At our last meeting, the chairman announced that the next meeting (later this week) would be clerked by a locum whom he named. It is a local clerk who acted for our council as a short-term paid locum several years ago. As soon as the chairman made the statement he closed the meeting, so there was no time to question who had made this decision, whether there were any costs involved, why the council had not been informed prior to the meeting at which this was announced, why it wasn't on the agenda to be discussed and resolved in a proper open manner etc. Suddenly - a few days before our next meeting on 17 March, our clerk emails members saying sorry that they can't attend the next meeting in person as they are on holiday in Australia, but they have made all the arrangements with the a named locum clerk to take their place at the council meeting, that these arrangements have been approved by our council chairman and there will be no cost to the PC. The clerk claims that this has been approved by our council chairman, however, the arrangements have been made without any information, documentation, let alone prior consultation with, discussion of or resolution made by the council where members have all the supporting documents in front of them at a convened meeting. There has been correspondence or papertrail or information about the arrangements (which appear to have been made more than a month ago between clerk/locum clerk/chairman) and there are no minutes relating to these arrangements. Our clerk in their email from Australia goes on to apologise for the fact that as they are out of the country they cannot provide the bank reconciliation for this month, we'll have to wait till the clerk returns from their holiday and approve it next month. Our clerk has issued an agenda that includes their full salary for the period they are on holiday abroad, and included the fee for the same period for the use of their home as an office for our council, even though they have not been in residence and therefore not present to provide members of the council or public with any face-to-face transactions/provision of hard copies of council documents etc. It seems that there is a distinct lack of transparency, openness, honesty and due process going on here - let alone democracy. I am concerned that our council appears to be operating a two-tier system (indeed this has been going on since S101 was imposed during the pandemic lockdowns) which means that decisions are being made ad hoc outside council meeting by the clerk, with the approval of and even the encouragement of one or two councillors (chair/vice chair), leaving the other five councillors out of the process, with those 'decisions' rubber stamped at the next meeting with no discussion or explanation allowed. Any criticism or queries are met with accusations of bullying, harassment and the matter promptly closed.
a) Is a sole employee (clerk) allowed to employ another employee - in this case a locum clerk (whether or not that employment involves any cost to the council) off their own bat without the prior knowledge of the council or any instruction to do so resolved in a convened meeting by the council as a whole (the employer)?
b) Does a chairman have the authority to approve any/all of these arrangements in isolation, between council meetings and without any information being provided to the council to discuss and resolve upon prior to these arrangements having been made?
c) The clerk is also RFO so should provide all the required financial information
d) What can be done about the above? Is it a case for the MO or is there some other method of sanction? I am fed up with being vilified and my name blackened for raising these issues in public at meetings even though I am a councillor and feel I have a legitimate right to do so every time I believe actions have been taken by individual councillors/our employee without the council - fully informed - passing the appropriate resolution as an item on a published agenda.