Can I table a vote of no confidence in an employment committee

0 votes
I sit on a large parish council, and am deeply concerned by the behaviour of its Town Clerk. The council has a track history of short-lived councillors, who resign after only a few months, and I think this is because they quickly realise that the Clerk is effectively running the Council and dictates policy.

The Employment Committee basically does what he says, and he advises them on his own employment!! If any councillors raise problems about his conduct, the Employment Committee tells them off and accuses them of bullying. I know there are a majority of councillors who are sufficiently annoyed by this situation, but are unable to do anything about it because of the stranglehold that the Clerk has over his employers.

Therefore, can I propose a vote of no confidence in the entire employment committee in the course of a normal parish meeting? I don't really want to set it as an agenda item because that gives away my intentions, so can I essentially 'surprise' the council with this proposal, and what are the implications of doing so?

Thank you.
asked by (120 points)

1 Answer

0 votes
Sadly this is not unique. Using a charge of "bullying" is a ploy used by incompetent clerk's to  evade accountability.

The Clerk is there to provide advice and administrative services. He is not empowered to make decisions..  If he offers his decisions as "advice"   ask for evidence as to why he proposes what he does.

, You need to check your standing orders to see which kinds of motion can be tabled without prior notification.  The motion would have to be tabled within a relevant agenda item.  You would also need an example of some action or decision of the committee that warrants their actions being subject to a no confidence vote.   Check  the Council policies.too as they may well be ignored.

I would suggest getting the Clerk's job description and looking for examples where he is failing to deliver on it.  These could be used as evidence that the committee was not ensuring that staff are delivering what is documented of them.

If the Clerk  won't give you his JD, complain to the Monitoring Officer of the Principle Authority.  You would have documented evidence that the Clerk was obstructing you in access to information to which you are entitled.

Worth checking external auditor reports too. They might have issues that you can use.
answered by (5.2k points)
Thanks for your reply! Having checked our standing orders, they say that a motion cannot be tabled if it is not an agenda item (with a few listed exceptions), and that proposals for the agenda have to be approved by the Clerk and the Chairman, so as to exclude 'improper or unlawful resolutions'...

However I will try the avenues that you suggest, although for as long as I've been on the council I can only ever remember it being audited internally, so I'll have to see if there even are any external reports!

Thanks again!
Well that is interesting. The chair and clerk approving agenda items to exclude so called unlawful resolutions sounds a tad unlawful. Model standing orders say.  Motions at a meeting that do not require written notice
The following motions may be moved at a meeting without written notice to the Proper Officer;
to correct an inaccuracy in the draft minutes of a meeting;
to move to a vote;
to defer consideration of a motion;
to refer a motion to a particular committee or sub-committee;
to appoint a person to preside at a meeting;
to change the order of business on the agenda;
to proceed to the next business on the agenda;
to require a written report;
to appoint a committee or sub-committee and their members;
to extend the time limits for speaking;
to exclude the press and public from a meeting in respect of confidential or sensitive information which is prejudicial to the public interest;
to not hear further from a councillor or a member of the public;
to exclude a councillor or member of the public for disorderly conduct;
to temporarily suspend the meeting;
to suspend a particular standing order (unless it reflects mandatory statutory requirements);
to adjourn the meeting; or
to close a meeting

So if competence of the committee goes on the agenda moving to a vote would seem to be a valid follow up.
I can't see any legal power that the clerk and chair have to control agenda items. Suggest you ask for amendment to standing orders and have proposals for the agenda to be approved by Chair and Clerk removed. Ask the monitoring officer in the principal authority about this. The chair and clerk do not have line management, pseudo judicial or pseudo disciplinary powers or executive decision making powers. Sounds like this has been sneaked in.
An external audit is carried out annually on virtually all Town & Parish Councils that levy a precept.  As your Clerk for the 2017-18 report from the EA.  If he refuses to provide it,  report him to the Principal Authority monitoring Officer.  The audit includes a governance return.  See this example so hat you know what they look like:
http://towncouncil.ilkley.org/images/FINANCE/AnnualReturns/section%201%20annual%20governance%20statement%202017_18.pdf
http://towncouncil.ilkley.org/images/FINANCE/AnnualReturns/section%202%20account%20statement%202017_18.pdf
http://towncouncil.ilkley.org/images/FINANCE/AnnualReturns/final%20auditor%20report%20%20certificate%201718.pdf
Model Standing Orders 9e and f
e. If the wording or subject of a proposed motion is considered improper, the Proper Officer shall consult with the chairman of the forthcoming meeting or, as the case may be, the councillors who have convened the meeting, to consider whether the motion shall be included in the agenda or rejected.
f. The decision of the Proper Officer as to whether or not to include the motion on the agenda shall be final.
I know of a similar situation to this, but seeing the Clerk's job description has been denied to Councillors - hence no checking of the clerk's efficiency is open to the Council, only to 3/4 members of the Personnel group.
All Cllrs are accountable for the decisions and actions taken by the Council.  That includes ensuring that employees are doing the job they are paid for.  The only benchmark for making that judgement is the job description.  Approach the Clerk and demand it.  If he/she refuses, make an official complaint to the monitoring officer of the Principal Authority.  The Chair and staffing committee have no right of exclusive access to any Council documents.  If they assert you are not entitled to see it, report them to the monitoring officer too.

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