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Council meetings in Plan B

0 votes
Our clerk has decided that sector specific guidance and lack of government permission to move to online meetings for statutory decision-making that our Council must adopt a regime of delegation to clerks, deferring controversial decisions or postponing meetings.

Many of us are frustrated by this and feel that it is an unwarranted delegation of authority.

How are other Councils approaching this?
by (210 points)

4 Answers

+1 vote
A decision to delegate is entirely dependent upon the Council's resolution to delegate and its not for the Clerk to decide.  However, we have all been put in a very difficult place by the lack of authority to hold remote meetings (unless of course you are in Wales) so decisions needing to be made in a meeting which puts everyone at risk at the moment, hence the national guidance that only essential matters should be dealt with and keep face to face meetings short.   There are some things that cannot be delegated (budgets and precept spring to mind) everything else is at the discretion of council.  As someone who is considered vulnerable, I'm a bit anxious in face to face meetings to be honest and would prefer to avoid being in an enclosed space with a group of people (!).
by (770 points)
My local association has told councils that the NALC advice is to consider not meeting in December, although that doesn't really address the issue. We're all going to need to meet in January, when restrictions are likely to be tighter than they currently are. I think we just need to wait and see.
Yes, my local CALC has the same advice but it's advice, not written in stone (or legislation!).  Doesn't get us over the fact that business has to continue
+1 vote
With due respect to Clerks - and I was a Clerk for many years.

The situation is simple - Clerks advise - Councillors (by a majority vote) decide.  End of!
by (780 points)
I'm a committee chair with a meeting due shortly (fortunately, no major decisions planned) and my clerk has written to explain the current advice but asking if I'd like to continue with the scheduled meeting as originally planned.  I'd suggest this is the correct way forward.  I've suggested postponing but with the caveat that we can reschedule if other members feel it appropriate
0 votes
Your Clerk has no authority to make such a decision or even to authorise such a delegation & a competent Clerk should know that to be the case. You should call an EGM along with another cllr and put the clerk in their place.  It is business as usual by resolution unless the govt enforce restrictions that prevent the Council meeting in person and not for the clerk to empower themselves to make changes in their expectation - fuelled by media scaremongering & speculation.   When their annual review takes place, this should be raised with them as a performance issue.  All council decisions have to be subject to resolutions. Even if the Council agreed to it, a resolution to change the Standing Orders etc would be needed.in
by (28.8k points)
0 votes
I have tabled an agenda item for next week to discuss the use of hybrid meetings and having a quorate of councillors physically attend but ultimately it is up to the council to decide. That said, the NALC advice did state that officers should attend meetings remotely but that would not work for me.
It is all about making a collective decision and including any concerns of the officers as well as the councillors in attending physical meetings - we all want to get to Christmas without having to self isolate.

So rather than berating each other, we should work together - it is scary times at the moment.  I think the statement by Graeme that the clerk should be hauled over the coals for this suggestion and it be treated as a performance issue is a bit harsh.  Lets be honest, a lot of councils rely heavily on the clerk to lead, although they shouldn't...
by (17.9k points)
Absolutely agree although unless you are in Wales, hybrid meetings still aren't legal in England.  Members joining online can't be considered members in attendance and can't be counted in the quorum, or vote.  Also entirely agree that the comments about the Clerk here are very harsh.  Clerk's (many of them qualified) should be passing on the latest advice.  They don't make decisions (as I said before) but I'd question a clerk that doesn't pass on national advice prior to members making a decision. The Clerk is an employee and as a council you have a duty of care to that employee to not put them at any unnecessary risk through doing their job, i.e. attending your meeting.  Nobody needs a "them vs us" approach during these difficult times
I agree and we are not in Wales, which is the reason for ensuring that we get a quorate of councillors physically in attendance.

As a clerk, I would not be happy attending meetings at the moment with anything more than a quorate of councillors.  I have my family to consider, regardless of the views of the councillors on the covid situation and view on the risk.

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