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Can a councillor be refused entry to the Parish Office

0 votes
Our PC has a small Parish Office. There is a communal room open to all, a storeroom and an office where the Clerk and her team of 2 work.
Recently a councillor entered the room uninvited as part of a review of the space available and whether it could be used more effectively. This was raised at the PC meeting and we were advised that no Councillors can enter the clerks office without being explicitly invited. Similarly it is not for Councillors to suggest how the desks etc should be arranged.

Whilst I have no desire to meddle in the minutiae of parish administration, I cannot imagine another employment situation where an employer has no authority to enter an employee's workspace or to decide how best to utilise their premises. Worst still, we were told the reason was because the Clerk might have a half written grievance about a councillor lying on her desk.
Has anyone else encountered this situation - I wonder if it is peculiar to local government - or have any comments?
by (1.9k points)

2 Answers

0 votes
The short answer is that local government *is* peculiar. The clerk's employer is the council as a body and not the councillors as individuals. Think of it from the other perspective. There is usually just one clerk and 5 or 11 or even 27 councillors depending on the council. A very top heavy management structure if ever there was. If all of the individual councillors could issue instructions, the clerk would be pulled in many different directions at once, it would be very difficult to manage and impossible to please everyone. Of course many clerks have good relationships with councillors and won't mind an unexpected visit but a councillor should be respectful and not assume. I suggest you have a look at model standing order 24 which spells out the restrictions on councillor activities. It may seem cumbersome but the alternative is chaos.
by (340 points)
Entirely agree with Cassandra.  Many, if not most, clerks work from home so can you imagine an automatic right of a councillor to enter the clerk's home and dictate how he or she manages their workspace?  As a councillor I make an appointment when I feel the need to meet with my Clerk as I certainly don't expect her to drop everything just because I walk through the door and I certainly wouldn't have the arrogance to dictate how she does her job other than the fact that the job is actually done!  I might also add that although there is no longer any legal requirement to take covid precautions, infection rates are rising and the council owes a duty of care to its employees so casual visitors really should be discouraged rather than encouraged or worse, demanded as a right
Thank you. I should have made it clear that our Clerk and her team of two assistants do not work from home. They are full time employees in our office and the visit by the Councillor was agreed by the Council and pre-arranged.
Sorry, I didn't pick up on this being agreed by council and the visit prearranged as you said the councillor entered the office uninvited. I don't really follow what has happened. .
My fault. The overall visit to The Parish Office was agreed, there was no discussion about whether parts of the Office being off limits - so the councillor went into the room where the Clerk and her team work uninvited by them. Everyone but me seemed to agree this was beyond the pale. I work into the private sector and can't imagine telling my boss he can't come into the room (in the office) where I work without my permission.
0 votes
Does "as part of a review of the space available" mean that the Council had authorised the Councillor to carry out this role? If so, the Clerk has no right to obstruct it. If not, the Councillor should not be there.

Whilst I acknowledge the comments of others regarding aspects of this and would certainly support the courtesy of speaking to the Clerk beforehand, the Council does have a duty of care and a responsibility regarding working conditions, even if the workplace is the Clerk's home. There should be policies and procedures in place for periodic inspection with regard to matters such as VDU regulations for example.
by (41.0k points)
Yes, the visit was authorised by the Council and pre-arranged with the Clerk. However it was unclear whether she should only look in the communal areas and storage room or the office as well. The Clerk feels that only she can invite people to enter the office. It seems very odd to me that the Council are effectively banned from part of their own premises.
Have you asked the clerk why she feels so concerned about people entering the office? Are the public allowed to visit the office? Any private documents should be kept under lock and key and the computers should be password protected, so there is no rational argument for keeping people out.
Thanks Dave, that would have seemed sensible to me, but the first we knew of it was when we were told not to do it. No one else seemed to feel it odd.

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