At the ‘grass roots’ level are Town and Parish Councils including Alston Moor Parish Council. We have 15 Councillors representing three wards; Alston, Nenthead and Garrigill. there are eight Alston Councillors, four from Nenthead and three from Garrigill. The Council is also the sole trustee of Alston Town Hall and Councillors are trustees to the Fairhill Estate Charity. Although some Parish Councils have politically affiliated Councillors, this is unusual in Cumbria and has never been the case on Alston Moor – our Councillors are all independents. They are elected in May every fourth year, for a four year term. There is a tradition in Alston Moor that Councillors do not claim expenses, although limited expenses can be legally permitted for, for example, travel outside the Parish.
The Parish Council normally meets in Alston, Garrigill or Nenthead in the evening of the first Monday of the month, although bank holidays may upset this schedule. The agenda is posted on the website, on noticeboards and in the three post offices. The public is entitled, and very welcome, to attend meetings. There is always a slot on the agenda to address the Council briefly, to ask or answer any questions on any item on the agenda.
The Parish Council acts as a consultee and lobbying force with both the County and District Councils, putting forward the wishes and needs of the community. They also take a lead in pressing local interests in all aspects of life on Alston Moor. The proposal to close the hospital beds and setting up of the replacement local services have been major examples. However, in many less conspicuous ways, in exerting influence on all sorts of other bodies, the Parish Council acts as a spokesperson and torchbearer for the people of Alston Moor.
Eden District Council decide most of the planning matters in Alston Moor, although there are certain planning matters such as waste management and quarrying matters that are the responsibility of the County Council. The Parish Council is consulted by both authorities, and given the opportunity to comment. The final decision, however lies with the District or County.
The list of the Statutory Spending Powers of Parish Councils
gives examples of things that Parish Councils can do with legislation that provides the power to act and therefore to spend money on. Parish Councils may be granted an extension to these powers, the ‘General Power of Competence’ status, which enables them to carry out any activities an individual may legally do.
Local Authorities (County & District) raise their income through Council Tax, business rates, fees and charges and Central Government. Parish Councils receive no money from Central Government and receive no contribution from business rates. They are funded by levying a precept collected with the Council Tax paid by residents from the Parish.