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Having access to the clerk other than scheduled meetings.

0 votes
Visiting the Clerk fairly recently concerning advice, there have been on regular occasions other members of the council, senior members whom have a regularity of attending. I have noticed now that decisions (although agenda items) are being taken prior to the council meeting that are in regards colluded to, with no illegality, with the clerks bias to these members. Twice marginal policy changes have been moved with the clerk influencing the result by directing the policy information to the particular councilor. How should the clerk be advising the councilors on interfering during their working day as they have commented how busy they are.
asked by (380 points)

2 Answers

0 votes
The fact is that all decisions should  be made by resolution at full council meetings unless defined in Standing Orders. All meetings of the council have to be advertised and the public are entitled to attend unless a resolution is given to exclude them. Neither the Clerk, Chair or any other Cllr can unilaterally make decisions outside such meetings other than to call EGM's.  It would seem that you have a covert "inner circle" of Cllrs who seem to think they can try to bypass what I have stated above..
Next time it happens confront them. Ask why they are there and if they are there for a meeting.  If so ask why the  meeting hasn't been notified to all Cllrs and what the purpose of the meeting is.   If they won't tell you, inform them they must have something to hide and you will take the matter further.  The Clerk should not be engaging in any decision making meetings other than those that are published with summons for all Cllrs to attend.  He/She needs to be reminded of this.
I would suggest collecting evidence and passing it on to the Monitoring Officer of your Principal Authority and asking him/her to act.

By the way, what do you mean by "Senior"?  Chair, Vice Chair, Committee Chairs etc?  Or the oldest?
answered by (9.6k points)
edited by
Thank you for the reply, by Senior I am defining their time as a sitting Cllr which in some instances can span 30 years, also they may be retired and hold the position of Chair. Your comments resonate with the situation of which NALC define as a moribund council, with no distinct vision.
0 votes
Part of the role of the Clerk is to provide information and guidance for members of the Council, which may include undertaking research on their behalf. The challenge for the Clerk is to determine what is acceptable in this regard and to speak out when they feel that boundaries are being stretched. This can be a particular issue in councils that have a parish office, which can become a social club for a group of members. In essence this is no different to a group of members socialising in the pub and discussing council business, however the involvement of the Clerk may lead to a particular issue being given preference in the drafting of the agenda. It may also prevent the Clerk from undertaking their own work in a thorough and efficient manner. In an ideal world, members would not discuss council business outside council meetings, but human nature tramples all over that aspiration.

It may be helpful to have an open and honest discussion regarding roles and boundaries and to consider implementing a rule that questions to the Clerk between meetings must be conveyed by e-mail, with a copy to all members of the council, to help members to understand how the Clerk is providing support.
answered by (13.4k points)
Thank you for your reply, the openness approach has the opportunity to bring my concerns to the forefront and the Full council, as this council was uncontested and going through a repeat process of term.
The inner sanctum of senior Councillors who contrive to make many important decisions is an all too familiar syndrome with PCs borne out of the fact that once elected there is little possible electorate scrutiny of decisions. Unfortunately, it seems to me that change can only come from within in which case you have to learn to be as “clever” as those involved. Processes and procedures exist for fair debate and decision making but as this week in Parliament has shown politics can be a dirty business.
There will always be individuals who seek public office in order to pursue their own pet projects, but it is not true to say that there is little possible scrutiny. Agendas must be published beforehand, all meetings are open to the public, all decisions are subject to independent audit.

I suggest that it is the apathy of the electorate that is the real problem here. Put a child in a sweet shop under adult supervision and they will not steal the sweets. Take away the supervision and the outcome may be very different.
Apathy is not only consistent to the electorate here as a primary council has a duty of accountability in overseeing the Parish and Town councils in it`s remit, as with a previous posting this may be adding to the work of an overburdened monitoring officer but there are options.
I agree that apathy is a real problem when it comes to PC. It all depends on your view as to why such apathy exists. I believe that a major contributing factor is the system under which Councillors are allowed to act. If they act within their powers there is diddly squat residents can do to change things. Equally I can foresee a situation whereby too much scrutiny and you probably wouldn't get any Councillors to volunteer. There has to be some middle ground but as I say achieving change can be hard.  I am trying the Agenda route and am getting a "it takes a long time to turn a tanker around" attitude so far
The current role of the district council (or equivalent) monitoring officer is restricted to code of conduct complaints. They don't have a duty of accountability for any other matters. The idea of a wider supervisory role is often discussed, but unlikely to happen.
The internal auditor has a vital role to play in overseeing the conduct of the council and its compliance with standing orders, financial regulations and the wider legislation of local government. Some auditors, particularly from the established specialist firms, apply a meticulous approach to every aspect of this work, scrutinising every document and decision. Sadly, others are far too close to the councils and their work lacks the rigour required of the role.

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