How Your Local Government Works

Local government can appear to be very complex. This section explains how local government works in England and, in broad terms, which authority is responsible for the provision of the various services we receive.


In the United Kingdom, government is multi-layered. Central government is concerned with high level issues such as the overall management of law and policing, defence and foreign policy and balancing the books through the exchequer. Central government also determines strategy and establishes guidelines for the provision of an enormous range of public services that are then delegated to local authorities.

At the other end of the scale, locally in Stokenchurch, the provision of public services is split, in the main, between Buckinghamshire Council and Stokenchurch Parish Council. The following gives a broad outline of how these responsibilities are divided:

Buckinghamshire Council

Buckinghamshire Council is a new "unitary" council combining the functions of the former county and district councils. It is responsible for, amongst other things:

From the former "county":

  • Education

  • Library Services

  • Social Welfare

  • Roads, traffic signage, the imposition of speed limits and the gritting of roads in winter. (Note however that the management of our motorways is the responsibility of central government and is devolved to the Highways Agency.)

  • Local transport policy

  • Trading Standards

  • The operation of the household amenities (recycling) sites including Booker (High Heavens)

From the former "district":

  • Refuse collection

  • Street cleaning

  • Investigating and removing fly-tipping and abandoned cars

  • Sports and leisure facilities

  • Planning and building control

  • Environmental Health services

  • Housing services

  • Collecting council tax and providing benefits

  • Some transport issues including parking

Stokenchurch Parish Council

Stokenchurch Parish Council is responsible for:

  • The cemetery and burial grounds

  • Allotments at Cricket Ground Lane and at Water End

  • Longburrow Hall and the Studley Green Community Centre

  • The play areas at Longburrow Hall, Cricket Ground Lane and at Studley Green Community Centre

  • Some street lighting

  • The commons including the maintenance of trees thereon.

  • The upkeep of grass and hedging of areas that belong to the Parish

Parish councils are consulted about planning applications, and routinely make comments, but have no responsibility for the decisions made. Generally planning approval lies with Wycombe District Council although on occasions the authority may rest with Bucks County Council. There are various levels of appeal if permission is not granted.

The funding for matters that fall under the parish council's area of responsibility is met through a precept. The amount of money that the council decide is needed is budgeted annually and is included in the council tax demand sent out in March each year. The amount precepted by the parish council is shown as a separate item. (Amounts budgeted by the County and District Councils and for other service providers such as the police and the fire and rescue service are also set out in the annual council tax demand.)