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+7 votes

There have been several threads recently in which a them and us (Clerks v Cllrs) has been demonstrated.   Until people realise that such a syndrome actually  exists we will never solve it as in some cases the divide is more like a chasm. People should start with the question “why cant we attract more good Cllrs”?   The answer to that precisely demonstrates the problem.  I always ask the question of resigned Cllrs and to a man the two main reasons are a) the existence of a small impenetrable elite of Cllrs who control everything usually in cooperation with the clerk and b) clashes with over zealous clerks.  The only way to address this issue is to raise the knowledge level of Cllrs but that will of course require willing participants. The plain and simple facts are that once elected Cllrs have no incentive to increase their knowledge as unlike Clerks, they are volunteers. Roles and boundaries have to be agreed and understood. My problems started on day one when our Locum Clerk refused to allow me access to LTNs. When approached by the Chairman the expression “over my dead body” was uttered and she threatened to resign and get our PC blacklisted .  When I wrote to our Staffing Committee they simply declined to reply.  NALC/SLCC refused to get involved and ever since then I  feel a war has been waged against me with almost everything I do being challenged.  I react to this with research and facts and so the vicious circle continues.   That’s local politics for you …a minefield .  Do we need are heads banging together ?  Probably… but without an arbiter it will probably never happen

by (5.0k points)

5 Answers

0 votes
Difficult to know where to start with this one.  I'm sorry you've clearly had a bad experience as a councillor but just as there are bad clerks, and councillors, there are good ones too and when the two work together the benefit for the residents can be clear.
Having been on both "sides" I am a very firm believer in compulsory training for both clerks and councillors.  I also acknowledge that the ridiculous legislation we have to work within is well past its sell by date.  The councillors job is to make decisions for the benefit of the area they serve and the clerk's role is to facilitate that decision making, ensure decisions are within the power of the council to make and are carried out in accordance with legislation and recommended practice.   
I have never understood the need to withhold access to background information.  As a clerk, I would have been delighted that a councillor showed an interest in ensuring the council acted within the legislation!
I'm sorry I don't have an answer.
by (19.4k points)
+2 votes
Threatened to resign and get your PC blacklisted - for a Cllr wanting to see LTNs?

Why the hell has this individual been engaged as a locum?

I’ve experienced similar recently - a local clerk that does IA services for a number of local councils, who is endorsed by the county ALC as an IA but delivers quantifiable GARBAGE.
Historically, my PC would have been literally petrified of being considered as ‘blacklisted.’  What they have always failed to grasp though is that rather than the PC being ‘blacklisted’ it should (and WILL) be the charlatan incompetent IA service which will be exposed as wholly inadequate.
Until councils start gaining the confidence to challenge and call out this type of unacceptable clerk behaviour they will continue to be dominated by such characters.
It’s not even as if NALC know their ass from the elbow either - I recently saw a NALC video seeking to encourage people to engage with, and become councillors.
Who do you think they had as the ‘star of the show’ in the video……??

Jackie bloody Weaver - if ever there were a LESS suitable individual to act as a recruiting sergeant for Cllrs I don’t know who it would be….

Priceless NALC, absolutely priceless - idiots.
by (21.7k points)
0 votes
I am wary of just defining a good councillor or a good clerk, in my opinion it goes further than that - often the monitoring officer does not want to get involved or like the local CALC sits on the fence with answers conflict with other agencies such as SLCC. This is not helpful

There is a severe lack of training for councillors and all training seems to more about an income generation for Organisations  than a provision to produce good quality teams of councillors.

There should also be a campaign to help communities understand the roles and regulations of the Clerk,  Parish Council,  District and County Council. This may also help.

The clerk and councillors should be a team who work together to bring out the best for the community they support. In most councils this is not the case as personalities and point scoring often take over the task in hand.
by (6.3k points)
As I’ve said before the way we are going we’ll end up abolishing Councillors and electing a Clerk every four years
Political parties are now struggling to get enough candidates for Borough elections now
Periodic fitness to practice exams for clerks at  PC level would  be a good start.
0 votes
To revisit this subject....

What if the answer is for parish councillors to be paid?

OK, the ears will pop with the vacuum created by the collective intake of breath but perhaps without payment there really is no obligation and dare I say accountability.

Its all very well saying Cllrs should have compulsory training but how are they to be incentivised or compelled to take a personal loss (if working) in order to undertake such training.

Cllr allowances is a hell of an emotive topic - and I am a low tax advocate so it's not natural for me.

But what is the alternative?  There isn't one.

Allowances could incentivise a broader pool of Cllr candidates if they were compensated for their contribution.  The greater the contribution the greater the compensation - training / committee / chair / portfolio etc.

What other realistic alternative is there to break the cycle of long standing, unopposed, poorly equipped, parochial Cllrs?

In regard to the council / clerk relationship I see it like this:

Status 1 - Bold clerk and passive / ignorant Cllrs equals a trouble-free but sub optimal council

Status 2 - A bold clerk with some (probably new) bold Cllr(s) and some (probably long standing) Cllr(s) equals a troubled council

Status 3 - A tame clerk and a majority of bold Cllrs equals a trouble-free (but potentially borderline non compliant council)

If the relationship and the functionality are viewed as separate but inter-related, I think this is a reasonable assessment of the most likely 3 scenarios - anyone think different?

In essence, the conflict / tension arises when a new Cllr upsets the established equilibrium - human nature at its very worst );0)
by (21.7k points)
Why do councillors have to take a personal loss to undertake training (working or not)? Have them in the evening or at the weekends. Or better still have a suite of training videos and materials, covering all the topics, available on the internet. Not locked away behind some fort knox situation where you need clerk permission and pay a fee. Completely open to all (even non councillors). Then you can train yourself whenever you like

We already have the system of allowances and more allowances the higher you get in the next level up of councils. It does not work there, so i can't see how it will magically work at PC level. You just end up with the same old people plus a few extra who will just turn up at the minimum of meetings, do the minimum of work, and collect their pennies. The ones that want more will be at each others throats to get the roles with the higher allowances. Even worse than we have now.

MP's get 90k+ a year. Even that sum does not get you a group of people with the right mindset. House of lords even worse.

I think the main problem is summed up in this thread titled 'The heart of the problem' which turns out to be a clerk vs councillors battle where the residents are not even considered. Money will never make someone care about residents.
Much to agree with there AR.
0 votes
What are these LTNs? Low Traffic Neighbourhoods? What was the reason given for denying access? Thanks for clarifying this for me
by (260 points)
Crink .  You will find that most PCs belong to NALC and their local County Association .  You have to pay to member of both organisations .  NALC (National Association of Local Councils) say they nationally represent all PCs interests  but despite being members they will not speak directly to its Council members.  Any contact has to be made with the County Associations (like a local franchise)  .  Those  associations usually have one officer who has to deal with 30/40 PCs and often  for the sake of expediency insist they will only field questions through  the clerk.    One of the publications produced by NALC are a series of LTNs (Legal Topic Notes) which explain complicated bits of PC business in shall I say layman's terms .  They are very useful should a Councillor wish to research matters.  The problem is that you need a password to get into NALCs website .  However in many situations where all correspondence is routed via the clerk , they don't want you to have access to this information presumably believing an informed Cllr is not a good thing.  When I forcibly raised this insisting that it was the PC was the member not the clerk , she apparently told the Chairman that if she was forced to provide the password she would resign.    Eventually after about 2 years the County Association provided me with the password .  But I would suggest that nationally 99% of Cllrs are not even aware of the facility
You can often find the LTN's just by googling them. Councils will often have copies of them on their websites. Sometimes a bit out of date, but nevertheless useful.
Your local ALC may have copies too. Ours does - but you may need the sign in codes for the ALC. We have been given both.
Thank you Caroline for this clarification. I now have a password for our county ALC. Very helpful.

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