A parish council is a civil local authority found in England and is the lowest, or first, tier of local government. They are elected corporate bodies, have variable tax raising powers, and are responsible for areas known as civil parishes, serving in total 16 million people. A parish council serving a town may be called a council, and a parish council serving a city is styled a city council. Parish and town councils vary enormously in size, activities and circumstances, most of them are small, around 80% represent populations of less than 2,500. Civil parish councils should not be confused with Parochial church councils which administer parishes of the Church of England, Civil parish councils, which can be called Community councils should not be confused with Rural community councils which engage in rural development work. There are 9,000 local councils in England, over 16 million people live in communities served by local councils, which is around 25% of the population, and about 80,000 councillors serve on these councils. It is calculated £1 billion is invested in these communities every year, Local councils work to improve community well-being and provide better services at a local level. Their activities fall into three categories, representing the local community, delivering services to meet local needs, and improving quality of life. These existing powers were strengthened by powers contained in the Localism Act including the extension of the General Power of Competence to eligible local councils. Not every civil parish has a council, smaller ones—typically those with an electorate of fewer than 200—have parish meetings instead. Parish councils are funded by levying a precept collected with the tax paid by the residents of the parish. Parish councils have unpaid councillors who are elected to serve for four years, the powers and duties of parish councils are described below. Parish councils have the power to precept their residents to support their operations, although there is no limit to the amount that can be precepted, the money can only be raised for a limited number of purposes, defined in the 1894 Act and subsequent legislation. The General Power of Competence is a new power awarded in 2012 to eligible councils, the exercise of powers is at the discretion of the council, but they are legally obliged to exercise duties. Allotments - Duty to consider providing allotment gardens if demand unsatisfied, Parish councils have powers to provide some facilities themselves, or they can contribute towards their provision by others. A Parish Council must hold a meeting and at least three other meetings in a year, however monthly meetings are the most common, and some larger councils have fortnightly meetings. An extraordinary meeting may be called at any time by the chairman or members, a Council can also appoint advisory groups which are exempt from these constraints to give flexibility, but these have no delegated powers and cannot make financial decisions. Such groups may contain members who are not councillors and this would have to be due to the confidential nature of the business
Map of English parishes and Welsh communities
A parish office, Sawtry. Only larger parishes have these.