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What Do Councils Do?

This page provides a breakdown of what responsibilities different tiers of councils have.

Local government

Local government touches the lives of everybody, every day. Councils deal with everything from schools to care of older people, from roads to rubbish, libraries and local planning.

What do councils do?

Councils work with local people and partners to agree and deliver on local priorities. They provide a wide range of services either directly, in partnership with others or by commissioning them from a third party. Councils are responsible for the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of their areas.

The Localism Act 2011 has given councils and communities more influence over the way their local area is managed. Councils provide more than 800 services to local communities. Most are mandatory, which means that by law the council must do them. Some mandatory functions are tightly controlled by central government, resulting in a similar level of service across the country. Other services are discretionary, which means the Council has discretion over the type and level of service it provides. They range from large economic regeneration projects right down to the removal of wasp nests.

How is local government organised?

Successive reorganisations of local government have created a complex and often baffling array of arrangements which vary from area to area. Much of England (including Ashford) has two tiers of local government – County Councils and District (or Borough) councils – with responsibility for services split between the two. Other areas have a single unitary authority responsible for all local services (e.g. Medway).

Two-tier areas

County councils provide services that cover the whole county, such as education, waste disposal and adult social care.

District councils (some are also known as borough or city councils) are smaller and provide local services such as refuse collection, environmental health, leisure facilities, housing and planning.

Town, parish and community councils

In most areas, including Ashford, the most local tier of local government is a town, parish or community council. They maintain some local amenities such as recreational areas, footpaths and cemeteries. The parish council is also consulted on highway and planning applications. A councillor may serve on one or more tiers of local government – so a county councillor may also be a district councillor and a parish councillor.

Each parish council can be very different and individual parishes and their parish council create individual community spirit.