In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government. It is a territorial designation which is the lowest tier of local government below districts and counties, or their combined form, the unitary authority. Civil parishes can trace their origin to the ancient system of ecclesiastical parishes, which historically played a role in both secular and religious administration. Civil and religious parishes were formally differentiated in the 19th century and are now entirely separate. Civil parishes in their modern form came into being through the Local Government Act 1894, which established elected parish councils to take on the secular functions of the parish vestry.
|Civil parish (England)|
|Created by||Various, see text|
|Number||10,449 (as of 2015)|
A civil parish can range in size from a sparsely populated rural area with fewer than a hundred inhabitants, to a large town with a population in the tens of thousands. This scope is similar to that of municipalities in Continental Europe, such as the communes of France. However, unlike their continental European counterparts, civil parishes are not the primary local authorities in the United Kingdom and are typically dismissed as unimportant by academia and the authorities.
Eight parishes also have city status (a status granted by the monarch). A civil parish may be equally known as and confirmed as a town, village, neighbourhood or community by resolution of its parish council, a right not conferred on other units of English local government. Civil parishes predominantly cover rural areas, with many urban districts being wholly or partly unparished; approximately 35% of the English population live in a civil parish. As of 31 December 2015 there were 10,449 parishes in England.
The governing body of a civil parish is usually an elected parish council (which can decide to call itself a Town Council, Village Council, Community Council or a Neighbourhood Council, or a City Council if the parish has city status). Alternatively, in parishes with low populations, governance is by a parish meeting which all electors may attend.
Wales was also divided into civil parishes until 1974, when they were replaced by communities, which are similar to English parishes in the way they operate. Civil parishes in Scotland were abolished for local government purposes by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1929; the Scottish equivalent of English civil parishes are the community council areas established by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.