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 268 parishes covering the whole county, except Barrow town and Walney and the central urban area of the City of Carlisle. In 2015, both Penrith and Whitehaven elected to create new civil parishes, which will be known as Town Councils. Of these 268 parishes, 233 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.
In 2015, the Local Council Award Scheme was introduced to replace the Quality Parish and Town Council award scheme. The new scheme has been designed to celebrate the successes of the very best parish councils, and to provide a framework to support all parish councils to improve and develop to meet their full potential.