Parishes are the smallest areas of civil administration in England and their Town and Parish Councils provide the statutory tier of local government closest to the people. (Civil parishes should not be confused with Church of England ecclesiastical parishes and their Parochial Church Councils.)
Within Cumbria there are 266 parishes covering the whole county, except Barrow town and Walney, Whitehaven town, Penrith town and the central urban area of the City of Carlisle. Of these 266 parishes, 231 are served by a Town or Parish Council that is elected every four years and the remainder have a Parish Meeting that is required to meet at least twice a year. In Cumbria there are three tiers of local government - the County Council, District/Borough Councils and Town/Parish Councils and Parish Meetings.
Town and Parish Councils are an essential part of the structure of local democracy and have a vital role in acting on behalf of the communities they represent.
Town and Parish Councils have a wide range of legal duties and powers, such as the maintenance of community buildings and land and much more. They have the power to raise money through the local council tax.
The Government introduced the Quality Council Scheme in 2003. Quality Councils, tested for efficiency, good organisation and active involvement with their communities, should be given a greater say in how services are delivered in their area and the opportunity to take on some of the services currently provided by other tiers of local government.