About your Parish Council - what we do
The stunning 40 mile view over the top of the Devil's Kneading Trough across the High Weald to Fairlight Cove, Sussex. The Devil's Kneading Trough is within the Wye National Nature Reserve, and Kent Downs AONB.
Working for Wye - past present and future
Wye with Hinxhill Parish Council works at the centre of the community that it exists to serve. Councillors have no party-political affiliations, and being free from party political control they are independent, and able therefore to think, agree and work together for the benefit of the parish and wellbeing of its residents.
Some of the Council's functions are highly visible and have a direct impact on the appearance of the village and residents' quality of life, but other aspects of the Council's work are much less obvious. All Council and committee meetings are open to the public. Parish residents, the public and press have a standing invitation to attend these meetings, and are welcome to speak during the public open session, usually at the start of each meeting. In a typical year (if such a thing exists), the Parish Council and its committees will meet about thirty times, so there are plenty of opportunities for public engagement.
What does Wye Parish Council do?
Wye with Hinxhill Parish Council also supports other bodies that provide facilities and services for community benefit. For example, the Parish Council is the custodian trustee of the Wye Village Hall and the Recreation Ground. As such the Parish Council holds the deeds of all the land and buildings in trust under the Public Trustee Act 1906. This Act places a duty on the Parish Council to assist the managing trustees of the Wye Village Hall and Recreation Ground Charity. The Parish Council appoints two councillors as trustees to provide liaison, and also appoints trustees to the Wye Almshouse Charity and the School Foundation, also known as the Lady Joanna Thornhill School Foundation.
The Devil's Kneading Trough in winter (see cattle for scale). Wye and Crundale Downs NNR, is also designated as a Special Area of Conservation for its international importance as a priority habitat. Natural England manages the NNR for its 'important assemblage of rare, scarce and uncommon orchids' and its '86 nationally rare or scarce' invertebrate species, which includes 24 nationally scarce moths and butterflies.
How we 'get things done'
Parish councillors act together in the local interest to improve the local environment, initiate and lead projects, and get things done about the matters that people really need and notice - and care about.
These local environmental matters include public open spaces, footpaths, litter, village halls, the burial ground and churchyards, allotments, shelters, seats, signs and public events. The Parish Council now owns and manages public open spaces like Churchfield Green and the public WCs, and provides financial support for the Wye Village Hall charity by managing the Taynters Field Recreation Ground and maintaining the play equipment under licence.
In 2015 the Parish Council dedicated Churchfield Green for protection in perpetuity as a Centenary Field This public open space forms a permanent memorial to the WW1 casualties who served in the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force and flew from Wye Aerodrome. Seven of these casualties are buried in Wye churchyard.
In 2018 the Parish Council took on a fixed rate loan of £100,000 from the Public Works Loan Board to enable the Wye Village Hall charity to secure match funding and complete the refurbishment of the Large Village Hall and other works.
The Parish Council owns and manages Churchfield Green as a public open space for informal recreation. To ensure the future of Churchfield Green, the Parish Council has dedicated it as a Centenary Field in perpetuity, in memory of airmen who flew from Wye Aerodrome during World War I, and died in training nearby. The magnificent black walnut tree is about 70 years old and it is contemporary with the award-winning post-war public housing development in Abbots Walk, The Forstal and Churchfield Way.
Representing local interests
Councillors are also elected to represent local views, and apply local knowledge to influence decisions made by Ashford Borough Council, Kent County Council and other bodies. For example, decisions about planning, library closure, policing, the Community Warden service, speed, street lighting and parking restrictions, flood prevention and community resilience.
The Parish Council is also able to show leadership, mobilise, equip and insure volunteers, and raise external funding for projects of public benefit. Recent examples include the Jungle and MUGA projects, and the Our Place Wye programme. With volunteer help, the Parish Council secured over £130,000 in external funding for these projects.
Improving the quality of life for residents and visitors
Walkers on the North Downs Way National Trail passing through Wye churchyard on their way to Canterbury, via Dover.
The Parish Council maintains several public open spaces around Wye. These include the churchyard, allotments and burial ground, play areas, including the Recreation Ground and MUGA, and Churchfield Green, (but not The Green, beside the Latin School), the Jungle natural play area, and the public toilets by the Co-op.
The Council also undertakes street cleaning and litter picking, footpath clearing and other practical maintenance and seasonal tasks like sweeping leaves. The Council supports an increasing range of projects to benefit different groups, attract tourists, encourage jobs and balanced economic development.
You can find more details in the A to Z of Services. For further information about the Parish Council please contact the Clerk, who will be happy to give advice and assistance.
How the Parish Council functions
The Parish Council is a corporate body, established by Statute in 1894. The Council is constituted to have eleven councillors, who meet to make collective decisions, and a Clerk who acts on its behalf as the Council's officer. Parish councillors serve a four year term, but receive no payment whatsoever for their time. Presently, eight of the councillors are elected, and one is co-opted. There are two vacant seats open for co-option.
Wye's parish councillors:
- listen to and represent the views and concerns of parish residents;
- meet to make decisions, and act in the best interests of the community;
- deal with Ashford Borough Council, Kent County Council and other bodies;
- engage with residents and keep them informed about parish issues;
- are accountable to the parish electorate for their actions.
- Adapted from the Governance Toolkit for Parish and Town Councils (2009)
Councillors decide matters collectively and prioritise the nature of the work that the Council will undertake. They also decide how facilities and services will be provided, and set the annual budget and precept. Councillors have collective responsibility to ensure that public money is used wisely, and that the Council's financial management systems are sound. The Council must also maintain adequate reserves throughout the year, and be able to deliver the facilities and services that it has agreed to provide.
As soon as possible after they are elected each parish councillor must sign a Declaration of Acceptance, and give a written undertaking to observe the Council's Code of Conduct, before they take their seat. Parish councillors also have a duty to prepare for, attend and participate in Council meetings.
To be effective, each individual councillor must understand and able to balance the different needs of groups in the community (such as young and elderly people). Occasionally situations arise when there is a conflict of interests which requires sensitive judgement; for example, dog owners and the parents of young children might disagree about use of, say, Churchfield Green, which is now owned and managed by the Parish Council. Balancing views, and reaching difficult decisions in public meetings, in a fair, open and reasoned way, is a key part of the Council's purpose. In summary:
- Abide by the Kent Code of Conduct, and national rules about councillors' interests, (set down in the Localism Act 2011 and The Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012).
- attend meetings when summoned to do so by the Proper Officer (the Parish Clerk)
- consider, in advance of the meeting, the agenda and any related documents
- take part in meetings and consider all the relevant facts and issues on matters which require a decision, including the views of others expressed at the meeting
- take part in voting, and respect majority decisions
- represent the interests of the whole electorate of the parish, not just those people who voted for them.
Since 1999 the Parish Council's meeting agendas have included a public open session. Usually the agenda provides time for public contributions near the start of each meeting. This item enables members of the public to speak on any matters on the agenda, before councillors discuss them. Members of the public may also raise other issues with the Chairman's permission, but by law the Council may not discuss issues if they do not relate directly to an item on the published agenda. This law ensures that councillors and members of the public have at least three clear working days' notice of all the matters on each agenda item, and time to prepare and be ready to make decisions.
A public meeting organised by the Flood Working Group
How the Parish Council is structured - in a nutshell
The Parish Office is located at Unit 2B Briar Close, Bramble Lane, Wye TN25 5HB. All Council and Committee meetings where decisions are made are held in public. Only sensitive matters e.g. personnel, commercial contracts and legal advice are considered in closed session.
Parish Council meetings are normally held at 18.00 on the 1st Wednesday of each month. The agenda for these meetings are advertised at least three days in advance on the public notice boards and online. Please see the diary section for more information and to confirm the venue. Each meeting starts with a public open session.
When matters arise that require an urgent decision the Clerk may call an extraordinary meeting between the regular meeting dates. These extraordinary meetings are held in public and are advertised and managed in the same way as regular meetings.
Resources and General Purposes Committee meetings are normally held at 18.00 on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. The Resources and General Purposes Committee is responsible primarily for finance, planning, staffing, training and other resource matters, including the management of the Recreation Ground, children's play areas, churchyard, burial ground and allotments. Each meeting starts with a public open session.
The Staffing Committee meets when necessary to consider personnel matters e.g. appointments, pay and conditions, staff appraisals and recruitment. These matters are always considered in confidence in closed session.
The Planning Working Group is an informal discussion group that meets when needed, to discuss the more complex individual planning applications in detail. (Working groups are not constituted as a committee and therefore they do not have the power to make decisions. Instead working groups act in a purely advisory role, which enables councillors to gather technical information and input from architects, planners, surveyors and other building professionals, ecologists and other specialists. Working groups provide time and space for detailed discussions, and time to reflect and check facts before making recommendations to the Parish Council or Resources Committee).
The Finance Working Group meets during November, December and January to discuss options before the Parish Council meets to prepare and recommend a draft budget for the following financial year. The full Parish Council sets the budget and precept, usually in January.
The Parish Council formed the Flood Working Group in response to two severe surface water flooding incidents in 2018. The Group brings together residents with local knowledge, landowners and outside expertise, with the aim of reducing the risk of further incidents. Members are developing a plan that will enable a coordinated response to flood events . The Parish Council is affiliated to the National Flood Forum, a charity which supports communities and individuals at risk of flooding and helps flood action groups to develop innovative local solutions to local problems.
The Affordable Housing Working Group meets to review options and opportunities for local needs and affordable housing, and is working with English Rural Housing to identify potential sites for a local needs scheme.
The Community Transport Working Group meets to develop the Wye Flyer project. This aims to provide a parish-based minibus service and fill gaps in scheduled bus services. About 20% of the households in Wye have no access to a car. The Group is liaising with the Lady Joanna Thornhill primary school. The project aims to co-ordinate and balance the schedule between user groups and the primary school. This will enable teachers to have regular daytime access to Wye Flyer minibuses and lead whole class trips at times when the buses are not needed for community use.
The WYE3 Masterplan Working Group formed in 2016 to collaborate with Ashford Borough Council and Telereal Trillium to develop the WYE3 Masterplan. However, as Ashford Borough Council has not called a meeting since December 2017 this group is dormant.
The Wye Neighbourhood Plan Working Group completed its task in 2015 with the handing over of the submission draft to Ashford Borough Council. In 2019 the Parish Council formed a Neighbourhood Plan Review Working Group to gather evidence and prepare to update the adopted plan document.
The Wye Christmas Street Party Working Group organises this annual social event in Church Street. Since 2017 the funds raised are going towards speed reduction measures and safer streets for all ages.
The Wye Moves Working Group is in formation. The aim is to develop highways projects and consult on them during 2020 to make Wye a safer place to be and to move around, whether on foot, cycling or driving. The projects will be costed and form part of the Wye Highways Improvement Plan (HIP).
The Annual Parish Council Meeting (APCM) is normally held during May. This is a statutory meeting to elect a chair and vice-chair for the year, and to approve the membership of committees. The Parish Council also appoints members to serve as its representatives on outside bodies, such as the Kent Association of Local Councils, and Wye Village Design Group, and trustees to serve on the Wye Almshouse Charity, Childrens' Playing Field Charity, Lady Joanna Thornhill Trust and the Wye Village Hall and Recreation Ground Charity.
The Parish Council is an active member of the Kent Association of Local Councils, (KALC) which provides councillors and clerks with training, development and advice on technical and legal matters. KALC links Wye to the National Association of Local Councils (NALC). The national body represents the interests of approximately 9,800 town and parish councils across England and exists to influence government policy and frame legislation.
Council and Committee meetings are normally held in either the Small Village Hall, or Wye Methodist Church. If neither of these rooms are available then the Latin School is used for meetings.
Currently, the Council has two vacant seats, which are both open for co-option. Please contact the Clerk and parish councillors via the 'Contact us' page.
How we are accountable
When Parish Councillors take office they must sign the Code of Conduct, and undertake to disclose any pecuniary interests that either they or their spouses have that could affect their role as a Councillor.
In summary, the Localism Act 2011 requires councillors to disclose details of any employment, property ownership, contract or tenancies with the council, sponsorship, or shareholding.
Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI's) must be disclosed and registered within 28 days of election. If not already disclosed, a member must disclose a DPI at any meeting at which an item affecting a DPI is being considered. Any new DPI's must be disclosed to the Monitoring Officer within 28 days.
Councillors must not participate or vote in any discussion on any matter in which they have declared a DPI, unless prior dispensation permitting this has been provided. They will need to leave the meeting for the whole of the discussion on that item.
If, without reasonable excuse a councillor fails to comply with these rules, they may be found guilty of a criminal offence, and be liable to a maximum fine of £5,000 and be disqualified from office for up to five years.
A councillor may also declare an Other Significant Interest (OSI) if they have an interest that is significant, but not pecuniary. In this case they will be permitted to speak on the item, but will be required to leave the meeting for the vote.
The Register of Members' Interests is available online or in hard copy from the Clerk and the Monitoring Officer at Ashford Borough Council.
Code of Conduct
Adopted Kent Code of Conduct and Nolan Principles of Public Life
Standing Orders for Wye with Hinxhill Parish Council
Openness and transparency on personal interests a guide for councillors
Department for Communities and Local Government
ISBN: 978-1-4098--3604-9 | published September 2013
'This guide on personal interests gives basic practical information about how to be open and transparent about your personal interests. It is designed to help councillors, including parish councillors, now that new standards arrangements have been introduced by the Localism Act 2011.
The new standards arrangements that Parliament has put in place mean that it is largely for councils themselves to decide their own local rules. It is essential that there is confidence that councillors everywhere are putting the public interest first and are not benefiting their own financial affairs from being a councillor. Accordingly, within the new standards arrangements there are national rules about councillors' interests.
The national rules are in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011 and in the secondary legislation made under the Act, particularly in The Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012/1464).' Department for Communities and Local Government
Annual Parish Meeting
The Annual Parish Meeting (APM), which is not to be confused with the annual parish council meeting (APCM), is a statutory meeting for the electors of the parish. The APM is a separate legal entity to the Parish Council. Therefore the APM is NOT a Parish Council meeting. (Nor is it connected to the Parochial Church Council which must by law hold an annual parochial church meeting , and an annual vestry meeting). Even more confusingly, the Parish Council has a duty to call, publicise, chair and meet the cost of the annual parish meeting of electors.
By tradition in Wye, the APM is the occasion when the chairman of the Parish Council presents Annual Awards to individuals and groups for their contributions to the community and village life. In recent years the APM has become much less formal and is now a mainly social occasion.
Each spring the Parish Clerk invites local groups to write a short article to record their activities and achievements during the past year. The Parish Clerk then collates these articles and presents a printed annual report at the APM. This provides an archive and the collation of printed reports avoids the need for a series of verbal presentations. As Wye is a very active community this annual meeting format used to take hours! The informal approach is proving much more popular with residents.
By law, the APM must be held each year between 1st March and 1st June, and it may not start before 18.00, but the law permits the format and agenda to be matters for local choice.
Could you become a parish councillor in 2019?
Have you ever considered becoming a Parish Councillor? Now is always a good time to give the question some thought.
The Parish Council's term of office lasts four years. The most recent Local Government Elections were held Thursday 2nd May 2019. This was also the election day for all Ashford Borough Council seats. In 2105 the parish and borough elections coincided with the general election for Parliament. The next election for all parish and borough seats will be held in May 2023.
For further information please read the leaflet 'It takes all sorts' and contact the Parish Office. Wye Village Hall serves as the polling station for all elections.
If you are considering standing as a candidate at a parish council election, you can download independent Electoral Commission guidance and resources here.
Making a difference
"...Everyone who's part of a community benefits from the input of other people to that community.
It makes sense for everyone therefore to do their bit and contribute; if everyone sat back and let 'other people' do it, we'd soon have no community organisations of any kind - voluntary, cultural, sporting, youth, or local government.
And that's not even starting on the challenges one can meet, the things one can learn from such involvement, or the immense satisfaction one gains from being part of something that makes a difference in one's community..."
Cllr Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn, Wroughton Parish Council