Follow us on Twitter

How to lodge a complaint about a clerk and have them investigated?

0 votes
I seek advice.

I have concerns with how our clerk conducts business.

In a typical parish or town, I understand that it is not uncommon for the clerk to prepare the annual budget showing options of 0%, 2%, and 5% increase of the precept. The councillors decide how the budget should be allocated and then chose a precept increase to match.

However, with our council, the clerk prepares the budget, declaring how the budget should be allocated, stating what the precept should be. The councillors simply vote to make the budget law.

I have issue with this in that councillors being elected to represent their communities have no actual part in developing where we live.

It is common knowledge between the residents that we have a dsyfunctional council and probably the worst performing council in the whole of the county.

Other facts that I have learned is that our council has three employees where other councils that serve a similar population size have over ten employees. Our clerk has a discretionary spending limit of £10k and earns in excess of £50k, and many other clerks that I have spoken with have said this is unheard of.

Given my understanding of how the budget is presented to council and brought into law I can only imagine personnel bisiness is done in a simlar way. At last budge the clerk's wages were increased by 10% and I do not believe a single councillor was aware of this when it was brought into law.

How can we complain about this?

How can we have our clerk investigated?

I believe the result of what is achieved meets statutory financial regulations in receiving an AGAR with no cautionaries, and statutory law in accordance with the local governments act.

It seems the concillors have been marginalised who would normally be the ones to apply checks and ballances.

Is there an outside body that can perform an investigation?

Thank you for taking the time to read my post :)
by (120 points)

5 Answers

0 votes
You say the Councillors are just voting the budget through, it isn’t law it is just the budget for the Council.  Why are Councillors not asking questions at the time and requesting further information.  The budget may be discussed at a Finance Committee but it has to be approved at Full Council and that is the time to ask questions if you are not on the Finance Committee

Sorry it sounds like some of your Councillors have been asleep on the job and just saying yes to everything without questioning why, you need to pushing your fellow Councillors to ask questions.

If you have a complaint about your Clerk I would imagine you take it to the Staffing Committee where they will have to investigate and maybe follow the grievance procedure.
by (2.9k points)
It depends on the Parish Council
You’d imagine that if the Clerk circulated an aggressive email to all Councillors claiming one of them was delusional for wanting a governance review something would happen but nothing did
Thank you for your response.

I can subscribe to certain councillors being "asleep" on the job. However, I have a more pessimistic perception where it is the same handful of councillors who are on the finance committee as the personnel committee. Anyone who raises questions seems to be ignored and dismissed with the notion that they do not know what they are doing and simply attempting to interfere. I made enquiries with the auditor and the response I received stated all questions should go through the Clerk. Another dead end.

The purpose of my question here is to seek options to having our council investigated to see if there is any validity to our concerns. Thanks for your responses. They have all highlighted possible avenues.

It is a shame the ombudsman only scrutinises district councils and above.
0 votes
It would be expected that a professional council would have in place a clearly defined policy to handle complaints regarding the council and its members  (including employees). If the complaint is regarding a council employee then the council should have in place defined procedures of who and how the matter would be investigated  by and with reference to the employees contract of employment conditions and procedures.

If the council does not have such policies in place then it is easy to see how matters can go terribly wrong and can also become expensive to conclude.
by (16.6k points)
Thank you for your response.

Our council has policies. The councillors on the finance and personnel committees (pretty much the same councillors) maintain that everything is above board and any probing questions are dismissed giving the notion that the source of the questions are by people who do not know what they are doing and are simply interfering.

The matter could be resolved if an independent body were to perform an investigation to determine if there is any validity to our concerns.
0 votes
I'd say it sounds as if the councillors are at least as much to blame here.

I also can't understand how this all gets through your audit - our auditor insists on seeing evidence/minutes of discussions and resolutions for pay rises, evidence of regular financial reporting against budget etc  - and the external auditor has previously asked for evidence to support why the precept was raised so much and queried jumps in salaries etc. If what you say is correct then there might not be a proper paper trail for all this  - or if there is then the council is signing off on things without challenging them or proper oversight.

By all means consider disciplinary action against the clerk if they are doing what you say - but the council is letting them do it and in my opinion should also be reported to your local monitoring officer (not that that achieves a lot half the time) - they are not satisfying the various Nolan principles and quite simply failing to do their duty.
by (480 points)
I can quite understand how this is missed by the internal audit, because after just joining a Council as a Councillor I queried the procedures as the internal auditor only seemed to be checking the accounts and seemed surprised when I asked him if he had looked at any of the minutes or policies (which he hadn’t).  Upon questioning the rest of the Council they said how he does it for free, he is a retired bank clerk and has done it for many years for us.  Lots of small Councils use these type of people as internal auditors and as a result run for many years without the problems being picked up, I will be pushing for change.
The council is responsible for the appointment of the internal auditor which should include details of what exactly the council want that individual to check (subject of course to the Joint Practitioners Guide).  The council should also be checking on the effectiveness of the internal audit process (and are required to confirm that in the Annual Governance and Accounting Return).  Clearly that's not happening here.
Thank you for your response.

I can subscribe to certain councillors being "asleep" on the job. However, I have a more pessimistic perception where it is the same handful of councillors who are on the finance committee as the personnel committee. Anyone who raises questions seems to be ignored and dismissed with the notion that they do not know what they are doing and simply attempting to interfere. I made enquiries with the auditor and the response I received stated all questions should go through the Clerk. Another dead end.

The purpose of my question here is to seek options to having our council investigated to see if there is any validity to our concerns. Thanks for your responses. They have all highlighted possible avenues.

It is a shame the ombudsman only scrutinises district councils and above.
ps. I am still looking for ideas on how to have our parish council investigated. Thanks.
Parish Councils can do pretty much as they please generally it’s only when enough people get angry enough to get elected that anything happens
As far as internal auditors ours said if you’ve got any questions ask me so I asked him if the cash collected from a club run by Council employees  formed part of the audit
He refused to answer passed my request to the Chair who then in private session claimed I was   accusing  the Clerk of theft which was odd because it wasn’t her that handled the money
It turned out later the auditor wasn’t aware of the money which was used for “ incidentals “ and it wasn’t included in the accounts
Or I could mention the £10,000 contract where no tender was offered little work was carried out and mysteriously all the paperwork got vanished and no one turned a hair
+1 vote
"The Councillors simply vote to make the budget law".  Why?

"It is common knowledge that ... we have a a dysfunctional council".  What are the councillors going to do about that?

"Our Clerk has a discretionary £10K spending limit".  If that is the case then it must have been given to him/her by the council.

"The Clerk's wages were increased by £10K".  That can only have been done lawfully by the councillors.

"How can we get our clerk investigated"?  That's called management and its the councillors job to do it.

"It seems the councillors have been marginalised".  That's in the hands of the councillors to rectify.
"is there an outside body who can perform an investigation".  Probably, but I think you need to look inward not outward.

Of course, its incredibly simple to say all this from afar.  I have done it in this way, not to be 'clever', but rather to help you put your finger on the issue and hopefully change things for the better.
ago by (3.0k points)
The plain and simple facts are that once appointed Councillors have no incentive to improve their knowledge and can so easily sit there and  say and do nothing .  The more senior and experienced ones realise this and can exploit it. In such situations shall I call it co-operation  with the clerk can be tempting in protecting this power base.  Meanwhile anyone who questions things is branded a troublemaker .   So the answer is better quality Cllrs but how do you achieve that ? Well compulsory training for standing orders and Fin regs would be a start.  The basic problem is that national government wants local government on the cheap and you get what you pay for .  All IMHO
Thank you John for your response.

Point 1 is a very good question. It has been asked and ridiculed under the guise of the person asking doesn't know what they are talking about and is a troublemaker.

Points 2 & 3 is exactly what happened. The previous very good question springs to mind.

Point 4, The Clerks wages were increased by about 10%, a 5K rise. No where in the budget was this clearly stated so ultimately most of the councillors were in ignorance when they voted. Someone with a keen eye and a calculator has come up with this assertion.

Point 5, Wouldn't that be a lovely thing to happen.

Point 6, I have tried to demonstrate that the councillors are nothing more than the clerk's finger puppets. Let's hope that the election brings in new councillors who are wise to the clerks methods.

Point 7, I appreciate your comments and points to which I thank thee. You describe how things should be and makes a depressing read given how our council operates. The reason for making this thread and asking questions is to attempt to find out if there is anything else that might be able to help.

Richmondlad makes some very good points. Particularly "anyone who questions things is branded a troublemaker". The clerk has a power base and those councillors are looked after.

Expected checks and balances are none existent. The whole thing is a disgrace.
That's why I am on this forum asking these questions.

Many Thanks :)
Good post that Richmondlad.
Much to recognise / agree with.
Don’t give up - don’t lose faith - don’t give in
0 votes
The answer to your problem is to ensure you are better informed that those that seek to obstruct you.
For example - the Practitioners  Guide is an excellent starting point.
Has your PC complied with the guidance? If not, and if you have tried, and failed to highlight shortcomings such that improvement is achieved, write direct to external auditor and explain why the AGAR assertions are flawed - if that is the case.
Try (and record) efforts first to resolve locally, because they WILL blame you for incurring the expense of the EA engagement so you need to be able to bring it straight back to - if you’d paid attention I wouldn’t have needed to!
ago by (1.2k points)

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