Parish Centrev2

Les Buttes, St Pierre du Bois - La Salle Paroissiale is centre left

Today the most important fact that differentiates a Guernsey parish from a UK parish is that in Guernsey the parish assemblies (or parish meetings as they are more often called) decide on the sums to be raised through parochial taxation to finance both secular and ecclesiastical expenditure. A parish meeting is analogous to a sitting of the States as only a parish meeting can approve budgets and accounts. In this analogy a Douzaine's role is similar to that of a States' Department in that it makes secular budget proposals to the parish meeting but acceptance of those proposals is entirely dependent upon the meeting's approval.

As the sums raised through parochial taxation have declined relative to those raised by the States, in particular since the introduction of income tax in the 1920s, so the importance of the parish meetings has declined. If the increase in parochial expenditure had kept pace with that of States expenditure over the last hundred years each parish would be raising an average of £7,500,000 annually through its rates and doubtless attendance at parish meetings would be higher than it is at present.

The Parochial Taxation Law makes no reference to Douzaines. The current procedures whereby the Douzaines compile the proposed budget for the forthcoming year is customary. The law requires only that the Constables publish proposed expenditure in the Gazette Officielle (the Publication) prior to the parish meeting for debate at that meeting. All that prevents a parishioner from asking the Constables to include a proposal in the Publication is that such a request is not customary.

Until the 19th century parish meetings were held early in the morning on church property, outdoors if the weather was fine, and they were chaired by the rector. In 1902 the States decided to formally separate parish meetings into two parts; the first part, chaired by the rector, to consider ecclesiastical matters presented by the churchwardens and the second part, chaired by the Dean of the Douzaine, to consider secular matters. This change was of fundamental importance, it acknowledged the spread of literacy beyond the clergy, the non-Anglican denominations and the increasing secularisation of society.

The right to raise money for a wide variety of purposes, as enshrined in the Parochial Taxation Law and as exercised at parish meetings, lies at the heart of our parishes' autonomy.