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I proposed two motions for a forthcoming meeting (being sure to give the required amount of notice and to word the items in an appropriate way, eg "with reference to xx... and having received yy ...to consider how the parish council will comply with zz.)  Both items were matters familiar to the council and I provided a brief explanation in respect of why I was putting the motions forward.  I received emailed "thanks" from the clerk but when the agenda was published a week later, both my motions had been significantly reworded (though they were still noted as being under my name). I asked for the agenda to be amended but was firmly told the agenda was the responsibility of the RFO. To me this seems to be against Standing Orders or am I wrong?

by (270 points)

1 Answer

0 votes
... what do your Standing Orders say about it?
by (9.6k points)
Sorry, I should have said.  I think they're the standard NALC Standing Orders.  They say the Proper Officer may correct obvious grammatical or typing errors; or, if the Proper Officer considers the wording unclear they may reject the motion until it is resubmitted in a way that can be understood; or if the motion is considered improper the Proper Officer should consult with the Chair to consider whether to reject the motion or not.  They go on to note that the Proper Officer's decision is final and any motions rejected will be recorded with the explanation for rejection.  (The Chair fully backed the clerk's actions).
So ... if your propositions did not contain any grammatical or typing errors, and the wording was not unclear, then the motions should have gone forward for discussion.

I think the trick here is to not turn this into a battle royal.   At your next meeting you could express your disappointment about the way the motions were processed, point out the conditions under which the clerk may reject motions as stated in your Standing Orders, and hope for a more measured response in future.  You could also resubmit the motions to your clerk and ask his/her advice on how to word them next time round.
Thanks, John1706, for your speedy replies.  I completely accept your recommendation not to turn this into a battle royal.... unfortunately that ship has already sailed.  By way of update the clerk has just noted that she changed the wording as my wording was "misleading" and I have the option of going with the revised wording or having the items removed from the agenda.  I've asked for the items to stay on the agenda and for an explanation of why my wording was misleading at the meeting.
Thanks again for your help.
I disagree I think para 7 of NALC SOs represents a huge assault on the democracy of PCs i.e. it is Councillors alone who make decisions.  There is no doubt if you have a clerk who understands and carries out their intended role ie to support and advise, then the world would be a better place .  Oh that we have more Dave the Clerks.  While the OPs point is annoying it can be made clear during the debate and the motion possibly  amended .  What concerns me more is that in the most recent update of NALC SOs they removed the "Subject to" in the para relating to the final decision about inclusion on the agenda being vested with the clerk.   There are now clerks refusing motions that do not suit them without challenge. This because the "subject to" has completely changed the meaning of para 7.  I absolutely believe NALC/SLCC are bigging up the importance of clerks and using the SOs to do it.  I have even read reports that the title Proper Officer affords special privileges regarding agenda construction .   Yet the relative LTN fall short of saying that clerks have executive control over the agenda.   IMHO clerks should be responsible for preparing and issuing the agenda (and ensuring lawfulness) and agreeing final version with the  Chairman .  I believe all PCs should be reviewing para 7 so as to agree a form of words which ensures  Councillors have the required input into "their agenda".  To date my local association and NALC refuse to answer any correspondence on the matter
Thank you for that vote of confidence! I have noticed that the training provided for clerks by my local association seems to steer them towards a controlling and sometimes confrontational approach in dealing with members of the council. The irony, in my experience, is that this has, on occasion, led to a total breakdown in the relationship and resulted in the clerk's position becoming untenable.

I consider myself to be a member of team parish council. I'm neither their master nor their servant. They need me and I need them. If I have any concern regarding any aspect of our work, I pick up the phone or sit down with the member concerned and explain my thoughts, make suggestions and we agree a way forward together. If a member really wants something added to the agenda that I wouldn't normally include (perhaps because it's outside our area of operations), I'll include it and may address the meeting with "we wouldn't normally discuss this because... but Councillor Biggles feels strongly that..."

Happy council, happy clerk, easy life. I'm retired, I don't need the strife!

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