How Local Government Works in England

This is only a brief guide, which we hope explains where Middleham Town Council sits in the wider local government structure.

Local government varies across England and not all counties are organised in the same way.  At the higher levels there are “Principal Authorities”, which are usually County and District Councils, although in some areas there are no district councils.  The Principal Authorities for Middleham are North Yorkshire County Council ‘NYCC’ and Richmondshire District Council ‘RDC’.  Each has certain statutory responsibilities to provide facilities and amenities that the public and businesses rely upon.  Such services are set out in the second table below “Services provided by other levels of local government”.

Beneath the larger authorities are the parish or town councils, which are essentially identical other than the Chairman of a town council is called ‘Mayor’.  As with all other town and parish councils, Middleham Town Council, has relatively few statutory duties, the main ones being:

  • Raising income by levying a local tax known as a ‘precept’ which is a component of the Council Tax bill paid by residents;
  • Holding an annual meeting and at least 3 other meetings each year (MTC holds 10), all of which the public may attend;
  • Preparing annual accounts that are internally audited and available for inspection;
  • To do what it can reasonably do to reduce crime and disorder and reoffending in its area.

Town Councils have wide discretionary powers enabled by various Acts of Parliament (such as the Local Government Act, 1972) to carry out a broad range of activity that is separate or incidental to the services provided by the County or District Councils.  Councillors are elected every four years (next elections in 2023) to serve by residents.  In meetings Councillors can choose which discretionary power they exercise, for the benefit of the community; a council must not however provide any services or amenities that are the responsibility of the Principal Authorities, even if local residents would like, say, additional refuse collections or improved educational facilities.   It would be illegal or ‘ultra vires’ for the Town Council to do that.  There are other limitations on what money can be spent on and the Clerk advises Council on these restrictions.

What does Middleham Town Council Do?

  • Convenes formal meetings at 7pm, generally on the last Wednesday of each month (other than December and August) in the Key Centre to discuss matters relevant to the community. The public and press may attend these meetings and, during the first 15 minutes, can ask questions.
  • Acts as the sole trustee to the Charity for the Benefit of Inhabitant Householders of Parish of Middleham (registered charity 506048) which owns land and collects rent. Generally, this income is used in similar way to Council’s own expenditure, subject to Charity Law and the Charity’s own governing document. Further information on the Charity is shown in the ‘Inhabitant Householders Charity’ section of this website.  Details of land holdings are shown in the Finance Documents section
  • Supervises maintenance of its own and the Charity’s land, including cutting grass on the Busks and other verges within the Town; maintenance and weed control of the Cobbles; inspection and care of all mature trees by a tree specialist.
  • Owns, but does not run activities at, the Playing fields which include the cricket ground, the pavilion, the community garden and the skate park which are run by the Middleham Sports and Community Wellbeing Association (known as ‘MSCWA’). Contact details for MSCWA are shown on the Local Groups and Organisations page on this website.
  • Owns, but does not run, the community centre in Park Lane, known as the ‘Middleham Key Centre’ (MKC). The Council liaises with the independent MKC Board of Trustees.
  • Issues fishing permits for Middleham residents on River Ure. If you are interested, please apply to the Town Clerk.
  • Helps to coordinate local responses to emergencies, such as the flash flooding in July 2019 and, in conjunction with the joint rectors of our church, supporting vulnerable residents during the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • From its own resources and the Charity’s, provides grants to local organisations and good causes.
  • Grants permissions to site skips and scaffolding on MTC land (usually the Cobbles). If you wish to do so, please apply to the Town Clerk.
  • The Town Council is a statutory consultee for planning applications dealt within its area by RDC or the Yorkshire Dales National Park. See the section ‘Planning and Conservation’ on this website for further details.
  • Is building a civic burial ground on land it owns, adjacent to the Church burial ground which is now full. See the section ‘Civic Burial Ground’ on this website.
  • Represents Middleham’s interests when consulted by other government agencies e.g., local plans, trialling charges for public toilets, changes to the health service, rural transport.
  • Ongoing liaison with other agencies e.g. RDC, and local Police on any of the below matters and to raise residents’ concerns on any issue, particularly where residents have not received a timely or satisfactory response.
  • Respond to resident’s views; in recent years the Council has convened public meetings to gauge opinion on matters such as major planning applications, changes to the provision of health services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, the future of the Town’s playing fields.
  • Purchases a Christmas tree for display in the market square and, with the Church, organises a carol service when the Mayor switches on the Christmas lights
  • The Town Council has one employee, the Clerk, who works 21 hours each week, normally on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, of which one day is worked from home. The Clerk provides advice and guidance on procedural matters to Councillors and administrative support to the Council and Charity.  He may be contacted by phone 07531 580499 or email office@middlehamtowncouncil.co.uk
  • Publishes and distributes to all households a newsletter called ‘The Middleham Herald’.

How does Middleham Town Council operate?

  • Middleham Town Council is made up of seven councillors.  Councillors work together to serve the community and to help the Council make decisions on behalf of the local community. They contribute by suggesting ideas, engaging in constructive debate and by responding to the needs and views of the community. Councillors offer their services on a voluntary basis, serving for at least a four year period.
  • All council must have a Clerk; ours is part time and is also the Proper Officer and Responsible Financial Officer of the Council. A great deal of our work is co-ordinated by the Clerk to the Council. The Clerk’s primary responsibility is to advise the Council on whether its decisions are lawful and to recommend ways in which decisions can be implemented. The Clerk can be asked to research topics of concern to the Council, provide unbiased information to help the Council to make appropriate decisions and assist in implementing those decisions.
  • The Council can only make decisions in meetings; individual councillors cannot act on behalf of the Council.  As set out above, all Council meetings are open to the public.
  • Documents setting out how the Council governs itself are contained in the Documents section of this website.

Services provided by other levels of local government

This is a general list of what services are provided elsewhere.  Any problems can be reported using the contact details on the ‘Reporting it’ page.

Social Housing Richmondshire District Council. Please note: to apply for social housing you will need to register with RDC
Council Tax and benefits Richmondshire District Council
Planning Applications and Middleham’s Conservation Area Richmondshire District Council
Tree preservation orders Richmondshire District Council
Dog-related issues, such as the warden, dealing with reports of dog fouling. Richmondshire District Council
Refuse and recycling collections (except for holiday properties), street scene (includes litter bins, dog mess) Richmondshire District Council
Education Middleham Church of England Primary School is a Voluntary Aided school run by NYCC
Highways maintenance and traffic signs North Yorkshire County Council
Street lighting North Yorkshire County Council and Richmondshire District Council.  See the ‘Reporting It’ section of this website.
Street Trading and markets Richmondshire District Council
Public toilets (opening hours, cleanliness, damage) Richmondshire District Council
Licensing (of premises and special events) Richmondshire District Council
Footpaths North Yorkshire County Council

A definitive map of footpaths is available within the Maps section on this website and from the Town Clerk’s office

Environmental Health Richmondshire District Council
Parking enforcement Scarborough Town Council
Water leaks Yorkshire Water.  Water companies are obliged to respond within certain timescales and residents might find it quicker to report a leak themselves
Maintenance and use of our Town’s community centre. The Middleham Key Centre. Although owned by the Council, it is operated by an independent Board of Trustees.