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+1 vote

I am a Parishioner whose Parish Council has a full council meeting every two months.  When a meeting is due, the Agenda is publicly posted (website and notice boards).  At this meeting, Minutes of the previous meeting are approved i.e. two months on, and are then added to the website at a later date.  I have suggested that the Draft minutes be posted at the same time (or before) as the Agenda - and can then be posted after a meeting as final, once approved.  

My Council, which has income above £25000, is adamant that they are restricted by the LGA rules (1972 Act) and can never publish draft minutes.  Is this correct?

Part of my issue is that Public Questions are minuted (good) though there is no guarantee that answers will be given at the same meeting.  We are told they will be verbally given at the next meeting, and then reported with the approved minutes.  So I can ask a question at Meeting 1, receive the answer verbally at Meeting 2, which can be tricky to absorb, since the Chair doesn't seem to like giving direct answers, wait another week or more to see their response in the minutes, and then at Meeting 3 (4 months on) get the chance to respond appropriately.  I just feel this is nonsensical, time wasting and impractical.

I'd appreciate any views, and particularly answers regarding publishing draft minutes.  (Un-audited financial accounts seem to be published without question!??)

Thank you.

by (230 points)

4 Answers

0 votes
Draft Minutes are available for the next relevant Council meeting. They are draft until finally approved by Council and signed: at that point they are a legal document. This may, however not take place until the following meeting after relevant comment.
by (2.6k points)
+2 votes

It is incorrect to say that draft minutes cannot be published.Guidance from the SLCC guide THE ESSENTIAL CLERK states  "It is good practice for the clerk to make the minutes available for public inspection as soon as possible after the meeting. Prior to signing they can be labelled ‘draft minutes’. The availability of the minutes should be explained in the council’s publication scheme according to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This Act ensures that documentation for which the council is responsible is accessible
by (35.5k points)
Thank you for this.  I will keep plugging away.
+2 votes
I think the key principle here is that the clerk can action decisions immediately after a council meeting, but the public may not know of any  resolution until the minutes are published weeks later. Hence, I believe it is important to publish draft minutes as soon as possible after a meeting.

Consequences can be embarrassing later on.
by (5.3k points)
Thank you.  Yes, I feel the minutes should be published asap especially if there are important decisions/discussions about local concerns, otherwise the Public cannot respond in a timely fashion.
+2 votes
The Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities requires those with a turnover below £25,000 to publish draft minutes thus:-

"Minutes, agendas and papers of formal meetings
29. Smaller authorities should publish the draft minutes from all formal meetings (i.e. full council or board, committee and sub-committee meetings) not later than one month after the meeting has taken place. These minutes should be signed either at the meeting they were taken or at the next meeting.
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."

For some inexplicable reason, there is no comparable code for authorities above the £25,000 threshold until the larger authorities code kicks in at £200,000, although it has always been my understanding that authorities falling between the two thresholds are expected to adopt the smaller authorities code as a minimum standard.
by (54.1k points)
From the NALC website:-
"Although the transparency codes only require smaller and larger councils to comply, NALC is strongly encouraging all local councils with turnovers of less than £200,000 per year to comply with the transparency code for smaller authorities as a minimum."
I had a similar problem several years ago when my PC fought tooth and nail against my "demand" that it should publish draft minutes. They even wrote to the Charity I was a trustee of  complaining about my behaviour.  Fortunately after several years of battling they opted to go for Quality Council status and the need to provide draft minutes was a pre requisite for that. So check if they have QC status. I see this as all part of the game of getting PCs to realise that we are customers of their deliberations whereas many PCs seek to keep residents at arms length.
Many thanks - very helpful.  I will check about the QC status.  Yes, I think my Council has forgotten that it represents residents.
Thank you DavetheClerk.  I think my Council may either be on the cusp, or fractionally over the £200,000.  Is there a code of practice for publishing minutes (draft or otherwise) for these larger councils?  As you say, it makes sense that the "mid-range councils" should adopt the code for the smallest ones.
The Transparency Code for Larger Authorities doesn't mention the publication of minutes or agendas, which is unhelpful in the case of a council that prefers to conduct its affairs out of the spotlight.
I have spoken to my MP on this matter, specifically in the case of the £25,000 threshold, as I became aware of a small council increasing the precept with the specific intention of escaping the Smaller Authorities Code!
I was under the impression that the Quality Council mark has been abandoned, but having looked it up on the NALC website it appears there is a newer scheme.
A check on those qualified can be found here...

Our council no longer features on the list!
A copy of an E mail from a source of mine
Thank you for your email of yesterday regarding the requirement for smaller authorities with gross income/expenditure >£25k pa and less than £200k pa to publish info. as set out in the Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities. I believe you are right to say that there is no such requirement in the Code or the Regulations.
My view is that authorities which fall between these two thresholds should indeed adopt the code for smaller authorities as the minimum standard, but as local auditors have no power to audit compliance with the Transparency Code, there has never been any reference to it in the Practitioners’ Guide. It is not therefore within our remit. I do recall JPAG discussing this very issue at the time the Code was introduced and we were told by the Audit Commission at that time we should not include it for this reason.

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