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We have monthly PC meetings when matters are discussed, but the Clerk is often sending emails through for comments on matters arising in between the meetings. For example an email from our local Council asking for comments from the PC before the next scheduled PC meeting but not important enough to call an extraordinary meeting for.

Firstly, should she be doing that and if not how do we deal with things in that case.

Secondly, should the Chairman be directing her as to what course of action to take?

Thanks in advance
by (140 points)

1 Answer

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Decisions of a Parish Council should be made at properly constituted Parish Council meetings. After all, that’s what Parish Councils are for. The Parish Council can delegate decision making to a committee; a sub-committee; an officer of the council; or another council. Some decisions, e.g. setting the precept, cannot be delegated. The Council cannot delegate decision making to an individual Councillor.

Your question refers to ‘comments’. I suppose that strictly speaking it is in order for Parish Councillors to make a comment about an issue between meetings, but it would be wrong if these comments were then used to make a Parish Council decision.

Presumably the Chairman is content with the current situation. I would suggest that you will have to raise the matter at the Parish Council and get them to confirm that decisions cannot be made between meetings, unless appropriate delegation has been approved.

My comments are based on NALC  Legal topic Note LTN1, available online

by (1.7k points)
Thank you for your reply. I'm aware of the 'official line' but was more wondering how, in practice, this worked with other Councils. Obviously there are times when matters arise that need decisions before the next meeting, such as when a local planning proposal in another parish comes to our attention with a deadline in a few days and we all agree by email that a response should be  submitted. I am trying to establish whether 'in practice' every time this happens an extraordinary meeting has to be called, or if, in reality, other Parish Councils deal with this sort of thing by email in between meetings. Many thanks.
On miscellaneous matters, it makes sense to delegate decision making to the clerk, who may choose to consult councillors before deciding. But if you want to extend that to something like planning decisions, I'd think the arrangements should be explicit. Either the council makes a formal decision to delegate to the clerk the choice of a response to the planning authority in specific circumstances, or the council must decide on its view at a properly constituted meeting, as described by Old Tom. It is the council that is a statutory consultee, not the individual councillors (although councillors can make submissions to the planning authority as individuals). Usually, the planning authority will exercise some flexibility on the date for submissions, although this may be limited by the performance criteria that demand quick decisions. It is clear that exchange of emails cannot count as a council decision.
Thanks for the reply Counterpoint. On this particular occasion we learned at the eleventh hour from a neighbouring village that a planning application had gone in for a farming installation causing occasional horrendous smells to our own village to be made permanent. Our meeting was planned for several days after the deadline for objections and as I was the one who learned about it, I circulated it to the other Councillors for their opinions. I eventually learned from the Clerk that as long as 4 out of 6 of us agreed to object, it could be submitted. As it happens everyone was vehemently against it. My original question was because I wasn't sure whether legally we needed to have an extraordinary meeting to decide whether to object, or if we could agree by email. In reality, items requiring a quick response seem to raise their heads quite frequently and calling an extraordinary meeting every time something needs to be decided wouldn't be feasible. Our Clerk lives 40 minutes drive away from us and isn't involved in village life other than through the PC. It is generally one of our Councillors that is made aware of a situation and often, as in this case, a decision can't wait until the next meeting. I'm still unsure what the protocol is though!
I guess my initial concern here would  be to question why the planning authority did not consult your council over the planning application. The parish council is a statutory consultee. It would certainly be worth trying to ensure that the planning authority is aware that your council has a legitimate interest in this matter and should be consulted. On hearing of the matter, it would have been worth attempting an extension of the deadline for submissions, so as to be able to hold a meeting. As for the protocol, I'm afraid it is just as previously described! If you are submitting something as the view of the parish council, then that view needs to have been decided either in a meeting or by the clerk (subject to the clerk having been authorised by the council to make planning representations in all or some circumstances). If it makes it easier to convene a meeting quickly, you could create a planning committee to decide on the view to put on planning applications.
Thank you. I've put in a call to Planning to find out why we weren't informed, but I suspect it is because the land lies in a neighbouring Parish, albeit the ramifications of the installation will have a serious effect on our own.

With regard to the Clerk sending in planning objections, or other letters, on behalf of the PC - her grammar, spelling and articulation are frankly poor and I have recently had to step in and rewrite an objection that simply said 'the Parish Council want to object'! Should she be expected to be able to put in comprehensive objections on our behalf, or if, as is the case, Councillors are better able to draft them, should we be doing the job ourselves? I find it so frustrating that we are paying her to do a job then doing it ourselves...
Dealing with planning applications is challenging. The planning authority may take some notice of the parish being for or against. But to have much impact it is essential to raise relevant planning considerations. This requires at least a rudimentary knowledge of planning procedures and local plans. Does sound as if you have a problem with your clerk - ideally a clerk will know enough about planning to help the council to frame its comments in the most effective way.
Thanks Counterpoint, this is helpful. I'll have to figure out a way of tackling it :D

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