Birch Parish Council
Birch Parish Council has seven councillors who are elected every four years to represent the Parish population. Those interested in serving on the Parish Council are particularly welcome to attend meetings and should contact the Clerk for further information. Vacancies sometimes do become available between election times. The Councillors elect their Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Council annually in May.
Parish Councillors give their services free of charge and receive no remuneration for representing the community. Parish Councillors are required by the Localism Act 2011 to register their pecuniary and other interests within 28 days of their election or appointment to office. Registers of Members' Interests are maintained by Colchester Borough Council and can be viewed on the Borough Council's website at https://colchester.cmis.uk.com/colchester/ParishCouncils.aspx
The Parish Clerk is the primary point of contact for the Council and all correspondence and queries relating to the business of the Council should generally be addressed to the Clerk.
Birch (Civil) Parish lies within the administrative area of the Borough of Colchester. Three Borough Councillors are elected to represent the Marks Tey and Layer Ward which includes the villages of Birch, Layer Breton, Layer Marney and Layer de la Haye. These Councillors are not members of Birch Parish Council but regularly attend Parish Council meetings to report on the progress of relevant local issues at Borough level and to acquaint themselves with the views of the Parish Council and local residents on such issues.
Elections and the Electoral Register
Elections of Parish Councillors are held every four years. If elections are contested, those resident in the parish are entitled to vote, subject to their names being on the Electoral Register. Colchester Borough Council has a policy of rolling registration and the Electoral Register is updated once a month. If you are new to the Parish you can register your name with the Borough Council at any time. You can obtain a voter registration form by telephoning the Borough Council's Elections Office on 508904 or 282235, or by downloading one from its website at www.colchester.gov.uk/elections.
What the Parish Council Does
In general the Council has the right of representation on planning matters, which includes all planning applications and structure plan proposals. The Council considers planning applications and submits its comments on these to the Planning Authority, Colchester Borough Council, who are responsible for making the decisions in such matters. The Parish Council also monitors the state of highways, signs, footpaths, bridleways and rights of way within the Parish and reports problems to Essex County Council's Highway Authority for action.
The Council has direct responsibility for maintaining:
- The children's play area located between Greenfields and Luard Way;
- Birch Memorial Hall in Birch Street which is owned by the Council and managed by a separate committee made up of local residents and at least one representatives of the Parish Council;
- The bus shelter in Birch Street and a similar structure at Hardy's Green;
- The Greens at Birch Street/Pudding Lane Junction and at Hardy's Green;
- Birch War Memorial in Birch Street;
- Emptying the bins at Birch play area and the bus shelter;
- Designated grassed areas within the Parish.
The main day to day activities of Birch Parish Council include:
- Setting the annual precept (local rate) to cover the Council's running costs. Annual production of accounts for public accountability;
- Liaison with the local police and Neighbourhood Watch on crime, security and traffic issues;
- Scrutiny and comment on planning applications within the parish, submitted to the local planning authority, Colchester Borough Council;
- Improve the environment, appearance and amenities within the village such as play equipment, and restoration work;
- Maintenance, repairs and improvements to parish facilities including recreational areas;
- Liaison with other local authorities on the maintenance, repair and improvement of highways, drainage, footpaths, public transport, street cleaning, conservation matters including trees and listed buildings, and environmental issues such as quarrying and waste recycling;
- Investigation and resolution of local problems and complaints received from the community;
- Councillors monitor the operation of the emptying of litter and dog-waste bins, fly tipping and specific litter problems within the community.
Meetings and Administration
The Council normally has a part-time Clerk to deal with all correspondence, take minutes, and execute Council decisions. Full Council meetings are held at Birch Memorial Village Hall generally on the first Tuesday in the month but this may vary as notified on the notice boards and website. There is no meeting in the month of August.
The meeting in May includes the annual Parish Meeting when the Council reports back to anyone who wishes to come and when the officers and committees are elected for the following year. The times and the agenda of all meetings are posted on the main Parish Notice Board in Birch Street and on this website.
Anyone who wishes to attend even part of a meeting will be most welcome, especially if the Parish Council is discussing an issue which affects them. The Chairman can invite members of the public to speak if they indicate that they would like to. Parishioners are welcome to attend any meeting, and time is made available for them to voice any concerns. Councillors may respond and ask questions but no decisions may be taken in this period. The public may not speak once the meeting proper has started. If the item they are concerned about appears on the agenda, their points will be taken into consideration while that item is discussed. The Borough Councillors try to attend each meeting as do representatives of Essex Police.
The Council will support local voluntary organisations through its Grant Scheme. Applications are considered annually by the Council, and should be submitted to the Parish Clerk no later than the end of September. On the Policy page of this site is the full text of the Council's Grants Policy.
The Parish Council receives a small percentage of the Council Tax collected by Colchester Borough Council by way of a precept tax on all house owners. Other income is obtained from a variety of community grant schemes.
Like all public bodies the Parish Council must prepare Accounts each Financial Year (1 April to 31 March), and these have to be independently audited.
The Parish Council's Policies & Procedures
Birch Parish Council has a number of established policies and procedures. The texts of these are reproduced in the Policy section.