The parish council (PC) is the first tier of local government sitting below the District Council. On one side the PC maintains close links with District and County councillors as well as other bodies such as the Highways Dept. and the Safer Neighbourhood Team which is our Police officers and PCSOs. On the other side is our community, including the councillors themselves, who are all unpaid volunteers. The Parish Clerk is salaried and has a formal role as secretary of the PC. We also have a salaried Responsible Finance Officer (RFO). Enquiries connected with the PC should be channelled through the clerk in the first instance.
Funding for the work of the PC largely comes from a small slice of the council tax, called the precept, which is allocated each year. This can be topped up from time to time by special grants or payments made by District or County councillors for particular purposes. There are also one or two other sources of income though these are modest!
There are a variety of tasks around the parish which are the responsibility of the PC. Both the village green at Benhall and the adjacent area known as The Wadd are the property of Benhall Estate but managed, day to day, by the PC. Councillor responsibilities include arranging for grass cutting and weed clearance, maintenance of the boardwalk in The Wadd and safety inspections and work on the trees. The village green is cut periodically and the play equipment receives a RoSPA safety inspection each year which is supplemented by regular inspections and work by the PC team. Benhall cemetery is also the responsibility of the PC and has to be kept tidy and gravestones inspected for safety. The PC liaise with funeral directors to authorise burials and collect fees and also deal with plot reservations.
Members of the PC also deal with all parish planning applications. Many of these are routine but some require consultation within the community and may require a public meeting for discussion. Other PC members operate the parish Emergency Scheme and Neighbourhood Watch. Members also attend relevant meetings relating to local schemes and important issues such as developments with Sizewell C, The Layers and the proposed electricity sub-station at Friston.
From time to time local residents raise issues relating to items such as car parking and road safety and these are discussed by the PC and action taken where appropriate. For example, Highways Dept have been consulted on improvements to road safety at Benhall School and funding has been obtained for a speed indicator (SID) which can be mounted at strategic locations and are a common sight in local villages.
Individual councillors have roles relating to the tasks listed above and report back at each meeting. In addition, when other issues have to be addressed, they are allocated to councillors with an interest in the issue or who are willing to take it on. This often involves councillors entering into correspondance with parishioners, local government or suppliers and may involve meetings during the day or in the evening.
The Parish Council meet every other month and the meetings are held in the meeting room at Benhall Club and are public meetings, open to all. Immediately before the formal meetings start there is an open session where members of the public can raise issues and make comments. Notices of PC meetings and the agendas are published on the village website, Facebook and Twitter and are posted on the parish noticeboards.