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0 votes
We are due to appoint a new Chair at our next meeting. The current chair has indicated he will not continue. No one else wants to take it on, due to the onerous nature of the job (and several of us are working full-time). We do not have a public election. What options do we have?

I am aware that we absolutely need to appoint a Chair otherwise the council is defunct.  Can we split responsibilities between willing councillors, and amend our standing orders to suit?
by (300 points)

8 Answers

0 votes
If there is no-one who is prepared to take on the role 'permanently' then at each meeting, the first agenda item will be to elect a chair for that meeting.  The chair is therefore elected until the next meeting when another one takes over.
by (24.4k points)
0 votes
The election of a parish council chair is always the first item of business at the annual meeting of the parish council [LGA 1972 S15(2)].  This is presided over by the outgoing chair (if available).  If no one is elected as chair of the council then the meeting should end.  A council without a chairman is not properly constituted and cannot legally transact any business.  You could elect a chair for a given meeting, but unless that meeting then elected a chair of the council, it should not transact any other business.
by (510 points)
We have already had our annual meeting, yet we did not elect the Chair at this meeting. It was not on the agenda.
The Annual Meeting must take place in May - see Schedule 12 Part II paragraph 7 of the LGA 1972. The business of the Annual Meeting should be set out in your standing orders, as there are numerous one-off items for this agenda in addition to your normal business.
Apologies, we had our Annual Parish Meeting last month - the Annual Council meeting is 13th May when we will be electing the chair and committees
+1 vote
To answer the second part of the question, you cannot change the responsibilities of the chair that are prescribed by law, but you can change others through standing orders.  Another option to consider would be finding two councillors agreeing to take on the role for 6 months each.
by (510 points)
+1 vote
"The onerous nature of the job"? What do you ask your Chair to do apart from chairing meetings?
by (53.3k points)
Our Chair progresses most of our resolutions, usually with the support of one or two other councillors by phonecall. There is no enthusiasm for changing this - most councillors seem happy to just turn up and vote on proposals by the Chair.
So the suggestion of rotating the Chair by appointing a Chair at each meeting wouldn't work for you, as you wouldn't have any business to discuss. Perhaps the first step might be to arrange training for all councillors in roles and responsibilities to help them understand the need to step up and take responsibility for individual items. Some of my councils use a portfolio model, where each councillor has the lead responsibility for a core aspect of the council's work (highways, the Community Centre, street lighting, public rights of way, trees, street furniture and signage, communications, etc) They each report on their area of responsibility at the meetings and propose any necessary motions for discussion. The role of the Chair is then limited to their own portfolio plus chairing the meetings.
Be careful what you wish for.   In my council, all work has to be done by the clerk.  Councillors are not allowed to do anything other than “ceremonial” duties.  Working groups are forbidden. Discussing council business outside of formal meetings is forbidden.  The majority of councillors approve of this situation, as does the clerk.  Thus doing anything new is virtually impossible. Most ideas get voted down or if approved, either take years to implement or else never happen.
+1 vote
I've never really understood the reluctance to take on the role of chair in a parish council.  The only additional responsibility is literally to chair a meeting and possibly to exercise a casting vote but in all my years I've only very rarely seen that needed.  There are no other responsibilities other than those of being a councillor.  Having said that, I've been in annual parish council meetings where the clerk has said "come on guys, someone has to do it or we can't move on!".  Clearly it's a more onerous role in a larger authority where there are civic functions involved.

Splitting the role over a period of time has worked in the past and having a deputy who can stand in when required is helpful too.   As everyone has said, without someone technically in the role, the council is not properly constituted.
by (19.1k points)
Our Chair who has been in the role for 2 years constantly complains about the level of work he does. He regularly makes decisions having spoken to a couple of councillors by phonecall. None of this is recorded for the public (or the remaining members of the council). All our committees are advisory. Most of my fellow councillors appear satisfied with this, and it is very difficult to get anyone else to do or propose anything which contradicts the Chair's views.
Clearly you have an ineffective system of governance or you would be aware that no single councillor, chair or otherwise, can make decisions and certainly not outside of a properly constituted meeting.  Why hasn't your internal auditor noted this?   Rhetorical question as councils acting this way rarely have an audit in accordance with JPAG guidance.
I'm not sure how our auditor would find out if there are no minutes, and decisions being taken by phonecall?
0 votes
Something seems wrong to me if the role is onerous mind. You really need to get to the bottom of why to move forward. Are the meetings particularly challenging to chair (strong characters?, robust public participation?, long meetings?, controversial packed forward plan?, backlog of outstanding tasks). Getting a Chair & Clerk to strip a council back to basics it all becomes pretty straight forward I find.
by (8.5k points)
Yes there are strong characters - particularly Chair of Finance and Chair of Assets and Amenities, both of whom have been Councillors for many, many years - one is an Honorary Alderman. Often, there are no committee meeting minutes, so the recommendations from these committees are unopposed, and there are no records of tasks agreed. I have recently proposed that all councillors be invited to all committee meetings, and can attend as observers. But it is very difficult (and unpopular) to question recommendations from these committees.
Neither Cllrs NOR the public need to be invited to committee meetings - they are entitled to attend regardless of ‘invitation.’
...and all committees must publish minutes.
Rubus you need to address those issues as matter of urgency.  With the upcoming Annual Parish Council Meeting in May you have the chance to reset this. If your commitees are operating in that manner I would argue a strong case to ditch them completely.
Previous comment states annual meeting (presuming APCM) has already happened and election of chair did not happen because it wasn’t on the agenda.
Original post is from yesterday so maybe the meeting was the APCM and it happened on the 1st May and the agenda lacked the normal first order of business to elect the chair for the year.
Lot of maybe’s there but it certainly sounds like there are a lot of associated issues too
Thanks - I cannot reset this or challenge this on my own as I will not be supported. Most councillors appear happy with the way things are, as they literally only have to turn up and vote.
If you're using the NALC model standing orders, para 5(j) lists items that should be on the agenda for your Annual Meeting. Going through this process opens each item for discussion and can be a way of highlighting concerns about the current arrangements. Go back to last year's agenda and see whether your Clerk listed all of these items and, if not, have a quiet polite conversation about the need to cover them as they are written into your standing orders. You'll have to be quick, as your agenda should be published by Wednesday!
+1 vote
I can sympathize with the role of chair being seen as onerous. Here's an example of why that can be. When I was co-opted to our Parish Council partway through this year I found the standing orders had not been reviewed for 5 years and the financial regulations had not been reviewed for 16 years. The Clerk told me it wasn't necessary because "we're only a small village". With Council approval I took on the task of updating to the NALC model documents, getting the Clerk to (reluctantly) fill-in the blanks to show how our PC operates, and then get the other councilors to review the documents so they could be approved at a full council meeting. There was no enthusiasm for doing this from the Clerk or the other councilors.  Same story with the Publication Scheme and with the GDPR documents.
Our Clerk (and RFO), who's 86, wants the Parish Council to operate the way it has throughout her 21 years as its Clerk. She's never had any training for the role, is not a member of any professional body, and is using an Arnold Baker from 2007. She says all other small village parish councils operate her way and that I'm being ridiculous to think otherwise.

At some point I realized that our Council was probably operating illegally because the previous chair had resigned at the last AGM (May 23) so there had been no chair for over 4 months. There was a vice-chair but he hadn't exchanged any email with the clerk or other councilors, or attended a PC meeting (held bi-monthly), for over 5 months. Nobody else was prepared to be chair. I said I would accept that role but only on condition that each councilor would accept a portfolio role to help share the load. I was voted in as chair at the last meeting but 2 councilors resigned. With difficultly we have just managed to find replacements who've applied to be co-opted at the next meeting.
Now it's time for the Annual Parish Meeting and Parish Council AGM. I want the AGM to include the list of tasks set out in our new the standing orders and financial regulations, but am again being told it's not necessary for a small village. Until now signing the AGAR has essentially been a box-ticking exercise between the Clerk and chairperson, with no vote by Council. We're unlikely to be able to honestly say "yes" to all the assertions in section 1 of the AGAR because the PC has not got a budget, and has not held a risk assessment meeting this year - it just has a risk assessment document that's updated unilaterally by the Clerk with little input from Council.

An email from our Clerk this week said "You seem to be obsessed with protocol and rules. I haven’t a clue what you are talking about in most of the emails you have sent.  I despair – the Parish seems to be totally forgotten". I don't know why she says the latter, because I'm involved in many PC activities for the village including managing the website, dealing with Highways, local developers, etc., all with Council approval at minuted full meetings.

So I seem to be in conflict with a Clerk who doesn't appear to understand the role of a Clerk in 2024 (IMHO). The other councilors don't really want to be involved in any PC work other than attending the bi-monthly meetings, and I fear will leave if they're exposed to "unnecessary bureaucratic nonsense". My role as chair feels pretty onerous to me.
Is what's happening in my village really that unusual? If other PC's operate with low workload and stress, please tell me how you do it.  Am I the problem?  Any advice would be appreciated.
by (280 points)
She is probably right to some degree. A lot of parish councils do operate very informally and don't have any real interest in following the rules. They have always operated like that and nobody has slapped their bottoms and told to behave so see no need to change.

At 86 old Betty probably does not want to start studying for an official clerking qualification and equally has no interest in reading Arnold Baker or any websites that might educate her to what her role should involve. If she can't get rid of you, and you keep pushing for change, she will probably just resign.

In some sense, you are the problem. You are the one upsetting the apple cart. If you were not there they would just carry on as they have been and everyone would be happy. Technically they would probably be operating unlawfully in many aspects, but no one really cares, and no one will punish them.

I guess you have to ask yourself the question 'Do i really need all this stress and drama? Should i just leave them to it?'
Don’t ever give in to the contingent that will seek to make YOU out to be the “problem.”

You are not “the problem” you are the solution to the problem, you are the future and you are professional.
I sympathise with you. It is hard to be the one who is asking questions and wanting to 'change' procedure. Suggest you look into your Council responsibility as an employer, and use that as the basis for voting in a Staffing Committee at best, or an Annual Review for the Clerk, in order to best support your Clerk. You could 'dangle a carrot' of a salary review for the Clerk which might help you get the motion passed.
+1 vote
Thank you all for your helpful advice. The Clerk tells me that we review our SOs in June, following the election of Chair, Vice and committees at the ACM tonight.
This is a fantastically useful forum which I am extremely grateful for - thank you all for your contributions!
by (300 points)

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