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The chairman is the clerks line manager but what is the clerk supposed to tell the chair or what can the chair ask of the clerk if councillors question the clerk all we get is I run the office
by (1.9k points)

3 Answers

0 votes
I’d suggest the general position would be that the clerk’s terms of employment should be as specified within the terms of reference and contract of employment which ‘should’ have been drawn up by an HR committee, been endorsed by PC and be based upon model contracts which are broadly in circulation.
If any of those parts are missing or deficient that is when the degrees of separation and conflict between employer - employee start to manifest.
Really, it’s way too broad a question in its current form.
It would be reasonable for a chair to ask a clerk to prioritise their work - as might be stipulated within existing ToRs - to align with the priorities of the council for example but it would require a collaborative approach of all parties if a change to ToRs is required. That said, seeking to change ToRs should never be seen as impossible. Priorities change over the years - work and effort should shift according to such change.
If you are saying the clerk believes their role is summarised as ‘running the office’ either the council terms of employment/ TOR is inadequate or you have the start of a break down in employee relations.
The simplest answer to the question is - the clerk should do what ever the PC directs them to do (within legal constraints obviously.)
by (21.8k points)
0 votes
The chair isn't the clerk's line manager and that is where the confusion starts.  The relationship between the clerk and the council is totally unique - the clerk is the employee of the whole council and not an individual councillor.  However, it is logical and practical to have a councillor to whom the clerk can speak to and normally that is the Chair.  It is the Clerk's responsibility to run the parish office and manage any other staff that the council has and standing orders and financial regulations outline the level of delegated authority given to the clerk that does not need prior council or committee approval.  It is hardly practical to seek council permission to purchase stationery for example, or to allow a member of staff to attend an appointment...

Where conflict often arises is that the Clerk is paid by the council but on occasions has to stand their ground in terms of legalities and advice, against the councillors.  This is not an easy relationship as the Clerk sometimes has to fight tooth and nail with the councillors in order to protect their actual employer, the Council.

In my position, I have a good working relationship with the Chair and will frequently chat with him over matters that have come up and issues the council are facing.  But we both know that he cannot line manage me anymore than other councillors and that I get my instruction from the council and committees when they meet.
by (24.5k points)
I thought this topic would raise fairly strong input from a variety of sources.
I’d agree, the lexical semantics and the situational realities are both relevant.
In a council where a committee is practical, such a means is often the best option to manage all council employees.
If that is taken as an accepted norm, it might also be an accepted norm that a council chair will or may be chair, a member or ex-officio member of any committee hence they are likely to have a contributory input to committee recommendations which would require council endorsement.
I think that might be an accepted set of circumstances without too much push back or controversy.
It’s interesting to read that you think a clerk must occasionally stand their ground and fight tooth and nail against their employer.
I’d take the view that confrontation, fighting and intransigence are far from acceptable attributes in an employee.
More appropriate perhaps would be for a clerk to present accurate, timely, succinct and professional recommendations for cllrs to consider. There is after all, absolutely no obligation upon a Cllr to accept and apply the advice provided by a clerk, only that it should be considered.
This principle extends all the way from PC through local authority and into Parliament. It is the elected member rather than the employed officer that represents the democratic process. Clerks, in what ever form, present advice but elected members execute decisions.
It is perfectly reasonable that a chair would have a good working relationship with an employee, and that should include setting out certain procedural matters required to meet the priorities of the corporate body.
Not a good idea to get too wrapped up in who is ‘in charge’ of who, since a sensible clerk would recognise that a sensible chair will influence a sensible committee to arrive at sensible decisions which will result in sensible direction being issued to the clerk.
And there we have it, chair providing direction to clerk it’s just the route that has to be taken to get there that needs ‘massaging.’
In my answer, I said that sometimes I had to fight tooth and nail against a councillor in order to protect my employer, the council.  I didn't say I had to fight with the council.  I have experienced instances within my council where an individual councillor has placed orders for works and services and I have had to rescind these orders so that the council did not act illegally.  Part of the role of the Clerk is to have a backbone and stand up to councillors who are taking advantage or wish to flout the law.
Well, no, you said ‘councillors’ not ‘councillor’ in your original reply. The detail places an entirely different interpretation on the statement. The follow up (correction?) intimates a single errant Cllr whereas the original (cllrs) intimates the corporate whole.
Either way, it STILL isn’t for the clerk to police the action of a Cllr by rescinding something they have done. That would very likey be beyond a clerks authority. The MO adjudicates on Cllr activity - if it were a contractural or financial liability inappropriately incurred by an individual councillor it would be for the council not the clerk to determine - by vote - whether the activity should be validated by council or not. Clerks do not dispense discipline nor adjudicate on Cllr behaviour.
The role of the clerk is to provide accurate, precise and timely advice to cllrs - there is no authority, nor is it ever appropriate, for a clerk to overstep that mark.
I said councillors because it happened on more than one occasion.  Plural doesn't necessarily refer to the entire council.   Rescinding an order placed is not beyond the RFOs authority (as I am both) - we have a legal obligation to ensure that the finances of the council are correctly maintained and paying for something that was not agreed by the council is not due process. Clearly we are never going to agree on this matter as it seems that the Clerk you have experience of has considerably different practices and attitude than mine so I wish you a good day.
I totally support MrsAbster comments.
I note with concern that you state .................In a council where a committee is practical, such a means is often the best option to manage all council employees........ On what legal basis do you believe a Council can manage the employees (ignoring how impractical it is) ? Bear in mind as already stated the Council  /  Clerk relationship is unique in employment and is laid out in the 1972 act.
I am in the fortunate position of working for a large corporation during the day and a Clerk at night so I can see the distinct differences in the employment practices.
In Essex - the council HR committee (if the council is large enough to have one) will (certainly should) in a properly functioning unit) manage ALL council staff.
That is MANAGE not micro manage.
Manage by way of settings JD, recruitment, setting annual salary etc - higher level employment strategy and policy.
Day-to-day line management may fall to the clerk but strategic issues are council.
Surprised this needs explanation.
Clarity is the key to successful communication. Thank you.
Size obviously matters - in a small Parish Council there are limited resources.
Yes the Staffing committee undertakes the annual appraisal and review of the Clerks performance and recommends the spinal point change to the full council. The same committee undertakes recommends all related policy etc.
The Finance committee recommends pay levels for the staff ( 2 p/t staff)  not in the Spinal point system.
The Clerk manages the staff on a day to day basis and directs the tasks they are to undertake - Manages them .Most tasks are pretty routine with occasional higher priority tasks handed down from the Parish Council at its monthly meeting.
0 votes
The Chairman and Clerk should have an integral relationship where they work together however it is often the case that councils have staffing committees who deal with the any problems that can arise. Having a committee allows for independent management of complaints and grievances.
by (6.3k points)

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