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Can Council business be carried out without meetings of the PC

0 votes
It would appear that our PC has now cancelled all meetings (though not notified anyone via the web site) and the Chair has taken self authority for maintaining the running of the PC.There has been no meeting of the PC to authorise such action by the chair but it seems this has not registered with the Chair. The Clerk is ill  (since August 2019) and taken a backseat to council business whilst awaiting the appointment of a new clerk.Apparently a new clerk has been appointed to start at beginning of April (though no public notification has been forthcoming or minutes of such a decision made public)
We find ourselves with a PC which has at least 5 out of it's membership of 8 councillors (7 vacancies unfilled) in self isolation with one recovering from an operation.

Whilst I can sympathise with the Chair's zeal to shoulder the burden to keep the council ticking over  It must leave all decisions made by the chair without council approval wide open to legal challenge and risk.

How do we stop this headlong dash into dictatorship of the council?
asked by (520 points)

1 Answer

0 votes
What alternative do you suggest?

The NALC today released advice that Clerks should be automatically delegated authority to make decisions in these unusual circumstances, as long as they emailed their decisions to the councillors and kept a full audit trail of the decision making process in the unlikely event of legal action.  NALC also concluded that as long as that evidence is there, it is very unlikely that any complaint of not following due process would be dismissed.

But that is for the Clerk to do and not the Chair.  In the case of long term sickness, the Council should have appointed a locum Clerk to undertake the legal responsibilities and I am amazed that they haven't already done so.
answered by (10.9k points)
Indeed, there has to be a proper officer for a council to function. Even if it is a volunteer councillor. Someone has to fill the gap. But nobody automatically has the role. I believe the government is to make some sort of ruling on "virtual" meetings.
Thanks for the comment which confirms what I thought.Unfortunately our council is lunging from one crisis to another without solving any of them and getting deeper and deeper into the myre. When the clerk went ill they allowed her to carry on as best she could including not attending meetings or producing the minutes until a new clerk could be found.Things have now come to a head with self isolation exposing that the council in all that time actually made no contingency plans for deterioration of the clerks health maintenance of the website or standing orders changes to allow for deputising or workload sharing. They have sat like rabbits in headlights until this perfect storm has hit them  and now cannot find any solutions except for the Chair making all the decisions in the most undemocratic way possible.As to virtual meetings either by email or video should these not be made available to the community as per normal meetings?
Ideally they should be public, but that may not be achievable. Councils should still ensure that as much information as possible is made public prior to meetings. That way, the public knows what decisions are to be made, and what supporting information is being used. They are then at least able to make representations to councillors. Difficult times, but we try to keep in mind democratic principles and the need for councils to serve the needs of their citizens.

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