< Governance Toolkit

  1. Roles and Responsibilities
  2. Signposting on Employment Issues
  3. Model Contract of Employment
  4. Specimen Job Description

1    Roles and Responsibilities

The parish council Clerk is the ‘engine’ of an effective parish council. He or she is its principal executive and adviser and, for the majority of smaller parish councils, is the officer responsible for the administration of its financial affairs. The Clerk is sometimes a council’s only employee.

The Clerk is required to give clear guidance to Councillors, including the Chair, before decisions are reached, even when that guidance may be unpalatable. The Clerk has a key role in advising the council, and Councillors, on governance, ethical and procedural matters. They must also liaise with the Monitoring Officer at the district/unitary council on ethical issues and the Councillors’ Register of Interests.

Some larger councils employ a range of administration and support staff and the Clerk is normally responsible for advising the council on staffing provision and managing the recruitment process. In smaller councils the Clerk may also carry out the role of the Finance Officer. However, it is common, especially in larger councils, for a separate Responsible Finance Officer to be appointed and given specific duties relating to the budget, annual accounts and audit to ensure proper financial management and transparency.

Many parish councils encourage their clerks to seek professional recognition for the work that they do. A qualified Clerk is one of several pre-requisites for a parish council achieving Quality Council status and also in becoming a council eligible to exercise the power of well- being.

The Clerk is an independent and objective servant of the council who takes instructions from the corporate body and must recognise that the council is responsible for all decisions.

In an emergency (e.g. to cover a temporary vacancy) a Councillor may fulfil the role of Clerk to the parish council (this must be unpaid (see below)). However, it is not good practice for Councillors to do this as it confuses Officer/Member roles.

It should be noted that Councillors may not be paid employees of their council (as there is an unacceptable conflict of interest) and may not become employees of their former council until at least 12 months after ceasing to be a Councillor (Sections 112(5) and 116 Local Government Act 1972).


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2    Signposting on Employment Issues

Some headline issues are set out below, but legal advice should always be sought on particular applications or circumstances. Further sources of information are listed below:

  • There is no requirement to have any particular employees, but someone needs to be designated as the Officer responsible for financial affairs. Usually, this will be the Parish Clerk;
  • The Parish Clerk must be an employee of the parish council, not an independent contractor or self-employed person;
  • The duties and terms and conditions of employment (including pay) should be set out in writing as soon as possible after appointment and within 13 weeks after the start of the employment;
  • Officers who are paid must be appointed on merit;
  • Councillors can be Officers but they cannot be paid. Giving Councillors such a role should be considered only in an emergency. Also, a former Councillor cannot be appointed to a paid office until 12 months have passed since being a Councillor of that council;
  • There should be written procedures for disciplinary and grievance issues (there is an ACAS Code of Practice);
  • Continuous service of 12 months entitles an employee to redundancy payments and to the right not to be unfairly dismissed. A series of temporary contracts is aggregated for this purpose;
  • Discrimination laws operate to protect individuals at the time of appointment and during employment. They cover direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins, age and disability. Harassment and bullying also fall under this umbrella. It is also unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief;
  • Employees have protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 in respect of “whistle-blowing”.

The National Association of Local Councils and the Society of Local Council Clerks have negotiated a National Agreement on Salaries and Conditions of Service for local council clerks in England and Wales and negotiate annually on a salary award. A Model Contract of Employment and Job Description have also been agreed together with a Guide to Good Employment Practice in Local Councils. Parish councils and their Clerks may secure the advantages of these agreements through membership of their county association of local councils and the Society of Local Council Clerks respectively.

Further Information:
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) – www.acas.gov.uk The Information Commissioner – www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk
The Audit Commission – www.auditcommission.gov.uk

The human resources section of the district or unitary council may also be able to offer assistance.

3    Model Contract of Employment and Job Description

(Click here to download the full Governance Toolkit. See page 12)


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4    Specimen Job Description – Clerk To The Council

Overall Responsibilities
The Clerk to the Council will be the Proper Officer of the Council and as such is under a statutory duty to carry out all the functions, and in particular to serve or issue all the notifications required by law of a local authority’s Proper Officer. *The Clerk will be totally responsible for ensuring that the instructions of the Council in connection with its function as a Local Authority are carried out. *The Clerk is expected to advise the Council on, and assist in the formation of, overall policies to be followed in respect of the Authority’s activities and in particular to produce all the information required for making effective decisions and to implement constructively all decisions. The person appointed will be accountable to the Council for the effective management of all its resources and will report to them as and when required. *The Clerk will be the Responsible Financial Officer and responsible for all financial records of the Council and the careful administration of its finances.

Specific Responsibilities

  1. To ensure that statutory and other provisions governing or affecting the running of the Council are observed.
  2. To monitor and balance the Council’s accounts and prepare records for audit purposes and VAT. * Or to monitor the work of a designated other officer designated the Responsible Financial Officer.
  3. To ensure that the Council’s obligations for Risk Assessment are properly met.
  4. To prepare, in consultation with appropriate members, agendas for meetings of the Council and Committees. To attend such meetings and prepare minutes for approval.
    *Other than where such duties have been delegated to another Officer.
  5. *To attend all meetings of the Council and all meetings of its committees and sub- committees. *Other than where such duties have been delegated to another Officer.
  6. *To receive correspondence and documents on behalf of the Council and to deal with the correspondence or documents or bring such items to the attention of the Council. To issue correspondence as a result of instructions of, or the known policy of the Council.
  7. To receive and report on invoices for goods and services to be paid for by the Council and to ensure such accounts are met. To issue invoices on behalf of the Council for goods and services and to ensure payment is received.
  8. *To study reports and other data on activities of the Council and on matters bearing on those activities. Where appropriate, to discuss such matters with administrators and specialists in particular fields and to produce reports for circulation and discussion by the Council.
  9. To draw up both on his/her own initiative and as a result of suggestions by Councillors proposals for consideration by the Council and to advise on practicability and likely effects of specific courses of action.
  10. To supervise any other members of staff as their line manager in keeping with the policies of the Council and to undertake all necessary activities in connection with the management of salaries, conditions of employment and work of other staff.
  11. To monitor the implemented policies of the Council to ensure they are achieving the desired result and where appropriate suggest modifications.
  12. To act as the representative of the Council as required.
  13. To issue notices and prepare agendas and minutes for the Parish Meeting: to attend the assemblies of the Parish Meeting and to implement the decisions made at the assemblies that are agreed by the Council.
  14. To prepare, in consultation with the Chair, press releases about the activities of, or decisions of, the Council.
  15. To attend training courses or seminars on the work and role of the Clerk as required by the Council.
  16. To work towards the achievement of the status of Qualified Clerk as a minimum requirement for effectiveness in the position of Clerk to the Council.
  17. To continue to acquire the necessary professional knowledge required for the efficient management of the affairs of the Council: Suggested is membership of your professional body The Society of Local Council Clerks.
  18. To attend the Conference of the National Association of Local Councils, Society of Local Council Clerks, and other relevant bodies, as a representative of the Council as required.

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