< Governance Toolkit

  1. Introduction
  2. Connecting with your community – Why good communication matters
  3. Model Protocol on Communications
  4. Governing Documents for Parish Councils
  5. The Conduct of the Annual Town or Parish Meeting
  6. Guidance on Gifts and Hospitality
  7. Relationships between Councillors and Council Employees (including Model Protocol)
  8. Protocols on Bullying and Harassment
  9. Guidance Notes on Whistle Blowing
  10. The Complaints Procedure (including model procedure)

1    Introduction

The term “local authority” is applicable to parish, district (sometimes known as borough), county and unitary councils, and in London, to London Borough councils. All local authorities are corporate bodies created by statute or by royal charter. Parish councils make up the first tier of local government in England and are the layer of local government closest to the communities they represent

Parish councils are corporate bodies. It is the corporate body, of a council acting in its own name, which undertakes activities conferred on it by statute and is therefore capable of owning or transferring land, entering into contracts and taking or defending legal action. A parish council enjoys its legal status and identity until it is dissolved by operation of the law. As a corporate body, a parish council has a separate and distinct legal identity to the Councillors who make up the council and the Officers who are employed by the council.

Members of a parish council are democratically elected and have a fiduciary duty to their local government tax payers.

Since 1894 parish councils have been able to exercise functions and powers specifically conferred on them by legislation or by arrangement with another local authority. Importantly, as with any body corporate, a parish council can only do that which it is authorised to do by statute. It must not do anything which it is prohibited to do by statute. A parish council must ensure that its processes and decisions are not ultra vires (beyond its legal powers). It is the principle of ultra vires which requires the need for governance in any local authority, including a parish council. For there to be public confidence in a council’s decision making process, it is desirable for that process to be as transparent as the decision itself.

Basic effective governance for a parish council entails:

  • Understanding statutory duties, powers, and subsequent legal obligations;
  • Efficiently prioritising and undertaking activities arising from statutory duties, powers, and subsequent legal obligations;
  • Observing statutory prohibitions and limitations to their statutory duties and powers;
  • Engaging with local residents and other key stakeholders to deliver the services and facilities required;
  • Taking informed, transparent decisions and managing risk;
  • Developing and increasing resources (land, property, finances, staff) commensurate with activity undertaken.

Decisions made by any local authority must be made in accordance with procedures laid down in statute. The most important piece of legislation for parish council law and procedure is the Local Government Act 1972 (“the Act”).

All local authorities are required to conduct their business in an open and transparent way and must comply with statutory requirements in relation to decision making and activities undertaken.

Effective governance checks are in place to ensure that the decisions and actions of a local authority are lawful and transparent to the public at large and local council tax payers who have a vested interest in the activities of their parish council.

The legal requirements include:

  • Public and advance notice of meetings of a parish council;
  • Meetings of a parish council being open to the public;
  • Regulation of the transaction of the business and the meetings of a parish council by appropriate standing orders;
  • Procedures for voting on any decision which need to be made by a parish council;
  • Opportunities to delegate functions or powers of a parish council to a committee or sub committee (with clear and unambiguous terms of reference) or an employee of the council or to another local authority. Arrangements by a parish council to delegate should be formally decided and evidenced;
  • Access to minutes of meetings and accounts of a parish council;
  • Strict control and regulation of the council’s financial affairs;
  • Regulation of the individual conduct of councillors who are elected, appointed or co- opted to a parish council;
  • Regulation of the conduct of staff who are employed by a parish council.

As with other local authorities or public bodies, if a decision or the expenditure of a parish council is deemed ultra vires for any reason, it can be legally challenged by a judicial review claim in the High Court.

The Audit Commission Act 1998, and regulations made subsequent to this, require a parish council to exercise tight financial controls in respect of their finances and accounts. The legislation requires a parish council’s yearly accounts to be audited by an external auditor appointed by the Audit Commission.

Audit Commission Legislation makes it easy to access a parish council’s accounts which detail their income and expenditure.

Unlike other local authorities, whose maladministration can be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman, the Ombudsman does not have any jurisdiction over parish councils. It is therefore vital for a parish council to adopt a comprehensive complaints procedure to handle complaints received in respect of its decisions or activities.

Other protocols have been produced to govern particular aspects of council activity where experience has shown that problems can occur, such as the relationship between Councillors and employees, gifts and hospitality.


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2    Connecting with your community

Why good communication matters

How a parish council communicates with the wider world and how that communication is received and perceived is important because confusion can arise over who is talking to whom, about what, and on whose behalf.

Individual communication back and forth between council members and the Clerk, if not done appropriately, may create confusion, misunderstandings and, occasionally, even hostility.

As well as reflecting poorly on the parish council, poor communication may create tensions within the council. This has led to complaints to the Standards Board for England and also employment disputes, many of which may have been avoidable if a few simple rules were in place and agreed.

The protocol suggested below covers communications within the council and between the council and the wider world and can be adapted to suit local circumstances.

Councils sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that routine documentation is only for the benefit of the council or to meet legal requirements. Agenda and minutes may take different styles but should be understood by all. The agenda and minutes are a vital way of telling your community what the council is doing, what decisions are being made on behalf of the residents and involving local people in the life of their community. This guidance contains some good practice ideas about communication which will help raise standards of governance and provide effective ways of connecting with your community.

Agenda

Agenda for meetings of the parish council and its committees should be circulated and made available to the public a minimum of 3 clear days before the day of the meeting. Current best practice is distribution 5 or 7 clear days before the meeting. A clear day does not include the day of the notice or the day of the meeting and excludes weekends and bank holidays.

A covering letter to councillors or the agenda itself (depending on how it is expressed) comprises the statutory ‘summons’ to attend the meeting. The letter can be simply expressed; for example:

“You are requested to attend a meeting of the Council to be held in (venue) on (date) at (time).

The agenda for the meeting is attached. Yours sincerely
A.N. Other

Clerk to the Council”

The letter may contain other appropriate information such as public speaking and access arrangements, refreshment details, and information regarding no smoking.

The content of an agenda must reflect any requirements of the Council’s Standing Orders which may include specific items and the order in which they are to be considered.

It is sensible to adopt a standard style, using different fonts, text size, highlighting and underlining functions and line breaks to improve the readability and professional appearance of the document.

The agenda should have the name of the council at the top, using the style that the council has agreed. This may be simply the council’s name, or include a logo or picture or, where applicable, a coat of arms or adopted emblem. It is practical marketing for local councils to adopt a house style and format for all official and formal documents and to use the same ‘brand’ for its property, whether a village sign, bench, litter bin, playing field notice or building. If a colour letterhead is chosen, it is sensible to have a black and white version for economy use (think about how your council’s name and/or logo will look in different situations – reproduced small on a poster or notice board, or large on the side of the council van or the village hall).

Below the council title (and other logo or image) the agenda should be clearly headed, in bold format, as in the example shown below:

“Agenda for a meeting of the Council (Planning Committee/Finance Committee etc) to be held on (date) at (venue) at (time)”

Agendas for committee meetings usefully include a list of the members of the committee, identifying the Chair and deputy Chair.

Where it would be helpful to the public it may be appropriate to include some notes prior to the agenda items. Notes might say that mobile phones are prohibited or describe the council’s arrangements for public speakers at meetings. For the planning committee, for example, an appropriate note might explain that the applicant and objectors will be permitted to speak for a maximum of, say, 3 or 5 minutes each at the discretion of the Chair (or whatever local practice has been adopted). Such notes are aimed at the public to enable them to understand how the council works.

Some spare copies of the agenda should be available for the public attending meetings. Agenda items should be numbered consecutively for ease of reference.

Agenda Management
Procedural items

The agenda for meetings can often be divided between procedural items and business items and it is helpful to identify this on the agenda. Procedural items will normally include:

  • Disclosures of Interests
    The Agenda should include a standard item with a note or explanation along the following lines:

    “To receive disclosures of personal and prejudicial interests from Councillors on matters to be considered at the meeting.

    The disclosure must include the nature of the interest. If you become aware, during the course of a meeting, of an interest that has not been disclosed under this item you must immediately disclose it. You may remain in the meeting and take part fully in discussion and voting unless the interest is prejudicial.

    A personal interest is prejudicial if a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts would reasonably regard it as so significant that it is likely to prejudice your judgement of the public interest and it relates to a financial or regulatory matter.”

    If your council has arrangements in place allowing a member of the public to speak to a meeting about an item and has adopted paragraph 12(2) of the 2007 Model Code of Conduct, a Councillor with a prejudicial interest in a matter may make representations, answer questions or give evidence to the meeting, but must then leave the room immediately and not take part in the council’s discussion, or vote, or observe the vote.

  • Minutes
    “To resolve that the minutes of the meeting of the Council/committee held on the (date) (circulated to members or attached) be signed as a correct record.”
  • Apologies for absence
  • Chair’s announcements

This should be limited to formal civic announcements, not matters that are or should be on the agenda for debate and decision.

Subject to the Council’s Standing Orders, custom or practice, there may be other procedural items, by way of receiving information that are not to be the subject of discussion or debate at the meeting. For example:

  • Public questions, comments or representations

    The council may have arrangements for hearing members of the public. Your Standing Orders should ensure that this is limited to a fixed timescale for each person to speak for no more than, say, 3 or 5 minutes, and for the matter to be formally referred to a committee, or to be placed on the agenda of the next meeting, or responded to by the Clerk, or simply noted, so that there is no discussion at the meeting on a matter for which there has been no prior notice on the agenda.

  • Appointment of members to committees

    It may be necessary to change the membership of a committee during the course of a year in the event of a resignation or other reason.

  • Members questions to the Chair

    Your Standing Orders may include provision for Members of the council or the committee to put questions to the Chair. The rules should specify that questions must relate to the functions of the council or committee as appropriate, that notice of questions is given a specified number of days before the meeting and that the agenda item be time limited.

Business Items

Business items on the agenda will be determined by the activities of the council or the terms of reference of a committee and its functions. Some items will recur from previous agenda. In such cases it is good practice to provide a reference to the previous minutes on the agenda. Each matter should be given a clear heading that indicates what the agenda item is about and a brief indication of what the council or committee is going to consider. For example;

“Fencing at Smith Street allotment gardens
Minute 27 (Allotments Committee meeting 14 January 2005) refers.
The Clerk will submit an estimate for repairs to the fencing for consideration by the Committee.”

More complicated items may require a written report from the Clerk, in which case the agenda item should refer to the report by its title and the report should show the agenda item number clearly at the top for identification.

A draft agenda should be prepared in advance of the publication/despatch date and discussed with the Chair. The Chair has responsibility for the proper conduct of the meeting and needs to be involved in planning the meeting. The order of business items is important. For example, it might be appropriate to include controversial items, or items for which there is likely to be public interest and attendance, early in the agenda. Items where the press and public are likely to be excluded should be put at the end.

It is good practice to work out in advance a timetable for the meeting to enable the Chair to ensure that sufficient time is allowed for each item.

Minutes

The minutes of a council or committee meeting are a public record of the decisions of the council and great care should be taken in their format and production. The minutes can be produced in court and other judicial processes as evidence of decisions of the council, and they form part of the Council archives which must be preserved. Minutes should be:

  • as brief as is consistent with accuracy;
  • precise and concise;
  • self contained (i.e. complete in themselves and understandable without reference to other documents);
  • decisive (so that there is no doubt about the decision made);
  • minutes, not hours!

Minutes should be produced in the house style with a clear heading containing the status of the meeting, the place and date. It is good practice to indicate the time the meeting starts and ends and any adjournments. Minutes should start with an alphabetical list of the Councillors present at the meeting.

Minutes should be numbered consecutively for ease of reference. Some councils run minutes consecutively through the municipal year.

Each minute should contain a heading clearly indicating what the minute is about, a narrative or text, as appropriate, that briefly summarises what took place, and the decision. For many routine items, for example, commenting on planning applications, a narrative will not be necessary.

The narrative should be in the past tense (known as ‘reported speech’) and should include reference to any written reports submitted. The narrative should be in plain English using full sentences and appropriate grammar. It is not necessary to refer to individual speakers by name unless this is significant. It may be appropriate to record the fact that an applicant or an objector addressed the Council or committee on a planning application or that the Clerk, other Officer or an Officer of the district or county council reported on a matter. The narrative should summarise points raised in debate on a sensitive matter. This can be done by bullet points.

Abbreviations should be avoided and acronyms only used after having written the title in full at the first mention.

The decision should be separately highlighted for ease of identification and words used to show that it is a decision, for example;

Resolved

1)  That …
2)  That …

The wording of the decision should be included in full. It is not normally necessary to note the name of the member moving and seconding a motion in the minutes or the fact that a vote was taken (unless a recorded vote is requested).

The order of the minutes will normally follow the order of the agenda.

Declarations of interest must be carefully recorded in the minutes, naming the Councillor and clearly indicating which item the interest referred to, whether the interest is a personal interest or a personal and prejudicial interest, giving the nature of the interest and, in the case of a personal and prejudicial interest, recording that the member left the meeting during the discussion and decision on the item. For example;

26 DISCLOSURE OF INTEREST
The following disclosures of interest were received:
Planning application for conservatory at 12 Smith Road, Firsttown

Cllr Green disclosed a personal and prejudicial interest as the owner of land adjoining the development site. Cllr Green left the room during the discussion and decision on this matter.

Where Standing Orders provide for the submission by notice of formal written motions to a council meeting, it is appropriate to record the names of the Councillors proposing and seconding the motion in the minutes.

Where Standing Orders make provision for a recorded vote to be taken, or when a Councillor asks for votes to be recorded in the minutes, the minutes should record the names of Councillors voting for and against the matter or the individual Councillor’s vote accordingly.

Where Standing Orders provide for a special procedure (other than routine arrangements) to be followed at a meeting it is generally appropriate to include a reference in the minutes to the procedure being followed as evidence to that effect.

The Clerk should ensure that Councillors understand that decisions of parish councils can be set aside by a Court for procedural irregularity, which is why it is so important that the correct meeting procedures are followed and decisions are accurately recorded.

Decisions to exclude the press and public should be fully recorded in the minutes, making it absolutely clear to which matter or part of it the exclusion applied.

Minutes Production

Decisions taken at a meeting take effect immediately and do not depend on the minutes being approved at the next meeting.

The minutes should be produced as quickly as possible after the meeting in order to circulate them to Members. It can be helpful for the Clerk or minute taker to provide a draft of the minutes for the Chair of the meeting. This is an opportunity to pick up any mistakes in the content or identify typing errors, but it is not to be used by the Chair as a means of re-writing the minutes.

It is good practice to circulate the draft minutes no later than 10 working days after the meeting. It is acceptable for the draft minutes to be published (on the website or notice board, or to provide copies to members of the public), but they do not become valid minutes until they are accepted as a correct record and signed by the Chair at the next meeting. Minutes in draft form should therefore record that fact clearly (at the top and bottom) to the effect: “Minutes subject to approval at the next meeting” or by using a “draft” watermark.

The signed minutes should be carefully retained by the Clerk for the council’s archives. It is prudent to retain a separate set of signed minutes for public inspection and for reference at meetings or for other purposes. The end of the published minutes should include the fact of being signed by the Chair and the date on which they were signed.

If changes are made to the minutes by the council or committee before acceptance and signing, the wording changes should be recorded in the minutes of the meeting that agreed the changes and the original minutes must be amended to reflect the changes. The copy signed by the Chair will contain the alterations, recorded in longhand, with the changes signed and dated.

Reports

The council’s decisions can be set aside by a court if due regard has not been had to relevant information or irrelevant considerations have been applied. Some matters may require Councillors to consider a variety of facts or documentation. It is becoming increasingly important that such information is provided to Members in advance of the meeting in the form of a report. Reports may be prepared by the Clerk or other employee. Occasionally, reports may be made by a Member, for example when reporting back to the council or committee on an event attended or research done at the council’s request.

Reports should be circulated at the same time as the agenda and made available to the public, unless they include confidential matters that would justify the exclusion of the press and public at the meeting. This enhances the transparency of the council’s decision making and improves local knowledge of its activities.

It greatly improves the speed of handling business at a meeting if all the relevant information is made available to Members in a report that assists their grasp and deliberation of a matter before the meeting. The vast majority of county and district council business is dealt with in this way.

Other communication methods

The Parish Notice Board
The notice board is a traditional means of communication although it is sometimes abused and often neglected. With modern materials and careful location, notice boards provide an effective mouthpiece and updated image for the council.

The notice board should display:

  • The full title of the parish council;
  • The name, address, telephone number and email address of the clerk;
  • The council’s website address;
  • A list of Members of the council with contact details (address, telephone number, email) and their political group, if this is relevant locally;
  • Venues, dates and times of meetings for the year;
  • Agenda for forthcoming meetings;
  • If practicable, minutes of meetings or a summary of recent decisions and;
  • Where the minutes, the code of conduct and other public documents may be inspected.

It is essential that notice boards are kept up to date and notices replaced regularly. There should be a clear responsibility (generally the Clerk’s) for this task.

Councils can make arrangements with other bodies for joint use of notice boards. A community notice board that meets the needs of public bodies and local groups, as well as providing useful information for residents and visitors, is an economic means of achieving several objectives.

Website

The Internet is such a significant and powerful means of communication that many local councils are now investing in informative and user friendly websites.

The starting point for any Clerk is the development of a website which can provide a variety of information to the community. Parish councils should work towards having all their agenda, reports and minutes and the Council’s Publication Scheme on a dedicated website, with appropriate archive facilities. Look at some current parish council websites for ideas on what is essential and appropriate material to include, or talk to the Information Manager or Parish Council Liaison Officer at the district or county council, or the County Association of Local Councils.

It is essential that the website is kept up to date on a regular basis (weekly perhaps for small local councils) and that older documents are archived. The site can be developed as a means of receiving comments and to obtain local views on topical matters. A good website can say a lot about the efficiency, effectiveness and relevance of a parish council.

Council Newsletters

Many parish councils produce a regular newsletter, monthly or quarterly, or take space in the local school or church magazine to publicise meetings and activities. This can be an effective way of keeping in touch with your community. Depending on the size of the town or parish, delivering a newsletter is a good way for Councillors to get out and about in their community. The task of producing the newsletter or text for articles is often delegated to a small group of Councillors to work with the Clerk. Responsibility for editorial control needs to be agreed by the council at the outset and it is good practice to have a clear and published editorial policy, which should also be agreed by the council. Your County Association may be able to give you advice on how to go about producing a newsletter, or put you in touch with a parish council that is doing it already.

Annual Report

Some councils also produce an Annual Report, which can usefully be presented to, and distributed at, the Annual Parish meeting. Again, this is an opportunity to engage with your community and enhance the reputation of the Council. Annual reports do not have to be coloured, glossy or expensive and professional results can be achieved with a modern computer. Stick to a clear simple design and layout, avoid lots of underlining and different fiddly fonts and remember that yellow text is extremely difficult to read. As with any publication, the important rules of effective communication apply:

  • always use your agreed ‘house’ style;
  • keep sentences short and paragraphs to 3 or 4 sentences;
  • use active not passive verbs and sentences;
  • use everyday words, avoiding jargon and acronyms;
  • keep to plain English;
  • always check your spelling – don’t rely on a computer spellcheck;
  • always give the Clerk’s contact details, e-mail address and website if applicable;
  • always use the correct name of the council;
  • official correspondence should always be written and signed by the Clerk;
  • use standard templates for letters, reports and official publications.

Effective communication is important to achieve and maintain a positive relationship with your community and an essential feature of good governance.


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3   Model Protocol on Communications

A.   Parish Council Correspondence

  1. The point of contact for the parish council is the Clerk, and it is to the Clerk that all correspondence for the parish council should be addressed.
  2. The Clerk should deal with all correspondence following a meeting.
  3. No individual Councillor or Officer should be the sole custodian of any correspondence or information in the name of the parish council, a committee, sub-committee or working party. In particular, Councillors and Officers do not have a right to obtain confidential information/documentation unless they can demonstrate a ‘need to know’.
  4. All official correspondence should be sent by the Clerk in the name of the council using council letter headed paper.
  5. Where correspondence from the Clerk to a Councillor is copied to another person, the addressee should be made aware that a copy is being forwarded to that other person (e.g. copy to XX).

B.   Agenda Items for Council, Committees, Sub-Committees and Working Parties

  1. Agenda should be clear and concise. They should contain sufficient information to enable Councillors to make an informed decision, and for the public to understand what matters are being considered and what decisions are to be taken at a meeting.
  2. Items for information should be kept to a minimum on an agenda.
  3. Where the Clerk or a Councillor wishes fellow Councillors to receive matters for “information only”, this information will be circulated via the Clerk.

C.   Communications with the Press and Public

  1. The Clerk will clear all press reports, or comments to the media, with the Chair of the council or the Chair of the relevant committee.
  2. Press reports from the council, its committees or working parties should be from the Clerk or an officer or via the reporter’s own attendance at a meeting.
  3. Unless a Councillor has been authorised by the council to speak to the media on a particular issue, Councillors who are asked for comment by the press should make it clear that it is a personal view and ask that it be clearly reported as their personal view.
  4. Unless a Councillor is absolutely certain that he/she is reporting the view of the council, they must make it clear to members of the public that they are expressing a personal view.
  5. If Councillors receive a complaint from a member of the public, this should be dealt with under the Council’s adopted complaints procedure, or via a council agenda item.

D.   Councillor Correspondence to external parties

  1. As the Clerk should be sending most of the council’s correspondence from a Councillor to other bodies, it needs to be made clear that it is written in their official capacity and has been authorised by the parish council.
  2. A copy of all outgoing correspondence relating to the council or a Councillor’s role within it, should be sent to the Clerk, and it be noted on the correspondence, e.g. “copy to the Clerk” so that the recipient is aware that the Clerk has been advised.

E.   Communications with Parish Council Staff

  1. Councillors must not give instructions to any member of staff, unless authorised to do so (for example, three or more Councillors sitting as a committee or sub-committee with appropriate delegated powers from the council).
  2. No individual Councillor, regardless of whether or not they are the Chair of the council, the Chair of a committee or other meeting, or are styled “Leader” of the Council, may give instructions to the Clerk or to another employee which are inconsistent or conflict with council decisions or arrangements for delegated power.
  3. Telephone calls should be appropriate to the work of the parish council.
  4. E-mails:
    • Instant replies should not be expected from the Clerk; reasons for urgency should be stated;
    • Information to Councillors should normally be directed via the Clerk;
    • E-mails from Councillors to external parties should be copied to the Clerk;
    • Councillors should acknowledge their e-mails when requested to do so.
  5. Meetings with the Clerk or other officers:
    • Wherever possible an appointment should be made;
    • Meetings should be relevant to the work of that particular officer;
    • Councillors should be clear that the matter is legitimate council business and not matters driven by personal or political agendas.

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4   Governing Documents for Parish Councils

In order to give effect to good governance a parish council should commit time to producing and annually reviewing, their governance documents.

These documents set the environment in which a parish council is expected to discharge its duties and powers. They constitute the internal rules, practical arrangements and processes which are essential to those who form and work for the council.

A parish council’s governance documents should be readily available for inspection, whether on a website or local notice board, and parish councillors and employees should be able to demonstrate compliance with its governing documents in relation to all its activities, decisions and decision making processes.

Core governing documents for parish councils comprise:

  • Standing Orders for the conduct and transaction of business at meetings of the council (and any of its committees and sub committees). See pages 36-51
  • Clear written terms of reference for committees and sub committees which evidence the nature and extent of the duties or powers which have been delegated. See pages 51-52
  • Arrangements for inspection of minutes and accounts by local residents. See pages 52-53
  • Standing orders and arrangements for the proper administration of its financial affairs. See pages 53-54
  • Standing orders for entering into contracts. See page 54
  • The code of conduct adopted by the council which Councillors must observe. See page 54
  • Arrangements for access to information held by the council under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. See Part 4 of the Toolkit for more on Freedom of Information
  • Arrangements for handling complaints. See pages 71-73

Governing documents may be amended with a view to improving the council’s method and efficiency in conducting its business.

It is suggested that the full council carries out an annual review of its governing documents. It is also suggested that resolutions adopting governing documents (or amending them) be phrased in terms of continuing to have effect until superseded by new or amended arrangements. In a year that no changes are made, it would be appropriate to record in the minutes that a review was carried out, in order to demonstrate that the council was continuing to review its governing arrangements.

Standing Orders
Parish councils are subject to the basic arrangements relating to the conduct of meetings and making decisions many of which are contained in the Local Government Act 1972 and in particular Schedule 12 to the 1972 Act (paragraphs 7-13 and 39-45). These provide for:

  • Holding an annual meeting;
  • Holding other meetings;
  • Location of meeting not to be in licensed premises unless no other suitable room is available;
  • Public Notice of meetings;
  • Service of summons on councillors to attend meetings;
  • A councillor to preside at meetings;
  • Quorum to be no less than 3;
  • Voting by show of hands;
  • Arrangement for votes to be recorded;
  • Decisions to be by majority vote;
  • Provision for casting vote;
  • Recording attendance;
  • Provisions for minutes and their validity;
  • Power to make Standing Orders subject to the above provisions.

A parish council is generally not required by law to make Standing Orders which regulate how they conduct their business. However, the basic provisions in the 1972 Act (and other legislation) are insufficient for the majority of parish councils. Standing Orders are therefore necessary for regulating the practical arrangements to give effect to statutory requirements.

Where Standing Orders are adopted, it is preferable that they include any statutory requirements for procedures. This avoids the need for separate referencing to legislation. Any Standing Orders adopted by a council must not have the effect of overriding or conflicting with requirements that are laid down by legislation. Once Standing Orders which are additional to those which reflect statutory requirements have been made, a parish council is bound to observe and comply with them (unless they vary or suspend them by resolution).

A variety of Standing Orders have been made by parish councils to deal with particular situations and to provide consistency in respect of necessary procedure. Examples of matters requiring regulation by standing orders include:

  • Formulating motions for debate and discussion at meetings;
  • Order of business at annual meetings;
  • Order of business at ordinary meetings;
  • Formulating rules of debate for motions;
  • Participation by the public at meetings;
  • Dealing with disorderly conduct;
  • Awarding and entering into contracts;
  • Regulating and controlling finances;
  • Appointing employees;
  • Rules for committees and sub-committees;
  • Excluding the public and press;
  • Amending Standing Orders.

The object of Schedule 12 provisions and any additional Standing Orders is to provide parish councils with a methodology in respect of how they conduct their business and make decisions. A consistent and logical system or method of working, as set by Standing Orders, should deliver transparent, efficient and effective decision making and prevent unlawful activity occasioned by unclear, inconsistent or ad hoc processes. Standing Orders provide checks and balances that should ensure coherent and sound governance arrangements.

Model Standing Orders applicable to parish councils are available from NALC (ask for their publication “Standing Orders for Local Councils”).


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Examples of Standing Orders and Procedural Requirements for Parish Councils

The matters below explain the main procedural requirements contained in the 1972 Act and other legislation and set out why Standing Orders are necessary.

1   Council meetings

1.1   Chairing meetings

The Chair of the parish council (and in his absence the Deputy Chair, if there is one) shall chair or preside meetings of the council.

In the event that the person normally expected to preside the meeting is not able to, those Members present should decide who amongst them shall preside. The Clerk should supervise the selection by inviting nominations and putting them to the vote. Where a chair has to be selected, the meeting starts when the selection decision is made. The minutes should record the selection of the chair (i.e. ‘Cllr X was selected to chair the meeting).

1.2   Quorum

No business shall be considered at a meeting of the parish council unless one- third of the total number of Councillors is present, or, where more than one-third of the Councillors are disqualified from acting, then one-third of the remainder is present. In any event, there must be no fewer than 3 Members present at a meeting.

Unless the quorum is met, the council meeting cannot commence, no business may be transacted and no decisions can be made.

A meeting which is inquorate is unlawful and those Members present are not competent to resolve that the meeting is adjourned. It is desirable to have a Standing Order which has the effect of declaring that the meeting shall stand adjourned if the quorum is not present within 30 minutes of the start time of the meeting.

In practical terms, the meeting should be reconvened.

1.3   Holding meetings

1.3.1   An annual meeting of the parish council shall be held every year in the month of May. In the year of ordinary elections of parish Councillors the annual meeting of the parish council shall be held within 14 days after the day on which Councillors elected take office.

1.3.2   The annual meeting of the parish council may be at any time but if the council does not fix a time, the meeting shall take place at 6pm.

Most meetings of a parish council take place in the evening and should not last more than 3 hours. It should be possible to transact the business of a meeting in 1 hour or 1 hour and 30 minutes. If a meeting is scheduled for a longer period, e.g. 2 or 3 hours, it is difficult to maintain the interest of members of the public and Councillors. Meetings of parish councils and their committees are required to be open to the public and in the interest of facilitating public attendance and engagement, it is important that meetings are not convened too late in the evening and do not run over time.

Standing Orders should lay down the time and duration of meetings of the council.

1.3.3   In addition to the annual meeting of a parish council, at least 3 meetings shall be held in every year. In most cases a parish council will need to meet more than 3 times a year. The frequency of meetings will depend on the size and activities of the council, the volume of business to be transacted and the level of delegation of functions to committees, sub committees or Officers. Standing Orders should diarise meetings of the full council to fit with the cycle of committee (and sub committee) meetings. The regular meetings of a parish council convened by its proper officer in accordance with the Standing Orders which dictate their timetable are known as ordinary meetings.

1.3.4   An extraordinary meeting of the parish council may be called at any time by the Chair (and in his absence by the Deputy Chair if there is one).

An extraordinary meeting is one which is called specifically. They are usually convened to deal with urgent or unforeseen business.

1.3.5   Any 2 Members of a parish council may submit a written request signed by them to the Chair of the parish council to call an extraordinary meeting. In the event of the Chair not calling an extraordinary meeting within 7 days of receiving the request, the 2 members may call an extraordinary meeting.

1.3.6   Meetings shall be held at a place, date and time fixed by the council. Meetings shall not be held in premises being used at the time for the supply of alcohol as permitted by the Licensing Act 2003 unless no other suitable room is available free of charge or at a reasonable cost.

1.3.7   Notice of the time and place of meetings must be fixed in a conspicuous place in the parish at least 3 clear days before the meeting. Where a meeting is called by Members of the council (1.3.4 above), the notice shall be signed by those Members and shall specify the business proposed to be transacted at the meeting (the agenda).

1.3.8   All Members of the council (or the committee, if this is the case) shall be given at least 3 clear days written notice (at their residence) of all meetings of the council (or committee) from the Proper Officer specifying the business proposed to be transacted which will take the form of an agenda.

Agendas and any relevant background papers should, wherever possible, be published and circulated to Members with as much notice as possible.

1.4   Order of Business for Annual Parish Council Meetings

1.4.1   Section 15 of the 1972 Act provides that the first business to be transacted at the Annual Meeting of a parish council is the election of the Chair. This is because a parish council is not lawfully constituted unless a Chair has been elected by Members of the council.

The person elected as Chair is required to make and deliver his declaration of acceptance of office to the Proper Officer of the council at that meeting (this is on a statutory prescribed form). If the declaration of office cannot be delivered at that meeting the parish council can resolve to do this at a later meeting (but see Note at the end of this paragraph 1.4).

Legislation does not require a parish council to have a Deputy Chair. However, to address problems caused by the absence of the Chair, most parish councils do elect a Vice–Chair who is able to step in to the role during such absence.

1.4.2   Apart from the above, legislation does not prescribe any other business to be completed at the annual meeting. However, the annual meeting is an ideal opportunity for parish councils to deal with significant administrative arrangements essential for conducting everyday business and activities. This will include a review of the delegation of functions to any committee, sub committee, Officer or to another local authority and Standing Orders.

Below is a list of other business matters which may be dealt with in the following order:

  • Election of Deputy Chair – as appropriate;
  • When the Annual Meeting follows council elections, there should be receipt of declarations of acceptance of office by Members. If this is not possible a decision must be made as to the date of the meeting by which, or at, they should be received (but see Note at the end of this paragraph 1.4);
  • Record Members present;
  • Record apologies from Members unable to be present ;
  • Declarations of acceptance of office by Members. If this is not possible a decision must be made as to the date of the meeting by which, or at which, it should be received;
  • Members’ disclosures of interests in respect of relevant items of business on the agenda;
  • Agreeing the minutes of the last meeting and signing them;
  • Comprehensive review of any arrangements delegating functions to committees, sub committees, Officers and local authorities
  • A review of arrangements to contribute to the expenses of another local authority that is exercising the functions of the parish council (s136 of the 1972 Act );
  • A review of a parish council’s ability to meet the criteria to qualify as a parish council eligible to exercise the power of well-being;
  • Consideration of public participation at council meetings. This includes the right for the public to make representations, answer questions and give evidence. If these rights are given, will the public be permitted to participate in all meetings of the Council and their committees and sub committees or only those where it is likely that they will have a particular interest (e.g. meetings at which planning applications or local festivities, recreational facilities, allotments are discussed)?
  • A review of any existing committees (and sub committees) and confirmation that their terms of reference and applicable Standing Orders (if any) are clear and still relevant. If not, it may be necessary to make changes in arrangements for delegation;
  • Appoint any new committees and sub committees, determining the terms of reference, the number of Members and term of office and to implement Standing Orders in relation to them;
  • Receive nominations or make nominations to any committee or sub committee;
  • Set the dates, times and place of meetings of the council for the year;
  • Receive recommendations from committees.

Note
The Annual Meeting can be retained as more of a ceremonial meeting which deals with the only mandatory item of business i.e. the election of the Chair.

It should be noted that members cannot act as Councillors until they have made and delivered their declaration of acceptance of office containing their undertaking to observe the code of conduct. In order to deal with items listed above it might be more practical to deal with these at a meeting of full council convened as soon as possible after the annual meeting of the council.

1.5   Order of Business for Ordinary Parish Council Meetings

1.5.1   At ordinary meetings of a parish council, business will usually be dealt with in the following order:

  • Record of Members present;
  • Record of apologies from Members unable to be present;
  • Declarations of interests (existence and nature) with regard to items on the agenda;
  • Formal announcements from the Chair;
  • Agreeing the minutes of the last meeting and signing them;
  • Public participation session with respect to items on the agenda (which includes an opportunity for Members with a prejudicial interest in any item of business on the agenda to make representations, answer questions and give evidence);
  • Any business remaining from previous meetings;
  • Any appointments of committees;
  • Any appointment of members of the council to other bodies;
  • To receive recommendations from committees (recommendations of committees must be included in full on the agenda for the council meeting). Normally only one recommendation may be discussed at a time, but the Chair may allow 2 or more recommendations to be discussed together where this is conducive to the efficient conduct of business;
  • To receive business motions from Members;
  • Other business placed on the agenda (e.g. authorisation of orders and payments, to consider internal auditors and external auditors reports).

Note
The first 3 items are always taken first as matters of procedure.
Announcements from the Chair should be limited to formal matters relating to the conduct of the meeting rather than any substantive discussion of business on the agenda.

If the council does not have a public participation session (which is good practice) then it can make provision for members of the public to submit written questions to the council in time for when the agendas are sent out. The council is not obliged to respond to the written questions at the meeting. A more considered written response to the person who asked the question may be more appropriate.

If there is a public participation session, the Chair will need to effectively control the question time to allow members of the public and, if the council has adopted paragraph 12 (2) of the Model Code of Conduct applicable to parish councils, Councillors with a prejudicial interest in any business to participate within the allocated time scale allowed.

1.6   Public Participation Sessions

Pursuant to the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, the public have a statutory right to attend meetings of a parish council and its committees. Importantly they have no right to participate in a meeting, unless permitted to do so by the Council. Permitting the public to contribute at council meetings is an effective mechanism for community engagement.

Normally, a Councillor with a prejudicial interest is not permitted to be present or to participate in any part of a meeting of a council considering or determining a matter in which he has a prejudicial interest as defined by the Model Code of Conduct. He would be expected to leave the meeting room.

However, if a parish council has resolved and evidenced through their Standing Orders that the public are permitted to participate, and the council has adopted paragraph 12(2) of the Model Code of Conduct, a Member with a prejudicial interest in any business being considered, is entitled to make representations, answer questions and give evidence in the same way as the public also enjoy this right. A Member with a prejudicial interest would be expected to leave the room immediately after he has made representations (this could be a mere comment), answered questions and given evidence. The Code of Conduct prohibits a Member with a prejudicial interest in a matter from voting on it, unless he has obtained a dispensation from his local standards committee.

Once a parish council has resolved that public participation sessions will be incorporated in their meetings, Standing Orders are required to regulate the conduct and duration of the sessions. Standing Orders need to limit the time that individuals speak (no more than 5 minutes per person would be sensible). A maximum of 20 or 30 minutes could be allowed for public questions and comments to be raised. In the absence of Standing Orders, a public participation session is unregulated. This could disrupt the meeting from dealing with the business on the agenda and may also cause the meeting to overrun.

Standing Orders should restrict public participation to items of business on the agenda. Parish councils should not make immediate decisions on comments and representations made by the public, but they can be considered when the council formally considers that item of business, debates the matter and then makes a decision on that matter.

No discussion shall take place on any question put or comment made. Where practical, the Chair may respond to the question or indicate that a written response will be made. There may be instances when comments made by the public would be better addressed and considered at a later meeting, or at the meeting of a particular committee, as they may not have all the relevant information to make a valid decision.

1.7   Role of Chair

The Chair or Member presiding over a meeting of a council is required, by common law, to regulate the conduct of a meeting and preserve its order. Orderly conduct and keeping good order is key to ensuring that business is completed. The job of the person chairing a meeting is not an easy one.

Councillors and members of the public will be keen to have their point heard and sometimes the robust comment or dialogue can become out of hand. In order to control and complete the meeting’s business, the Chair will need to check for comments which are irrelevant, repetitious and not addressed to the Chair and check the use of rude or disrespectful language and personal insults. If a Councillor or a member of the public disregards the Chair’s request to modify their conduct, the Council can resolve to have the person causing the disturbance to the meeting excluded.

Legislation does not prescribe how meetings of parish councils are to be conducted. Standing Orders regulate the venue, date, duration and manner in which meetings of the Council are to be conducted.

1.8   Rules of Debate

Discussion or debate at meetings of a parish council is ordinarily permitted on a motion properly put before the meeting. A matter or item of business for consideration before a meeting must be expressed as a motion in positive terms. Examples include motions to adopt a certain course of action, to do some act, or to document a particular approach or attitude. The motion must relate to a matter in which a parish council has the statutory power to act or which relates to parish business.

When such motion is passed, with or without amendment, by a majority of Members present and voting the motion becomes a resolution.

A motion can be original or procedural. An original motion is one which proposes the substantive issue for consideration and council action. A procedural motion relates to procedure and form. Any Member at any time may move, between speakers, any of the following procedural motions:

  • to proceed to the next business;
  • to move to the vote;
  • to refer a matter to a committee.

An amendment is a motion to amend the substantive original motion being considered by the meeting.

Original motions may be passed by resolution with or without amendment or may be thrown out.

Alternatively during consideration and debate in respect of any motion, there maybe a procedural motion or a point of order.

A point of order is an objection submitted to the Chair which claims some irregularity in the constitution or conduct of the meeting. Primarily it relates to the conduct or procedure in the meeting and should not be concerned with the principles, views or correctness of statements made in the course of debate or consideration of the original motion. Common examples of irregularities are:

  • use of irrelevant or improper language;
  • non compliance with standing orders;
  • the motion debated is not within the scope of the motion on the agenda.

If a Member raises a point of order it should be raised as soon as the reason for it became apparent. The Member who was speaking before the point or order was raised must stop speaking and allow the Chair to make a decision. The Chair’s decision should be final.

1.8.1   Motions are included in full on the agenda in the order they are received by the Clerk.

1.8.2   Motions cannot be discussed until they have been moved (by the Member who lodged the motion).

There is no legal requirement for a motion to be seconded but it is established practice in local authorities to second a motion to prompt discussion. The requirement to second a motion should be reflected in Standing Orders.

1.8.3   Normally only one motion may be discussed at a time. Dealing with more than one subject/issue at a time should be avoided where possible.

Disregarding this rule could easily confuse the relevant issues for discussion, extend debates beyond matters which are relevant and encourage open ended or protracted debate. For example the motion “to purchase land to provide allotments or a field for recreational use“ relates to two separate statutory functions but deals with many considerations, including whether land is required to ensure that the council meets a statutory duty to meet unmet demand for allotments or if the council should provide more land for recreational use.

In a situation when a motion deals with more than one subject issue, the Chair should request the mover to separate the component parts and move them one by one.

If the separate components of the one motion (as in the example above) or two different motions share similar or common issues, the Chair may permit them to be moved together if this is conducive to the efficient conduct of business. However, to ensure the meeting considers only the relevant points, the discussion and voting on each motion should be separated.

1.8.4   Standing Orders are key to ordering debate and ensuring that this can be completed within the time allocated for the meeting. Standing Orders should provide members (and the public) with an opportunity to speak, consider information and exchange views but should not permit rude language, open ended protracted monologues/speeches or debate in respect of irrelevant considerations. Even clear Standing Orders regarding the formalities, style, order and length of comment by Members (and public) can be ignored. Whilst the Chair should not stifle relevant debate, he will be required to rule on a point of order e.g. when a comment or speech is irrelevant to the motion in debate.

It is sensible for Standing Orders to limit the number and length of speeches or comments by Members and not to permit Members other than the mover of the motion or the mover of an amendment to a motion to speak more than once on any one motion. This is important for Members and the public.

1.8.5   An amendment to a motion must relate directly to the subject matter of motion. It may seek to delete words, add words or require the motion or amendment to the motion to be referred to a committee for consideration or further consideration. An amendment must not have the effect of nullifying the recommendation or motion.

1.8.6   An amendment to the original motion cannot be discussed until it has been moved and seconded.

1.8.7   An amendment can be withdrawn at any time by the Member moving it.

1.8.8   Amendments to the original motion will be discussed together unless the meeting agrees to discuss them separately on the motion of any Member.

1.8.9   Amendments will be put to the vote in the reverse order in which they were moved.

1.8.10 An amendment which is carried shall become the substantive motion or recommendation and other amendments will not be put to the vote.

1.8.11 The order of speaking shall be:

  • mover of the motion;
  • mover of first amendment;
  • mover of second amendment (and so on);
  • any other member wishing to speak;
  • right of reply of movers of amendments in reverse order;
  • right of reply of mover of recommendation or motion.
1.8.12 A Member may speak only once in a debate except where the Member has a right of reply or where the Chair in her/his discretion permits it in the interests of debate.

1.8.13 During a debate, but between speakers, any Member may move a procedural motion:

  • That the question be put to the vote immediately;
  • That the meeting move to the right of reply of the mover of the recommendation or motion and then to the vote;
  • To proceed to the next business.
    If seconded, the procedural motion shall be put to the vote immediately without discussion.

1.9   Voting

1.9.1   All questions to be decided by the council shall be decided by a majority of the members present and voting.

1.9.2   Unless otherwise provided by Standing Orders, Members shall vote by a show of hands. A Member’s vote will only be counted if the Member is in the room of the meeting at the time the vote is taken.

1.9.3   Immediately before a vote is taken any Member may request that a vote is recorded. When a request is made the Chair, or other Member presiding, shall call the names of all the Members and after each name is called the Member shall state whether they are voting for or against the question put or abstaining. The record of voting shall be recorded in the minutes.

1.9.4   In the case of an equality of votes the Chair, or other Member presiding the meeting, has to give a casting vote in addition to their first vote.

1.9.5   The outgoing Chair must give a casting vote in the event of there being an equality of votes for the election of the Chair of the council at the annual meeting of the parish council.

Note: Once a resolution has been passed, a decision by the council has been made; this ends the debate on the matter. Although it is widely accepted, and a matter of common sense, that a resolution cannot be rescinded at a meeting in which it was passed, a Standing Order could confirm this position.

A resolution passed at one meeting of a Council may be rescinded at a subsequent meeting if there are no practical obstacles or legal consequences (for example which affect or prejudice a third party who has relied on the former resolution).

In order to control the rescission of resolutions and to restrict attempts to resurrect previous unsuccessful motions, Standing Orders should prohibit motions to rescind resolutions passed in the preceding 6 months. A proposal to rescind a resolution must be treated as an original motion.

1.10   Minutes

1.10.1 The minutes must record the names of Members present at the meeting and the existence and nature of any interest declared by Members.

1.10.2 The minutes are not a verbatim record of debate at a meeting but must accurately reflect the resolutions made and record voting if this is requested by a Member at that meeting.

1.10.3 The draft minutes of a meeting must be attached to the agenda for the next meeting for approval and signing by the Chair (or persons presiding the meeting).

1.10.4 There should be no discussion in respect of the draft minutes except that which relates to the motion to agree the accuracy of the draft minutes.

1.10.5 Any corrections shall be made by moving that the minutes are agreed with the corrections stated.

1.11   Conduct

1.11.1 When speaking a Member must address the Chair.

1.11.2 Members must behave in a way that is conducive to the efficient conduct of business and respect the role of the Chair in the proper management of the conduct of the meeting.

1.11.3 If a Member persistently disregards the ruling of the Chair by behaving improperly or offensively or deliberately obstructing business, the Chair may move that the Member be not further heard. If the motion is seconded, it must be put to the vote immediately without discussion.

1.11.4 If the Member continues to behave improperly after a motion that the Member be not further heard, the Chair may move that either the Member leaves the meeting or that the meeting is adjourned for a specified period. If the motion is seconded, it must be put to the vote immediately without discussion.

1.11.5 If there is a general disturbance at the meeting involving any person present, making the orderly conduct of business impractical, the Chair may adjourn the meeting for as long as they consider necessary.

Apart from Standing Orders reflecting statutory requirements, a parish council may suspend any of them by resolution in respect of a particular item of business.


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2   Committee Meetings

Much of the above information relating to conduct and proceedings of meetings of full council applies to meetings of committees. In respect of committee meetings, the following applies:

2.1   Chairing meetings

2.1.1   At the first meeting following the Annual Meeting of the council every committee shall, before conducting any business, elect a Chair for the year. A committee may also elect a Deputy Chair. Alternatively, the council may appoint the Chairs and Deputy Chairs of committees at the time the committees are appointed.

A meeting of a council (or a committee and sub committee) cannot take place unless a person has been lawfully appointed to preside the meeting. In legal terms, the Chair of a meeting of a committee is vital because of their power, in the event of a equality of votes, to exercise a second or casting vote in addition to their own

The effect of s.99 of the 1972 Act and paragraph 11 of schedule 12 is that if the Chair (or in his absence the Vice Chair of the council) attends any meeting of the parish council including any committee of a council, he must preside and will enjoy the second/casting vote in the event of an equality of votes. This can cause problems if a council has delegated functions to a committee and intended Councillors other than the Chair (or Vice Chair) of the council to experience a chairmanship role.

There is no reason why any parish council should not appoint as Chair of any committee, a councillor who is not Chair (or Vice Chair) of the council. The council would need Standing Orders to the effect that the Chair (and Deputy Chair) shall not be appointed as the Chair or Vice-Chair of any committee (or sub committee).

2.2   Quorum

2.2.1   No business shall be dealt with unless the committee is quorate.

Note: If a parish council has not made standing orders in respect of it committees, then each committee shall by virtue of s.106 of the 1972 Act, be entitled to implement standing orders regarding its quorum which should never be less than 3.

2.2.2   If there is no quorum the meeting will stand adjourned and should be reconvened.

2.3   Holding meetings

2.3.1   The Clerk will call the first meeting of the committee following consultation with the Chair.

2.3.2   Subsequent meetings shall be held at a place, date and time fixed by the committee. Meetings shall not be held in premises being used at the time for the supply of alcohol permitted by the Licensing Act 2003 unless no other suitable room is available free of charge or at a reasonable cost.

2.3.3   Notice of the time and place of meetings must be fixed in a conspicuous place in the parish at least 3 clear days before the meeting.

2.3.4   All Members of the committee shall be given (by post or left at their residence) at least 3 clear days written notice of a meetings of a committee from the Clerk specifying the business proposed to be transacted (the agenda).

2.4   Order of business

2.4.1  Business will usually be dealt with in the following order:
  • Record of Members present;
  • Record apologies and reasons for absence;
  • Declarations of interests (existence and nature) with regard to items on the agenda;
  • Formal announcements from the Chair;
  • Agreeing the minutes of the last meeting and signing them;
  • Public participation session with respect to items on the agenda;
  • Business placed on the agenda.

Note: Councils operating delegation arrangements may consider it appropriate to extend the provision for public participation to committee meetings. The extent of public participation in committee meetings can be regulated and limited as appropriate.

2.5   Voting

2.5.1   Subject to any legal requirement all questions to be decided by a committee shall be decided by a majority of the Members present and voting.

2.5.2   Unless otherwise provided by Standing Orders, Members shall vote by show of hands. A Member’s vote will only be counted if the Member is in the room of the meeting at the time the vote is taken.

2.5.3   Immediately before a vote is taken any Member may request that a vote is recorded. When a request is made the Chair, or other Member presiding, shall call the names of all the Members and after each name is called the Member shall state whether they are voting for or against the question put or abstaining. The record of voting shall be recorded in the minutes.

2.5.4   In the case of an equality of votes the Chair, or other Member presiding the meeting, has to give a casting vote in addition to their first vote.

2.6   Minutes

2.6.1   The minutes must record the names of Members present at the meeting and the existence and nature of any interest declared by Members.

2.6.2   The minutes are not a verbatim record of debate at a meeting but must accurately reflect the resolutions made and record voting if this is requested by a Member at that meeting.

2.6.3   The draft minutes of a meeting must be attached to the agenda for the next meeting for approval and signing by the Chair (or persons presiding the meeting).

2.6.4   There should be no discussion in respect of the draft minutes except that which relates to the motion to agree the accuracy of the draft minutes.

2.6.5   Any corrections shall be made by moving that the minutes are agreed with the corrections stated.

2.7   Attendance by Members

2.7.1   Any Member not being a Member of a committee may attend any meeting of the committee but their right to participate in the meeting will be equal to the public’s right to do so and should be governed by Standing Orders.

2.8   Individual Members

2.8.1   A Member cannot individually exercise any statutory functions of the council on behalf of the council.

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Appointment of Committees and Delegations

The parish council will appoint the following committees with the composition, quorum and role and functions indicated:

Resources Committee

  • The Committee will comprise – Members.
  • The quorum of the Committee shall be – Members.
  • The Committee shall undertake the following role and functions:
    • To determine all the resource requirements of the council and make recommendations to the council. Resources include finances, land and property, employees and contractors;
    • To issue, vary and terminate employment contracts. It is necessary for a council to appoint committees as appropriate to deal with the two stages of any statutory disciplinary action (instigated by the employer) or grievance action brought by employees. A sub committee is required to take responsibility for general staff matters e.g. health and safety matters, implementing equalities/diversity or dignity at work policies, to handle recruitment matters. A sub committee is required to undertake line management responsibility for the Clerk as the most senior officer of the council. This sub committee is responsible for carrying out the Clerk’s appraisals, handling any informal or formal grievance and initiating any informal or formal disciplinary action in the first instance;
    • To recommend to the council an annual budget and precept;
    • To regularly monitor income and expenditure and to make any recommendations to the council;
    • To incur and authorise expenditure not otherwise delegated to another committee or employee.

Planning Committee

  • The Committee will comprise – Members.
  • The quorum of the Committee shall be – Members.
  • The Committee shall undertake the following roles and functions:
    • To make recommendations to the council;
      • In relation to the approval or otherwise of any development plan or strategy proposals under planning legislation affecting the parish;
      • In respect of representations to the Local Planning Authority in support of any departure application;
      • In relation to any arrangements between the parish council and the Local Planning Authority about the involvement of the parish council in the discharge of planning functions;
      • To make representations to the Local Planning Authority on any application referred to the parish council and on any other planning matter that affects the parish.

Allotments Committee

  • The Committee will comprise – Members.
  • The quorum of the Committee shall be – Members.
  • The Committee shall undertake the following roles and functions:
    • To make recommendations to the council on the formulation of any policy or strategy in relation to the discharge of the allotments function;
    • To make recommendations to the Resources Committee on the resources necessary to discharge the allotments function;
    • To discharge all other aspects of the allotments function in accordance with relevant legislation, any policy or strategy relating to the function approved by the council, and within the budget provision made by the council.

Parish Community Safety Committee

  • The Committee will comprise – Members.
  • The quorum of the Committee shall be – Members.
  • The Committee shall undertake the following role and functions:
    • Keep under review the safety of the community within the parish and make recommendations to the council on any matters involving community safety;
    • Liaise with the emergency services in relation to community safety matters;
    • Liaise with the local planning and highways authorities on community safety matters affecting the parish in relation to their functions;
    • Liaise with the district council, county council, NHS bodies, Environment Agency and other public bodies on community safety matters affecting the parish;
    • Encourage and support community involvement in community safety initiatives within the parish.

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Delegation to Employees

The Parish Clerk

  • The Clerk shall be the proper officer and carry out the functions of the Proper Officer as provided by the Local Government Act 1972;
  • The Clerk should monitor and be responsible for all incoming and outgoing council correspondence;
  • The Clerk shall manage all employees (not including any variation of employment contracts and not any matters relating to grievances lodged against him/her) of the council and has the authority to take disciplinary action excluding termination of employment under agreed procedures;
  • The Clerk shall make arrangements to pay salaries and wages to all employees of the council (subject to the council’s financial regulations);
  • The Clerk shall, in the first instance, handle and acknowledge all complaints regarding the council (except where the complaint relates to the clerk);
  • The Clerk shall arrange and call meetings of the council, its committees and sub- committees in consultation with the relevant Chair;
  • The Clerk shall carry out and implement any council, committee or sub-committee decision;
  • The Clerk shall, in the first instance, handle all requests for information under Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Allotments Officer
The Allotments Officer shall deal with day to day matters in relation to the allotments function, including the allocation of allotments, in accordance with policies and decisions of the Allotments Committee.

Note: The above are examples of the sort of matters which might be included in delegation arrangements.

The ‘Resources Committee’ is a form of central corporate committee. The ‘Planning Committee’ and ‘Allotments Committee’ are functional committees and the ‘Community Safety Committee’ is a thematic committee crossing the boundaries of the more traditional functions. Parish councils may design the terms of reference of committees to suit their individual needs. In drawing up terms of reference, parish councils should look to include, as appropriate, the formulation of policies or strategies, the discharge of statutory functions and liaison with other bodies involved.


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Access to Information Arrangements

Access to meetings:

  • The public and press are entitled to attend any meeting of the council or any committee unless excluded by formal resolution in relation to any matter of business.
  • Notice of all meetings and agenda for meetings will be placed at –- at least three clear days before the meeting. Agenda for meetings will also be put on the parish council website.
  • The public may put questions and/or make comments to meetings of the parish council in accordance with Standing Orders as follows; –-
  • The taking of photographs and video and sound recording by any person at any meeting may only be done with the permission of the council or committee.

Access to documents:

  • A reasonable number of copies of agendas shall be available from the Clerk for the public attending meetings.
  • Minutes of meetings shall be available free to the public on application to the Clerk (bulk and multiple applications may be subject to a copying charge).
  • Agreed minutes shall be available at –- and on the parish council’s website.
  • A reasonable number of open reports submitted to meetings of the council and committees shall be available from the Clerk for the public attending meetings.
  • Open reports may subsequently be obtained by the public on application to the Clerk (a copying charge may be applied).
  • Applications under the Freedom of Information Act should be addressed to the Clerk.
  • Applications for personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998 should be addressed to the Clerk.

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Financial Arrangements

(No model clauses included in the toolkit)

Parish councils need to be familiar with the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003 No 533 which apply to them. A ‘relevant body’ in the regulations includes parish councils. It should be noted that different regulations apply to different levels of expenditure.

For detailed and practical information, parish councils should refer to a publication entitled “Governance and Accountability in Local Councils in England” which is produced and updated by the Joint Practitioners Advisory Group which includes representatives from the Audit Commission, NALC, SLCC, the Department of Communities and Local Government CLG and other key stakeholders. The publication can be downloaded from the websites of the Audit Commission, NALC and SLCC. A printed version of the publication can be requested from SLCC.

For model Standing Orders relating to matters of financial regulation, please contact NALC.

Some frequently asked questions about Standing Orders and Conduct of Meetings:

  • What are Standing Orders for?
    To make meetings easier to manage. Some requirements for conducting meetings reflect statutory requirements, but Standing Orders enable clear processes to be applied. Matters requiring Model Standing Orders are explained in this Toolkit. Model Standing orders can be obtained from NALC.

  • How often are meetings required?
    The minimum is four meetings in a year, one of which is the Annual Meeting of the Parish Council (note: this is not the same as the Annual Parish Meeting). There is no maximum.

  • When should meetings be held?
    The Annual Meeting should be held in May. In an election year, the Annual Meeting should be held within 14 days of the elected Councillors taking office (i.e. on the fourth day after the election or within 14 days after that day).

  • At what time of day can meetings be held?
    Anytime. If no time is fixed for the Annual Meeting, it must start at 6pm.

  • Where can meetings be held?
    Anywhere that is available free of charge or subject to a reasonable cost. If the parish council does not own premises, it may require free use of a room maintained by the local education authority or any other room maintained out of a “rate”. Licensed premises may be used if no suitable room is available free of charge or at reasonable cost.

  • How many councillors must attend for a meeting to have a quorum?
    Subject to any Standing Orders which dictate the quorum, there must be no fewer than three Councillors present.

  • Does the way Councillors’ vote have to be recorded in the minutes?
    No, unless any Councillor asks that the votes cast on a particular item are recorded.

  • Does a meeting have to carry on until the agenda is completed?
    No, a meeting may be adjourned (a good example of an aspect that can be dealt with in Standing Orders) and the business can be completed on another specified occasion prior to the next scheduled regular meeting.

  • Can an agenda include “Any Other Business”?
    This is not good practice, but this item can be used to impart or exchange urgent information which has arisen since the agenda was sent to members. No decision may be made on an item of business raised in this way.

  • What if a matter of genuine urgency arises?
    Good practice would be for Standing Orders to provide for decisions to be delegated to the Clerk in consultation with the Chair and/or another named (or named office holding) Councillor or Councillors.

  • Can the public and press be excluded from a meeting?
    Yes, if there is confidential business or if there is some other good reason. The exclusion has to be voted for by a majority of Councillors present and the reason has to be stated in the motion to exclude and then recorded in the minutes of the meeting. It is important to do this even if no member of the public is actually present
    at the time, in case someone arrives during the discussion of the item. The most likely cases are when employment, contracting or legal matters are to be discussed.

  • Can the public speak at meetings?
    Yes, but only if the parish council has resolved to permit public participation at that particular meeting and in accordance with their Standing Orders.

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Terms of Reference for Committees and Delegations

Unless a parish council delegates functions to a committee, sub committee, Officer or another local authority, decisions for the discharge of functions can only be made at meetings of the council. Decisions cannot be delegated to individual Councillors. Decisions can be set aside by a court if made by a body or person not having the power to make them.

Any delegation to a committee, sub committee or Officer should identify the nature and extent of responsibility or decision making. Delegations should be evidenced. A parish council can arrange for the discharge of part or all of their functions (except in respect of levying the precept) by committees (and subcommittees) and/or Officers. Such arrangements can provide for certain decisions to be referred to or made by full council.

The 1972 Act gives the parish council’s Proper Officer (who is commonly the Clerk) certain responsibilities. As the council‘s Proper Officer, the Clerk is regarded as a parish council’s most senior member of staff. A parish council needs to decide who will be responsible for day to day routine tasks involving decisions that should, for reasons of efficiency, be delegated to the Clerk (and other employees, where appropriate). Obvious examples include receiving and sending council correspondence, handling face to face, telephoned and emailed queries relating to the council’s powers and activities, updating the council’s website, taking minutes of meetings, keeping the council‘s minute book up to date and available for inspection, the initial handling of requests for information under Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the initial handling of complaints (except when the complaint relates to the Clerk). Delegations to Officers must also reflect statutory duties conferred on particular officers. For example, the 1972 Act requires a parish council’s Proper Officer to sign the summons to members to attend meetings and to convene a meeting of the council if a casual vacancy of the Chair‘s office occurs. The 1972 Act also requires a parish council to employ a person who is responsible for the proper administration of the council’s financial affairs. This is a consuming and responsible role. It is common, though not best practice, for a parish council‘s Proper Officer (i.e. Clerk) to also have this responsibility.

Other delegations to the Clerk may be appropriate. This will depend on the size and activities of the council, the Clerk’s level of experience and qualifications and the number of other staff employed by the council. Most clerks should be authorised to purchase, for example, basic office equipment or supplies or to arrange emergency repairs to the council office/premises and equipment up to a fixed sum which is subject to arrangements which control the council’s finances. Delegation of functions to the Clerk should be reflected in his/ her contract of employment and job description.

Many parish councils appoint a committee to make representations to the planning authority in respect of planning applications affecting the parish. This is sometimes because the short timeframes associated with submitting such written submissions may not fit within the dates of parish council meetings.

A parish council may wish to appoint committees to fully deal with, or only make recommendations to it (or a combination of both), in respect of powers to provide and manage allotments, parking, recreational facilities, open spaces and events for the community. Other committees may be appointed by the council to be responsible for a specific short term project (e.g. the drafting of a parish plan) or a thematic issue relevant to specific functions (e.g. safety in the community).

Parish councils normally appoint a finance committee whose functions are to monitor the council‘s income and expenditure in detail, allocate funds to particular functions of the council (and the responsible committee) and to formulate and recommend the following year’s budget and precept. Any decision relating to the precept levied by the parish council must be taken by a meeting of full council.

Parish councils have a wide flexibility as to the number of committees (and sub committees) appointed and their terms of reference. Clear and certain written terms of reference confirm the nature, extent and limitations of the duties or powers which have been delegated. It is important that any delegation arrangements are regularly reviewed to ensure that they meet the needs of the parish council in changing circumstances. The scope of any delegation, including any limitation, should be reviewed to ensure the arrangements are efficient.

There is no standard model in respect of the appointment of committees (and sub committees) and other delegation arrangements that will suit all parish councils.

Pages 47-48 above contain some examples that may provide assistance to parish councils and their Clerks on the format that may be followed in preparing delegation arrangements.

Arrangements for Access to Information

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, a parish council has a duty to adopt and maintain a model publication scheme. The model scheme, in essence, commits a parish council to produce and publish the method by which the specific information will be available so that it can be easily identified and accessed by members of the public.

Parish councils have the following obligations:

  • To ensure that the public know what information is covered by the model scheme and how it can be obtained;
  • Where the council has a website to provide the information on that website;
  • If the council does not have a website or it is impractical to provide it in that format, or if the requester of information does not wish to access the information via the website, the council must indicate how information can be obtained by other means and provide it by those means;
  • The council must provide details of the person to be contacted by the requester of information if they wish to view the information in person and must take account the possibility that certain information only lends itself to be viewed in person. In such circumstances an appointment to view the information must also be arranged within a reasonable timescale;
  • To provide information in the language in which it is held or in such other language that is legally required. To translate any information where the council is legally required to do so;
  • To adhere to requirements under disability and discrimination legislation and any other legislation to provide information in other forms and formats.

The classes of information which a parish council must provide information in respect of are:

  • Organisational information, locations and contacts;
  • Financial information relating to projected and actual income and expenditure, tendering, procurement and contracts;
  • Council priorities (e.g. parish plan, annual report, Quality Status, local charters);
  • Policy and procedure for delivery of services and in respect of employment, and for the conduct of council business (includes Standing Orders, committee and sub- committee terms of reference delegated authority in respect of officers, adopted Code of Conduct, complaints procedures, data management, records management);
  • Current written protocols for delivering functions and responsibilities;
  • Information held in registers required by law and other lists and registers relating to the functions of the authority;
  • Services offered.

A parish council must provide a “guide to proactively published information for the public”. This document must be in the public domain and in essence will set out the practical effect of the model publication scheme. It will specify what information a council will routinely publish, what format(s) that information will be available in, whether they intend to charge for providing the same and, if so, the level of charge.

Parish councils must have arrangements in place for handling requests for information and any complaints arising from the original request for information.

Comprehensive guidance in respect of the application of the 2000 Act is available from the Information Commissioner. Detailed information regarding the practical effect of the 2000 Act on parish councils is available from NALC.

Parish councils are also “data controllers” as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998 and therefore have obligations for processing the data held in relation to any living individual. A parish council’s Standing Orders should regulate how they handle requests for personal data in relation to (i) a member of the public (ii) an employee or (iii) a Councillor.

Arrangements for proper administration of financial affairs

Parish councils are subject to various Accounts and Audit Regulations made pursuant to the Audit Commission Act 1998.

Financial control arrangements for local authorities are normally given the title ‘financial regulations’. Whatever the size of a parish council’s budget and annual expenditure, it is essential that robust financial controls and checks are built in to its governing arrangements. A parish council’s financial control arrangements should include:

  • The formulation of spending plans, budget and precept, and provide for the approval of them;
  • Monitoring expenditure;
  • Transferring money between budget heads;
  • Authorising expenditure and payment, and making payment;
  • Internal and external audit of accounts;
  • Approving borrowing and capital expenditure;
  • Banking;
  • Payroll and pensions;
  • Receipt of Income;
  • Credit facilities;
  • Reviewing fees and charges;
  • VAT;
  • Register or inventory of assets (with review and update);
  • Insurance;
  • Use of IT facilities and records for accounting;
  • Reviewing and reporting on the integrity of these arrangements.

The nature and extent of the checks necessary will largely depend on the scale of a parish council’s activity and financial turnover. All financial control arrangements should identify which person or body is responsible for each aspect, what arrangements apply and when they apply.

For any receipt of income or expenditure incurred, a clear audit trail of responsibility and decision making will demonstrate a robust and transparent financial system of control.

Annual review is again essential in order to keep abreast of changing needs and developments.

The financial regulation arrangements and Standing Orders to be implemented by a parish council are complex and outside the scope of this Toolkit.

For detailed and practical information, parish councils should refer to a publication entitled “Governance and Accountability in Local Councils in England” which is produced and updated by the Joint Practitioners Advisory Group which includes representatives from the Audit Commission, NALC, SLCC, the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) and other key stakeholders. The publication can be downloaded from the websites of the Audit Commission, NALC and SLCC. A printed version of the publication can be requested from SLCC.

Model Standing Orders relating to matters of financial regulation and administration are available from NALC.

Standing Orders for Entering into Contracts
Parish councils may make Standing Orders with respect to the making of all contracts. They must make Standing Orders in respect of contracts for the supply of goods or materials or for the execution of works. Section 135 Local Government Act 1972 is aimed at securing competition and at regulating the way tenders are invited. Section 135 permits Standing Orders to stipulate a financial limit or special circumstances (such as emergency repairs to council office premises) when the normal tendering arrangements do not apply.

Members’ Code of Conduct
The policy reasons for the introduction of a Code of Conduct for members were to impose sound ethical standards on individuals who are in a public office.

Under s.51 Local Government Act 2000, parish councils, like other local authorities, are required to adopt the Model Code of Conduct applicable to parish councils. The Model Code of Conduct contains rules which govern the conduct and behaviour of individual councillors in conducting the business of the parish council. It is important for parish councillors to understand how the Code applies to them. Members who fail to observe the Code of Conduct adopted by their council risk being reported to the standards committee of the principal authority who may investigate the complaint. A finding that a councillor has failed to observe the Code of Conduct can result in their suspension or disqualification from office. A complaint that a Member of a parish council has failed to observe the Code of Code must be submitted in writing to the standards committee of the relevant district or unitary authority.

For detailed information in relation to applying and understanding the Code of Conduct and the statutory regime of investigation and sanctions which members are subject to, please contact the Standards Board for England (SBE). For information on the arrangements relating to how a complaint under the code of conduct is handled, please contact the standards committee of the relevant principal authority.

Employees’ Code of Conduct
Under s.82 Local Government Act 2000, it is expected that employees of parish councils, as with the employees of other local authorities, will become subject to a Model Code of Conduct for employees of local authorities. The government issued a consultation in respect of their proposal to introduce such a Code of Conduct for employees in October 2008. Pursuant to section 82(7) of the 2000 Act, any statutory code for employees of parish councils which comes into effect would become part of such employees’ terms and conditions of employment.

The conduct and behaviour controls within the Code complete the system of controls outlined above that are designed to ensure high standards in local government.

Other Documents
Members of parish councils often work with other tiers of local government, voluntary/not for profit groups and organisations, charities, community or lobby groups and the Parochial Church Council. Parish councils should document the list of the bodies with which they have partnerships or protocols and other liaison or working arrangements. Parish Councillors (and committees or sub committees) appointed or involved with partner organisations should be required to report back to the parish council.

References
The Good Governance Standards for Public Services available at www.cipfa.org.uk. Community Engagement and Local Leadership available at www.countryside.gov.uk. The Information Commissioner’s Office available at www.ico.gov.uk.
The Standards Board for England available at www.standardsboard.gov.uk. More information also available in Part 5 of this Toolkit.


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5   The Conduct of the Annual Town or Parish Meeting

The Legal Background

  • To comply with the Local Government Act 1972, the Parish Annual Meeting must take place between 1 March and 1 June (both inclusive) in each year. The meeting cannot start before 6pm. The Annual Parish Meeting is not the Parish Council’s AGM.
  • All parish electors are entitled to attend the Parish Meeting and vote. The Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 provides for the general public and the press to attend.
  • The Chair of the Council (or in his absence the Vice-Chair) must preside if present. If they are not present, the meeting may appoint a Chair for the meeting.
  • At least seven days’ public notice must be given. Fourteen days’ notice must be given if the agenda includes any of the following items:
    • dissolution of the Parish Council;
    • grouping the Parish with another Parish.
  • The notice must specify the business to be done. It must be signed by the Chair or any two Parish Councillors or, if necessary, six electors may act as convenors.
  • The expenses of the meeting are paid by the Parish Council.
  • There are some resolutions of a Parish Meeting that are necessary to, or binding on the Parish Council. These are:
    • that a resolution, by a well attended meeting, requiring the Council to provide allotments places an obligation on it to do so; and
    • that sometimes a trust instrument requires a resolution of the Parish Meeting for some act of the council as trustee.
  • Under the Charities Act 1960 the accounts of parochial charities must be laid by the council before the Parish Meeting.
  • No method of voting at the meeting is laid down. Any convenient method may be used, but a poll (i.e. a vote of the whole body of electors by ballot) may be claimed before the end of the meeting and must be held if demanded by ten persons present, or one-third of those present (whichever is the less), or if the Chair consents. The poll is conducted by a Returning Officer appointed by the District Council.

Things to Think About

  • There is no point publicising a meeting with nothing to discuss, or organising an interesting meeting without proper publicity.
  • The aim should be to make the meeting a social occasion as well as a formal occasion and make people feel that they are important in their village or town.

The Agenda

  • It is important to frame the agenda so that everyone who has some public standing in the locality has an appointed time when they can tell the meeting what they are doing. The County Councillor and District Councillor should be invited to speak; there should be a report on the activities of the Parish Council; the trustees of local charities should be given their opportunity, as might representatives of bodies such as the village hall committee, the Women’s Institute or local sports clubs. This is an excellent opportunity for them to publicise their activities and their friends will be glad to support them. A non-elector may always speak during a meeting with consent. Consent of the meeting should be treated as having been given if there is no objection.
  • Accounts which are presented to the meeting should be topical. It is better to exhibit recent unaudited accounts than to produce audited statements which are nearly always a year old and therefore largely irrelevant.
  • Outside speakers can be invited. These could be local government officials or experts on matters likely to be of local interest.
  • It is useful to include a particular local public issue on the agenda, something important or controversial, e.g. a village plan; planting trees on the green; the expansion of an airport; more houses; water or sewerage schemes; the amalgamation of charities; removal of telephone kiosks and post-offices; bus and train services; commons; clearing the churchyard. On the other hand, it is sensible to restrict the number of controversial issues to be raised at any one meeting.

Publicity

  • It is useful to issue a preliminary notice of the meeting about three weeks in advance, inviting local residents to send in resolutions or subjects which they wish to discuss.
  • Apart from the statutory publicity, other means include:
    • The Council Newsletter. Create a special edition of your newsletter for the occasion or frame the agenda as the newsletter;
    • Press. Ask the local press to use the agenda or an item on it as a news item; advertisements in the official notice columns are largely ignored;
    • Invitations. Frame the agenda as part of an invitation for Councillors to deliver to each household;
    • Parish magazines. Articles on local council affairs and notices of meetings can be put in the parish magazine, or into a Parish Bulletin of future events.

On the Night

  • Provide refreshments;
  • Try to arrange chairs in a deep horseshoe or rectangle so that everyone can see the face of at least half the meeting and recognise speakers;
  • Provide an agenda for everyone and a table and agenda for the press;
  • The meeting should be as informal as is consistent with order.

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6   Guidance on Gifts and Hospitality

Introduction

The Standards Board Guidance on the Code of Conduct requires you to register any gifts or hospitality worth £25 or over that you receive in connection with your official duties as a member, and the source of the gift or hospitality. You must complete the registration within 28 days of receiving it.

As with other registered interests, you have a personal interest in any matter under consideration at a meeting if it is likely to affect a person giving you a gift or hospitality. You must declare the existence and nature of the gift or hospitality as an interest at the meeting. You will also need to consider whether your interest is prejudicial.

A form for registering gifts and hospitality is included at the end of this guidance (see page 61).

The receipt of gifts or hospitality can be misinterpreted. This guidance is intended to help you to consider the implications of receiving gifts and hospitality and to make an appropriate judgement.

General Caution

Treat with extreme caution any offer or gift, favour or hospitality that is made to you personally which may possibly be perceived to be in connection with your position as a Parish Councillor.

Your personal reputation and that of your parish council can be seriously jeopardised by the inappropriate acceptance by you of gifts or hospitality.

The acceptance of gifts and hospitality is not always unlawful or inappropriate. The decision for you, in every case, is whether or not it is appropriate to accept any gift or hospitality that might be offered to you having regard to how it might be perceived.

No hard and fast rules can be laid down to cover every circumstance as to what is appropriate or inappropriate. The following general principles will enable you to make your own decision.

Criminal Law

It is a criminal offence corruptly to solicit or receive any gift, reward or advantage as an inducement to doing, or forbearing to do anything, in respect of any transaction involving your parish council.

The onus would be on you to disprove corruption in relation to a gift from a person holding or seeking to obtain a contract from your parish council.

Limits of Guidance

The Code of Conduct does not apply to:

  • Gifts and hospitality you may receive from family and friends (as birthday or other festival presents) that are not related to your position as a Parish Council Member. You should however question any such gift or hospitality offered from an unusual source;
    The acceptance of facilities or hospitality provided to you by your parish council;

  • Gifts given to your parish council that you accept formally on your parish council’s behalf and are retained by the parish council and not by you personally.

Meaning of Gifts and Hospitality
The expressions ‘gifts’ and ‘hospitality’ have wide meanings and no conclusive definition is possible.

Gifts and hospitality include:

  • The free gift of any goods or services;
  • The opportunity to acquire any goods or services at a discount or at terms not available to the general public;
  • The opportunity to obtain goods or services not available to the general public;
  • The offer of food, drink, accommodation or entertainment or the opportunity to attend any cultural or sporting event;
  • The use of a free car.

Common gifts include pens, diaries, calendars and other business stationery, articles of clothing, books, flowers and bouquets. When making purchases you should be cautious if additional services, privileges or advantages are offered which might be related to your position as a Member of your parish council.

Appropriate Gifts and Hospitality
There are some circumstances where you may accept gifts and hospitality as being in the normal course of your duties as a Member:

  • Civic hospitality provided by another public authority;
  • Normal and modest refreshment in connection with any meeting in the course of your work as a Parish Council Member (e.g. tea, coffee and other normal beverages and biscuits);
  • Tickets for sporting, cultural and entertainment events which are sponsored or promoted by your parish council or bodies to which you have been appointed by your parish council, and the tickets are offered in relation to that sponsorship or promotion;
  • Small low value gifts (below £25.00 such as pens, calendars, diaries, flowers and other mementos and tokens);
  • Drinks or other modest refreshment received in the normal course of socialising arising consequentially from parish council business (e.g. inclusion in a round of drinks after a meeting);
  • Modest meals provided as a matter of courtesy in the office or meeting place of a person with whom your parish council has a business connection;
  • Souvenirs and gifts from other public bodies intended as personal gifts (e.g. arising from twin-town and other civic events).

Principles to Apply in Relation to Gifts and Hospitality
In deciding whether it is appropriate to accept any gift or hospitality you must apply the following principles:

  • Do not accept a gift or hospitality as an inducement or reward for anything you do as a Parish Council Member. If you have any suspicion that the motive behind the gift or hospitality is an inducement or reward you must decline it.
  • “Reward” includes remuneration, reimbursement and fee.
  • Do not accept a gift or hospitality of significant value or whose value is excessive in the circumstances.
  • Do not accept a gift or hospitality if acceptance might be open to misinterpretation. Such circumstances will include gifts and hospitality:
    • From parties involved with your parish council in a competitive tendering or other procurement process.
    • From applicants for planning permission and other applications for licences, consents and approvals in which your parish council has an involvement.
    • From applicants for grants, including voluntary bodies and other organisations applying for public funding from your parish council.
    • From parties in legal proceedings with your parish council.
  • Do not accept a gift or hospitality if you believe it will put you under any obligation to the provider as a consequence.
  • Do not solicit any gift or hospitality and avoid giving any perception of so doing.

Gifts Received and Donated to a Chair’s Appeal
It may be customary for some Members on receiving gifts of value not to retain these personally but to pass them to the Chair for use in relation to a charity appeal.

Members may continue to do this, but should indicate this intention to the provider and make this clear on the registration form.

Reporting of Inappropriate Gifts and Hospitality offered
It is a criminal offence for a person corruptly to give or offer any gift, reward or advantage as an inducement or reward to you for doing or forbearing to do anything as a member of your parish council.

You must immediately report to the Monitoring Officer any circumstances where an inappropriate gift or hospitality has been offered to you.

You may thereafter be required to assist the Police in providing evidence.

Reference
The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2007
The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2007 No.1159.

Gifts and Hospitality Registration Form

_____________________________________ PARISH COUNCIL


To: The Monitoring Officer
(EMAIL ADDRESS)


Notification of Receipt of Gifts or Hospitality


What was the gift or hospitality?
(Give full description)



What is your best estimate of its
market value or cost?



Who provided it?



When and where did you receive it?



Signed

Name in Capitals

Dated


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7   Relationships between Councillors and Council Employees

Mutual trust and respect between Councillors and Officers is essential to ensure good governance and the effective running of a council. To help ensure that relationships do not go awry, it is advisable to have a written protocol, which can cover:

  • The respective roles and responsibilities of the Councillors and the Clerk, and any other staff employees;
  • Relationships between Councillors and Officers;
  • Where/Who the Clerk should go to if they have concerns;
  • Who is responsible for making decisions.

The same fundamental principles apply regardless of the nature and size of the Council. This protocol has been written in a way that will be particularly relevant to larger councils but personal relationships and personnel matters can be particularly problematic in smaller councils where the Clerk may be the sole employee and means having an agreed protocol is very important.

It is the National Association of Local Councils’ (NALC) policy that party politics should have no place in parish councils, the concept being that parish councillors are there to serve their community as members of that community and should not be sidetracked by party political issues. NALC does not therefore encourage parish councils to adopt political groupings.

Model Protocol on Member-Officer Relations

1   Background

1.1   This protocol is intended to assist Councillors and the Clerk, in approaching some of the sensitive circumstances which arise in a challenging working environment.
1.2   The reputation and integrity of the council is significantly influenced by the effectiveness of Councillors, the Clerk and other staff working together to support each other’s roles.
1.3   The aim is effective and professional working relationships characterised by mutual trust, respect and courtesy. Close personal familiarity should be avoided.

2   Roles of Councillors and Employees

2.1   The respective roles of Councillors and employees can be summarised as follows:
Councillors and Officers are servants of the public and they are indispensable to one and other, but their responsibilities are distinct. Councillors are responsible to the electorate and serve only so long as their term of office lasts. Officers are responsible to the council. Their job is to give advice to Councillors and to the council, and to carry out the council’s work under the direction and control of the council and relevant committees.
2.2   Councillors
2.2.2  Councillors have four main areas of responsibility:
  • To determine council policy and provide community leadership;
  • To monitor and review council performance in delivering services;
  • To represent the council externally; and
  • To act as advocates for their constituents.
2.2.3   All Councillors have the same rights and obligations in their relationship with the Clerk and other employees, regardless of their status or political party, and should be treated equally.

2.2.4   Councillors should not involve themselves in the day to day running of the Council. This is the Clerk’s responsibility, and the Clerk will be acting on instructions from the Council or its Committees, within an agreed job description.

2.3       Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of Committees
Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs have additional responsibilities. These responsibilities mean that their relationships with employees may be different and more complex than those of other Councillors. However, they must still respect the impartiality of Officers and must not ask them to undertake work of a party political nature, or to do anything which would prejudice their impartiality.

2.4      Officers
The role of Officers is to give advice and information to Councillors and to implement the policies determined by the Council.

In giving such advice to Councillors, and in preparing and presenting reports, it is the responsibility of the Officer to express his/her own professional views and recommendations. An Officer may report the views of individual Councillors on an issue, but the recommendation should be the Officer’s own. If a Councillor wishes to express a contrary view they should not pressurise the officer to make a recommendation contrary to the officer’s professional view, nor victimise an officer for discharging his/her responsibilities.
3.   Expectations

3.1   All Councillors can expect:

  • a commitment from Officers to the Council as a whole, and not to any individual Councillor, group of Councillor’s or political group;
  • a working partnership;
  • Officers to understand and support respective roles, workloads and pressures;
  • A timely response from Officers to enquiries and complaints;
  • Officer’s professional advice, not influenced by political views or personal preferences;
  • regular, up to date, information on matters that can reasonably be considered appropriate and relevant to their needs, having regard to any individual responsibilities or positions that they hold;
  • Officers to be aware of and sensitive to the public and political environment locally;
  • Respect, courtesy, integrity and appropriate confidentiality from Officers;
  • training and development opportunities to help them carry out their role effectively;
  • not to have personal issues raised with them by Officers outside the council’s agreed procedures;
  • that Officers will not use their contact with Councillors to advance their personal interests or to influence decisions improperly;
  • that Officers will at all times comply with the relevant code of conduct.

3.2   Officers can expect from Councillors:

  • a working partnership;
  • an understanding of, and support for, respective roles, workloads and pressures;
  • leadership and direction;
  • respect, courtesy, integrity and appropriate confidentiality;
  • not to be bullied or to be put under undue pressure;
  • that Councillors will not use their position or relationship with officers to advance their personal interests or those of others or to influence decisions improperly;
  • that Councillors will at all times comply with the council’s adopted Code of Conduct.

3.3   Some General Principles:

  • Close personal relationships between Councillors and Officers can confuse their separate roles and get in the way of the proper conduct of Council business, not least by creating a perception in others that a particular Councillor or Officer is getting preferential treatment.
  • Special relationships with particular individuals or party political groups should be avoided as it can create suspicion that an employee favours that Councillor or political group above others.

4.   Political Groups

4.1  The operation of political groups is becoming more of a feature within parish councils, but it is worth repeating that it is NALC policy that party politics should have no place in parish councils. Parish Councillors are there to serve their community as members of the community, and should not be sidetracked by party political issues. Party politics within a parish council can pose particular difficulties in terms of the impartiality of the Clerk and other employees, and the relationship between Councillors and the staff generally.

4.2  Party political groups have no power to require the Clerk or any other employee to attend group meetings or to prepare written reports for them, and employees can legitimately refuse to do so. The Clerk and other Officers are responsible to the council as a whole and should not take action under instructions from any individual Councillor, even if he/she has been styled as ‘Leader’ of the council.

4.3  If your council has adopted party political groupings, the Clerk should ensure that any reports or advice offered to a political group are statements of relevant facts, with an appraisal of options and do not deal with the political implications of the matter or options, or make any recommendations. It is not the Clerk’s job to make recommendations to a political group.

4.4  If a report is prepared for one political group, the Clerk should advise all other political groups that the report has been prepared, or that advice was given.

4.5  Any Clerk needing advice or guidance on matters relating to party groups or how to operate within a political environment, should seek advice from their County Association of NALC, or from the Society of Local Council Clerks.

5.   When things go wrong Procedure for officers

5.1  From time to time the relationship between Councillors and the Clerk (or other employees) may break down or become strained. Whilst it is always preferable to resolve matters informally, through conciliation by an appropriate third party, it is important that the council adopts a formal grievance protocol or procedure.

5.2  The district or unitary council’s Monitoring Officer may be able to offer a mediation/conciliation role or it may be necessary to seek independent advice. For example, the Society of Local Council Clerks may be able to provide an independent person. The Chair of the council should not attempt to deal with grievances or work related performance or line management issues on their own. The council should delegate authority to a small group of Councillors to deal with all personnel matters.

5.3  The law requires all employers to have disciplinary and grievance procedures. Adopting a grievance procedure enables individual employees to raise concerns, problems or complaints about their employment in an open and fair way.

5.4  For an example grievance procedure, contact your district or unitary council’s Personnel or HR Department or the County Association of NALC.

5.5  If a Councillor is dissatisfied with the conduct, behaviour or performance of the Clerk or another employee, the matter should be raised with the Clerk in the first instance. If the matter cannot be resolved informally, it may be necessary to invoke the council’s disciplinary procedure.


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8   Protocol on Bullying and Harassment

Introduction
An analysis of complaints made against Councillors (previously assessed by the Standards Board for England and now dealt with by local standards committees) indicates that there is a significant problem of bullying and harassment occurring at parish level between Members and Officers. It may be that this is caused in part because of the lack of clarity between the respective roles of Officers and Members and of the relatively isolated nature of the position of the Clerk. Other factors that may contribute to a breakdown in relations between Members and Officers include the absence of authoritative Member/Officer protocols, proper disciplinary and grievance procedures and (in some cases) written contracts of employment.

Bullying is specifically prohibited in the Member Code of Conduct (paragraph 3(2)(b) of the Model Code). Councillors must not bully any person, including other Councillors, Officers or members of the public.

The attached protocol is therefore commended for adoption to ensure that Members and Officers operate in an environment of mutual trust and respect. It should assist in the development of a culture of clear and honest communication between Officers and Members.

Model Protocol on Bullying and Harassment

(including Grievance Procedures and Whistle Blowing)

1.   Background

1.1  The relationship between Councillors and Officers is an essential ingredient that should contribute to the successful working of the organisation. This relationship within the authority should be characterised by mutual respect, informality and trust. Councillors and Officers must feel free to speak to one another openly and honestly. Nothing in this Protocol is intended to change this relationship. Objective criticism is usually acceptable but can be unacceptable if the criticism becomes personal. This protocol gives guidance on what to do on the rare occasions when things go wrong.

1.2  Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work. Bullying and harassment of any kind are in no-one’s interest and should not be tolerated in the workplace.

2.   What is bullying and harassment?
2.1  Examples and definitions of what may be considered bullying and harassment are provided below for guidance. For practical purposes, those making a complaint usually define what they mean by bullying or harassment – something has happened to them that is unwelcome, unwarranted and causes a detrimental effect. If employees complain they are being bullied or harassed, then they have a grievance which must be dealt with regardless of whether or not their complaint accords with a standard definition.
3.   How can bullying and harassment be recognised?
3.1  There are many definitions of bullying and harassment. Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

3.2  Harassment, in general terms, is unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.

3.3  Behaviour that is considered bullying by one person may be considered firm management by another. Most people will agree on extreme cases of bullying and harassment but it is sometimes the “grey” areas that cause most problems. Examples of what is unacceptable behaviour include:

  • “inappropriate behaviour”
  • intimidation/humiliation
  • excessive criticism
  • autocratic/dictatorial behaviour
  • shouting
  • browbeating
  • haranguing
  • swearing
  • ridiculing
  • expressions of intolerance
  • general discourtesy
3.4  Bullying and harassment are not necessarily face to face; they may be by written communications, e-mail (so called “flame mail”) and telephone.
4.   Why does the Council need to take action on bullying and harassment?
4.1  There is an implied term of mutual trust and confidence in every contract of employment. Where the parish council is aware of a situation of bullying or harassment of an employee by one of its Councillors, but fails to act to stop it, it will be in breach of that implied term of employment contract and may be held liable for the constructive dismissal of that employee.

4.2  It is in every employer’s interest to promote a safe, healthy and fair environment in which people can work.

4.3  A parish council’s duty of care to an employee relates to all forms of personal injury, which will include mental as well as physical health. If a risk to health was foreseeable but no action was taken then the parish council could be at fault and compensation could be sought.

5.   The Members’ Code of Conduct

5.1  Bullying is expressly forbidden under paragraph 3(2)(b) of the Model Code of Conduct. There are, in addition, complementary obligations to;
  • not do anything which may cause the authority to breach any equality laws;
  • treat others with respect;
  • not intimidate any person who is or is likely to be a complainant, a witness or involved in an investigation relating to a breach of the Code; and;
  • Not compromise or attempt to compromise the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, the authority.
5.2  A proven allegation of bullying or harassment will always be a breach of the Code of Conduct and the Councillor involved is liable to be reported to the Local Standards Committee. Councillors are entitled to challenge Officers as to why they hold their views. However, if criticism amounts to a personal attack or is of an offensive nature, the Councillor is likely to have crossed the line of what is acceptable behaviour.

5.3  If there are instances of bullying or harassment by Councillors towards officers or other Councillors, then those Councillors who are aware of the incident should consider reporting it to the Standards Committee of the relevant principal authority. It is also open to Officers who are either the subject of bullying or harassment or who witness such an incident to similarly report it to the Standards Committee (which is likely to have established an Assessment Sub-Committee to decide whether to investigate such complaints).

5.4  If Members or Officers are unsure what to do or how to report the matter, they should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer.

6.   Grievance and disciplinary procedures

6.1  Obviously it is best to try to avoid things getting to a state where an employee considers themselves dismissed or issues a personal injury claim against the Council. This can be done through having an accessible and useable grievance procedure.

6.2  Since October 2004 all employers have been required by law to have disciplinary and grievance procedures. These cover disciplinary rules and procedures for handling discipline, grievance and appeals. Details must be included in the employee’s written statement of employment particulars or reference made to a separate document which is readily accessible to the employee.

6.3  A grievance procedure enables individual employees to raise concerns, problems or complaints with management about their employment. It should allow for both an informal and formal approach.

A grievance procedure provides an open and fair way for employees to make known their concerns, problems or complaints. It enables such grievances to be resolved quickly before they fester and become major problems. An employee who fails to raise a grievance with their employer using the statutory procedure may be prevented from taking a claim relating to that grievance to employment tribunal.

Grievance procedure should allow grievances to be dealt with fairly, consistently, speedily and should include:

  • how and with whom to raise the issue
  • whom next to appeal to if not satisfied
  • time limits for each stage
  • the right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union representative
  • the statutory grievance procedure

7.   Whistle-blowing

Protection for employees, contractors or staff is relevant to allow any bullying or harassment to be reported without fear of victimisation or further harassment.

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9   Guidance Notes on Whistle Blowing

Whistle-blowing, sometimes referred to as confidential reporting or public interest disclosure, provides a link between employment concerns, such as bullying, and the more general complaints procedures discussed below.

The principles of whistle-blowing should apply to Members, contractors and partners in any ongoing project, as well as employees. It is to employees, however, that the law in this area is aimed.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) encourages people to raise concerns about malpractice in the workplace and will help ensure that organisations respond by

  • addressing the message rather than the messenger; and
  • resisting the temptation to cover up serious malpractice.
Through protecting whistleblowers from dismissal and victimisation in the following circumstances, the Act promotes the public interest.

Malpractice
The Act applies to people at work raising genuine concerns about crime, civil offences (including negligence, breach of contract, breach of administrative law), miscarriage of justice, danger to health and safety or the environment and the cover up of any of these. It applies whether or not the information is confidential.

Individuals covered
In addition to the Clerk and other employees, it covers trainees, agency staff, contractors, homeworkers, etc. The usual employment law restrictions on minimum length of service and age do not apply. The Act does not presently cover the genuinely self-employed, volunteers, the intelligence services, or the army.

Legal Advice
The Act confirms that workers may safely seek legal advice on any concerns they have about malpractice. This includes seeking advice from Public Concern at Work, a charity established to help people with these issues and which is designated a legal advice centre by the Bar Council.

Internal disclosures
A disclosure in good faith to a manager or the employer will be protected if the whistleblower has a reasonable suspicion that the malpractice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur. Where a third party is responsible for the matter this same test applies to disclosures made to it.

Regulatory disclosures
The Act also protects disclosures made in good faith to prescribed bodies where the whistleblower reasonably believes that the information and any allegation in it are substantially true. In respect of Parish Councils the prescribed bodies would include the Health and Safety Executive, HM Revenues and Customs, the Audit Commission (or appointed external auditors) and the Standards Board for England.

Wider disclosures
Wider disclosures (e.g. to the police, the media, MPs, and non-prescribed regulators) are protected if, in addition to the tests for regulatory disclosures, they are reasonable in all the circumstances and they meet one of the three preconditions.

Provided they are not made for personal gain, these preconditions are that the whistleblower:

  • reasonably believed he would be victimised if he raised the matter internally or with a prescribed regulator;
  • reasonably believed a cover-up was likely and there was no prescribed regulator; or
  • had already raised the matter internally or with a prescribed regulator.
In deciding the reasonableness of the disclosure the employment tribunal will consider the identity of the person to whom it was made, the seriousness of the concern, whether the risk or danger remains, and whether it breached a duty of confidence the employer owed a third party. Where the concern had been raised with the employer or a prescribed regulator, the reasonableness of its response will be particularly relevant. Finally, if the concern has first been raised with the employer, it is relevant whether any whistle-blowing policy in the organisation was or should have been used.

Exceptionally serious matters
Where the concern is exceptionally serious, a disclosure will be protected if it meets the test for regulatory disclosures and is not made for personal gain. The disclosure must also be reasonable having particular regard to the identity of the person to whom it was made.

Full protection
Where the whistleblower is victimised in breach of the Act he can bring a claim to an employment tribunal for compensation. Awards will be uncapped and based on the losses suffered. Additionally where an employee is sacked, he may apply for an interim order to keep his job.

Gagging clauses
Gagging clauses in employment contracts and severance agreements are void insofar as they conflict with the Act’s protection.

Further Advice
There is specific information about the Public Interest Disclosure Act from the following Organisations:

Public Concern at Work, a charity that provides free, confidential advice on what is protected by the Act and how best to raise a concern, on 0207 404 6609 or see www.pcaw.co.uk.
The website also includes a section entitled “Practical hints for small organisations”.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform also has a guide to the Act. This is available via the website at www.berr.gov.uk.


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10 The Complaints Procedure

Complaint procedures are an integral part of the machinery of nearly every commercial or public service organisation. This is because it is through dealing with, and responding to, accusations or instances of poor performance or service delivery that the organisation sees its faults and has the opportunity to address them and improve.

Principal councils (county, unitary and district) have the added incentive in that there is the local government ombudsman service that has the statutory remit to investigate complaints and the power to issue public reports where it is deemed appropriate. The ombudsman may recommend the payment of compensation or another remedy if appropriate.

This does not mean that local councils may ignore the need to have a robust complaints system, nor that there are not other places that a member of the public, or a member of the council, can go to seek redress for a wrong they consider the council has committed.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, and to some extent the person who is making it, there will be an occasion in the life of every parish council when a complaint cannot be resolved and the complainant wishes to take the matter further.

These will include complaints concerning the following:

  • Where someone feels very strongly that a decision of the Parish Council was unlawful, they may apply to the courts for a judicial review of the Council’s decision;
  • An accusation of financial wrongdoing, where a complaint may be made to the council’s external auditor. Aside from referring the matter to another body if required, the auditor will have the power to carry out such actions as refusing to sign off the accounts or producing a public interest report;
  • Breaches of the Members’ code of conduct for the council may result in an allegation being made to the local standards committee. It has been known for all members of a council to be reported for a possible breach of the code. This may be in respect of financial wrongdoing, acting on prejudicial interests, not complying with equality legislation and so on;
  • Any matter that raises a suspicion of criminal wrongdoing can be referred to the police;
  • Where the council carries out functions on behalf of another authority, such as litter picking or crime and disorder measures under an agency agreement with the district council, the complaint can be referred to them. In such a situation, the ombudsman may be involved if the matter is not resolved by the principal authority;
  • A complaint that the council has not released information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in the manner that a person requesting believes it should have done, can be referred to the Information Commissioner. A parish council must give reasons for any decision and must inform the applicant if he/she has a right to complain to them about the handling of the request (e.g. through a complaints or other procedure and give details of the procedure), or state that there is no procedure, and of his/her right to complain to the Information Commissioner.

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Model Complaints Procedures

The Local Government Ombudsman has extensive guidance on the subject of complaints procedures which is available from their website www.lgo.org.uk.

The following text is based on guidance provided by the Society of Local Council Clerks and provides a template for a complaints procedure which could be adopted by a parish council.

Further detailed guidance with regard to handling complaints is available from NALC, they also have a model procedure for formal complaints which can be adapted to individual parish councils.

XX PARISH COUNCIL – COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

  1. The following procedure will be adopted for dealing with complaints about the Council’s administration or its procedures. Complaints about a policy decision made by the Council will be referred back to the Council, or relevant Committee, as appropriate, for consideration.
  2. This procedure does not cover complaints about the conduct of a Member of the Parish Council.
  3. If a complaint about procedures, administration or the actions of any of the Council’s employees is notified orally to a Councillor, or to the Clerk to the Council, a written record of the complaint will be made, noting the name and contact details of the complainant and the nature of the complaint.
  4. The complainant will be asked to put the complaint in writing (letter/e-mail/standard form) to the Clerk to the Council at [add address/contact details]. The complaint will be dealt with within XX days of receipt. (specify time e.g. 14 or 21 days). Refusal to put the complaint in writing does not necessarily mean that the complaint cannot be investigated, but it is easier to deal with if it is in writing.
  5. If the complainant prefers not to put the complaint to the Clerk to the Council (because the matter relates to the Clerk, for example,) he or she should be advised to write to the Chair.
  6. (a)   On receipt of a written complaint, the Clerk to the Council (except where the complainant is about his or her own actions) or Chair of Council (if the complaint relates to the Clerk), will seek to settle the complaint directly with the complainant. This will not be done without first notifying any person complained about and giving him or her an opportunity to comment. Efforts should be made to resolve the complaint at this stage.
    (b)   Where the Clerk to the Council or a Councillor receives a written complaint about the Clerk’s actions, he or she shall refer the complaint to the Chair of Council. The Clerk to the Council will be formally advised of the matter and given an opportunity to comment.

  7. The Clerk to the Council (or Chair) will report any complaint disposed of by direct action with the complainant to the next meeting of the Council.
  8. The Clerk to the Council (or Chair) will report any complaint that has not been resolved to the next meeting of the Council. The Clerk will notify the complainant of the date on which the complaint will be considered and the complainant will be offered an opportunity to explain the complaint to the Council orally.
  9. Matters relating to Grievance or Disciplinary proceedings that are taking, or are likely to take place, should be dealt with in accordance with the Council’s grievance and disciplinary procedures.
  10. The Council may consider whether the circumstances of any complaint warrant the matter being discussed in the absence of the press and public, but any decision on the complaint will be announced at the Council meeting in public.
  11. The Council may consider in the circumstances of any particular complaint whether to make any without liability payment or provide other reasonable benefit to any person who has suffered loss as a result of the Council’s maladministration. Any payment may only be authorised by the Council after obtaining legal advice and advice from the Council’s auditor on the propriety of such a payment.
  12. As soon as possible after the decision has been made (and in any event not later than 10 days after the meeting) the complainant will be notified in writing of the decision and any action to be taken.
  13. The Council may defer dealing with any complaint if it is of the opinion that issues arise on which further advice is necessary. The advice will be considered and the complaint dealt with at the next meeting after the advice has been received.

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