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Restrictions on councillor activities

0 votes

I am constantly getting myself into trouble with various Chairmen and the clerk and being told "I cant do this" and "that's the clerk job", so much so I need some clarity .  Now to me if I am dealing with something be it a public complaint or deploying a Council resolution I can make whatever enquiries I want and with whomever I choose provided I don't make a decision (as I realise all Council decisions are collective) .  But I could agree say a recommendation with  a third party  to put to Council for a decision?,  Here I rely on standing orders with restrict my activities to not "issuing orders, instructions or directions". But this tells me what I cant do not what I can do.   I seem to always being told that almost everything must go through the clerk .  This to me restricts my effectiveness as  a councillor as I have many contacts.  Now I understand  that when it comes to writing to the public (on behalf of the Council) that everything should go through the clerk but  I have reached the stage of needing definitive advice about what I can and cannot do in my day to day role and equally what communication is proper to go through the clerk .  It seems to me that decisions are made collectively (and deployed by the clerk)  but any thing prior to that can be "investigated" by Councillors .   I would be interested in others views on how they interpret their role and what restrictions if any they face and any appropriate references 

by (2.8k points)
edited by

3 Answers

0 votes
My advice would be that you are free as a councillor to engage in communication or gather information. But you cannot unilaterally implement any actions on behalf of the council like making purchases or committing the council to doing something without a resolution. But it is also the case  The clerk is not a decision maker nor is the chair unilaterally. Perhaps it might be useful to provide some examples where you have been challenged.
by (30.4k points)
0 votes
There is nothing to stop you as an elected representative communicating with or receiving communication from members of the public ( unless wrongly prohibited by policy[ in my opinion]). It is a desired and necessary link of communication to the council via their elected representatives.

How many councils do not even give information on their websites as to who their councillors are?
It appears that there is paranoia in some councils that councillors have to "dirty their hands" by having contact with those that they elect to act on their behalf. This leads to the " everything through the clerk " mentality. Members of the public should feel free to approach their councillors with a problem or query they have and receive support and assistance in arriving at the best solution for them to follow. A skilled councillor should meet this requirement without crossing any red lines and not just take the easy solution favoured by advisory bodies and lazy councillors.
by (16.1k points)
Thanks gents.   A lot of work of course is transacted through our District Council and there seems to be a mentality that any contact with them about anything should be via the clerk .  How do you feel about that.?   I believe any Cllr should be able to contact them direct in order to pursue anything providing it is not necessary for the Council to make  a decision.   I further believe if a solution is found and there is no need to bother the PC then that' s fine.
A  similar situation exists with NALC although that is a bit more understandable (although not for the money we pay)
In practice there can be a couple of issues in going through the District Council.  I have had experience of staff at District level assuming that someone is representing the parish council with the result that actions were taken or assumed without the authority of the parish council at the time.  In part, I suspect, because the parish councillor at the time was not a great communicator and probably (maybe unintentionally) didn't make themselves clear that this was an enquiry not a request.  Where I am based now, I find that the District Council won't work with a parish councillor but only through the clerk, even if the clerk directly confirms that the parish councillor is empowered to seek advice or whatever it is.
0 votes
I attend many meetings on things that I've found interesting, grant funding, greening spaces etc. I've always made it clear that any opinions and thoughts are my own not the Councils, by simply stating this. The same with emails and I do sometimes ask the county council for information or help, especially following a query or problem sent to me by a resident. I'm their representative and as far as I'm concerned if I can help, I will. /our County Council is happy to assist with enquiries, although I do have to say that during the pandemic and still now, it can take a long time to get an answer!

Obviously if anything I look into and think it could be of interest to the Council to act upon I ask to have on the agenda or report it via a section we have during the monthly meeting called 'Councillors Updates'.
by (2.5k points)

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