DURHAM city residents have until Monday (March 6) to decide whether they want a new parish council.

All electors living in the wards of Neville’s Cross, Elvet and Gilesgate and part of Durham South have the chance to give their views on whether a new authority should be established for the unparished areas of the city centre.

If people back the idea, the first elections for the the authority would be held in May 2018.

The campaign for the council is being led by Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods.

Durham County Council has proposed the new authority would be called the City of Durham Parish Council and would cost those living in a Band D property £34.46 in its first year.

It would be up to the new council to set its own budget in future years.

Exactly what services it will provide will be up to the new council and will not be known until it is created in May 2018. However, it will have a say on planning matters and will be able to spend its budget on local services and improvement projects.

A new parish council for Durham city centre: What you need to know: –

What powers will a parish council have?

It would be for the new council to determine exactly what services would be provided. It would become clear from May 2018, when the council could begin to operate which services it would provide.

Those campaigning for a council have highlighted the voice it would have in the planning process. It would be a statutory consultee and would have the right to speak at planning committee meetings. However, it would not be the planning authority, so decisions would still be made by Durham County Council.

Parish councils can provide services to improve their local area, including providing things like footpaths, bus shelters, bins, benches and public toilets. They can also look after allotments and could provide a tourist information office.

How much will it cost?

Durham County Council has set a nominal precept of £150,000 for its first year, which will cover its first year of operation and any services it wished to provide. This will cost a Band D tax payer £34.46 a year.

It would be up to the parish council to set its own budget to cover whatever services it wishes to provide in future years. There is no cap on how much parish councils can increase their precepts by.

In County Durham the precepts charged by parish councils can vary hugely. The smallest precept is by Boldron Parish Council, which raises £325 a year by charging Band D tax payers £5.80 a year.

The largest is Great Aycliffe, which has a precept of £1,453,500 and charges a Band D tax payer £221 a year. Other councils with precepts of more than £1m are Peterlee, Seaham and Spennymoor.

What will it be called?

Durham County Council has suggested the new authority be called the City of Durham Parish Council as it says a town council would be inappropriate, as Durham is a city, and Durham City Council would be confusing as it sounds like a district or borough council, which would have greater powers.

However, if constituted, a council would be able to choose its own name.

If approved, when will it be up and running?

If approved, the first elections would take place in May 2018.

What area will it cover?

The electoral wards of Neville’s Cross, Elvet and Gilesgate and part of Durham South

How many councillors will it have?

15, including eight members from Neville’s Cross, six from Elvet and Gilesgate and one from Durham South

Would it have a ceremonial mayor?

No. The Charter Trust, which was established following the abolition of Durham City Council in 2009, will only be dissolved if the whole of the unparished area is parished.

That means that even if a parish council is established the ceremonial mayor will remain with the charter trust, and will continue to be paid for through a precept on households in the former Durham City Council area.