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Parish Meetings

Convening a Parish Meeting is not just the prerogative of the Chairman of the parish council or two councillors, a parish meeting can be called by six residents of a parish who have the right to vote at an election.

The Chairman of the council is entitled to attend, and, if present, he or she must preside over the meeting. If the Chairman is absent, the Vice-Chairman if present must preside. If the Chairman and Vice-Chairman are absent, the meeting will appoint a person to Chair the meeting. The appointed Chairman will have the usual powers and authority of Chairman and has a casting vote in addition to his own vote.

The parish Clerk should make all arrangements. However, if the Clerk is unwilling to be involved, electors can make all the arrangements. All appropriate expenses will be paid by the council.

All procedures must be followed as if it were a normal council meeting. A proper notice of the meeting must be given not less than seven clear days before the meeting. This must specify the time and place, the business to be transacted at the meeting, and it must be signed by the person(s) convening the meeting. Notices must be posted to ensure sufficient publicity is given to the meeting.

The meeting must not be held before 6:00 p.m. and must not be held in premises used for the supply of alcohol (unless there are no other suitable venues).

At the meeting, all issues are decided by a majority of those present and voting. Each resident of a parish eligible to vote at an election, has one vote per issue.

Parish councils have a right to obtain a copy of the electoral register from the Electoral Registration Officer ‘for the purpose of establishing whether any person is entitled to attend and participate in a meeting of or take any action on behalf of the parish or community as the case may be’.

Minutes must be taken of the meeting and signed by the Chairman, either at the end of the meeting or the next parish meeting.

‘Until the contrary is proved, a parish meeting for which minutes have been made and signed shall be deemed to have been duly convened and held, and all the persons present at the meeting shall be deemed to have been duly qualified. It is considered that the validity of a parish meeting can only be challenged by way of legal process.’

 

The Parish Poll

A poll may be demanded before the end of meeting on any question arising at the meeting. The call for a poll can come from the Chairman of the meeting or by 10 or one third of the residents of the parish attending the meeting, who are eligible to vote at an election.

The Question
The words used in the question are important. There must be no ambiguity in the question and should be worded in such a way that only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer can be given.

Once the wording has been agreed at the meeting, the question cannot be changed.

There must be a proposer of the question and his or her name and address is recorded by the Clerk of the meeting.

The meeting must vote on the question which will be used in the poll and all those present at the meeting and eligible to vote at an election, may give their vote.

The Returning Officer
Following the vote, the Chairman of the meeting has a duty to provide the Returning Officer of the District or Borough Council with:

  • the question
  • the name and address of the proposer of the question
  • the date of the parish meeting.

The Returning Officer will consider whether a poll shall be held, and providing the correct procedures have been followed he should agree to it.

The Poll
The poll must take place between 14 and 25 days after the poll was demanded, with the publication of the Notice of Poll five days before polling day, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.

The rules for the conduct of the poll are similar to those common to all elections, with some variations or exceptions:

  • Polling is between 4.00 pm and 9.00 pm
  • There are no provisions for electors’ poll cards or for postal or proxy voting
  • The notice of a poll must include the date, time and place of the poll, a description of the electors who may vote and the particulars of the question with the name and address of its proposer.

The form of the ballot paper is prescribed in the rules; the wording of the question is an important consideration.

The only persons who may enter the polling station (apart from voters, of course) are the Returning Officer and his Clerks and the proposer of the question.

A count of the votes follows. The only persons who may attend the count are the Returning Officer and his Clerks and the proposer of the question. The Returning Officer may also invite persons to attend, and a small number of courtesy invitations would probably be made. There is no provision for the proposer of the question to call for a recount.

Notice of the result must be given by the Returning Officer.

Who pays?

The cost of holding the poll falls on the Parish Council, and therefore on Council Tax payers.

Conclusion

The outcome of the poll is no more and no less than an expression of the views of the electorate of the parish who have voted in the poll. It is not binding. If it concerns ‘no confidence’ in the council, it will clearly demonstrate public disaffection, which could influence councillors!

 


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