Parish Councils have a wide range of powers and but very few duties.


A duty is an activity that must be carried out (Mandatory) e.g. local councils must appoint a chairman and a clerk.


Statutory powers, granted by Parliament give local councils the choice or opportunity to take action and are therefore discretionary.

The powers which have been vested in Parish, Town and Community Councils by Acts of Parliament are summarised below as a guide to Councillors and others. Each description is brief and is intended to be a general indication. It is not a complete list of every single power and duty.

Like all powers given to public bodies the powers of local councils are defined in detail in legislation and these details may include a requirement to obtain the consent of another body (for example the approval of the County Council to the provision of a car park).

Local Councils must exercise their powers also subject to the provisions of the general law (for example planning permission is necessary for a sports pavilion).

Table of details

The following table describes the powers and duties held by local councils for a number of functions. It also provides details of the regulations under which statutory provisions are made. Information on all these details should be in the hands of the parish council Clerks.

Where a function is marked with an asterisk (*) a council also has the power to give financial assistance to another person or body performing the same function.

FunctionPowers and DutiesStatutory Provision
AccountsDuty to appoint a Responsible Financial Officer to manage the council’s accountsLocal Government Act (LGA) 1972, section 151
Acceptance of officeDuty to sign declaration of acceptance of office
(councillors and chairman)
LGA 1972, section 83
Agency arrangementsPower to arrange for the discharge of functions by another local authorityLGA 1972, section 101
AllotmentsPower to provide allotments duty to provide allotment gardens if demand existSmallholdings and Allotments Act 1908, subsections 23, 26 and 42
Baths and washhousesPower to provide public baths and washhousesPublic Health Act 1936, subsections 221-223, 227
BorrowingPower to borrow money for statutory functionsLGA 1972, Sch 13
Burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria*Power to acquire and maintainOpen Spaces Act 1906, subsections 9 and 10
Power to provideLGA 1972, section 214
Power to agree to maintain memorials and monumentsParish Councils and Burial Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970, s 1
Power to contribute to expenses of maintaining cemeteriesLGA1972, section 214(6)
Bus shelters*Power to provide and maintain bus sheltersLocal Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953, section 4
ByelawsPower to make byelaws for public walks and pleasure groundsPublic Health Act 1875, section 164
Cycle parksRoad Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 57(7)
Baths and WashhousesPublic Health Act, 1936, section 233
Open spaces and burial groundsOpen Spaces Act, 1906, section 15
CharitiesPower to appoint trustees of parochial charitiesCharities Act 1993, section 79
Christmas lightsPower to provide to attract visitorsLGA 1972, section 144
Citizens Advice BureauPower to supportLGA 1972, section 142
Clocks*Power to provide public clocksParish Councils Act 1957, section 2
Closed churchyardsPower (and sometimes duty) to maintainLGA 1972, section 215
Commons and common pasturesPowers in relation to enclosure, regulation and management, and providing common pastureInclosure Act 1845; Local Government Act 1894, section 8(4); Smallholdings and Allotments Act 1908, section 34
Community centresPower to provide and equip community buildingsLGA 1972, section 133
Power to provide buildings for use of clubs having athletic, social or educational objectivesLocal Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, section 19
Conference Facilities*Power to provide and encourage the use conference facilitiesLGA 1997, section 144
ConsultationRight to be consulted by principal councils if directed by Secretary of State (England) or by Welsh Assembly (Wales)Local Government and Rating Act 1997, section 21; LGA 1972, section 33A
Crime prevention*Power to spend money on various crime prevention measuresLocal Government and Rating Act 1997, section 31
DrainagePower to deal with ditches and pondsPublic Health Act 1936, section 260
Entertainment and the Arts*Provision of entertainment and support for the arts including festivals and celebrationsLGA 1972, section 145
FlagpolesPower to erect flagpoles in the highwaysHighways Act 1980, section 144
Free ResourcePower to incur expenditure not otherwise authorised on anything which in the council’s opinion is in the interests of the area or part of it or all or some of the inhabitantsLGA 1972, section 137
GiftsPower to accept giftsLGA 1972, section 139
HighwaysPower to maintain footpaths and bridlewaysHighways Act 1980, subsections 43 and 50
Power to light roads and public placesParish Councils Act 1957, section 3
Power to provide parking places for vehicles, bicycles and motor-cyclesRoad Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 57
Power to make a dedication agreement for a new highway or widening of an existing highwayHighways Act 1980, subsections 30 and 72
Right to veto application to magistrates court to stop up, divert or cease to maintain a public highwayHighways Act 1980, subsections 47 and 116
Power to complain to a local highway authority that a highway is unlawfully stopped up or obstructedHighways Act 1908, section 130
Power to plant trees etc. and maintain roadside vergesHighways Act 1980, section 96
Power to prosecute for unlawful ploughing of a footpath or bridlewayHighways Act 1980, section 134
Power to provide traffic signs and other noticesRoad Traffic Regulation Act, 1984, section 72
InterestsDuty to declare an interestLGA 1972, section 94
InvestmentsPower to participate in schemes of collective investmentTrustee Act 1961, section 11
LandPower to acquire land by agreement, to appropriate land and to dispose of landLGA 1972, subsections 124, 126 and 127
Power to acquire land by compulsory purchaseLGA 1972, section 125
Power to accept gifts of landLGA 1972, section 139
Power to obtain particulars of persons interested in landLocal Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, section 16
LightingPower to light roads and public placesParish Councils Act 1957, section .3 and Highways Act 1980, section 301
Litter*Power to provide litter bins in streets and public placesLitter Act 1983, subsections 5 and 6
LotteriesPower to promote lotteriesLotteries and Amusements Act 1976, section 7
MeetingsDuty to hold annual parish meetingLGA 1972, Schedule 12 paragraph 23
Duty to hold annual parish council meetingLGA 1972, Schedule 12 paragraph 7
Power to convene a parish meetingLGA 1972, Schedule 12 paragraph 14
Mortuaries and post-mortem roomsPower to provide mortuaries and post-mortem roomsPublic Health Act 1936, section 198
NewslettersPower to provide information relating to matters affecting local governmentLGA 1972, section 142
Nuisances*Power to deal with offensive ponds, ditches and guttersPublic Health Act 1936, section 260
Open SpacesPower to acquire and maintain open spacesPublic Health Act 1875, section 164
Open Spaces Act 1906, subsections 9, 10
Parish documentsPower to give directions as to custody of parish documentsLGA 1972, section 226
Parking facilitiesPower to provide parking places for motor vehicles and bicyclesRoad Traffic Regulation Act 1984, subsections 57 and 63
Parks and pleasure groundsPower to acquire land or to provide recreation grounds, public walks, pleasure grounds and open spaces and to manage and control themPublic Health Act 1875, section 164; LGA 1972 Schedule 14 paragraph 27; Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890 section 44
Public buildings and village hallsPower to provide buildings for offices and for public meetings and assembliesLGA 1972, section 133
Public conveniencesPower to provide public conveniencesPublic Health Act 1936, section 87
PublicityPower to provide information about matters affecting local governmentLGA 1972, section 142
RecordsPower to collect, exhibit and purchase local recordsLocal Government (Records) Act 1962, subsections 1 and 2
Recreation*Power to provide a wide range of recreational facilitiesOpen Spaces Act 1906, section 9-10, Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, section 19
Provision of boating poolsPublic Health Act 1961, section 54
Seats and shelters*Power to provide roadside seats and sheltersParish Councils Act 1957, section 1
Town and Country planningRight to be notified of planning applicationsTown and Country Planning Act 1990, paragraph 8 of Schedule 1; paragraph 2 of Schedule 1A (Wales)
Town statusPower to adopt town statusLGA 1972, subsections 245 and 245B
Tourism*Power to contribute to encouragement of TourismLGA 1972, section 144
Traffic calmingPower to contribute to the cost of traffic calming measuresHighways Act 1980, section 274A
Transport*Power to (a) establish car-sharing schemes; (b) make grants for bus services; (c) provide taxi-fare concessions; (d) investigate public transport, road use needs; (e) provide information about public transport servicesLocal Government and Rating Act 1997, section 26, Transport Act 1985, section 106A
Village signsPower to use decorative signs to inform visitorsLGA 1972, section 144
Village greens*Power to maintain, to make bylaws for and to prosecute for interference with village greensOpen Spaces Act 1906, section 15; Inclosure Act 1857, section 12; Commons Act 1876, section 29
Village Halls*(see Community centres and Public buildings)
War memorialsPower to maintain, repair and protect war memorialsWar Memorials (Local Authorities Powers) Act 1923, section 1 as extended by LGA 1948, section 133
Water supplyPower to utilise any well, spring or stream to provide facilities for obtaining water from themPublic Health Act 1936, section 125