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Voluntary group and its relationship with the council

+1 vote
Good morning my learned colleagues,

My parish council is responsible for a rural cemetery and we have a grounds maintenance contractor with a clear contract to cut the grass, hedges, strim round the stones etc etc and this contract has been in place for many years and covered many contractors.  What this contract doesn't provide for is a gardening service and so there are often weeds in the flower beds, brambles and nettles that come up.  I get regular complaints from a resident who has a family member recently interred about the state of the cemetery but refuses to accept its rural nature and age will mean that weeds, rabbits, and uneven ground occurs and she would like to set up a Friends of the Cemetery to undertake the 'prettifying' of the site.

Can anyone advise me on issues, concerns and legalities of the parish council supporting a Friends of the Cemetery group - where does the liability lie, what responsibilities would we have and what happens if they hurt themselves?

Any experiences / guidance gratefully received.  Many thanks
asked by (11.3k points)

3 Answers

+1 vote
Hi MrsAbster

Your parish insurer would clarify who the insurance covers but if the tasks are undertaken under the instruction of the parish council they would normally be covered but you must check.
So long as you have a solid risk assessment, volunteer guidance and proper role description with any appropriate training then any accidents would be covered by your insurer.

‘Red tape’ shouldn’t scare you or push you in to over thinking this. Using volunteers is a fantastic way to engage with your community and get them involved.

We have just under 200 volunteers registered with us who take care of lots of different things such as our parks, planters, benches etc etc. To be clear this doesn’t replace staff/contractors but assists them.

If you want any further advice and help moving forward then send me a DM and I’ll be more than happy to help.
answered by (3.7k points)
thank you for your thoughts, it is as I expected it to be - not quite a simple but still do-able.
+2 votes
As Chloe has said, the standard PC insurance package includes volunteers working on council projects, but you need to be clear about the status of a Friends group. If they become an independent organisation, your insurer might decide they are no longer volunteers working for the council. I'm dealing with a couple of these at the moment and it's not as straightforward as we would like it to be, especially where they have their own constitution and bank account and have secured funding to purchase equipment. They expect the PC to insure the equipment too, but it doesn't belong to us.

The simplest way to handle this is to make them completely independent of the council, then give them a grant under S137 or GPoC to cover the cost of purchasing their own insurance.
answered by (17.4k points)
Nice idea, makes the process very simple and easier to manage!

Whilst our large group of volunteers works exceptionally well for us it does take a lot of management which we now have a dedicated person for. However, what works for us may not work well for others so your suggestion is another great option!
I like your suggestion too as that removes the responsibility from me managing them, all with different ideas and aims..  Thank you DtC
It also makes them eligible for Awards for All, and, in our case, the district and county council grants, the local wind farm and power station and all the small pots of money administered by the Community Foundation. In community development terms, it's a good way of teaching people about the principles of shared responsibility in a democracy, fund raising and management and everything else they'll need to become the next cohort of parish councillors!
+1 vote
It is a fact of life that you will never please all of the people all of the time and no matter how excellent your service is there will always be one. Unfortunately your best defence is to have policies (I know they can become endless) which defines exactly what the extent of the works that the council will undertake (or sub contract out). Flower beds not included then it doesn't happen. There is then a policy document to back up why the action complained of is not covered. It would also be a definition of what work is required of a contractor ensuring that all asked quote on the same basis.
Of course democracy is still served and representations for the community can be accommodated with an amendment in a revision placed before the council.
answered by (2.3k points)
We have just put into place a service level agreement to formalise my parish council's working relationship with our local in-bloom team.  The sla has set down what the in-bloom team can expect from the council and dealt with its over inflated sense of entitlement which has been a cause of much conflict for many years.  I'd recommend it as a way of managing everyone's expectations from the outset.

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