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Concern over all sub committees being changed in to advisory groups

0 votes
I have just stood again to be a councillor on a parish council, previously I was the chair, one of thirteen council members. I had a separate councillor to chair the finance committee, to make sure there was full scrutiny and transparency and full public participation since public bodies have to be open to scrutiny.

Since I have left the whole council has degraded to the point the current chair (there are only six councillors including myself, I have just rejoined to try and sort out what has gone on) The council 18 months ago changed the naming of the sub-committee meetings to advisory. I checked with the clerk who didn't want to answer but told me it was agreed, the minutes he stated are the only ones not shown on the parish website but the agenda is, there is nothing as regards changing the subcommittees, therefore there should have been no debate on the matter. I have now pointed this out to the new council. to find the new chair who has only just joined the council thinks it is a prudent thing to convert all the subcommittees; allotments, Financial committee etc to advisory groups.

To my understanding Advisory groups don't have minutes, proper agendas and can meet anywhere without informing the public, those involved in the advisory groups only have to give a verbal response to the full council. This raises major concerns since a process has taken place which is not within the public domain, without minutes there is nothing to show even in a court of law, where minutes can be used to show what happened during the meeting or whoever was there or where the meeting took place. The chair stated they didn't what minutes since they were volunteers and it was too much work, even this felt like predetermination since the other four said the same. I have currently got them to table this at the next meeting, your advice would be greatly appreciated.
asked by (190 points)

2 Answers

+1 vote
Firstly has your Constitution (including Standing orders and Finance etc) been amended to include this new way of working? Committees and sub-committees have a formal status and voting procedures to administer any budgets at its disposal. Our own Council only has Full Council and "Panels": Panels which can recommend to Full Council but cannot commit to spending. It is not popular with all Councillors but that was a decision of Council and procedures are embedded within the Constitution as approved by Full Council.
However, meetings (Committees) should have formal minutes with the set number of approved Councillors and the votes attributed to Resolutions (Committee):  or notes in order for the Full Council to make appropriate decisions.
Transparency is key in the process of spending public money. The above is just one Councils method of working (after changing the way it works a couple of years ago)
answered by (2.6k points)
+1 vote
What is the legal status of your Advisory Groups?  Were their terms of reference agreed by full council?  Do they include unelected members of the public in their membership?  Are they simply sub-committees (or committees?) by another name?  If they were not established in accordance with sections 101 and 102 of LGA 1972, (reflected in the model standing orders section 4), they have no legal powers, so they can sit and chat 'til the cows come home, but can't make any decisions.  If they are part of the decision-making process, (even just making recommendations to the council for ratification), they must comply with the Transparency Code regarding publication of detailed agenda, public meetings, full minutes published in draft then final format on the website etc.

"...the minutes he stated are the only ones not shown on the parish website..." can and should be rectified at the earliest opportunity.
answered by (15.9k points)
Davetheclerk thank you for your reply since I had also looked at the:
the legal status at the council I am now part of is that it has no legal standing since there are no terms of reference for them, the previous council took it on its self that subcommittees would be Advisory groups their excuse is that it was too much trouble to do the minutes, they evidently want to exclude the public since only the then councillors could go to the meetings, I also asked what had happened to the sub-committees and asked if they had any in the past 18 months they said they hadn't. that is the reason why I have been so concerned. any information I can get would be helpful since it looks as if they are still trying to do the same. the previous council souldn't have debated it since it was not on their agenda for the date given to me by the clerk, I have just posed the transparency code I have even sent the link
I have asked the clerk for the missing minutes on the website and I am waiting his reply.
One of the biggest frustrations with councils operating outside the legal framework is that there is no easy route by which to address these matters. Complaints about parish councils are handled by the parish councils themselves, so if they don't want to change, it's very hard to force the issue. Harder still for you, because collective responsibility means that you are now legally deemed to be part of the problem.

All I can suggest is that you ask for an agenda item to discuss this and present the evidence to support your assertion. Your local Association of Local Councils should be able to support you, or the SLCC. The Clerk should understand that this isn't the correct way to govern, but they may not wish to upset the chair. As a last resort, speak to the internal auditor and point out that decisions are being made by groups with no legal standing.

Hope this helps.
Thank you again DavetheClerk
The information you have given is invaluable looks like I will have to be a whistleblower!
I have been in touch with CALC who oversees the parish council in our area they have said the same as yourself and are willing to give me the information and training for all councillors. It just shows that a good clerk is needed instead of someone just going with what they think is right.
The previous clerk was very good and when I spoke to CALC they remembered how good he was and that he would always refer to them for guidance.
I will inform this bulletin board of the outcome.
Keep up the good work.


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