About The Council

In the last years of the nineteenth century two District Councils were constituted to serve the Tavistock area - the Urban District Council and the Rural District Council. Quite early in its history the Urban District Council added to its statutory duties by assuming responsibility for a large amount of property previously in the ownership of the Duke of Bedford.

In 1966 the Urban District Council was swallowed up by the Rural District Council, and the augmented Rural District Council proceeded to shoulder responsibility for both Town and Rural areas. A Parish Council was constituted for the old Urban District Council area, with limited statutory powers but inheriting the substantial property holdings and the powers and responsibilities attached to that ownership. In 1974 a major local government re-organisation resulted in the replacement of the Tavistock Rural District Council by a larger unit, West Devon District Council (later to be called the West Devon Borough Council). The opportunity was taken by the local Parish Council to rename itself 'Tavistock Town Council', and to designate its Chairman the 'Town Mayor', with the annual Parish Meeting becoming the 'Town Meeting'. The Duke of Bedford's legacy makes Tavistock Town Council unique as a Civic Parish level council, and a major property owner in the town and local area.

Council Members

The Council Members were either elected in May 2015 for 4 years, or were co-opted shortly after the election. If a vacancy for a Councillor arises in the future then that vacancy will be advertised in the local press, on our website and on the Council notice boards. Any ten electors may request an election to fill such a vacancy, and if they do so then a by-election is held in the normal way. If no such request is made then the Council may fill the vacancy by co-option, and in recent times the method used has been a press notice inviting people interested in becoming a Councillor to submit Curriculum Vitae from which Councillors make a judgement and selection. Council Members may receive an allowance and or payment for expenses (though some decline to accept this), and have to act within the ethical framework laid down by Law, please see link. In November 2003 the Council was awarded the status of a ‘Quality Town Council’ having passed a strict appraisal by external auditors.

The Town Council has 17 elected Members, representing the three wards of North, South East and South West. In 2015 the election was uncontested as only 11 people stood for the 17 vacancies. One elected Councillor subsequently resigned, and the remaining 7 places were filled by 5 co-options in June 2015 and 2 Members elected in by-elections in August 2015 (these by-elections were uncontested).

Following 2 resignations during 2017,  one Councillor was elected in a contested election in August 2017 and another in an uncontested election in November 2017.   The next sceduled elections will take place in May 2019.


From May 2016 the Council has decided to eliminate the Finance and General Purposes Committee and the Properties Committee, all topics that were discussed at these meetings will now be discussed by Full Council, this will reduce the number of meetings throughout the year with more being discussed at each meeting, improving the efficiency of the Council.The Plans committee will remain as before.

The Full Council normally meets on a Tuesday every 4 to 6 weeks at 6.30pm in the Council Chamber, Drake Road.

The Development Management & Licensing Committee (formerly the Plans Committee) meets three-weekly and considers planning applications and development policies affecting Tavistock Town.

The two discontinued standing Committees that recommended policies to the Full Council are shown below, minutes for these seperate Comittees are still available on this website. They were:

  • Finance and General Purposes Committee - which met every 4 to 6 weeks the week before the Council Meeting and dealt with resources and policy.
  • Properties Committee - which met every 4 to 6 weeks the week before the Council Meeting and dealt with the lands and properties owned by the Council

Consultative Groups meet during the year, as required, to consider matters of detail concerning areas of Council work such as the Town Hall & Pannier Market, and Whitchurch Down, with a Sub-Committee meeting to discuss budget setting.

All Council and Standing Committee meetings are open to the public and press, and dates and timings are advertised on the Council notice boards and on our website. At the commencement of the full Council Meeting members of the public have the opportunity to ask questions of the Council.

Minutes of the Meetings are made available in the Town Library, in the Council Offices, and are posted on this website Here.


To carry out the policy set by the Members, the Council employs twenty three full-time staff, five part-time staff and casual staff as required (normally in the Town Hall). They are headed by the Town Clerk, Carl Hearn, and there are four principal officers to assist him, they are; Jan Smallacombe, Wayne Southall,  Duane Carruthers and Ross Ayling. Find out more about who is responsible for what on our Staff page.

For any more information about the Council and staff please Contact Us.