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0 votes
Chair of our parish council reads his annual report from typed four-page document in public at the APM last week, at which only 12 our of several hundred residents attended. Although all the other reports on the published agenda for the APM were presented at the AGM, and made available o electors as supporting documents at the meeting, the clerk doesn't have a copy of the chair's report and wont provide one to anyone asking for it. Is it a fact that the chair's report - having been read out at the meeting in full - must therefore be in the public domain and so has to be available for inspection by electors requesting copies from the council (via the clerk)? I am at  loss to understand why the PC chairman would not be prepared to publish one of the most important public documents of the year, and why the Clerk has no copy of that report - if only for the council's archives?
by (680 points)

5 Answers

0 votes
I agree. Why would you not? Having said that, it isn't a Parish Council meeting, so the rules are less clearly defined.
by (52.9k points)
0 votes
You have the legal right to obtain a copy of any document that the PC hold under the Freedom of Information Act. It is a criminal offence to attempt to block access. Whether the document is on the clerks PC or the chairmans personal laptop is irrelevant - if it's a document for council purposes you have the right to it.

If you asked for the report in writing, giving your full name and an address that they could reply to (email is fine) then you will already have made a valid request under FOI. They have 20 working days to either provide the document or to state which exemption they are relying upon to withhold it.
by (4.1k points)
I'm not clear about the roles of individuals or the status of documents at the APM.

I operate on the basis that the meeting is called and facilitated from within the PC so I issue the paperwork and attend as the Clerk, take the minutes etc. But does the law require this? The fact that the Chair, if present, must chair the meeting, and the PC pays the cost of the APM, doesn't necessarily mean that normal rules apply. The PC may make, vary and revoke standing orders for the regulation of proceedings and business at parish meetings (Schedule 12 Part III para 20(1)), which aren't mentioned in the model PC standing orders at all, but I wonder how many PCs have made standing orders for their parish meetings.

In the example above, it would be difficult to argue that the Chair of the PC delivering his annual report was not doing so in his capacity as Chair. Expecting the Clerk to record minutes of the proceedings without a copy of the document is clearly unhelpful. But if it's the council's policy to destroy notes and recordings once the minutes have been produced, neither the Chair nor the Clerk is under any obligation to retain a copy of the document.

Answers on a postcard please...
FOI Act section 19 requires councils to adopt a publication scheme. Annual Reports would fall in the 'What are our priorities and how are we doing' class of informaton.

So this annual report should have been proactively published already. They can't choose to delete it to get around this. Even for documents not covered by a publication scheme there should be an explicit policy around which documents get deleted and when they get deleted.
0 votes
Agree both comments below, and would add:

If the chair wrote his own report, read it, then kept no copy, you can try FoI but you'll get nowhere.

It sounds, from what is written, like a habitual reading - anyone can make their own audio / video record if they so desire.

From what is written, the clerk doesn't have a copy - it naturally follows then that they wouldn't provide a copy even if they wanted to.

The act of reading the report makes it open source - but you can only have a written copy if such exists (why there wouldn't be is a different question and only that person can answer that)

The clerk will have no copy if the chair doesn't give them one.  The chair can't be compelled to do so and the clerk can't produce what they don't have.

The solution to the problem (next time) is for someone to audio / video record the oratory, transcribe it and publish autonomously.
by (19.8k points)
0 votes
The annual parish meeting is not a parish council meeting, and in fact the Clerk doesnt have to Clerk it, although most do, and the PC don’t have to organise, any number of residents can do that. The PC chairman has to chair if they attend, otherwise anyone can do it.
You have to assume someone would do minutes which would detail the report but if the chairman hasn’t provided it to the Clerk they can’t publish it, and it’s not necessary for the Council archives as it’s not a council meeting.

Why not challenge the chairman direct?
by (840 points)
0 votes
Very simple solution really. Minutes are required to be taken by whoever has been appointed( clerk or member of public). These minutes normally are published ready for the next Parish meeting ( normally a year away). Solution: get the required number of electors together to call a Parish meeting asap at which the minutes from the annual parish meeting should be made available ( including presentations.)
by (26.5k points)

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