Do you know how the different tiers of councils work?

Karl Webs is the mayor of Huntingdon.

Karl Webs is the mayor of Huntingdon. - Credit: KARL WEBB

As a town councillor, and current mayor of Huntingdon, I get many emails from residents regarding local and national issues.

I am always happy to discuss concerns, complaints, compliments and suggestions; however, as town councillors do not have the powers to act independently of the council, I thought it may be useful to detail the basic responsibilities of the councils covering our local towns and parishes. 

Public services are managed differently around the country, some places have a single tier of local government managing services such as education, transport, housing, and environmental health, these are known as Unitary Authorities.

Other areas (for instance, Cambridgeshire), have these responsibilities divided between county and district councils (a two-tier system), with town and parish councils also managing local services and facilities.

In addition, there are 10 combined authorities throughout the country that bring two or more councils together to collaborate across their boundaries, for example, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. 

It can be confusing to know who to contact if you have questions relating to public services, and while  I cannot cover everything here, hopefully I can give an idea of the main topics that residents ask about. 

Locally, for highways issues such as potholes, flooded roads, damaged streetlights; educational needs such as schools or libraries; recycling; trading standards; or for bus passes, social services, or park-and-ride, you need to contact Cambridgeshire County Council. Their website has pages to report many faults and issues. 

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For homelessness, public conveniences, planning, building control, car parks, street cleaning or environmental health issues, the council responsible is Huntingdonshire District Council.

The district council is also responsible for the main parks and open spaces in Huntingdon such as Riverside Park, Hinchingbrooke Country Park and Stukeley Meadows Local Nature Reserve. 

Huntingdon Town Council is responsible for allotments, cemeteries and closed churchyards, most of the children’s play areas, the Town Hall, Coneygear Community Centre, Cromwell Museum, the town’s war memorials and local parks and open spaces such as Bloomfield Park, Coneygear Park, and the Sebastopol Cannon site.

The town council is also consulted on planning applications, support civic and community events within the town, and provide local community grants.  

For other issues and areas of responsibility, the town council’s quarterly magazine ‘Huntingdon’ and an A to Z page on the town council’s website lists the primary responsibilities of the three councils.