About the Town Council
What is a Town Council and what does it do?
A Town Council is the most local level of government in the community. Town councils are legal bodies created by Act of Parliament and have the right to levy a local tax (called a Precept) on every household. Decisions of the Council are made by Town Councillors who are elected by local voters.
The role of Town Councils is to promote their local areas, represent its interests and support the work of local community groups. Town Councils also provide a limited range of local public services which vary according to the size of the Town. Town Councils also have legal powers to issue fixed penalty fines for things like: litter, graffiti, fly posting and dog offences.
However, the responsibilities of Town Councils are limited as most local government services are undertaken by County Councils or County Borough Councils.
Why does St Clears have a Town Council?
There has been a democratically elected local Council in St Clears since 1894 when the first elections were held for St Clears Parish Council. The UK Parliament in London passed an Act of Parliament in the same year creating elected civil parish councils for the first time. The idea was that if local taxes were being charged for local services then Councils should be accountable to local people for how they spent the money. This would be done by giving local people the opportunity to elect local Councillors at regular intervals.
In 1974 there was a re-organisation of local government and Parish Councils became either Community Councils or Town Councils (depending on whether the area was a town or a rural community). So, on 1st April 1974 the old St Clears Parish Council was replaced by the present-day St Clears Town Council.
What does St Clears Town Council do?
There is a lot of confusion about who runs which public services. This is understandable as it is not always easy to work out who does what and why. However, generally, most local government services are the responsibility of Carmarthenshire County Council. The best way to show this is with a chart listing the main local services and which organisation is responsible for them:
Play Areas and Skateboard Park - Town Council
St Clears Town clock and adjacent garden area, hanging baskets - Town Council
St Clears CCTV - Town Council
Christmas Lights and Christmas Tree - Town Council
St Clears War Memorial - Town Council
Community Development - Town Council and County Council (both)
Grants to local community organisations - Town Council and County Council (both)
Street lighting - Town Council and County Council (both)
St Clears town car park - parking enforcement - County Council
Roads, footpath maintenance, highway verges - County Council
St Clears Leisure Centre - County Council
The Gate/Y Gat (formerly the Craft Centre) - County Council
Ysgol Griffith Jones and Ysgol Bancyfelin - County Council (through local Boards of Governors)
St Clears Welfare Field - Town Council
Doctors' Surgery and Health Services - Hywel Dda Health Board (Welsh Government)
Social Care (including Dol-y-felin) - County Council
Police Station and Police Service - Dyfed-Powys Police & Crime Commissioner
Water and Sewerage - Dwr Cymru
Flood Prevention - Natural Resources Wales
St Clears (Old) Town Hall - St Clears Town Trust
Bancyfelin Community Hall - Bancyfelin Community Association
Council Housing - County Council
Planning - County Council
Recycling and Rubbish Collection - County Council
Subsidies for local bus services - County Council
Grants for business and economic development - County Council and Welsh Government (both)
How much does St Clears Town Council spend and where does it get its money from?
In 2015/16, the Town Council spent £75,577. The breakdown of what was spent in 2015/16 was:
Staff Salaries and Employer's Costs - £29,901
Administration - £3,903
Town Mayor, Civic Expenses and donations - £4,710
Office and Premises - £2846
Christmas Lights - £8134
Community Events Chest / Supporting Community Activites - £3049
CCTV, Maintenance of storage facility, equipment £3385
Market Stalls & Marquees set up £2085
Public lighting (street lights) £6775
General Maintenance / War Memorial / Delittering / Bus shelters £2979
Ground Maintenance / Floral Displays / Best Garden Competition £5922
Play and Skate Park Maintenance and Inspections £1888
The total income was £78,432 and this was paid for as follows:
Precept (local tax collected through Council Tax) - £75,890
Hire of stalls and bank interest payments - £2542
By Law, each Town Council has to have a Responsible Financial Officer. In St Clears, this is the Town Clerk. The work of the Responsible Financial Officer and the management of the Council's finances are overseen by the Town Council. The Council's finances and financial management are subject to both internal and external audit.
How is St Clears Town Council Run?
The Town Council is run by thirteen elected Councillors. For historical reasons, the Town Council area is divided into two parts, called Wards: the St Clears Ward and the Llanfihangel Abercowin Ward. The St Clears Ward is all the area to the west of the River Cynin and the Llanfihangel Ward is all the area to the east of the River Cynin (including Bancyfelin). Six Councillors represent the St Clears Ward and seven Councillors represent the Llanfihangel Abercowin Ward.
In St Clears we also have a Town Mayor who is one of the Town Councillors and holds office for one year. He or she is elected by the Council at an Annual Meeting. The Town Mayor chairs meetings of the Council and represents both the Town and the Town Council in the local community and beyond. The Town Mayor has a Chain of Office and undertakes a wide range of civic duties.
Decisions are made by all thirteen Councillors sitting as the Town Council but the Council can delegate certain decisions to the Town Clerk. The Council cannot delegate decisions to the Town Mayor or individual Councillors.
The day-to-day work of the Council is carried out by the Town Clerk who is an employee of the Council. In St Clears, the Town Clerk's post is part-time, working 25 hours per week. The Council has an Office which is located in The Gate on Pentre Road in St Clears. The Council meetings usually also take place in the The Gate with some Council meetings being held in Bancyfelin Village Hall.
About Town Councillors
St Clears' thirteen Town Councillors are normally elected every four years. The last elections for Town and Community Councils across Wales took place in May 2012 when, in St Clears, all thirteen Councillor positions were up for election. Unfortunately, when nominations closed for the May 2012 Elections there were only ten candidates. There was, therefore, no election. Subsequently, the three vacancies were filled by a process called co-option. Co-option means that the Council advertises the vacancies and anyone in the local community who is qualified to be Town Councillor can apply in writing. The Council then chooses from amongst the applicants those it thinks are most suitable and can make the best contribution to the work of the Council.
In the May 2008 Elections, there were six candidates in the St Clears Ward and so no election was held. However, there were nine candidates in the Llanfihangel Abercowin Ward and so an election did take place with seven being elected. There are also occasional by-elections when a Councillor steps down. In fact, we have just had a by-election in June in the Llanfihangel Abercowin Ward.
Sometimes Councillors stand as candidates of political parties and sometimes as independent candidates.
Town Councillors are not paid for being Councillors. They all serve the local community as volunteers but can claim minor expenses - for example, a mileage allowance for attending meetings outside of St Clears on Council business. This is in contrast to Carmarthenshire County Council where County Councillors receive a basic salary of £13,175 plus expenses.
The three main areas of work for Town Councillors are:
- Decision-Making: Through attending meetings and Committees, Councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented.
- Monitoring: Councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective outcomes by keeping an eye on how well things are working.
- Getting Involved Locally: As representatives, Councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. This often depends on what the Councillor wants to achieve and how much time they have available.
The day-to-day work of a Town Councillor can include:
- Helping to develop a variety of projects for the Town Council
- Attending Council meetings
- Going to meetings of local organisations
- Going to meetings of bodies that affect the wider community, such as police liaison meetings or being a Governor of a school
- Taking up issues on behalf of local residents including making representations to the County Council, the Police & Crime Commissioner or the Welsh Government
- Running a Surgery for residents to bring up issues
- Meeting with individual residents in their own homes
Town Councillors often spend a number of hours each week on Town Council related business and issues.
More Information About Town Councils
There is a variety of further information available about the role of Town Councils. This includes information and commentary about the future of Town Councils.
The Welsh Government information includes:
The representative body for Town and Community Councils is Un Llais Cymru/One Voice Wales (St Clears Town Council is a Member).
The Public Services Ombudsman has published a Factsheet on Town and Community Councils.
An in-depth analysis of the issues relating to Town Councils was undertaken by the University of Wales Aberystwyth's Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences and published in 2003; Research Study into the Role, Functions and Future Potential of Community and Town Councils in Wales.