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0 votes
My local Parish Councill posted a vacancy a month ago and four people stood.  They were voted for 'in camera' by those other Councillors who were eligible to vote.  The same situation prevails this month but with only three candidates.  My question is whether this process should have been a formal election whereby the votes cast are revealed.  It seemed to me, and others, that this was not a fair ballot.  I would appreciate your thoughts.
by (900 points)

3 Answers

0 votes
There is no “requirement” for this to be in closed session - there’s even a credible argument that it could be an inappropriate application of the right to exclude the press and public.
Some people feel that co-option votes should be by written poll ie anonymous although that is not a view I share. My view is the opposite whereby it should actually be a named and recorded vote.
For any business to be conducted in a closed session there must be a statement on the agenda which explains the general nature of the business to be resolved, a motion to restrict the meeting (exclude press & public) and the motion to be resolved, in this case the co-option.
For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t consider a co-option vote sufficient to warrant a closed session.
by (21.3k points)
This is the way the 'ballot' is described in the Agenda (just published today)
14.05.01Election of Chair: to receive nominations and elect a Chair for the next year
14.05.02Election of Vice Chair: to receive nominations and elect a Vice Chair for the next year.
Public Open Forum
In accordance with the Councils’ Standing Orders, a period of not exceeding 15 minutes will be put aside at the start of the meeting for members of the public to ask a question or make a statement about any matter relating solely to any function of the Council or to any planning application being considered by the Council. Anyone wishing to ask a question is requested to inform the Clerk before the meeting.
14.05.04To note attendance and approve any apologies for absence

14.05.05Declarations of Interest: To receive any declarations of new interest.
14.05.06Co-option of new councillor:  Councillors to meet and ask candidates one question each if desired  Council to resolve to exclude members of the press and public under the Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960 to enable it to discuss the merits or otherwise of the applicants.  Councillors with DOI must also leave the room. The Parish Council meeting will then re-convene as an open meeting and a vote will take place in accordance with Standing Order 12 as adopted by the council in May 2023.
record of attendance and declarations of interest should come before election of chair & vice chair and before public open session.

If you don't record who is present and who might have a DPI / NDI you can't have a valid vote.

A common enough mistake where people misinterpret the guidance that first order of business at the APCM is to elect a chair.  You still have to record those in attendance and take any requests for dispensation BEFORE the chair vote.
What does your SO 12 state?  In the Model SOs 12 refers to draft minutes?

Do you have more candidates than places for co-option or less / equal candidates to places available?
LGA 1972 Sch 15, "The election of a chairman shall be the first business transacted at the annual meeting of the parish council and if, apart from subsection (8) below, the person presiding at the meeting would have ceased to be a member of the parish council, he shall not be entitled to vote in the election except in accordance with subsection (3) below."
I don’t dispute what the legislation states, it is your interpretation of it which may be flawed.
The first “business” ie the first VOTE is elect a chair but the first ADMIN is to note persons present and provide opportunity to declare an interest or seek a dispensation and IF a dispensation is sought then there must be a vote (to put it another way - business) which precedes the election of chair.
It is (or at least it should be) self evident that there must be a record of who is present and voting and their eligibility to vote BEFORE there is a vote.

Just needs a bit of thought really.
0 votes
When you have an election, there is no opportunity for questioning of the candidates by members of the council so I'd argue that doing so for a co-option is questionable and certainly shouldn't be in private.  We give candidates for co-option the opportunity to make a brief statement in support of their application to the council (with the public and press in attendance) and a vote is then taken although in practice there are sometimes a few questions.  Our procedure states open vote unless someone proposes otherwise (whereupon there is a vote whether to move to a paper ballot) and if agreed that happens with the clerk and another member of staff or even a member of the public (if no other staff members present) verifying the votes cast.  The vote is anonymous, i.e. no names on the ballot paper unless there is a call for a named vote beforehand (never has been but there might be) and the result simply announced as to whether a simple majority has been reached by any candidate and the total number of votes cast for or against.  Seems to work for us.
by (19.1k points)
0 votes
Most councils have a co-option policy that will provide detail about the process to be followed.  This should also cover whether voting is by show of hands or secret ballot.  In either case, a councillor may request a recorded vote which supersedes a secret ballot.  There is no need for members of the public and press to be excluded and its difficult to see why the council would want to do this.  However, the council is entitled to do this.

As an aside I am curious about there being another co-option so soon.  It suggests that another councillor has resigned recently, but that no electors requested an election following the publication of the notice of vacancy, so it has fallen back to the PC to co-opt.  If there are several people keen to serve on the council I wonder why they didn't call an election.
by (510 points)

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