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The 2020-2021 Civic Calendar is fast approaching and locally a discussion is taking place about how we move our Council forward.  One obvious issue that has emerged is the pressure that is being exerted on members (and officers) with incredibly late-night meetings becoming all too common (with meetings often running in excess of 3 hours with meetings often running back to back...)  As part of a range of measures put forward to address this Id tentatively like to explore implications of SOME Committee meetings taking place during the day time.  The obvious pitfall that I can see is the impact on councillors (and indeed public) who wish to participate (or indeed observe) said meeting who are at work and are not available during daytime.   Some have suggested (and frankly it is hard to disagree) that the current late-night meeting format is not only having an adverse impact on the members and officers but it is also having a negative impact on the decisions and actions of the corporate body.  

  1. Should certain Committees Meetings be during daytime at a Parish/Town Council level?
  2. Do you currently convene daytime Committee meeting at a Parish/Town Council level?

Welcome your thoughts.  

by (7.4k points)

2 Answers

+1 vote
The annual meeting cannot start any earlier than 6pm.
There is no similar requirement for other meetings (though 'full council' meetings should be held when the most people can attend). There is no timing requirement for committee meetings.

However, your standing orders may specify that meetings must take place at or after a certain time, and therefore may need amending.

All meetings should be held in a place that the public can access, I.e. they can't be held in a councillor's home, though for informal working groups this might be more practical, but these are not official council meetings and no official decision can be made at those meetings.
by (9.0k points)
...and if you're using the Model Standing Orders, your meetings are limited to two hours, regardless of the start time, so should be adjourned and reconvened at this point.
Thanks for taking the time to reply.  Its certainly something to think about then.  Perhaps staffing/personnel/HR committee might be logical one to move to a more staff friendly time (and closed session usually by its very nature anyway) so can discount the negative weighting about public access (in terms of them been trapped at work).
Id love to see a simple structure re emerge Quarterly Finance Committee, Ordinary Monthly Meeting & some sort of HR/Staff Panel with the ideas etc developed through members putting together written reports & developing ideas together through informal "task & finish" groups etc
+1 vote
Why do the meetings take so long? Are you following the procedures set out in the standing orders (motions published beforehand, supporting documentation with agenda, members may speak only once on each motion etc)?

As somebodyelse has said, you could, in theory, hold daytime meetings, as long as you have sufficient members available during the working day, but is there a risk that this removes the incentive to finish before bedtime and meetings might take twice as long?
by (52.8k points)
Many reasons below are just a few:

1)  Previous members have alluded to their belief that its a tool used to dissuade individuals from remaining elected members. Certainly the high turnover of members (many leaving part way through election cycles) helps support that view.
2)  Some longstanding members see the meetings as an opportunity to "put the world to rights" often going off on extended tangents with the respective chairs struggling/unwilling to contain them (or in some cases actively actually encouraging it).
3)  Poor meeting preparation (to extent some not sure which meeting walking into never mind agenda and meeting papers) is an all to common depressing feature that has existed for some considerable time.   Its left some trying to "wing it" openly admitting they have no idea what they are actually voting on.
4)  Despite my call to end the bad practise vague agenda items they continue to appear creating never ending discussions (often revisiting previous discussions).
5)  The "Meeting Papers" circulated in advance of meeting to members have gradually improved but key content often keeps been uploaded late in the day (often quite literally late in the day.. despite pleas to respect the clear days)
6)  Discussions often cant be advanced because sufficient information has not been shared (awaiting third quote, failed to follow up a question prior to meeting etc.  Rather than just deferring for whatever reason Chair encourages a discussion in the knowledge that the discussions going nowhere (nor should they).
7)   "we always done it this way" is the usual response.  They have normalised conduct and an approach that is far from normal for council spending the amount of public money our body is.   Reluctant to adopt best practise elsewhere (whether published content, award winning neighbouring parishes or just other success stories picked up through networking/events etc (which they are often reluctant to attend)  
The positive is that the body has recently introduced the model standing orders as part of package of measures to try to improve things.  It still does not avoid consecutive two hour meetings back to back though (that should have taken 30 minutes each..).  Similarly the specific provision can be suspended via vote (although at least once a majority have finally had enough it will end).
There seems little (to no recourse) to insist on rules actually been followed in practise (particularly if your in the minority even if you can clearly and concisely demonstrate rules are not been followed and ought to be..  
Am trying to put forward having less formal meetings with "task & finish" advisory groups groups (none decision making merely recommendations) to try and create a better balance.  Has to be balance between "talking shop" and "decision making body".  I want to see meetings have a purpose and a speed about them.
Oh dear! Your Chair clearly needs training (or replacing?). Providing members with details of the business to be transacted at a meeting three days before the meeting is a legal requirement (Schedule 12 para 10). A simple template for reports, including the motions to be voted on, can shorten meetings significantly.

Councils often behave so much better if they are notified beforehand that the meeting will be filmed and that the video will be uploaded to YouTube the following morning for all to see. It helps to focus the mind!
Thanks.  There interpretation is that the vague Agenda Item "Consider Village Green" is sufficient to satisfy Schedule 12 paragraph 10.  I continue to contest that assessment and expect meeting papers detailing particular issue (i) Consider Quotations for Village Green Lighting (Including a written report setting out the issues and costs involved).  I don't feel i am been unreasonable.
You are absolutely correct. If that is what your Clerk is providing, your Clerk needs training too.

As both a Clerk and a Chairman, I always look at the documentation we produce and ask myself "Would Mrs Biggins at No 42 Acacia Avenue understand what we are about to discuss?" If the answer is no, we're not doing our job properly.
All goes back to Agenda construction. While I have just won the battle of background papers there is still too much debate at meetings. Trying to get main items divided into two groups i.e. one to vote on recommendations and one "to note FYI only . presently almost all meetings overrun

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