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Without a quorate parish council and a clerk, how can the principal authority allow this to continue?

0 votes
Over one year ago, all members of my parish council were deemed as disqualified by the principal authority. The clerk resigned from their post over one year ago. The principal authority said it would reconstitute the parish council but to date the parish council remains unconstituted. The parish council have not published any AGAR for the past 3 financial years and as a result, I expect a further public interest report from the external auditor will be forthcoming along with their fee. In the spring of 2023, the principal authority will once again estimate the precept for the parish, collect it and pay into a bank account in the parish council's name. The principal authority have confirmed that it does not know who controls the bank account. Without a quorate parish council and a clerk, how can the principal authority allow this to continue?

Any advice would be most appreciated.

by (3.9k points)

4 Answers

+1 vote
A very worrying situation you have described. Has anyone ever tabled a public question about the specific case in a public meeting at the principal authority? I just wonder whether a tabled question either by a local ward member or member of public requiring the MO / Chief Exec / Leader of Council to respond (minuted) would finally prompt action.
by (6.8k points)
There is no PC - how can the LA pay into an account which they know to be dormant and inaccessible?

That is mismanagement of public money by LA.
Take it up with your MP who should take it up with DLUHC
Many thanks for your advice Progress.
Thank you RAC but I believe I would be wasting my time with an MP who has absolutely no interest in helping his constituents.
+1 vote
It's easy to point the finger at the principal authority in this situation, but it is up to your community to form a new council. Section 91(1) of the LGA 1972 states that

"Where there are so many vacancies in the office of parish or community councillor that the parish or community council are unable to act, the district council may by order appoint persons to fill all or any of the vacancies until other councillors are elected and take up office."

This is a power, not a duty. I suspect they've looked at the history of your parish council and decided to steer well clear.

Call a public meeting, find a group of candidates, then talk to your principal authority about elections or appointments. Are you due to have elections in May next year anyway?
by (50.1k points)
Agree your observation above (power v duty) but this doesn’t address the report that the LA is expected to repeat an estimate, collection and forward payment of precept into a bank account which may, or may not, be functional.
That part is an autonomous LA action which seems wholly illogical.
If a bank account has existed for a period of time in the name of the parish council and the principal authority has paid a precept into it over a number of years, the continuation of this arrangement is part of the process of re-establishing the council. The banking system will notify the principal authority if the account no longer exists and refund the payment. Without a precept, it would not be possible for the new council to appoint a clerk or pay any other legitimate expenses.
That's a good point Dave.  I see what you mean.

The LA 'could' estimate the precept and hold the money in abeyance until the new PC is set up though.
If I were the finance director for that LA I'd rather be keeping actual money in the LA account rather than front loading a PC which may, or may not, re-establish itself at some point in the future.
What would be the chances that an effective system of recording and 'remembering' that money which has been forwarded if the PC doesn't re-establish within 12 months....  I kind of already know the answer....
I don't know what the legal position would be on this. If the principal authority has taxed the parishioners for the benefit of their parish council, would they have the power to withhold the money? It's not their money, after all. If the council is not re-established, would the principal authority have to refund every council tax payer? I guess so.

It's disappointing that the district councillors for this ward have not stepped in to start making things happen, as they are ideally placed to work with the community on this.
Yes, but what is the legitimacy of 'estimating' the precept 'on behalf' of the (non-existent) PC?

How can there be an adequate system of financial control if there are no cllrs / PO?

Definitely a mess, be interesting to know which PC this is....
The custom in my experience when a PC fails to confirm its precept requirement is for the principal authority to repeat the previous year's precept.
Thanks again DtC for your advice. It would therefore appear that any appropriate action would have to be instigated by parishioners. I am not sure about any upcoming election but I will check this shortly.
0 votes
Which PC and LA area is this?
by (13.5k points)
+1 vote
In short the Principal Authority can if it chooses allow this to continue, but it could appoint  temporary councillors to hold office until sufficient vacancies are filled to allow the PC to become quorate. If the Principal Authority has made no effort to do either, a complaint to the Local Govt ombudsman could be made on the grounds of maladministration.
by (34.0k points)
Many thanks Graeme_r for your advice.

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