Our clerk invited a previous councillor into our very first meeting in June, where almost the entire PC are new councillors, to provide a quote for email services. We were advised by the clerk that unless our email was rectified immediately we would be in breach of audit and urged us to accept the quote. She explained that in an emergency decisions can be taken very quickly. The quote was expensive so we resisted, called an extraordinarily meeting set for 2 weeks later (mid June) to allow for research and comparative quotes. The clerk advised this should be a work group meeting instead so that it would not have to be clerked or open to the public. We agreed to call it a work group meeting and almost the entire group of councillors met to talk through the research. The clerk elected not to be there and in fact, prior to the work group meeting, placed further pressure on me to accept the quote provided and then advised none of us could now attend the training as we had not resolved the email issue. Regardless, we continued with our research. At the work group meeting in mid June we agreed on a provider. Notes were taken of the decision and shared.
Given the clerk had advised us that the auditors had said the email had to be up and running before the end of June in order to be compliant, we agree to start the work immediately, before the second PC meeting in July, and as she had already advised decisions could be made in an emergency, we believed this was a compliant process.
However, the minutes produced by the clerk, of our first PC meeting did not mention the initial quote she sourced. Instead the working group was renamed, in the minutes, a task and finish group, set a budget and named 3 people as members of the task and finish group. No budget had been discussed at the PC meeting in June. Strangely, the budget she inserted into the minutes was lower than the quote the clerk urged us to accept. There was no agreement at the June PC meeting on who the 3 people leading this would be as the entire PC agreed to attend the work group meeting in mid-June, and only at that meeting did 3 people agree to run with the project.
When I challenged the minutes at the July meeting (only our 2nd meeting) bearing in mind I’m a new councillor, the clerk advised that this needed to be recorded this way as the rules on work groups had changed and the clerks weren’t advised. A work group would have to be clerked and open to the public and as we had not done that, the process we undertook to arrive at the decision we did was incorrect. I pointed out that no mention had been made of the fact that the previous councillor had even attended the meeting. I also questioned why, if the clerks had not been informed of changes to work groups etc, this would matter.
The clerk became quite forceful and insistent, said we needed to be seen to be compliant and said we needed to trust her on this to keep things clean. It went on for ages and eventually, I’m ashamed to say, we were literally worn down by her and I signed the minutes. She reminded me of her situation (she has advised of personal ill health, and earlier that week had advised her partner was dying of cancer, she had requested leave in lieu of hours which of course we agreed to and insisted we didn’t source a temporary clerk as she wanted to respond to emails as this was an outlet for her). She informed us yesterday her partner has died but still wants to manage emails.
The debate on the minutes was only our second meeting. It still bothers me. I’ve been advised to write an email with all councillors in copy advising that although I’ve signed the minutes, I’m unhappy that they are not correct and would like to record a correction.
Is this the correct way to go about it?