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New Councillor. What should I look for to ensure compliance

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Hi, I am a new Councillor to a small Parish Council of 6 members. The Council provides little if any services. The clerk has just resigned. We have a newly elected Chairman (not linked to clerks resignation). What should I look for to ensure good governance & compliance? One Councillor has taken the role of responsible officer. The accounts are not seen by an external auditor. At my first meeting a cheque was requested to be signed by clerk for just over £100. Salary and expenses. No body asked about the expenses eg proof for any audit trail. Any advice and support would be welcomed. Thank  you
asked by (280 points)

2 Answers

0 votes
Start off by reading the PC's standing orders.   They should be complied with.  Get hold of the PC 's policies and procedures which must also be complied with.  Be aware that the Chair differs from other Cllrs in few respects.  Apart from having a Statutory duty to Chair Full meetings and sign a copy of the agreed minutes, the Chair can only otherwise call an extraordinary or extraordinary general meeting.  Chair's are not empowered to act in quasi supervisory. judicial or disciplinary roles.
answered by (10.9k points)
edited by
Thank you. The Chairman is not a concern ( not yet anyway!l and is looking to attend specific training. It was more clarification for me. I was asked to put myself forward  by parishioners to Council due to various issues and parishioners voices not being heard. They are also fed up of the  farmers currently on Council giving the green light to all their planning applications. Thanks again. Most helpful.
A few other points to watch out for. Make sure all decisions are minuted, and that any meeting where decisions (resolutions) are made are quorate ( have the statutory minimum number of participants). Check the website too and ensure it is kept up to date as many Clerks don't bother. If your publication scheme stipulates information is on the website, it is a breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 if it isn't on there.
0 votes
Welcome to the world of local government Helen.  As Graeme has said, sit down with your council's standing orders and read through them.  If they are based on the national model, they are a bit daunting and many aspects will not apply to a council as small as yours, but they provide the framework.  I can also recommend the Good Councillor's Guide, which you can download from the web and provides a common sense plain English guide to local councils.

In terms of the specifics, it is best practice when making payments to have the invoice and chequebook together, so that the signatories may examine the item of expenditure, then sign the cheque once approved by the council, initial the invoice to show that they have verified it and signed the cheque, then initial the cheque counterfoil, again to show that they have authorised the payment.

If you are paying a member of the council to serve as clerk, this is not allowed.  Members of the council cannot be employed as officers of the council.

There is plenty of training available and training sessions provide an opportunity to meet with councillors and clerks of neighbouring or similar councils, as well as asking specific questions relevant to your council.

Finally, there is a perception that parish councils have an important role to play in the planning process, but the reality is that we are just one of many statutory consultees and our views are frequently overlooked.
answered by (15.9k points)
Thank you for your replies gentlemen. I am looking to go on training. I will source the good councillor guide. The new officer will not be paid and the role is scheduled to go to the new clerk. Recruiting a replacement clerk is appearing quite a challenge so we may have to borrow one. Interesting comment  Dave regards planning. Our new ward councillor stated that planning application support from Parish Councils was weighty. I'm with you though. I watch the planning closely and you are just part of the process. Thanks again chaps, Helen
A parish council is a consultee and can only really provide one response to a Planning Application. Scores or even hundreds or thousands of individual residents might otherwise respond.  That would be regarded as weighty.The nature of the response is important too. Simply objecting carries little weight. An objection which highlights Health & Safety, increased traffic volumes (with evidence) Infrastructure burdens, breaches of National  planning policy  or proposals contrary to the local plan would be taken far more seriously. Unfortunately, few if any Town Or Parish Council responses include these.

Hi Graeme, thanks for your reply. I have just highlighted some of your points to Council. I mentioned the Local Plan & how the application fits, referral to the Planning Inspectorates report, potential risk of flooding/subsidence to a neighbouring property (land is flood zone and has an ancient tree on it). I await a response from my fellow Councillors.

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