Pay Apply Report

Government guidance on parish councillor numbers, warding and electoral arrangements

Electoral Arrangements

The Local Government Act 1972 states that the ordinary year of elections for parish councils is every four years. However, where the election cycle for a district council is in thirds (as is the case in South Lakeland) the parish electoral cycle should be the same as the district cycle, so the elections can be combined and the costs shared between the parish council and the district council.

Parish wards

Some parishes are divided into wards for the purposes of elections. When considering wards, we must take into account the following:

  • if it would be impracticable or inconvenient to have a single election of councillors, given the number or distribution of electors within the parish
  • if it’s desirable for any area, or areas, of the parish to be separately represented on the council

Government guidance states that dividing parishes into wards may not be justified for largely rural areas based predominantly on a single centrally-located village. It may however, be appropriate for parishes which encompass several villages (each with separate identities) or where there has been urban overspill at the edge of a town and into a parish.

We're mindful of community identities in both rural and urban parishes (for example, urban parishes are possibly more likely to benefit from warding where community identity focuses on an area such as a housing estate). We'll endeavour to ensure that any warding arrangements reflect local circumstances, and are clearly and easily understood by the local electorate.

Ward elections should have merit. In addition to meeting the two tests given above, ward elections should also be in the interests of effective and local government and shouldn’t be a waste of parish resources.

Electorates for parish councils and meetings

We must follow the below guidance set in legislation when considering whether to create a parish council or parish meeting:

  • where there are 1,000 or more electors in the area, a parish council must be created. Electorates of this size can’t have a parish meeting
  • where there are 151 to 999 electors in the area, either a parish meeting or a parish council can be created
  • where there are less than 150 electors, the only option is a parish meeting. Electorates of this size can’t have a parish council

The number of councillors to be elected to a parish council

When considering the election of parish councillors, the Government’s advice is that each person’s vote should be of equal weight, so far as possible, having regard to other legitimate competing factors. This is an important democratic principle and will be taken into account during the review, along with current and historical factors.

Parish councils must not have less than five councillors, but there's no maximum number and there are no rules regarding the allocation of councillors where the parish is warded or grouped. However, parishes grouped under a common parish council must have at least one parish councillor.

Legislation does however state that we must have regard to the following factors when considering the number of councillors for a parish council:

  • the number of local government electors for the parish
  • any change in the number of electors likely to occur within five years of 24 July 2018, the date the Community Governance Review started
 Electorate Councillor allocation
Less than 500 5 to 8
510 to 2,500 6 to 12
2,501 to 10,000 9 to 16
10,001 to 20,000 13 to 27
Greater than 20,000 13 to 31

Electorate and councillor ratios for South Lakeland parishes in 2018, and predicted figures for 2023

According to Government guidance, each area should be considered on its own merits and that population, geography and the pattern of communities should be taken into account. We will pay particular attention to the existing levels of representation, the overall pattern of existing council sizes and the take-up of seats at elections. However, we acknowledge that there are exceptions to every ‘rule’ and each area will be considered individually.

The number of councillors to be elected to a parish ward or grouped parish

If one or more wards of a parish are over-represented, the residents of those wards (and their councillors) could be perceived as having more influence than others on the parish council. We wish to avoid this risk and we will therefore show the ratios of electors to councillors that would result from any proposals.

Although there’s nothing in legislation that states each parish councillor should represent approximately the same number of electors, we believe that it isn't in the interests of effective and convenient local government (for electors or councillors) to have parishes with significantly different numbers between their wards.

We’ll apply the same principle of equitability when considering the number of councillors to be elected to a common parish council by each parish within a grouping arrangement

The number and boundaries of Parish Wards

When considering the number and boundaries of any parish wards, we’ll take into account the criteria stated above, in particular the community identity and interests in an area. We’ll also consider if any links or ties may be broken by the changing ward boundaries or creating new ones.

Although the Government guidance is that district wards and county electoral divisions should not split an unwarded parish, and that no parish ward should be split by such a boundary, the relevant legal provisions don’t apply to reviews of parish electoral arrangements. However, we have been asked by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) to bear this in mind, and we will.

The naming of parish wards

With regard to the names of parish wards, we will endeavour to reflect existing local or historic place-names and will consider any ward names proposed by local interested parties.

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