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I have in recent threads started to understand the wherewithal behind PC meetings and how they should create agendas and make decisions. This has been a learning process, but I have locally managed to get background papers included with Agendas. My greatest concern has always been that the infamous inner sanctum wields great power by getting their  key and preferred decisions made by not releasing too much detail and encouraging Councillors to vote for “recommendations” because they have no reasons (or enough knowledge) to vote against them. However, a few weeks ago I felt I had a Eureka moment when trying to understand the difference between and importance of  motions, proposals and resolutions.  It would appear from the Good Councillors Guide (GCG) para 10 that resolutions can only be made at a Council meeting as a consequence of decision being made on a motion or proposal about any agenda item. Furthermore, any motion/proposal has to be submitted in writing before the meeting and included as part of the Agenda. It would therefore appear by default that any other item on the agenda i.e. without an attendant motion can only be discussed but no decision (or resolution) made about it? This process regarding motions appears to be clearly detailed in the para 10 of the Good Councillors Guide.

Having read sections 1, 9 and 10 of the model standing orders these appear to detail the rules around handling motions in an exact form of words (which can be amended). Yet if you read para 9 of GCG which refers to meeting preparation it appears to indicate that decisions (resolutions) can be made based on reading material (motions?) and then deciding what to do.

Is there any precise information available to advise?

a)   what items for debate are proper to be included in the Agenda and in what format?

b)   what decisions can be made at meeting and relating to what. Can they be consequential i.e. as a result of a motion (which just starts the debate)?

c)    can ad hoc resolutions be made without a prior  proposal/motion?

d)   what is the difference between a proposal and a motion and

e)  does each motion have to have an advised (in Agenda) proposer?

Sorry if this sounds all a bit unwieldly but am trying to understand how PCs should debate and make lawful decisions. Currently it appears to me that locally the Agenda consists of many subjects which are up for general discussion and out of some of them come resolutions. We don’t seem to have prior notice motions.
asked by (1.2k points)
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2 Answers

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Having done some research, it would seem to me that in practical terms motions and resolutions are inextricably linked i.e. you can’t have one without the other. A motion is best described as the procedural process through which a Council transacts its business to arrive at its desired outcome in the form of an agreed resolution. It has been explained to me that a resolution could be that “the Clerks salary is increased by 10%” whereas the motion is that the resolution be agreed to. Therefore the really important thing is the resolution not the motion.

Having understood that, what I have difficulty is the fact that motion procedures alone are discussed in most standing orders with little reference being made of resolutions.  Is it therefore the intention I ask  that any motion when stated should include the proposed form of words of the resolution? This would perhaps explain the constant reference in the SOs etc to the correct form of words in motions.

I personally would in favour of that as it would encourage ownership of any given subject by the proposer and via the Agenda ensure that all Councillors have enough information be equally prepared for meetings. Too often I feel resolutions are made up at the meeting itself by forceful Councillors.

If the foregoing was adopted this would surely have an effect on Agneda construction something which I feel is one of the most under researched elements of Council business.  I believe that the requirement to have motions and resolutions on nominated items leaving other items to be just noted would also considerably reduce the time spent at meeting endlessly  talking about things but not reaching decisions. The emphasis at meetings should be to make decisions on subjects for which advance notice has been given.


Somebody say something please

answered by (1.2k points)
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The difficulty with parish councils is that they can often desire an informal meeting where the pomp and circumstance that you would associate with borough and district levels is dispensed in order to make the council more approachable to the public.  We only use proposals and resolutions as I find the term 'motion' confusing and unnecessary - after all you are putting forward a suggestion and asking for the council to agree or reject it, that is all.

The agenda has to specify the business to be discussed and that is stated in the LGA 1973 (Schedule 12 I think).  There is no requirement to mention who the proposer is as it is the Clerk who creates the agenda for the meeting.  That said, if the proposal came from a particular committee, I would mention that fact to provide an audit trail.

The wording on the agenda, in my practice, needs to state what the decision will be on but it is often the case that the councillors will opt to amend the resolution following a debate OR there may be an item for the council to decide between 2 courses of action, or a number of suppliers, or, heaven forbid, the clerk is asking the council to actually decide itself, rather than being spoon fed by the Clerk.  In this instance, you would not be able to put an exact resolution on the agenda but it will be recorded in the minutes.
It might be worth pointing out that the agenda is not a legal record of the meeting, the minutes are.  The agenda just sets out the business to be discussed.

During the debate the exact wording of the resolution will be agreed and it will be that which is voted on, after being proposed and seconded.

An example of all this is in a forth coming meeting that we are holding via Zoom.  There is an agenda item to discuss a lease that was in process before the lockdown.  I am unable to put on the agenda "To approve the signing of the lease" as I don't know what the council want to do as a next step.  Instead I will be putting "To receive an update on the lease and to agree next steps".  That is a more accurate description of what will be taking place.

Finally, there is no justification to make up resolutions on the night.  There has to be an agenda item forming the basis for the resolution and if there isn't it should be carried over to the next agenda.

Hope the above helps.
answered by (12.3k points)
Thanks Mrs A. So what you are saying is that whatever form of words you put on the agenda is literally the starting point in order to formally kickstart the debate before moving to a final decision (resolution)? That's fine as you are listing and giving notice of decisions that need to be made. Equally would it be true to say that any agenda item without this starting point would be for information only and could not be transformed into a "we must make decision on this"  category during the meeting ?
Financial decisions should be on the agenda to comply with Financial Regs. I would assume any agreement made would then in theory have to be evidenced so the beginning of a clear motion that is specific as suggested above.

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