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Problems with Parish Clerk

0 votes
I am the Deputy Chair of our village Parish Council, this is the first time i have been deputy, I have been a Parish Councillor for 5 years, we have a very weak chair who wants to be everyone's friend.

The clerk we have was transferred to the Parish Council from the Town Council when the Parish council was formed 11/12 years ago, she was not a Town or Parish Clerk before, her role at the Town Council was not in anyway anything to do with being a clerk.

The problems are numerous, I will list below

Very scruffily dressed, does not project the right professional image for the Council

The office is very very untidy, this is the face of the Council and she has been asked to tidy it up

She is obstructive when asked to do something she does not want to do even if it is part of her role

She has recently, maybe a year ago, gone part time up until 1pm and due to miss management by the current chair and the previous deputy been given pay rises and now has 37 days a year annual leave

She manages two full time groundsmen, but does not provide them or the councillors with work sheets each day so that we are aware when she is not around what they are doing or if they are actually in work.

We have a very weak chair on the Personel committee, so making any changes is very difficult

She is resistant to any checking by councillors of her or the groundmen

She made life difficult for another member of staff when we tried to get cover, no trsaining thenm on the job

She is resistant to providing a contingency plan

Councillors end up doing a fair amount of the work.

Has not done the Clerk exams, even though it is now a requirement of the Clerk role in Councils

I have held senior management roles in commercial companies and would know how to deal with these problems, but I a struggling to work out how to deal with this in the council arena.

Who is her line manager, can it be the deputy and or the chair or another Councillor, how do you appoint a designated line manager,, half of our precept is paid in salaries and do not feel we are getting value for money from any of the staff.

We do have policy and procedure for appraisals that should be done by the chair of the Personnel Committee, but as I said this person is weak.

Any help would be appreciated
asked by (120 points)

2 Answers

0 votes
Hi Wayne,

Firstly in no way are you alone and right now we have something very, very similar taking place. The issue have also created a lot of animosity between Councillors or some are supportive of our Clerk regardless are any problems.

The problem you have is that you are just one voice and can’t act on behalf of the council in this situation, so you need to carefully  on this one.

Are you aware of any other Councillors who feel this way? If so then you could put your concerns in writing to the Chair/Personnel Committee. However you need to be careful not to be seen as ‘bullying’ as this is always an easy thorn for staff to hang on to.

The situation in your council maybe that the Chair is worried about how to move forward, doesn’t agree with you or doesn’t feel they have the right support. Sadly the local associations and NALC are absolutely awful (generally speaking) in regards to their support.

From what you have described, the process (as you too know from the commercial world) is very straight forward. The council really shouldn’t be any different, the only problem is you’ve got to persuade a group of people to take action and not just the line manager.
The Clerks actions/conduct should be investigated against their role profile and contract. The investigation should then clarify if any further action is needed. If further action is needed then the investigation will evidence what form of action is required I.e verbal warning, written warning, dismissal etc.

If some of the complaint leads to mismanagement of council property/documents then it is perfectly reasonable and sensible to suspend the Clerk on full pay pending investigation.
I’m afraid the make-up of the Council complicated employer/employee situations but your first step is to know what support you have.
Send a direct message if you wish to discuss further.
answered by (4.5k points)
A great many situations like this arise due to either a breakdown in communication or total lack of communication between the parties concerned. As parish councils do not have the advantages(or not) of commercial HR departments then the formation of  an employment group with hopefully suitably trained councillors to oversee the employment of the clerk. Clearly defined contracts of employment and job descriptions and expectations from both sides are essential so that all parties know where they stand in the relationship and such an important matter as employment should never fall on the shoulders of one councillor.Saying that then what is the solution to this particular mess which appears to be the result of mis-management of the clerks position. The only solution I can see is a cards on the table meeting where each party puts forward where they see the problems to be solved amicably. Working then together to get it right without fear of favour which can only be in everyone's advantage.
0 votes

A good Council should ensure that all staff including the Clerk are subject to an annual appraisal assessment. All Staff should have a job description with objectives.  The assessment should be based on how well they comply with the objectives & the duties  specified in the job description. Your SO's should specify who carries out the assessment, often the chair of a staffing committee.

So although you do comply with the elements above in theory, it isn't happening in practice. You may have a weak chair but he/she does not, contrary  to popular belief have any pseudo disciplinary  or judicial powers over other Cllrs or staff. One solution would be to put yourself up as a candidate for chair of the Personnel Committee and try to encourage other Cllrs to support you. As chair, seemingly you would be able to at least provide a realistic appraisal.  It could include a performance  improvement notice, based on non delivery of her employment contract.  From what you say she is putting the ability of the Council at risk of failing to deliver on its obligations. The problem often is that Clerk's play the "I'm being harassed card" and Cllrs get frightened at the thought of being taken to employment tribunals.

answered by (13.6k points)
I agree with Graeme's conclusion and would only add that lack of knowledge usually is the basis for fear of action.

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