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I'm a new councillor and our parish council clerk and RFO is also the clerk for the joint burial committee. The clerk has rightfully raised some grievances around how they are being treated, it is clear some councillors are breaking the code of conduct by bullying the clerk. The clerk probably doesn't view it as bullying but they certainly know they are being treated unfairly. I have heard that two town councillors who are also on the joint burial committee are meeting with four other joint burial members to discuss the clerk. There is no agenda and no clerk. I'm trying to help the clerk navigate through this rubbish time as is 99% of the rest of the council as they are doing a great job. So can these members meet in this way? Is this even legal? Thank you
by (120 points)

4 Answers

0 votes

“…  it is clear some councillors are breaking the code of conduct by bullying the clerk...”

“… I have heard that two town councillors who are also on the joint burial committee are meeting with four other joint burial members to discuss the clerk…”

 “…as is 99% of the rest of the council as they are doing a great job…”

It is clear (because you have “heard”) but actually have no authority to arrive at a conclusion, nor it seems, any understanding of how a code of conduct complaint / investigation actually functions, that your council must have 200 members if 99% share your opinion and 2 (presumably longer serving than yourself and perhaps more likely to have acquired a broader understanding of circumstances?) have a different opinion.

Have you considered that there may actually be legitimate concerns for the performance of the burial committee and that the burial committee may operate under different MO from a council?

A Cllr cannot determine that another Cllr has broken the CoC. 

by (21.3k points)
Ok, thanks for the reply. I did intentionally leave a lot of the information to protect the council/staff and members.

There is clear evidence that the clerk could claim that they are being bullied by at least one councillor. I have seen emails and I have witnessed conversations that all together would show a breach in the code of conduct. There is a lot of evidence over a 6 month period which I have personally seen.

The burial committee have a terms of reference which details that the town council is the lead council therefore they must provide a clerk and RFO.

My question was, is it legal for two members of the town council and four members of the joint committee to meet to discuss the clerk with no agenda and no clerk? You are correct that there may be legitimate concerns but if there are, they must be dealt with in the correct manner. The clerk has even provided the joint committee and councillors with the process to deal with performance issues.
It is interesting that something like bullying and intimidation - so much in the news these days - is such a subjective issue.  For example, I find the language used in the previous response, with bold text and different sized text in sections discrediting the opinions of the original post is more than just an expression of personal views but is intimidating and bullying.  I doubt the author would agree.
To go back to the original question, you cannot stop anyone having a conversation about anything so if people who happen to be members of the burial group want to have a conversation about a staff member down the pub, as unwise and lacking awareness of staff management as it might be, it is difficult to stop that happening.  Is it a formal meeting which could be used as a factor in a staff disciplinary issue?  Probably not and I'd suggest it might provide fuel for an action to an employment tribunal by the staff member.  Your council should have a discipline and grievance policy and if a complaint is raised by anyone against any staff member, that policy needs to be followed.  If you haven't got such a policy, there are lots of good examples online and as I've said before, taking advice from an HR expert or ACAS is advisable.  This protects both the council from malicious grievances by staff and protects staff from malicious acts by councillors and others.
For DBW - there was no intent, attempt nor actual discredit to the OPs opinion - merely the highlight that it is an opinion. Just like yours and just like mine. Everyone has an opinion and anyone is at liberty to disagree with another persons opinion.
By the very logic you are presenting to suggest that my disagreement with the OPs (self declared) opinion is “bullying”, then it must follow that your own disagreement with my “opinion” is ALSO - by your own definition - bullying.
I very much doubt you’ll recognise inherent double standard….
+1 vote
Unofficial meetings are undesirable, but we have to accept that they will happen whether we want them to or not. Is a conversation in the village pub an unofficial meeting? The key issue is the employer/employee relationship. How is your Clerk managed? Do you have a staffing committee or similar? Who conducts annual appraisals etc? Has the Council adopted the model grievance and disciplinary procedures? Has the Clerk raised a formal grievance and, if so, is this being handled in accordance with the Council's agreed procedure? Is the burial committee a separate entity completely, or is the Clerk's work for them included within the Council's employment contract? So many questions!
by (53.3k points)
0 votes

So can these members meet in this way? Is this even legal?

The simple answer is yes.  Any group of councillors can meet to discuss whatever they like with whomever they like. 

The longer answer is that unless it was a properly called meeting with notice and published agenda available to the public etc.. it would NOT be a meeting of the council, and could not therefore transact any council business.

It is quite common on party political councils for groups of councillors to meet outside of council meetings in private.

by (510 points)
0 votes
A council cannot lawfully transact any business which is not included on the agenda.
by (4.3k points)

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