The consultation has been published jointly by DTLR, DEFRA, The Countryside Agency, LGA and NALC.
-The development of 'Quality Status' for parish and town councils which, when met, will enable these councils to be more active community leaders and be more closely involved in local service delivery.
-'Quality Status' is open to all parish and town councils.
-To attain 'Quality Status' councils will have to meet a number of standards including having a trained clerk and elected councillors.
-Every principal authority adopts a new model Parish Charter in agreement with the parish and town councils in their area. This will set out the arrangements for partnership working and parish involvement in decisions on service management and delivery.
A key feature of the consultation paper is flexibility. Parish and town councils can decide on the scope of their new role and enter into appropriate levels of partnership working with principal authorities.
The joint approach to the paper has been only the first stage in the consultation process: local councils and the wider public can now have their say in the 12 week consultation period.
Pam Warhurst, deputy chairman of the Countryside Agency, said: 'The introduction of quality status can only increase the role of parish and town councils and this is fantastic news for all communities including those in rural areas.'
Cllr Christine Reid, chair of LGA rural executive said: 'Local authorities will welcome the opportunity for local communities to develop partnerships that will provide parish and town councils with a stronger voice on local service delivery and decision making. The LGA looks forward to working with NALC to deliver improved services to rural areas.'
Cllr Brian Kerr, chairman of NALC, said: 'We are delighted that the government has recognised the potential for town and parish councils to develop their role in local community democracy. The proposals mark a real opportunity for local communities to have a bigger say on local decisions and services.'