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Town and parish councils are the English government bodies closest to local people. Hierarchically, they are subordinate to both national and higher tier local governments (unitary, county and borough/district councils). Town councillors represent approximately 11,000,000 people; one-fifth of the population of England. Their mainly small towns will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union (‘Brexit’). To what extent is not known, but councillors will have roles to play in determining how their towns respond. This paper presents and discusses the views of 156 respondents to an online survey, some of whom were also interviewed. Councillors, town clerks, academics, and interested individuals with policy and practical experience of the sector contributed. Although respondents’ views differ (eg, as to whether town councils should have more powers), most believe they will have to do more. Indeed, they want to do more, especially in relation to planning, housing and transport. They are, however, uncertain about how to achieve their aims, given the constraints of time and resources on a mainly volunteer body, their partial dependence on higher-tier authorities, and the need for, as some strongly believe, effective monitoring of standards, performance, transparency, and accountability.
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