Follow us on Twitter

COUNCILLOR ACCESS

0 votes
Some advice. As a new Councillor I have asked the clerk and some Cllrs for info on the following
a) as the PC is a member of the local NALC I have asked how we get access to "their facilities". In particular I asked for access to LTNs . The reply came back essentially saying if I wanted know anything I was to ask the Clerk. Surely if a PC is a member then access should be available to all Cllrs. What is normal practice?b) I asked for a copy of her spreadsheet detailing the budget and performance against it , I was told that an update was provided to Finance when required and what was I looking for?. I would see that such a document should be available on demand to any Cllr . It is not privileged information so what are my rights.  Are certain vital files normally held in a Document Library
c) we had a recent spat after a sub committee voted to meet in private ie no public presence,    I wished to be advised of the meeting dates as I believe it is the right of any Councillor to attend any Council meeting (but not to vote of course). Am I correct?

Any references would be useful
asked by (1.8k points)

5 Answers

0 votes
Repeat the requests and, if not resolved, follow up with FOI requests. Keep fellow Councillors informed. The Clerk will soon learn that being transparent is less hassle. He/she is an employee.
answered by (180 points)
+1 vote
A) As the council, not the clerk pay the NALC fees then each councillor has the right of access and the clerk should supply log in details and passwords to councillors as a matter of course. NALC is not the clerks private knowledge base.

B)Councillors have the right to see accounts, budget and performance records produced by finance committee or RFO which is why many councils provide regular reports for council meetings along with bank reconciliations. It is the council who bear ultimate responsibility for the council finances at the end of the year. Check your financial policies and standing orders. By the way it isn't her spreadsheet as it is council documentation.

C) Committee and sub committee meetings must be announced ( as for parish council meetings) giving the requisite notice and open to the public and councillors not on the committee (as you say no vote).

What some councils have done to side step this requirement and in my humble opinion treat such things as secret (why I ask) is to pass the work to a working party which does not have to comply as a committee does. Sneaky!
answered by (11.1k points)
0 votes
I am on a Welsh Council. Our equivalent to NALC is One Voice Wales. They only allow the Clerk and the Chair of the Council to speak to them directly. Councillors are supposed to go via the Clerk. I can understand this up to a point. Some Councillors (especially new ones) may have questions that could easily be answered by the Clerk. If not, the clerk should find out for you. If OVW or NALC allowed every single Councillor to contact them they would possibly be overwhelmed with calls and emails. However, they do allow access to the members section on their website to all councillors. And this section can be very useful.
Our Clerk kept this information very quiet but when I found I asked for the login details and they where given to me. I am now the Chair and encourage other Councillors to explore the site. So, yes you most definitely should have access to the NALC website even if you can't phone them.

If you are having no joy with the Clerk than speak to the Chair. If he/she is doing their job properly they should be able to assist you by informing the Clerk that all councillors should have access to the NALC website.
answered by (1.2k points)
When I worked my mantra was to understand who my customer was be they internal or extremal and aspire to meet their agreed needs. That worked fine but when you walk into the world of PCs everything is so entrenched and its all about the PC and not the residents. At the moment I am challenging almost everything and no doubt upsetting a few but that's never bothered me. I have to say one of my valuable pieces of resource is this forum
Unfortunately somebody has shopped me to the clerk and she is not a happy bunny.  She did however have the good grace to ask NALC about Cllr accessibility to Legal Topic Notes. The reply in essence said "we have never been asked this before and we leave it to the discretion of the clerk as to whether this facility is offered to Cllrs". I am appalled that this valuable source of information is routinely withheld from Councillors.  I would have thought NALC would actively seek to advertise such a facility as why else would they produce it .
What an amazing statement! Perhaps they have never been asked this type pf question because they have always been censored out by the clerks. What right have an organisation to dictate who they will and will not communicate with in a parish council of elected members who pay for NALC and the local associations? Can anyone point out where either NALC or their county associates put in their annual begging letter for ever raised subscriptions the condition they will only communicate through the clerk. The PC is the customer they are the supplier who's wares are advice to the PC. They are not an association of clerks. Power trip I am afraid.
I’ve hit all of these hurdles in the past
With regard to NALC have you actually seen the question and the reply as my understanding is that you are being misled NALC allow all Councillors access to their website
Our Clerk tried exactly the same stunt even though NALC give out the password at training sessions
Finances again there’s no reason you shouldn’t see this information ask again point out that if a member of the public asked it would be supplied and say if needs must you will use FOI but if you do go down this path use the site “ whatdotheyknow” as they have to respond in public
The point about meetings has already been replied to you can’t hold meetings in secret
OpenSpaces - I am appalled that NALC should say 'it's down to the discretion of the Clerk' about anything. The 'C' stands for Council not Clerk. The Council pays to join and the Clerk is an employee of the Council. And it's the Council that makes the decisions. I think NALC could take a leaf out of OVW,s book. They are not perfect but certainly seem a lot better.
Only the clerk and chairman can access information from YLCA even though all councillors have a log in password. Problems arise when the queries relate to the behaviour of the clerk and chairman. Surely if more powers are devolved to PCs then access to information and advice should be accessible to all councillors.
0 votes
Councillors are the decision makers on the council, not the clerk. Therefore they must have access to any information they see fit including legal topic notes from NALC.. It is not in the gift of the clerk to selectively control the flow of information to councillors. Challenge the clerk with a copy of the E mail to the principal authority monitoring officer to stipulate which legislation they  claim the right to control the dissemination of information. Contact NALC and ask them to stipulate what your council membership entitles the council to. Whatever they say applies to  "The Council" then you as a cllr are the council.
answered by (24.4k points)
–2 votes
Sometimes I think it is to do with reducing the workload. If everyone on every council asked them a question directly imagine the email traffic. Having said the above i agree the council is the membership payer and there maybe a need to get answers from them but experience has taught me that different people ask the same question in different ways to different people and receive different answers - (there’s a lot of differences in there!). This causes conflict maybe agree the questions that you want asking and have them emailed across with everyone having a copy of the questions and responding answers
answered by (5.5k points)
I must issue a correction here.  It was the clerk who said "I have never been asked the question before" and sought advice. NALCs response was "We leave it to the discretion of the Clerks, some do, some don’t. NALC don’t have a view on it. You could ask what info they want and offer to forward it on to them?" Now I have no problem with the Clerks response except to say this is a source of information that could raise Cllr knowledge considerably at a stroke but many Cllrs probably don't know about it  and it certainly aint routinely advertised. Why I ask?  I will no doubt attract a lot of flak over this (for rocking the boat) but at least our Councillors will  now know
Of course problem solving is based on correct information being given. You say in the correction that the clerk sought information because she had never been asked the question before. From what you say NALC ( who usually point your to their county associates) did not give the clerk any guidance or information which is after all what they and their county associates are paid to do, so she can fulfil her duties to her employers..
Now it can be argued that NALC are not an advice giving body just a policy forming one and rely on their county associations ( of vastly differing efficiency levels) to deliver day to day information. As the fees are rendered at county level with a % hived off to NALC then ultimate responsibility for advice lies with NALC and they should have a responsibility to ensure questions are answered.
The whole NALC/county association set up stinks as far as I can see.
This morning I tried to contact my local  NALC office. They were shut so I rang NALC HQ . They advised that they would only speak to the Chairman or Clerk . They referred me to the National Association for Councillors .  Eventually I got given a mobile  to contact .  After two minutes he said "I am holiday . Don't want to talk. Ring me next week.".  Aaaagh
It's laughingly called "customer service" and unfortunately is a national disgrace unfortunately it also rubs off onto those who are elected as councillors. Shows what happens when your advice is a bad example to those that pay you.
Well my clerk has directly refused to give me the password to the members area. I think this is wholly unreasonable as access to what are non confidential documents must surely reduce her workload i.e. less queries from Cllrs whilst increasing the overall knowledge and hence raising standards of the  "Councillor population". If as someone says NALC are a policy forming body then surely Councillors are their target audience?  Any detailed advice please PM me
The clerk is an employee of the council and is there to facilitate the instructions of the council. Get an item on the next agenda to access the documents you want  ( enlist the requisite number of councillors to force it onto the agenda) despite chair and clerks censorship

Welcome to Town & Parish Councillor Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers from other members of the community. All genuine questions and answers are welcome. Follow us on Twitter to see the latest questions as they are asked - click on the image button above or follow @TownCouncilQA. Posts from new members may be delayed as we are unfortunately obliged to check each one for spam. Spammers will be blacklisted.

You may find the following links useful:

We have a privacy policy and a cookie policy.

Google Analytics Alternative