, or perhaps that they are a governor of the local school or member of the bowls club!

If someone thinks they can join the council on a personal crusade, or with a private agenda, they can forget it; the parish council is a team effort.  And a diverse team at that...... (Unless they can convince the other 14 members of the merits of their argument ! )

OK.  So what if one of these councillors wants to leave the parish council before the next local election, or dies for instance. 
Well if that happens, what's known as a 'casual vacancy' occurs.  In this case an official public notice is posted around the parish and on this website, asking the electorate if they want to hold an election.  If ten parishioners request it, then a proper by-election has to be held to fill the vacancy.  But bizarrely, they don't have to put forward a candidate !
Does that happen often and what if the locals aren't interested
If no election is called for within the prescribed period, then the vacancy is advertised again and qualified people submit their details to the council and ask to be considered for the vacancy.  This method of filling it is called 'co-option'.
So what happens in those circumstances
In that case, at a convenient full council meeting, the parish clerk reads out the C.V.s of the prospective councillors, no discussion takes place, then the incumbent councillors hold a secret vote on who they want to join the council.  The candidate with most votes is asked to join the council.
However, it has happened that a solitary candidate is rejected, and the vacancy is re-advertised.
So you've got your fifteen volunteers, where do they do the business of running the parish
Box Parish Council owns a building situated in a road called The Parade, in the centre of the village.  There is an office and a 'chamber' where the meetings are held
So how many meetings are there exactly
There is too much work and responsibility for an occasional meeting.  All the councillors gather in the chamber on the last Thursday of every month for what's called the 'full' council meeting
That's not very onerous is it !
Ah, but that is not all.  As has been mentioned earlier, it is a very busy parish, so most of the work and organising is done by various committees.  There are five of those.  Each councillor sits on two or three of these committees.  These meetings are held in the evening, mostly on a Monday.
< see details of dates >.  Most councillors have to attend a meeting on average once a week
So - a couple of hours a week I suppose
Well, not really.  Going to meetings isn't all they have to do.  Chairman of committees particularly have to devote some time to the responsibilities of the committee.  Individual members are sometimes given 'little jobs'  to do - like preparing reports and proposals; doing some research on various topics or inspecting property if their committee has a responsibility for it. 

Whilst it is not exactly mandatory, it is hoped that councillors maintain a good attendance record, subject to sickness and the occasional holiday!  It cannot be emphasised enough that attendance at meetings is very important. If too many councillors miss too many meetings it can affect the efficiency of the council and is unfair on the rest.  The member also risks not being 'up-to-date' on what's going on.  Discussions take place between the clerk and councillors (especially committee chairmen) all the time and this makes the committee meetings more efficient as there is then a greater understanding of the topics being debated. 

However, only at meetings can a councillor have his or her say to influence decisions.

The parish council is NOT some local community group or 'knitting circle'.  It is a legal entity.  All new councillors are required to attend a course where the situation is explained and they are informed of their responsibilities and legal procedures.  It cannot be emphasised enough that councillors need to put time and effort into their spell on the council.

From time to time people join the council without realising what it is all about.  This can lead to disillusionment and disruption.  Research by a prospective councillor on the way the council operates can avoid this.

So it's getting busier all the time then.  So how much do the councillors earn annually for the time they put in
NOTHING!
In fact it is true to say that they will be 'out of pocket', what with phone calls, petrol and the like.
Ok.  So they can make it up in expenses then, meetings attendance allowance  etc. (wink - wink!)
NO.  There are no expenses either!  Well, that is not entirely true.  If they travel outside the parish on council business, they can claim mileage.  But that is rarely claimed.  The chairman and vice-chairman are allowed a small sum because of the increased responsibilities and more running about.
How is the 'day-to-day' work managed
There is a salaried clerk who works in the office for four mornings a week AND of course has to attend EVERY committee meeting to take notes and minutes and advise the councillors.  She does all the administrative work, manages the budget, supervises the staff and keeps the machine well oiled and running smoothly.  But ultimately the councillors bear the final responsibility.
Anybody else
Yes.  There is a full time 'Open Spaces Manager' who looks after the recreation ground and other bits of land the council owns.  There are other jobs as well - like dealing with the flowers in the various beds and planters scattered around the parish.
Just to mow the grass
No.  The large recreation ground has a football pitch, bowls green, tennis courts, basketball court, children's' playground, public toilet etc. etc.  The pitch has to be marked out and prepared for use.  The cricket 'square' is maintained by the cricket club itself although the 'outfield' is down to the groundsman. The bowls green is managed by a specialised contractor who is paid by the council.  (The club pays a part of this expense through their 'rent' of the rink).  The basketball and tennis courts are renovated occasionally, as and when required, by contractors.  They also mark it out etc.  However, our groundsman still has to sweep them out and tidy them up on a regular basis.  Any minor damage to these facilities is repaired by the council's own staff.  There are two areas on the recreation ground set aside as children's' playgrounds.  One is for the older ones. The other one is for 'under 7s', and is fenced off with a gate.  The play equipment is owned and maintained by the council; but safety-checked every year by RoSPA. (who send the council a bill !)

 
The council seems to have a lot of property to look after.  What's the situation in the area known as Box Hill Common?   Is it funded by the council or is there volunteer help?
Although it is called a 'common', it is not 'common land' in the legal sense.  It does not "belong to the people" per se. The first record of the common dates back to the early 1600s when it belonged to the Hazelbury Manor estate. In 1978 the land was bought  from the owner George Lacy by the parish council.  They manage it on behalf of the people of Box. The common is now mainly used for recreation and nature study. The council asks people to help to preserve it for future generations by not damaging or picking the plants and leaving no litter.  Some of the maintenance (grass mowing etc) is carried out by contractors (paid for out of the council's budget), the council's own staff and some is done by volunteers on 'working parties'.
OK.  Anybody else on the payroll
Yes.  The council also owns and runs a large cemetery.  This is maintained and administered by a combination of our own staff and contractors.

The council employs a part time 'Cleansing Manager' who keeps our pavements clean as well as tidying up various parts of the parish, emptying our rubbish bins for instance.
So what do these guys do
Well, maintaining some of the numerous footpaths in the parish.  Mending the occasional broken down wall or repairing damaged fences.  Mending leaking taps and so on.  They are very useful.  For instance in the winter of 2010/11 they spent hours gritting and clearing the snow off the busier pavements. This was much appreciated by those walking around the village. They have recently finished removing over 20 years worth of flaky paint from the grade 2 listed cemetery gates and re-painting them.
This is looking like a small business. How is it financed
From the rates.  Every year the parish council works out what it thinks it is going to need to provide its services to the parish.  Some are required by statute, but most are NOT. ALL will be for the benefit and enjoyment of its residents.  These estimates are discussed fiercely, every attempt is made to keep it to a minimum.  Once the amount has been decided on, the figure is forwarded to Wiltshire Council to include in their rates demand.   Once the rates have been collected by them, the relevant amount (called a precept) is sent to the parish council for that financial year
They can ask for what they want then, subject to government guidelines
Yes and No.  The parish council can ask for whatever amount they want.  Central and local government have no say in the matter.  However, there is a proviso that the council has to justify that figure.  In reality the budget is discussed at great length and the opinion of the council is that every pound they spend is scrutinised most carefully.  Not just that the expenditure is justified, but is also good value for money and benefits the whole community.  They also try to anticipate large future expenditures and aim to build up a 'pot' for it, year by year.
So I suppose it helps pay for the party every Christmas
No, afraid not.  Actually the councillors are very sensitive about being seen as spending rate-payers' money on such things.  Items like a 'get well' card for a sick member of staff or councillor; or perhaps a small gift, present or bunch of flowers for someone who may have given some sort of special free service to the council are paid for by money out of a special 'kitty' called the 'Chairman's Fund'.  Councillors regularly chip in to this fund out of their own pockets on a purely voluntary basis.
No gravy train here by the sound of it. 

How does the parish council communicate
All the current batch of members are on the internet and emails fly around a lot.  Without these it would be much more difficult for the councillors and staff to get anything organised.

The public can look at the notice boards situated around the parish and of course there is this website.
All decided in cosy little groups I expect
No.  All the meetings, both Full Council AND the committee meetings are well advertised and the public are more than welcome to sit in on them.  In fact every meeting has a 'Public Question Time' slot at the beginning of every meeting where anyone can address the council with a speech or question on matters which concern them.

The parish clerk and all the councillors are all happy to speak to anyone that has something to say.  The phone numbers can be found on this website < HERE > and < HERE >