Follow us on Twitter

Spending PC funds ... the process

0 votes

Expenditure on revenue items may be authorised up to the amounts included for that class of expenditure in the approved budget.  This authority is to be determined by:

• the council for all items over £5,000;

• a duly delegated committee of the council for items over £1000; or

• the Clerk, in conjunction with Chairman of Council or Chairman of the appropriate committee, for any items below £1000. 

Could someone please explain to me precisely what the third bullet point above means (from our Budgetary Control and Authority to spend Financial regs).  I get the point about over £5K full council and £1-£5k committees but don’t understand the below £1k bit  as surely decisions have to be made by Councillors before any money can be spent .

Having made decisions matters are then referred to the clerk to process i.e. check that payments are lawful etc .  So what is the "function" of the clerks role?  Are they procedurally  countersigning the expenditure or are they authorising it? .   Can the clerk for example refuse to pay any agreed expenditure or can  they only  advise that the payment is not procedurally correct? .

10,5.   Regs read The RFO shall verify the lawful nature of any proposed purchase before the issue of any order, and in the case of new or infrequent purchases or payments, the RFO shall ensure that the statutory authority shall be reported to the meeting at which the order is approved so that the minutes can record the power being used

I am just trying to get the precise functions clear in my head.  I once had a situation where I had carried out some repairs to footpath (urgently needed by without a formal resolution being made) and the Chairman agreed to refund my expenses,   The clerk subsequently refused to pay as it was an unauthorised retrospective payment .  The Chairman backed the clerk,  Really need a flow chart

by (2.8k points)

2 Answers

0 votes
Depending what your precept is but I would remove the first item as that allows the Clerk to spend anything up to £5,000 without formal approval from the Council and opens you up to all sorts of risk, or lower it to £1,000 to match the other figures.  The £5,000 appears in the model Financial Regulations and most Councillor's don’t notice it or even read the Financial Regulations.

There will be occasions where urgent work needs to be carried out and there isn’t time to call a meeting, this is where the third item comes in.  The Clerk could have put a proposal on the agenda agreeing to the works being carried out and stating that due to an emergency this was carried out before the meeting and then also put it in the payment list.
If your Clerk is being a bit pedantic, go through the payments and you may find items they have asked to be refunded upon before asking for formal agreement first, double standards.
by (2.0k points)
0 votes
Taking each part of your question separately Richmondlad ....
The third bullet point means your Clerk has authority to agree to expenditure but only if he/she consults with the Chairman of the Council or the relevant committee if your committees have delegated power to spend, for items up to the value of £1,000.00  The way the regulation is written implies it is blanket authority but most councils use this for emergency purchases or routine items such as stationery, etc.  Such expenditure is not required to go through council as such as the financial regulations themselves in effect are the approval.
When payments are passed to the clerk to check that they are lawful, that is not giving the clerk authority to reject a decision made by council to purchase anything.  My interpretation of that regulation is that when an invoice is received by the Clerk, he/she checks to make sure it is for something that the council (or, a relevant committee) has agreed to purchase, it is for the correct amount, is correctly addressed, etc. etc.
Councils without General Power of Competence do have to work to slightly different rules with regard to "lawful powers" and the clerk should be checking decisions to ensure there is a legislative power enabling the council to undertake that work etc. but this should be done before a decision is taken, not afterwards when payment is demanded for the work.

Just for clarity, legal responsibility for public footpaths remains with the landowner but of course many parishes have footpaths officers whose role it is to work with landowners and who sometimes undertake repairs and maintenance in the interests of the public.  No one councillor can approve expenditure (i.e. the placing of an order) and then again, neither can two councillors place orders/purchases unless expressly authorised by the council to do so.  However, the clerk, as an employee, can be authorised to place orders or agree expenditure (your bullet point above) so in your instance above, the clerk could have given you authority to spend that money whereas the chair was not empowered to do so.
by (4.2k points)
Now there are some very specific words being used here which again I want to get clear in my mind.  It appears that any decision taken by a Council is lawfully made?  So we will take a case of money being spent beyond their powers.  Now while the PC is acting ultra vires their decision  is nevertheless still lawful ?   That decision then goes to the clerk for her to verify if it is  lawful or not but she cant act on her advice?   The original decision and the clerks advice then get referred  to (in our case the Finance Committee) who approve the payment.  So the sequence is decision made, lawfulness verified , payment approved (or referred back decision makers) .  I have a finance meeting tonight .  Have I got this right? TIA
That is not the sequence.  If you read Dolby'swife comments carefully it says but this [the lawfulness of the decision]
should be done before a decision is taken".  So the sequence is lawfulness established, decision made etc etc
The problem is John 1706 some Cllrs spend money outwith of their powers.   So should the Clerk and other Cllrs challenge at the meeting  because 9 times out of 10 that doesn't happen and also what happens when any challenge fails.   Can the clerk on secondary check refuse to progress payments or merely point out they are unlawful or does the remedy lie at the approval stage
Apologies if I didn't explain it particularly clearly but the procedure in all but emergency cases should be:  (1)  Project considered by council (with quotes where required).  This is the stage where the Clerk should be advising whether the project is lawful, i.e. within the power of the council to undertake.  (2) Decision is actioned (whatever that entails).  (3) Invoice is received by the Clerk, checked against the original quotation, decision etc.  (4) Clerk presents invoice to council for approval for payment.
I agree there are some purchases that might fall outside the "project receives approval" stage because it's a routine item like a stationery purchase for example when it would be a nonsense to wait for the council to meet before approving the purchase of a ream of copier paper.  So, the clerk has delegated authority to purchase such items up to a (usually financial) limit.
Councillors individually cannot have delegated authority to make spending decisions and can only make spending decisions as a duly authorised committee.
The only time a "reimbursement" is made to a councillor for items purchased is if there is an existing resolution to do so and there is a pretty good reason why the clerk hasn't purchased the item.

Welcome to Town & Parish Councillor Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers from other members of the community. All genuine questions and answers are welcome. Follow us on Twitter to see the latest questions as they are asked - click on the image button above or follow @TownCouncilQA. Posts from new members may be delayed as we are unfortunately obliged to check each one for spam. Spammers will be blacklisted.

You may find the following links useful:

We have a privacy policy and a cookie policy.

Google Analytics Alternative