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Old Chair holds a 15 minute public session prior to election of chair

0 votes
At our annual parish council meeting, the first item on the agenda was the public session.  It was queried that the first action should be to elect the chair.  The clerk and outgoing chair disagreed saying that the annual parish council meeting had not started yet (as the agenda was - public session / election of chair etc etc.) and hence the old chair could chair it until the 'proper' meeting started.  Subsequently the chair was re elected (not unanimous).

To me, this is not right.  The councillors have been summonsed to the meeting starting at 19.00 and the first action should have been to elect the chair.  We now have held a pre - non annual parish council meeting, followed by the proper meeting.  Any thoughts on this as I now have to write to the clerk (again) explaining my concerns.
by (2.3k points)

2 Answers

0 votes
My thoughts are that as effectively all councillors are newly elected cannot  to be councillors until all of their documentation of acceptance have been registered allowing them to vote. The outgoing chair is the only one to still hold office at the AGM to enable the meeting to be held and the first and only duty they have is to oversee the election of a ( new or existing ) chair. Any other business should follow on from that election of the new chair and not before.
by (20.8k points)
Mentorman  Thanks.  The public session should be in the meeting, but has traditionally been held prior to it.  The chair would be right that its not the council meeting, but then the clerk cannot call it, the councillors cannot be summonsed and the start time of the annual Parish Council meeting should be 15 minutes later (or whatever time is noted).  Then its cannot be held under council rules and the chair has no power at it.  I quite like the idea of the public coming in 15 or 30 mins early and chatting to councillors over a coffee.  However it has been held as a council event, chaired, managed under council rules and the agenda (for the meeting yet to start) quoted as reason not to answer questions.  I quite like the idea of a no holds barred chat prior to any council meeting, which is what is used to be (as the older residents tell me) and well attended - prior to it being formalized and the 3 minute rule imposed (even if there is only one person there).
If the public session is not part of the council meeting, do the standing orders apply? Surely the section of the standing orders about the conduct of meetings applies only to the meeting itself, not a conversation beforehand. If this is the case, you have no control over the conduct of members of the public during this session.
Dave  Thanks - yes, and we plugged this at the meeting, but were fobbed off and the chair read the riot act to the public (3 minutes, no debate, needs to link to the agenda etc).  So a more measured approach will be taken, with lots of reference to the law.  Mind you, I did say, well we have just signed our acceptance letters and within a few nanoseconds of our first duty have acted out with our own guidance and the law  .
A thought. With a vote for the PC chair can the two nominees vote (presumably for themselves). I am sure its written down somewhere but ours promises to be a tense affair
Jamie, yes they can vote for themselves and the existing chair can have a casting vote.
One last question .  Can a nominee propose/second  himself /herself or must it be third parties ?
For Interested:
Are you suggesting candidates for chair election can vote for them self?

Here’s the thing that I can’t seem to find a definitive answer to , I don’t think they can since an existing chair standing for chair again, cannot chair the vote nor stay in the room for the vote.
So, apart from currently being the chair, the current chair is just a candidate, just like any other candidate for election for the role.
So if the existing chair has to leave the room, it must follow that every candidate must leave the room - ergo, no, they can’t vote for them self - nor should they even be in the room.
In such an election then it is good practice for it to be a written secret vote thereby not requiring anyone to leave the room, with the clerk recording the votes cast and announcing the successful candidate. In the case of a split vote then the outgoing chair would have the casting vote even if it was for themselves.
Round again - they do!  I have a copy of the SLCC guidance, but I have not seen the requirement for the chair to leave the room when the vote takes place elsewhere.  Mind you, I have not looked far, as other issues are pressing.
Mentorman   Sounds like a good idea and was used up to 5 years ago it seems.
I’m trying to find where it was I read that the chair has to leave the room - I think it was SLCC Clerks Manual but can’t find it now.
The secret ballot sounds like a good means - if the clerk is trustworthy but we often see posts which indicate a lack of confidence or perception of favouritism which could make a secret ballot vulnerable to abuse.


It’s p117 2023 SLCC Clerks Manual - I knew I’d seen it recently.  “…they should not preside or remain in the room or vote, if they are a candidate in the election (for chair.)…”

So if  chair that wants to be chair next year has to leave the room, then so must any other candidate - according to the SLCC guidance, or at least that’s how I’ve read it.
+1 vote
I don’t think that would be a hill I’d want to die on.
First business of the agenda is election of a chair.
It rather hangs upon whether you consider public session to be the business of the agenda or a precursor to the business of the agenda.
I prefer the precursor interpretation personally.
by (10.6k points)

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