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Are councillors legally allowed to enable actions agreed by the council ?

0 votes
Our town clerk will, for a period of nine months or so, have to reduce his hours from full-time to a three-day week. We don't have a trained deputy, and temporary staff (unlikely to be qualified ) will be employed for the other two days. The clerk claims that we will have to drastically reduce what we can achieve. Although councillors are quite willing to take on some actions related to our priorities, where these are feasible, the clerk claims that councillors are not legally allowed to take on work that he would normally do. Is that correct ? We are worried that the council's work on priorities will come to a grinding halt for the best part of a year. Surely unaccepable.
by (430 points)

5 Answers

0 votes
I don't know the official answer, but it seems to me it must depend on the nature of the tasks. There are,  presumably, tasks which are reserved by law to the Clerk and which Councillors cannot therefore undertake. On the other hand, there will surely be some which are not, such as arranging contractors and which Councillors could undertake.
by (1.9k points)
0 votes
A councillor can serve as a proper officer but cannot receive a salary.  The Clerk needs to specify what he thinks someone else can't do.  If it is something like maintaining the website, he should be providing instructions etc.  I can't think of anything that requires a specific qualification or skill that only the regular clerk would be able to hold.
by (30.4k points)
0 votes
It greatly depends on the work that is being required.  Councillors have no delegated authority so if any form of decision needed to be made, it would have to go to a committee or council for decision.  The preparation of the annual return would have to be a Clerk's job as they have to sign it off as the RFO.
What interests me most with this query is that the Clerk is full time and there seems to be no deputy as a standard... this seems like a risky set up to me and lacking in business continuity planning - heaven forbid if the Clerk passed away...
by (18.5k points)
0 votes
Agree with everything that has been said here.  There's nothing to stop councillors acting as a group to undertake routine actions such as seeking quotations for work, etc. (provided appropriate procedures are followed) but I'd suggest in this instance maybe some temporary help via a locum might be the way forward in the short term and an assistant employed in the long term.
by (4.2k points)
What hasn't been brought up is what is the clerks contract of employment position and why is the reduction in hours is needed. Who decided and was it a mutually agreed action by both parties. If it wasn't then having to have councillors take up the slack so to speak would suggest that the volume of work justifies the full time clerk position. I fit is a money saving exercise then again it is a very dangerous method being employed to meet the targets. If it is the choice of the clerk to reduce the burden for whatever reason then much discussion should be entered into to decide whether what is deemed necessary to being taken on by councillors should be covered by a second qualified ( deputy) or new clerk. Beware of that contract of employment and attempting to mould it to the council's needs. But I am sure that there is much more to this than is able to be noted here
My comments assumed, probably wrongly, that the reduction in hours was health related.  If not, then clearly there needs to be some form of agreement by full council.  The response regarding cost also slightly surprises me as budgets should include some provision for additional support if/when necessary.  Sadly clerks get sick sometimes and employment law (and their contract) requires payment when off sick for a certain period.
Clerks don't have to do everything but councillors can't act and make decisions on behalf of the council without specific delegated authority to do so with such delegated authority being only possible to a committee (i.e. more than one councillor).  There is nothing to prevent councillors undertaking background research for example into a topic that ultimately is put to council for consideration, provided everyone is very clear of the parameters
0 votes
Many, many thanks for the replies to date.

Re: absence of a deputy clerk, that will definitely be resolved, so that in a year's time, we should be back to having a full-time clerk and employing a deputy, but that's not going to be the case until then. And no, we can't afford a locum for the other two days.

I'm sure that the legal stuff re RFO will be fully covered by the clerk during the reduced hours and anything else that comes up will go though the council for approval first. The whole issue arises from a fluke of timing.
Meanwhile the issue I'm actually raising is how much willing Cllrs can legally offer their services to enable the work of the council to continue without cutting back on our prioroties, which are on going and not controversial. As I have noted, the Clerk is essentially insisting that only he can enact, well, anything at all. That's the essence of my issue here. To be perfectly  blunt about it, the Clerk is a control freak, the likes of which I've never encounterd before.

I'm taking on board the notion that Cllrs can take on some role, though unpaid. (I know that Cllrs on small parish councils often take on specific roles, and works well.) That won't happen for us formally, but it seems to point to the fact that Cllrs can act without the Clerk having to be in utter and total control. It's exasperating, not least because if the Clerk gets his way, we'll be sidelined as cllrs, with the bureaucracy taking centre stage over actual activity.
by (430 points)

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