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Town council

A town council is a form of local government for small municipalities.

Usage of the term varies under different jurisdictions.


  • Republic of Ireland 1
  • Belize 2
  • England and Wales 3
  • Canada 4
    • Ontario 4.1
    • Manitoba 4.2
  • United States town councils 5
    • Indiana 5.1
    • Massachusetts 5.2
    • New Hampshire 5.3
      • Official Ballot Town Council 5.3.1
  • Palestinian Authority 6
  • Singapore 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9

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. The Local Government Reform Act 2014 Abolished them


There are currently seven town councils in Belize. Each town council consists of a mayor and a number of councillors, who are directly elected in municipal elections every three years. Town councils in Belize are responsible for a range of functions, including street maintenance and lighting, drainage, refuse collection, public cemeteries, infrastructure, parks and playgrounds.

England and Wales

In England, since the Local Government Act 1972, town councils are the specific name given to a civil parish councils, where the civil parish council has declared itself by resolution to be a town council. Civil parishes are the lowest level in the local government system. The higher levels are district, unitary or county. However town councils are not subordinate in democratic accountability to those higher levels, but to the electorate of their civil parish area.

The chairman of a town council is technically called a town mayor. 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 of council.

Historically the term 'town council' was used for the governing body of a municipal borough until the 1972 Act.

The term 'town council' in England, is today used only for a parish council which has named itself as a town council. If another type of local council such as a district authority covers a single town (such as Corby or Cheltenham) then the council is often a 'borough council': borough status is however conferred at the discretion of the Crown.

In Wales, where the lowest tier of local government is known as a community, the Community Council may unilaterally declare itself to be a Town Council, but this has the same status as a Community Council.



Township councils in Ontario play a similar role as City councils in cities for smaller or low tier municipalities.[1] Directly elected every 4 years, the number of councillors vary depending on the size of their municipalities. The councillors powers and responsibilities are governed by the Municipal Act, 2001.


Manitoba 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 or reeve.

United States town councils


Indiana 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 1 January 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 re-election to office.

The first meeting after an election, members of the town council hold an organising 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 authorise 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.

New Hampshire

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 finalisation 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.

Palestinian Authority

The Palestinian National Authority established village councils to serve as local administrations and service providers for Palestinian villages and small towns. Village councils are also referred to as D-level municipalities.


In Singapore, town councils are in charge of maintaining the common areas of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats and estates, such as the common corridors, void decks, lifts, water tanks, external lighting and the open spaces surrounding the estates. They are regulated under the Town Councils Act (Chapter 329A).

The rationale was to delegate the duties of estate management to the members of parliament in addition to their existing responsibilities. They would also gain management experience and be accountable to their district's resident voters.

Town councils boundaries are drawn based on electoral districts boundaries. A town council area can consist of a Group Representation Constituency (GRC), a Single Member Constituency (SMC), or a collection of neighbouring GRCs and SMCs controlled by the same political party. The Members of Parliament head the town councils of their constituencies. Town councils boundaries do not correspond to new town boundaries; different parts of the same HDB town may be managed by different town councils.

See also


  1. ^
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