A town council
is a democratically elected form of government for small municipalities
. A council may serve as both the representative and executive branch.
Depending upon local laws and regulations, town councils usually self-organize and elect a leader to set the agenda of their governing body. This leader may be granted a title such as chairman, mayor, or president.
Republic of Ireland
Town Councils in the Republic of Ireland
form the second tier of local government under counties, and date from 2002, when the existing Urban District Councils
and Town Commissioners were redesignated. There are currently 75 such councils.
In England and Wales
in the United Kingdom
councils are civil parish
councils, where the civil parish has declared itself to be a town. Civil parishes are the most local level of elected governance, under the District
Any parish or community can decide to describe itself as a town. The chairman of a town council is usually called a Town Mayor, the alternative (Chairman) is very rarely found. The term 'Town Mayor' is used as opposed to simply 'Mayor', which means the mayor of a borough or a city. However, this is often abbreviated simply to Mayor, especially where the Town was historically a borough or city, such as Lewes or Ely. In Scotland, the term 'Provost' is commonly used to designate the leader of the Town Council.
Historically the term 'Town Council' was used for the governing body of a municipal borough.
The term 'Town Council' in England and Wales, is today used only for a parish council which has named itself as a town council. If another type of local authority such as a district authority covers a single town (such as Corby or Cheltenham) then the council would usually be called a 'Borough Council', although borough status is conferred at the discretion of the monarch.
town council members serve primarily as a policy and direction board for the community. They consist of five to seven members with the head of council being the mayor
United States town councils
town council members serve as both the executive and legislative branches for small communities incorporated as towns within the state. They consist of three or five members, depending upon the town's population.
Unlike some states, Indiana councilmembers must declare a political party affiliation, if any, when they file to run for office. Upon election in November, they are sworn in before January 1 of the following year, where they serve a four year term. There are no state term limits affecting how many times a candidate may run for reelection to office.
The first meeting after an election, members of the town council hold an organizing meeting, where they elect a president to set future agendas and act as an official spokesman for the town or as liaison between the town and state and county government.
Indiana town councils work in conjunction with an elected town clerk, who manages the day-to-day business of the municipal government. As an elected official, the town clerk is solely executive in function and operates independently of the town council. But the council has final say on budgets which clerks depend upon to operate.
In addition to a clerk, the council can authorize the hiring of other staff to run the operations of government, including law enforcement officers, utility workers, park and recreation employees and town managers. These employees serve at the pleasure of the council.
Town councils in Massachusetts
are essentially city councils
in towns which have adopted a city form of government but prefer to retain the "town of" in their names. In several communities which have adopted such a government, the official name of the community is "The City Known As The Town of..." The legislative body of a legal town in Massachusetts is a town meeting
; the executive board is a board of selectmen
. The advantage to styling a community's name as a city lies in its ability to enact ordinances. Towns may adopt by-laws, but they are subject to the approval of the Attorney General. City ordinances are presumed to be legal unless challenged and set aside in court. See Massachusetts Government
In New Hampshire
, the Town Council
is an elected body which serves as the legislative
and executive body of the town. The town is governed by a charter
, which is allowed under the home rule
provision of the New Hampshire Constitution
(Pt I, Art. 39) and Title III of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated. The charter for a Town Council must meet the following requirements of RSA 49-D:3 I. (a) - (e)
and all other applicable laws. The basic notion of home rule in New Hampshire is that local communities are not allowed to supersede the authority specifically granted to them by the state.
Official Ballot Town Council
The Official Ballot Town Council is a variant form of the Town Council. In the Official Ballot form of government, the town council is vested with the limited authority to vote on all matters not voted on by official ballot. The authority and restrictions on the Official Ballot town council is the same as the Town Council, except with respect to those matters specified to be voted on by official ballot. Also, the council decides what is placed on the ballot, not the registered voters.
The charter of the Official Ballot Town Council is required by law to specify specifically:
- Which budgetary items to be included on the official ballot; and
- A finalization process for the annual budget; and
- Process for public hearings, debate, discussion, and amendment of questions to be placed on the official ballot; and
- Procedures for the transfer of funds among various departments, funds, accounts, and agencies as may be necessary during the year; and
- Applicability of the official ballot procedure to special elections
The charter also must specify whether a 2/3 or 3/5 majority vote is required to approve bonds or notes, with the default being 2/3.
In Singapore, town councils are the administrative branch of the government in a constituency, such as the Single member constituencies
), or a collective of constituency within an elective region, such as the Group representation constituencies
). MPs are members of either a GRC, or an SMC.