Should agenda attachments be on a Town Council website?

0 votes
Our council publishes all agendas on our website (as required by our Standing Orders) but does not publish the non-confidential attachments to the agendas.  Without the attachments it can be difficult to appreciate the significance of an item.  Members of the public can contact the Clerk if they want a copy of the attachments.
A few non-Councillors have asked the Clerk to e-mail them with the agenda and all attachments - this is done.  However this means that only a small group of the "usual suspects" are kept in the loop - these are the people who regularly attend our meetings.  I'd prefer all attachments to be published on the website to make the Council more transparent to those people who don't regularly attend our meetings - and therefore encourage more people to be aware of and hopefully attend our meetings.  I think this reluctance to publish papers means that people are less likely to put themselves forward as councillors.

I've noticed that few town and parish councils seem to publish agenda attachments on their websites.  And this has been quoted by our Clerk as a reason why we shouldn't do this either.

In addition to the transparency aspects, it seems inefficient to have to respond to requests from members of the public individually when they want copies of the attachments.

What do people think?  How can we enforce publication of public documents including attachments on our website?
asked by (670 points)

2 Answers

0 votes

The Transparency code for smaller authorities states (I've just listed the relevant parts) I'm not sure what applies if you're not a smaller authority.

Part 2: Information which should be published

10. Smaller authorities should publish:

g. Minutes, agendas and meeting papers of formal meetings (see paragraphs 29 and 30).

Minutes, agendas and papers of formal meetings

30. Smaller authorities should also publish meeting agendas, which are as full and informative as possible, and associated meeting papers not later than three clear days before the meeting to which they relate is taking place.

Part 3: Method of publication

32. The data and information specified in this Code must be published on a website which is publicly accessible free of charge. For example, one way that this requirement could be achieved could be by publishing the data on the smaller authority’s website or that of the billing authority in its area (district or London borough or unitary council).”

The complete Transparency Code can be found here 

answered by (920 points)
That's very useful, thank you.  Three questions though,
a)  what's the definition of "smaller authority" and could this be used as a way of wriggling out of doing this? (our precept is over £250,000 but less than £500,000)
b)  why is qualification of smaller authority applied?  surely it's a good approach for all councils (efficient, transparent)?
c)  why don't most smaller authorities follow the requirements of the Transparency Code? (it seems to me)
a) Smaller Authority definition
"6. This Code applies to the following types of authorities in England with an
annual turnover not exceeding £25,000: parish councils, internal drainage
boards, charter trustees and port health authorities (“smaller authorities”)."

b) Openness and Transparency should be the norm for all authorities.
This is the code that applies to your authority

c) Because, from my experience, they are stuck in the dark ages and seem to think they are defending the crown jewels and the 'rules' don't apply to them. When they don't follow them nothing much happens as, part from voting in a new parish council at the next election, there is no way of sanctioning them, or so it seems.
Thanks.  I note the Transparency Code document doesn't contain the word "meeting"  or "agenda"  :-)

The word "website" appears 14 times but only in relation to the Council's constitution, parking income and senior salaries.  It seems that the Code is more applicable to district and county authorities.  The in-betweeners like our Town Council seemed to have been forgotten.

Is there any reason why I can't publish agendas and (non-confidential) attachments on social media platforms?
postscript:  are there any authorities that meet the criteria:  "authorities in England with an
annual turnover not exceeding £25,000: parish councils, internal drainage
boards, charter trustees and port health authorities (“smaller authorities”)"
I am slightly confused on the interpetation of Smaller Authorities (Councils). For Auditing procedures the limit surprisingly is £6.5M (precept). That defines what we have to comply with Annually. Do the list of transpaency items above refer to that definition? I hope it does. The lower limit for auditing purposes is under £25K. Can clarity be given please? The Transarency iitems above would be welcome.
"Is there any reason why I can't publish agendas and (non-confidential) attachments on social media platforms?"

I can't think of any reason why not as they are in the public domain.
"postscript:  are there any authorities that meet the criteria:  "authorities in England with an
annual turnover not exceeding £25,000: parish councils, internal drainage
boards, charter trustees and port health authorities (“smaller authorities”)""

Lots of parish councils I would imagine. There are several near where I live.
I have continued to push for non-confidential attachments to be placed on the website.  The Clerk has responded by saying that other parish councils don't do this (and therefore we don't need to bother either) and that the attachments are not reports as a district council would publish with its agenda.  I didn't understand this, my fear is that this is some kind of paternalistic response implying that the "poor dears" won't be able to understand the attachments - only the "usual suspects" (who do get the attachments by e-mail) will have the ability to grasp the deeper meaning.  There was one small concession - that financial attachments should be published on our website.  But then a step back - our website is at its capacity and can't cope with any more documents.  I despair!
There is another loophole that Pickles and his successors failed to attend to in that Smaller Authorities are defined as those with annual income of less than £25,000.  I suspect authorities  with income over £25K and over £250K may be subject to different requirements.
0 votes
Yes they should but few do. You could raise this with the external auditor as it would mean non compliance with item 3 on the annual governance statement (AGS) which is part of the Annual Return. Trouble is that some EA's ignore electors formal complaints the AGS and the government have shown no appetite for extending the role of the Local govt Ombudsman to cover town & parish councils. .
answered by (800 points)

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