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What is a “Working Party Meeting”?

0 votes

Dear Experienced Parish Councillors

We have a situation where one of our Councillors attended a meeting of full council on 25th. May 2021 for 15 minutes (in order to vote for the Chairman for the coming year) and then left.

Said Councillor next attended a full council meeting on 14th. December 2021. Under LGA 1972 s.85, it was suggested that their failure to attend a meeting for a period in excess of 6 months meant that a casual vacancy had thus occurred.

Our local ALC was contacted for advice and the condensed version of the reply focused on whether or not this Councillor attended a MEETING of a Working Party in July 2021 and if they had done so, then a vacancy has not arisen.

The following message was sent by email a week in advance to the four Councillors who are members of the working party:-

Dear Cllrs,

The garden allotment inspection is now arranged for 11am on Wednesday 14th. July for the XXX allotment.


(Assistant Clerk)

This inspection was not recorded on the Council’s website, no Agenda was issued and no Minutes recorded or published anywhere, other than some brief, handwritten notes supposedly taken at the time but not distributed to Council members.

My question is, does this inspection constitute a MEETING for the purposes of LGA 1972 s.85? I know there are other avenues of exclusion in this Act such as “…representing the Council on outside bodies” and so on but none of these others apply. The entire issue hinges on whether or not the inspection was a MEETING and I would greatly appreciate your views on that please?

by (230 points)
edited by

3 Answers

0 votes
I would suggest a working party meeting is a valid attendance at a meeting of the parish council, albeit an informal one if the individual was attending as a duly authorised member/representative of the council on that group, i.e. appointed by the council or committee that set up the working group.  Attending as a member of the public or just out of interest (even if a parish councillor) would not count.  However, can you confirm the date as 2020 would not count?  The dates you need to take into consideration is the gap between the last known meeting attendance, i.e. 25th May 2021 and six months later, i.e. 24th November 2021.
by (9.2k points)
Thank you for that. I am really sorry that I had put the wrong date for the WP Meeting in my post (since amended). The question remains that in the absence of a formal summons, agenda or minutes, did the "event" that  took place on 14th. July 2021 constitute a MEETING? If so, then this Cllr has got away with their poor attendance record and if not, then we have a vacancy on the Council.
0 votes
S85(2) includes:-

"...attendance as representative of the authority at a meeting of any body of persons, shall be deemed for the purposes of subsection (1) above to be attendance at a meeting of the authority."

The working party met to undertake an official function of the council, so section 85 does not apply.
by (45.9k points)
I agree with DavetheClerk but would just add that the said councillor should, on a previous occasion, have been appointed by the council or one its committees to serve on the working party.
Thank you both for your comments. The Cllr had been previously appointed to the WP by the Council and I understand the part of the Act you quote but the question is not if they "represented the Council" at a meeting but remains that in the absence of a formal summons, agenda or minutes, did the "event" that  took place on 14th. July 2021 constitute a MEETING? If so, then this Cllr has got away with their poor attendance record and if not, then we have a vacancy on the Council.
It seems to me that your working party met on 14th July for the purpose of inspecting (whatever it was) and that said councillor attended.
Allotment inspections are an important part of the council's functions in providing allotments. An invitation was issued by the assistant clerk to attend to carry out this work. This is a formal gathering, which falls within the generally accepted definition of a meeting. You can't use section 85 to punish this councillor on this occasion.

Poor attendance is an issue for many councils, but there are other ways to address the problem. The chairman and clerk should remind the councillor of their responsibilities and the fact that they are legally liable for the decisions made at meetings, whether they were present or not. Many councils publish a list of councillor attendances, showing how many council and committee meetings each member was summoned to attend and how many they actually attended. When it comes to election time, the electorate would be foolish to re-elect an absentee representative.
0 votes
Our council occasionally uses 'working parties'. It is sometimes easier to get something done by a small group of interested councillors. We currently have one to work on aims and objectives. The party was formed at full council and then those interested in joining made them selves known. Other councillors are welcome to join at a later date, as long as the group does not get too large, although none have so far. I inform the Clerk of when the meeting will take place.  I take notes and then type them up and send a copy to the Clerk. This way there is a formal record of the meeting and what was discussed. A working party cannot make decisions but brings their ideas/suggestions to full council.
by (2.7k points)

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