History and Background

Stoke Parish Council was formed in April 2004 following the enlargement of Stoke Prior Parish Council's area with the addition of Stoke Heath. A referendum of all the residents of Stoke Heath was carried out by Bromsgrove District Council to ascertain views on three alternative proposals. The majority of those who responded voted in favour of being a part of an enlarged Stoke Prior Parish Council. The District Council then established the enlarged Parish Council and renamed it Stoke Parish Council. The Parish now comprises the District Wards of Stoke Prior and Stoke Heath, with a total electorate of almost 3,730 people (2,200 households).

Before this more recent enlargement, Stoke Prior Parish Council was formed in 1896 following the passing of the Local Government Act 1894 which reformed local government. This Act took a year to pass and aroused much controversy both in Parliament and outside. Gladstone's government had to deal with over 800 amendments; it was the proposal to create parish councils which caused the uproar. The Act created institutions having a civil origin, status and affiliations. The institutions were the parish meeting and the parish council. The Act transferred the civil functions of the older parish authorities to the new institutions. As a result, the church was excluded from formal participation in local government and the traditional functions of the parish which had always had a "Christian" complexion, were to be administered by laymen. The revenues of parish councils came mainly from rates on agricultural land ('Local Council Administration' by Charles Arnold-Baker).

Nowadays, Parish Councils raise the money they need to carry out their functions by means of a 'precept', or charge on all households in the Parish, which is collected by the District Council at the same time as the Council Tax. The precept money is then paid to parish councils in two equal instalments.

There are 151 Parish and Town Councils in Worcestershire, forming the first tier of government. They are statutory local authorities just like the District Councils and the County Council and may act only within powers vested in them by law and according to rules laid down in law. Parish and Town Councils are the same in law, differing only in name. Just like all powers given to public bodies the powers of Parish Councils are defined in detail in legislation.

Written in May 2014 by Patrick Callaway, former Clerk to the Council