Town councils in England and Wales provide the third, but most independent level of local government below county and district councils. They are responsible for managing town funds, liaison with district and county councils, providing and maintaining local amenities such as monuments, playing fields, footpaths and churchyards. Town councils may impose a limited local tax, or precept, which is collected on their behalf by the district council as part of the council tax. They may also administer local charities.
Town councillors have to live, work, occupy or own land within a 3-mile radius of their town and are elected every four years. They receive no pay for their services. The Town Clerk, who deals with all the administrative matters and acts as an adviser to the councillors, does receive a salary.
The Clerk is not allowed to vote at meetings, but is empowered to make certain decisions on the councillors’ behalf and also provides a vital link between the town council and other agencies or public bodies.
Town councils are publicly accountable and residents are entitled to attend all meetings, although some confidential matters may be discussed by councillors in private.
Of all local government bodies, it is town councils that are closest to the electorate and, therefore, have the greatest interest in local concerns. Although they have modest influence over district or county council decisions on issues such as planning, traffic problems or local public transport, they are able to pass on the opinions of their electorate and these can sometimes influence the decision-makers at a higher level. The Town Council is made up of a mayor and up to eleven councillors.