Questions about town and parish councils
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+3 votes

Below is an extract from a recent NALC Events E mail.  I suggest that NALC really needs to look at the role it performs in the shaping of the overall PC product. They must  realise that it is not only badly behaved Cllrs that  exist . The facts are that in many Councils problems exist around the role the clerks "act out".  There needs to be a clearer definition of the respective roles. The general perception is that NALC automatically assume problems emanate from Cllrs because of its strategic alliance with the SLCC.  NALC should be reminded that it is the Council that are their members and that that body is made up of Councillors.  To me the whole NALC/County Association set up is not fit for purpose.  Why would the average Councillor want to be a member as it provides little added value  in their role 

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by (4.9k points)

5 Answers

+4 votes

Have long felt ( and stated)that NALC has a conflict of interest in their position. They and more and more the local offices ( and that's another discussion) have gradually entrenched themselves as not the guiders and supporters of Parish councils but a more dictatorial stance on being the only ones that have all the answers. Their involvement it toeing ( and passing on) the political stance from government has put them in the position they now hold. They no longer help and support PC's ( just see how long it takes to get answers to a problem you have?

The self acclaimed indoctrination ( training) of clerks anointing them with what some assumes theitr right to god like powers over elected councillors is the tip of a very large iceberg. They have taken advantage of the lack of corrective powers on those who  step over the vague line. Those with agendas in councils take full advantage of the lack of morals required by Nolan of elected members. Any rule that has no consequences or enforcement for being broken is useless.

NALC need to define who they actually work on behalf of and for.Perhaps they have and are serving them admirably?

by (27.0k points)
To be fair, there are good ALCs and bad ones. Like any organisation, they are as strong or weak as their very small number of employees. I share some of your concerns regarding the indoctrination of Clerks, which often results in conflict with Councillors, however the scale of incompetence and malpractice amongst so many Councillors should not go unchallenged.

We have a system that is clearly not perfect, but I struggle to define the perfect system we need to replace it.
Struggling to disagree. It seems to me to be the perfect storm at present. Low standards & Power Bases colliding. I have seen to many fantastic Officers & fantastic Cllrs leave sector in last twelve months. Similarly seen awards handed out to Cllrs & Councils who nothing short of broken... and just wonder what message that sends.
+3 votes
Having Weaver in their self aggrandising PR video very clearly illustrated the deeply entrenched schizophrenia and ‘loyalty’ at NALC.
I wonder if there is a national repetition of the observable local situation which may be interpreted as a very credible reason for the misalignment of the county ALC with what should reasonably be assumed as a duty to their membership - the council - rather than what appears to be a fairly widely held / national observation of extreme ideological, systemic and practical loyalty to the clerk of any given council.
Entry into the ranks of the ALC is an opportunity for ‘career progression’ for an otherwise mediocre clerk with no opportunity to progress other than sweeping up numerous smaller PCs into a portfolio of incompetence.
Progression from clerk to county ALC simply elevates a mediocre clerk into a position of greater influence where poor practice and/or entrenched ideologies are perpetuated.
How many areas have former clerks in positions of influence in ALC?

I’d place greater confidence in the IA forum than I would county ALC (especially when IAF share ‘concerns’ about the credibility of certain ALCs)
by (21.3k points)
+1 vote
Firstly I'd just comment that there are a very great number of clerks who would argue that NALC is very much a body for councils/councillors rather than clerks, support for whom is recognised as coming from the SLCC.
Personally, I feel NALC's issue is the way it is structured through county offices rather than direct membership.   County offices are of such variable quality that there seems to be little in the way of measurable standards that are monitored.  Some seem to be excellent whilst others are so poor that membership is dropping like a stone and those that remain do so solely to have access to things like legal topic notes and the ability to use model documents rather than the value of the service provided locally.  I believe we need a national body that is recognised as representing the very many and varied town and parish councils, their issues, strengths and opportunities with those in Whitehall who seek to impose legislative controls over our world.  That body needs to be a respected authority on all aspects of local government life and be effective in representing our views.  Like so many things, I'm not convinced all those boxes are ticked.

Going back to the original post, I do not believe the intention of the proposed seminar by NALC does suggest issues in our sector are purely as a result of bad behaviour by councillors but the inevitable publicity from those councils where this is a problem reflects on the entire sector and if NALC is to represent councils and councillors, surely someone needs to address this.   As councillors we have the power through employment processes and procedures to address poor performance by clerks and other staff so there is a legal framework already in existence to deal with this, albeit many councillors lack the appropriate training to understand the role and how it should be carried out.  There is literally no legal framework other than the ballot box to deal with poor or corrupt councillors and please don't assume they don't exist because they do.
by (19.1k points)
I understand that the Chairs and Vice chairs of NALC and SLCC met recently and discussed four things.
a)Likely effect of Local Council finance problems
b)Youth Engagement
c)Workforce development
d)& civility and respect project
To me the real problem is poor untrained Councillors . If you do however challenge poor performance you are immediately seen as the problem and it becomes a battle of wills.  I recently attended my first staffing meeting only to find the Clerk enjoyed no leave policy, no appraisals , no objectives , no understanding of pay rates, no working from home arrangements.  This clearly upset the status quo so much so the clerk walked out. Now I was immediately seen as the problem  and faced a demand to resign.  Having lived with this "whatever you do don't upset the clerk" mentality for years this was the straw that broke the camels back for me .  My area is now full of ex Cllrs who say "getting out was the best thing I ever did".   The sad thing is nobody cares
Well said, spot on!
0 votes
My understanding is that NALC and the ALCs are there to support to corporate interests of councils, not individual councillors.  In practice, that often translates into supporting the interests of the group of councillors that control the council, usually with the support of the clerk.  It often takes a while, and some incident, for new councillors to realize this, and for many, of course, that works just fine for them. But for councillors outside a controlling group, often in a minority, NALC and the ALCs often do not seem to recognise any obligation to support, and may even work against them in what they see as the interests of the council, its reputation, etc. That approach ignores the possibility that the controlling group and clerk may in fact be acting wrongly. There doesn't seem to be a recognition that the longer-term interest of the council might in fact be different from that of the group currently in charge. There doesn't appear to be any documentation that says NALC and the ALCs also have an obligation to act in the public interest. This can, and in my view does, lead to a sort of institutional blindness that focuses on alleged the bad behaviour of individual councillors but is incapable of recognising that minority councillors can be treated very badly and unfairly, and so they do not advocate for them. No doubt there are cases where individual councillors behave badly, and they should be sanctioned. But in my experience its often the minority councillors that are the victims, and get the opposite of support. The ALCs are largely unaccountable - if they do accept complaints, they are often only accepted from a council's chair. There do not seem to be any mandatory national criteria for what qualifications are needed to work for them. We have seen the consequences of all this in rare cases where poor council practice gets the scrutiny of a judicial review. In the vast majority of cases, nothing is heard about it as the councillors on the wrong end of the system give up and keep their heads down. I think trying to change NALC and the ALCs may be a waste of time unless their 'corporate interests of the council' remit is changed and there are mechanisms to make them more accountable. Reform, however, is difficult because there is no organisation that has an interest in supporting this view. There is a need for some sort of support group for individual councillors, but I don't think it can be NALC.
by (1.3k points)
0 votes
It has been fighting a losing battle for many years due to successive governments refusing to include Town and Parish Council actions and behaviours to come under the jurisdiction of the Local Government Ombudsman. As far as NALC are concerned they would run a mile from any thoughts of taking even  symbolic action against Councils of demonstrably failing standards but encourage councils to pay for their often meaningless and self marked awards and certification.
by (35.4k points)

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