Council Responsibilities 

What is a Town Council?

A Town Council is a statutory body and is the most local level of government. It has an important role in promoting the town, representing its interests and supporting the work of different groups in the community.

What does a Town Council do?

Town Councils have a number of formal powers. Many provide allotments, cemeteries and look after playing fields, village greens and other types of leisure facilities. They have a hand in maintaining or guarding rights of way, bus shelters, public seats and smaller scale street lighting. Councils are often concerned with the provision of halls and community buildings.

The Town Council can do these things by actually providing them itself or by funding other organisations, such as a charity, to do them through grants or contracts.

There are three tiers of local government, each with different responsibilities (sometimes called powers and duties in Council speak). The bullets below set out who has traditionally done what in Devon. This is changing because of the Government’s Localism policy, which encourages local councils to provide more services.



Devon County Council

Tel: 03451 551004

  • Education and families including targeted support for families, adoption, fostering, care leaver support, school support and improvement
  • Highways and traffic management including general roads maintenance, winter gritting, gully cleansing, public rights of way, cycle paths, traffic management and road safety
  • Libraries and heritage including libraries and archaeology services
  • Social care and safeguarding including residential and nursing care for older people and those with disabilities, protecting children and vulnerable adults from harm
  • Environment including country parks and environmental management, countryside partnerships with Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites and South West Coastal Path
  • Health and wellbeing including public health improvement
  • Planning and development including long-term and large scale planning such as minerals waste planning and transport infrastructure
  • Services for communities including trading standards, emergency planning, registrars and supporting public and community transport

Many services are commissioned and therefore delivered by a range of partners such as private companies, voluntary sector and social enterprises. Some services are also run in partnership as joint ventures such as Babcock Learning and Development Partnership which provides support to schools.

Most of the geographical county of Devon is a two-tier authority area. The County Council does not collect household waste directly from homes, deal with social housing, environmental health, street cleaning, urban parks, leisure facilities, or residential and private planning applications. These services are run through district councils, such as East Devon, Exeter or Teignbridge. Torbay and Plymouth are separate Unitary authorities and provide all county and district functions themselves.

Major roads, like the M5 and A30, are maintained by the Highways Agency. Private companies provide public transport and the County Council allocates funding to support some vital routes that are not commercially viable but do not run or commission public transport ourselves.



East Devon District Council

Tel: 01395 516551

  • Abandoned Vehicles· Beaches and Resorts
  • Benefits
  • Building Control 
  • Car Parks
  • CCTV 
  • Cemeteries 
  • Coastal and Land Drainage 
  • Community advice and support 
  • Community Safety 
  • Conservation 
  • Council Tax and government benefits 
  • Dog Wardens
  • Economic Development
  • Electoral services 
  • Environmental Health - food, health and noise 
  • Grounds Maintenance
  • Homelessness
  • Housing
  • Land Charges
  • Legal Services
  • Licensing 
  • Parks and Open Spaces 
  • Pest Control
  • Planning 
  • Pollution Control 
  • Public Conveniences;
  • Recycling
  • Refuse (rubbish collection)
  • Street cleaning
  • Street Naming and Numbering
  • Tree Management.
  • Sports and leisure

Ottery St Mary Town Council

Tel: 01404 812252

  • Allotments at Ridgeway
  • Cemeteries at Ridgeway
  • Sports and Leisure Amenities (i. Tennis Courts at Winter`s Lane, ii. Strawberry Lane – facilities leased to the Bowling Club and the Petanque Club, iii Skateboard Park – facilities sublet to the Ottery & District Skate and BMX Trust)
  • Library (freehold owned by the Council and leased to Libraries Unlimited)
  • The Station – premises let to the Station charity 
  • Hire and use of meeting room/chamber at the Council Offices plus office accommodation available for let
  • Old Town Hall – premises currently vacant
  • Grants to local organisations
  • Footpaths and verges maintenance
  • Planning and Local Authority consultations

Town Councillors know the area and can (and increasingly often do) represent their views to other authorities like the District and County Council, Health Authorities, Police and Fire Authorities. We are entitled to be consulted on planning applications, which include work to Listed Buildings and are often consulted on such things as schools and roads. We put the town’s case at public inquiries.