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Chairman as proper officer

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I have noticed that a Parish Council which has a Clerk/RFO also has the Chairman acting as 'the proper officer of the Council' and signs the Agenda as such. Is this just odd or is there an explanation ?
asked by (1.2k points)

2 Answers

0 votes

Members of a Council cannot be officers of the Council. They are two distinct mutually exclusive roles. The model Standing Orders define the Proper Officer thus:-

"The Proper Officer shall be either (i) the clerk or (ii) other staff member(s) nominated by the Council to undertake the work of the Proper Officer when the Proper Officer is absent."

answered by (18.7k points)
The following is from the minutes of the Parish Council's Annual Parish Council Meeting in May 2019 ......The Council’s policy to appoint the Chairman Proper Officer of the Council (first proposed, seconded and unanimously agreed on 30/08/2011) would continue under the new Chairmanship of Cllr..................
So who prepares the agenda for a meeting? Who decides what goes on the agenda? I'd love to see a copy of the standing orders with all of the necessary amendments. Would I be right in thinking that Cllr ....... is someone who likes to be in control?
Thank you so much for your comments ........its a very interesting subject and I really appreciate the discussion that has evolved. I thought it odd that the Chair should be a proper officer when there is a Clerk in post and has been for sometime. I can understand that the Chair might use the term 'proper officer' in the temporary absense of a Clerk but this is not the case and I also feel that a good Chair doesn't need to have an additional 'title' but aids the Clerk and the Council acts together as they should as a corporate body with a good working relationship. I think in the past the Chair might have liked 'control' but this has been carried on by the new Council for some reason perhaps the new Chair will turn out to be the same !!! I wanted to find out if this was a normal occurance now I see that its likely not.
0 votes
Unusually, I have to disagree with Dave the Clerk. In my support, I refer to Arnold Baker 9.3 where it is said that "A local council may appoint one or more of its members to be officers of the council without remuneration."

But I would agree that the Chairman is not a proper officer of the council unless formally appointed as such, and the agendas should be signed by the clerk. It would be unusual and most likely unsatisfactory to appoint a councillor as proper officer in a council that has a clerk.

Small parish councils often benefit from a councillor acting as voluntary clerk. A councillor acting voluntarily is also one option for dealing with the period between a clerk leaving and another being appointed, although alternatives such as a locum should also be considered. If the cost can be afforded, a paid clerk is usually a benefit.
answered by (28.4k points)
You're absolutely right that there is no legislative impediment to this and I was aware of the Arnold Baker reference, although I wonder whether it is intended to refer to the specific role of the Proper Officer. As we know, cases of a Councillor acting as unpaid Clerk for a short period during a vacancy are not unusual.

In this case, where a Clerk/RFO is in post, one wonders how the various roles can be dovetailed into an effective administration, without giving the Chairman undue influence over proceedings, which would, of course, be contrary to the basic principles of local council democracy.
Thanks for your comment, Dave. I'd think that any officer can be appointed proper officer for some or all functions, so appointing a councillor as a council officer must provide a basis for them being proper officer. It seems to me that the model standing order is liable to be both confusing and misleading for the kind of case we are thinking about, where appointing a volunteer councillor is justified. While there doesn't seem to be a legislative bar, I would think the chairman would generally be the least suitable choice for a volunteer councillor acting as clerk, exactly as you say. And I can't really think of any justification for a councillor taking on any proper officer role if a clerk is in post. At most a mentoring arrangement could be provided, if appropriate.

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