As an individual I believe that Parish Councillors should look on residents more as customers i.e. as happens in the real world, rather than people who pay for them to carry out their wishes. I realise them there has to be some middle ground, but my experience is that Cllrs don’t like being challenged.
I am about to go to my PCs auditors about two issues about which I would seek a public interest statement. The first relates to the way PCs deal with charities they originate. This is commonly done via something called the foundation model which involves the setting up of a management Committee to which usually the PC appoints trustees. In charity number one two senior Cllrs who present the case for the big annual grant and the voting on the decision are also the leading trustees on the Charity board. The charity itself refuses to fund raise unless it can keep the money and effectively this means the board makes sure the charity continues operating and survives on the “guaranteed” annual grant. Yes the grant application goes through a voting process but the majority of Cllrs vote to accept the recommendation only because they don’t have the knowledge to vote against it.
Charity number two was a fund-raising charity set up to raise funds for a PC power commitment where the trustees sought to route money through it (and claim gift aid) for an separate outside non PC project. After 12 months of correspondence with the PC the trustees introduced a new power to overcome the “objection”. This power is clearly in contravention of the objects and therefore unlawful, but they claim the Charity Commission authorised it. At the PC meeting the chairman suggested they set up a discrete charity, but his fellow Cllrs did not agree and could not see that they had done anything wrong. The trustee’s attitude here is that as they are acting as trustees, so they are untouchable i.e. they cannot be pulled up under the code of conduct and there is no process for the contravention of the Nolan principles. The issue here is that since the revision of the Standards board there is no process for holding local Councillors to account for their iffy behaviour.
Now I appreciate I don’t entirely understand what scope the various auditors have but I would welcome views on the best ways the following should be managed
a) Charities set up by PCs to manage a local service. I believe the best way is to hand things over to a members-based charity with elected trustees so the residents can have a say in the way the charity funds itself and what it does. Therefore there is a lesser risk of any conflict of interest
b) The perennial issue of Cllr discipline. I understand the previous regime got bogged down in petty personal disputes but to replace it with nothing seems even worse. The public should have some form of recourse
I appreciate the above relates to my personal experiences but would appreciate others views on the situations I quote and whether I am wasting my time going to the auditors? Are these major issues or minor irritations ?