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Community and town council election awareness 2017

Information about standing for election as a community or town councillor.

What are community and town councils?

Community and town councils are the most local level of government in Wales, existing in 735 communities in rural, small town, suburban and urban parts of the country. They are statutory authorities, with powers defined in legislation in relation to the provision of certain local services and amenities, and have a right to consultation in areas such as town and country planning. Community and town councils have the power to raise a precept, and are elected bodies, with members accountable to the public through the ballot box. Collectively, community and town councils in Wales engage some 8,000 individuals in voluntary service as councillors, and are responsible for managing an aggregate annual budget in excess of £40 million.

How many community and town councils are there in Wales and where are they based?

As at the end of September 2013, there are 735 community and town councils in Wales, collectively covering 96% of the nation’s land surface and approximately 70% of its population. The extent and number of community and town councils has remained largely stable over the last 25 years.

There is considerable diversity in the size and setting of community and town councils. The population served by community and town councils ranges from 179 (Ganllwyd, Gwynedd) to 45,145 (Barry, Vale of Glamorgan). More than two-thirds of community and town councils have populations of less than 2,500 people, according to the 2011 Census.

Where do Community and town councils get their funding and income from?

Community and town councils in Wales are responsible for spending over £40 million of public funds each year (of which £30 million is raised through the precept),41 an increase of around £15 million on the estimated position in 2002.42 They differ from other community groups and partnerships in being able to raise funds from taxation through a precept to council tax. This capacity brings with it responsibility for the sound and accountable management of finances..

The major source of funding for community councils is the precept. The aggregate precept set by community councils for 2013/14 totals over £30 million, but is heavily weighted by the higher precepts set by larger community councils. [The latest figure for 2016/17 is £36.4 million (BR1 data collection)]

What services do community and town councils provide?

All community and town councils provide services or amenities to local communities to some extent, however the nature, scale and range of services and amenities supported varies by the size and setting of councils. The most widely provided amenities reported to the 2010 Community and Town Councils Survey include noticeboards; seats and shelters; playing fields, parks and open spaces; village halls or community centres; war memorials; burial grounds; and street lighting, all of which are provided by more than a quarter of community and town councils.

Only signs and noticeboards are provided by a majority of community and town councils of all sizes. A majority of councils with populations above 1,000 people also provide seats and shelters, whilst playing fields and playgrounds are provided by a majority of councils serving populations of between 2,500 and 5,000 people, but not higher (possibly indicating that in larger settlements, playing fields and playgrounds are more commonly provided by principal authorities). A majority of large community and town councils with populations above 20,000 operate community centres. Larger community councils also tend to provide a wider range of amenities and services.

Guide to community and town councils

A guide to community and town councils and more information on the role of community and town councillors is available on the One Voice Wales website (external link).

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