In the Cotswold village of Pagford grasping shop-keeper Howard Mollison, chairman of the local parish council, is keen to turn the village's popular but dilapidated community hall into a money-making spa, bringing protests from honest solicitor Barry Fairbrother. The council votes on the matter but with no clear majority. When Barry suddenly dies a vacancy occurs on the parish council. Howard urges his weak son Miles to stand, to the disgust of Miles' wife, sex shop owner Samantha, who detests her father-in-law. School-master Colin Wall, husband of Tess, Barry's ally on the council, also puts himself forward as does Barry's greedy brother Simon Price , who bullies his son 'Arf'. At the same time social worker Kaye Bawden is dismayed to be told that her department's lack of funds means she cannot get little Robbie Weedon away from his drug addict mother Terri and tarty sister Krystle.
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