There are three parliamentary constituencies wholly or partly within the area served by the branch. All, sadly, are solid Conservative seats, and have been so since time immemorial.
Click on the constituency links below for Wikipedia information on the seat, or on the MP links to bombard your MP with emails!
Local government in England & Wales comprises a hotchpotch of different types of Authority with different powers. The regime for our local area is broadly hierarchical, comprising County, Districts, and Towns/Parishes.
The top tier of local government is the County Council, which is responsible for the "big" issues, including:
County Councils are subdivided into wards for purposes of electing County Councillors, but these wards have no other independent existence for local government purposes.
Our County Council is West Sussex:
Within the County are the District Councils. These Authorities are wholly contained within the boundaries of the County, but are not responsible or answerable in any way to it. District Council functions include:
District Councils are subdivided into wards for purposes of electing District Councillors, but these wards have no other independent existence; County and District ward boundaries need not be (and generally are not) identical.
There are two District Councils in our area: Chichester and Arun. Chichester is based on the city, with significant settlelments in Petworth and Midhurst, but is otherwise rural stretching from Selsey in the south to Rogate in the northwest and Loxwood in the northeast. Arun is based on Littlehampton and Bognor, and runs from Pagham in the southwest to Slindon in the north and Ferring and Findon in the east.
Within the Districts are the Parish Councils, which may also be known as City or Town Councils. The size of these Authorities varies from cities like Chichester City, through towns such as Bognor and Littlehampton, down to rural Parishes of only a few hundred people. Irrespective of the size and complexity of the Parish, they all have equivalent statutory powers.
Parishes are contained wholly within the boundaries of their parent District Council, and whilst not directly controlled by the Districts they are subsidiary to Districts in all areas where the District is the statutory authority. Until 2012, with the passing of the Localism Act, Parishes could only undertake functions explicitly authorised by statute; since then thay can undertake anything which a private individual may do. Parish powers include:
All parishes are requred to employ a Clerk (Parish or Town Clerk as appropriate), who is the only person legally allowed to represent the Council on official business. Most parishes also employ other paid or voluntary staff such as litter wardens, park wardens, tree wardens, caretakers and property managers, etc.
An additional complication is the National Park, created in 2011. The park as a whole stretches from Winchester to Eastbourne, and it includes substantial parts of both our District Council areas. A large amount of the work of the park Authority is advisory or promotional, but it has taken over certain functions previously undertaken by County or District Councils.
Of particular interest is planning, and the Authority has responsibility for all planning functions within its boundaries. In many cases the day-to-day management of planning has been delegated by agreement to the relevant District Council (with a reserved right to "call in" an application), but this is not always the case. In our own area, planning for the area covered by the park within Chichester District is handled by the District Council, whereas for Arun District it is handled by the National Park Authority itself.
For the South Downs National Park Authority:
As well as the three primary layers and the National Parks, there are other complications in local governement in England and Wales (which fortunately don't affect us locally) . So-called Unitary Authorities have the powers and responsibilities of both County and District Councils (locally, both Brighton & Hove and Portsmouth are Unitary Authorities). London has a completely different approach, with functions split between the Greater London Authority and the London Borough Councils. Metropolitan areas used to have a similar two-tier structure, but the top-level Councils were abolished in the 1980s and the Metropolitan Boroughs now have effectively the same powers as Unitary Authorities. Certain other statutory powers are managed separately from the main local government bodies; an obvious example of this is policing.
The historic Counties do not necessarily equate to local government bodies. Sussex, as we know, is split into two County Council areas; Hampshire is a County Council, but without responsibility for the Unitary areas of Portsmouth and Southampton; Cornwall is a Unitary Authority; Middlesex no longer exists.
District Councils may also be known as Borough Councils (eg Worthing) or City Councils
The term "City" should be approached with care. City Councils get their name as a result of the grant of charter status by the Crown, but this carries no local Authority powers. All levels of local government may be called City, but all will have the powers inherent in their position in the local government hierarchy. Chichester City Council, for example, is a Parish Council (whereas Brighton & Hove City Council is a Unitary Authority, Oxford City Council is a District Council, Manchester City Council is a Metropolitan Borough Council, and Westminster City Council is a London Borough Council).