In his private life, Mark is a parish councillor for his local rural community, Eaton Bray and is currently the Vice Chairman of Eaton Bray Parish Council. Having lived in the village since 2005 Mark wanted to contribute to the community by playing an active role by volunteering much of his private time and life to the parish council and community projects.
Mark is passionate about the local community and, when possible, gives up his time to help with local issues and initiatives, such as traffic and speed reduction, playground enhancements and other local schemes to make the village of Eaton Bray in Bedfordshire, a better place to live now and for future generations.
“Villages & towns don’t just run themselves – when people say “someone should do something about that (insert local problem)” that’s what drives most parish councillors. Without the dedication and community spirit of parish councillors, many villages and towns in England & Wales would be very much worse off.”
Mark’s projects include improvements to the local village roads, the successful introduction of a 7.5 tonnes HGV weight restriction to stop large vehicles using the village as a rat-run, running the Speedwatch Group, local planning, improvements to the playgrounds and open spaces along with day-to-day tasks of rural life.
On a personal level, being a parish councillor gives Mark the sense of putting back into the community pot and hopes one day to leave the community in a better shape.
More recently, Mark’s experience as a parish councillor has helped in his role as Director at Aubergine and their development of a website platform designed specifically for parish and town councils to meet their WCAG 2.1AA accessible website compliance obligations.
Experience derived from an understanding of the Transparency Code 2015, day to day council administration and a deep knowledge of website accessibility have led to his web agency, Aubergine, being one of the UK’s leading experts in websites for parish & town councils.
In 2021 NALC (National Association of Local Councils) published their Guidelines for Website Accessibility & Publishing handbook which was written by Mark and available to all 11,000 councils in England and Wales. This accolade and recognition highlights Mark’s and Aubergine’s extensive knowledge in website accessibility particularly for local councils and public bodies.
What is a parish councillor?
A parish councillor is a member of public who has either been voted-in through election by the local residents of the parish for which they wish to represent or has been co-opted by the existing council provided the place is uncontested. The role is unpaid and councillors volunteer their time to the parish council and its duties.
They represent the views and concerns of the residents of the parish to the parish council itself and, through it, to the district, county or unitary authority depending on how the area’s local Government is structured. A parish councillor reports back to residents on issues affecting the parish as well as pursuing enhancements, managing projects and assisting with the administration of the council. The most common topics that parish councils get involved with are planning matters (they are statutory consultees), crime prevention and local roads and parish council land-related issues, such as trees and watercourses.
Although not, for the most part, not legally responsible, a parish councillor has a moral duty to uphold the law and perform to the best of their ability according to the Code of Conduct. To be elected or co-opted as a parish councillor, you must:
- be a UK or Commonwealth citizen; or
- be a citizen of the Republic of Ireland; or be a citizen of another Member state of the European Union; and
- be at least 18 years old.
- To be eligible to stand for an election for a particular parish, you must:
- be an elector of the parish; or
- in the past 12 months have occupied (as owner or tenant) land or other premises in the parish; or work in the parish (as your principal or only place of work); or
- live within three miles of the parish boundary.
You don’t have to be connected to a political party.
You don’t need any! Just a willingness to help with volunteering some time – there are many roles councillors can take within a parish council. The only experience required is of you living in the place you want to support!
Every council will have its own specific issues, needs and aspirations but there are a lot of commonly-experienced goals and aims – many involve reduction in traffic and speed, improvements to the roads as well as supporting the community with events and other volunteer groups.
Many parish councils have also produced, or are in the process of, writing a Neighbourhood Plan that explores all the key aspects of a village or area with a view to creating a vision for the next 25 years. Neighbourhood Plans are legally binding documents, so once adopted by a council’s local authority, the Plan must be considered when decisions on planning, highways, ecological or environment-based plans are going to affect an area.
Fundamentally, a parish council’s aims are created by the community, for the community and its best interests.
If you want to find out how to become a parish councillor, simply Search Google for your local parish council website and contact the clerk.