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Rules around Clerk's Line manager?

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I would really like to know if there are strict rules or law around this please?

I have read in a few places that the Clerk cannot be Line managed by a councillor and even less a chairman, and should usually be a committee. However, if a council specifies in it's SO that the clerk has the Chairman as Line manager, is this lawful?

I fully understand the reasons why it shouldn't be the case, and it should be a personnel committee managing the clerk (and preferably not having the chairman as part of the committee), but if there is are no strict rules about not having the Chairman only Line manager of the clerk, then it means it can happen, and be lawful. I hope someone can clarify this for me, from a rule/law perspective for councils?
asked by (200 points)

1 Answer

0 votes

Hi DK,

So a Committee can not effectively line manager an employee on a day to day basis it would be confusing for all involved and not efficient.

The Staffing Committee ideally should be set up to discuss any employment issues i.e. pay rises, conflicts, performance management etc. The Line Manager should be the one that ensures on a day to day basis that the remit is being fulfilled. LM is the go-to person for the employee.

The Line Manager won't necessarily have any power to do anything on their own but it is a clear line of report for the employee.

If there is a performance management issue or a grievance for example then this would need referring to the committee.


  • Clerk wants to book a day off (Designated Line Manager)
  • Clerk wants to leave an hour early for an appointment (Designated Line Manager)
  • Clerk has had correspondence from a member of the public that they are unsure what to do with (Designated Line Manager)
  • Clerk has a complaint about a Councillor (Staffing Committee)
  • Clerk hasn't followed the sickness absence procedure (Staffing Committee)
Hope that makes it a little clearer.
answered by (4.7k points)
hi, thanks for this, however, the point I was expecting clarification was more about if it was unlawful or not....being confusing or not efficient whilst logical, doesn't mean it's not allowed to happen.

My starting was: there isn't even a staffing committee, but rather just the Chairman who is the Line Manager of the Clerk or so we have been told!

Even for booking day off I would have thought it should go through the staff/personnel committee, or maybe the chair of that committee.
So it's still not clear to me...
I'd say it's very clear. If you were the Clerk needing a day off or leave early for an appointment would you think it's reasonable to wait for a group of people to individually get back to you bearing in mind people have lives and jobs outside of the council?

A single Councillor doesn't have any power to take action on their own so no they can't be a fully fledged line manager, my examples above should clarify how this works.
i didn't mean what you said wasn't clear , it was indeed very clear! I meant to say it didn't clarify the point I was asking about. Whether something is reasonable, or should ideally be in a certain way, doesn't make it a strict rule to follow.
For example, if we mention in the standing orders that the Chairman of the council is the Line Manager of the Clerk - is that lawfully allowed?
Hmmm I'm pretty certain a single Councillor can't have that power delegated to them as in they would be unable to dismiss by themselves etc.

I'll take a deeper look at the law texts and see what I can find :-)
Thanks - it would really help if there is something
Hey DK,
I can't see anything specific in law so on this one I would take the 'final answer' from your local association to cover yourselves. It would be good if you can share any answer.

My instinct tells me that the power cant be delegated to one Councillor.
Sorry i couldn't be any more helpful.
The model documents specify that the Clerk will receive a performance review and annual appraisal and that it will be carried out by the Chair (or V-C in Chair's absence), but only on resolution of the Council (see SO 19(c)). So it's an individual councillor, operating under the instruction of the whole council and reporting back to them accordingly.

For practical reasons, as Chloe has highlighted, day-to-day oversight should be the responsibility of an individual and under normal circumstances, that would have to be a councillor, as there simply isn't anybody else. Line management by committee is fraught with challenges. Whether that individual is the Chair or not depends, to some degree, upon the wording of other policies. For example, in a single-employee council, if the Clerk has a grievance, there's a strong possibility that it will relate to actions or omissions of his/her line manager. If the grievance policy states that all grievances will be investigated by the Chair, or that the Chair has a specified role later in the grievance process, it would make sense not to have the Chair as the line manager. The wording of the disciplinary policy has a similar impact.

There's a tendency to think of the line manager as the whip-cracker overseeing the employee with an iron fist. This would fall outside the powers of an individual member of the council, as well as being frowned upon at employment tribunals (as I'm discovering right now!)  A line manager should be a supportive friend, a guide through the fog, a shoulder to cry on. It may be wise to choose the line manager based upon their personal qualities, rather than their title. Whoever you choose, they must understand the limit of their powers.

To summarise, there is very little specific legislation on this matter, although basic employment law always applies, so there is leeway to do what's best in differing circumstances. An individual councillor may not make decisions on behalf of the council, but may operate within a framework agreed by the council, so anything specified within a policy document, or any resolution adopted by the council, may be delegated to an individual councillor, as the council has already made the decision.
Thanks Chloe and Dave...i am sure the above is not biased at all :)

The Good councillor guide for employer say on management of clerk: "Management of the clerk by full council is generally ineffective and cumbersome and should be delegated to a personnel committee to which council should give clear terms of reference."

Our SO specify the chairman as Line Manager, and also the one to go to for Grievances in the first place, unless the grievance is about the chairman...i kid you not :)

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