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To vote in a parish or town council election      Case study: Community
you need to be a British citizen, Irish citizen,  arts centre, East Grinstead
European Union citizen or citizen of a            Town Council
Commonwealth country (including Cyprus
and Malta).                                       Number of councillors: 18
                                                  Size of electorate: 18,000
What do parish or town
councillors do?                                   Between 1995 and 1996, East Grinstead
                                                  Town Council embarked on a remarkable
Councillors have three main areas of work:        project to build the Chequer Mead
                                                  Community Arts Centre. The building cost
1. Decision-making: through attending             £2.4million, the bulk of which was financed
meetings and committees with other                by the council with the Arts Council Lottery
elected members, councillors decide which         Fund and Mid Sussex District Council
activities to support, where money should         contributing additional funding.
be spent, what services should be delivered
and what policies should be implemented.          The centre itself comprises a magnificent
                                                  340-seat theatre with 210 seats in the
2. Monitoring: councillors make sure              stalls and 130 seats in the circle.
that their decisions lead to efficient and        In addition the complex comprises
effective services by keeping an eye on           a dedicated art and exhibitions gallery,
how well things are working.                      three meeting rooms, a studio room,
                                                  a restaurant/cafeteria/bar and the usual
3. Getting involved locally: as local             backstage accommodation. At the time
representatives, councillors have                 of its development this was, in funding
responsibilities towards their constituents       terms to be the largest capital project
and local organisations. This often depends       developed by any parish or town council
on what the councillor wants to achieve           in England and Wales. The centre has
and how much time is available.                   rapidly built a first-class reputation for
                                                  itself as a venue with a wide educational
The day-to-day work of a councillor               remit and hosts high-class community
may include:                                      and professional performing and visual
                                                  art events.
• going to meetings of local organisations
  such as tenants’ associations                   Chequer Mead is run as a charity and
                                                  East Grinstead Town Council continues
• going to meetings of bodies that                its role as trustee.
  affect the wider community,
  such as the police, the Highways                                         “Chequer Mead is
  Authority, schools and colleges                                           a fantastic facility for
                                                                            the whole community
• taking up issues on behalf of                                             providing opportunities
  members of the public, such as                                            for young and old
  making representations to the                                             in performing and
  district or borough council                                               visual arts”

• running a surgery for residents                                          Councillor Ian Dixon
  to bring up issues

• meeting with individual residents
  in their own homes

                                                  All about parish and town councils 5
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