Questions about town and parish councils
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How should a breach of a Parish Council's Standing Orders be dealt with?
by (410 points)

4 Answers

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That depends on the breach you would have to explain more about the breach for anyone to give advice
by (6.3k points)
+1 vote
A breach of a council's standing orders would in the first instance be brought to the attention of the clerk either at the meeting where it occurred or for review at the next meeting. Depending on what it referred to (as most standing orders are definitions of agreed procedures of the council) then they can usually easily be corrected (if they occurred) by councillors in attendance.
by (27.0k points)
+1 vote
I am not sure if councillors are aware but all councillors are responsible for maintaining standards. As a councillor you should be alerting everyone one if standing orders are not adhered to
by (6.3k points)
"You should be alerting everyone" ??

Yes;but whom? and to what effect?
We have an example where the Chairman and Clerk - knowlingly and after being forewarned - breach Standing Orders by rescinding, one monthlater, a Resolution passed unanimously by full Council.

We reported this to the Monitoring Officer. Who said - as usual - that it was "ourside his remit".
We reported him to the Local Government Obudsman's office.  No response.

We tried the county Association of Local Councils. they only respond to communications from the Chairman or the Clerk – the very people we are trying to report.

We tried the UK Association of Local Councilllors. No help there; just long-winded blatherskaite.

Where next?  So far as I can see, the ONLY recourse left is to call for a Judicial Review.  And that's expensive and long-winded.
How did they rescind a resolution? A decision to rescind would have to be taken and minuted, with the minutes approved, for it to be effective. Does the clerk have delegated authority to rescind decisions? The chairman has no authority to take decisions alone, or with the clerk, except to the extent the council has delegated decision making to the clerk.
he Chairman [with the Clerk] called the Extraordinary Meeting specifically to put the motion to rescind the previous resolution.  It received majority assent.

The Chairman made no move beforehand to suspend the Standing Order that prohibits this.
OK, that is a breach of standing orders, but the rule that prohibits revisiting a matter within six months is not based on statute. If a majority agreed to rescind the decision, then it seems probable that a majority would have been willing to vote to suspend the standing order. It's hard to see that a court would overrule the decision to rescind if it was taken by a majority vote in a meeting properly called. Ideally, the clerk should advise the council to follow standing orders. Beyond that, it's a matter for the electorate.
+1 vote
It should be reported to the external Auditor & the Principal Authority monitoring officer.
by (35.4k points)
It is of course an easy way out of passing the buck to run to the MO at the first sign of trouble. The complainant should only see such action as a final resort when all else has failed to remedy the problem. In the first instance the complaint should be made to the clerk as the council's guidance on matters for their adjudication and remedial required action should it be necessary. Only then, if not corrected or ignored ta complain to MO is the next step. PC's and all councillors need to take responsibility for  their actions and have a duty to ensure that codes of conduct and standing orders are adhered to at all times by all members.
I disagree, the clue is in the title of the post, "Monitoring".  He or she should be made aware of breaches even if they are resolved eventually. If he or she isn't, how can they do the role from an informed position? They should be monitoring so that they know the extent of non conformances.
Does the role of Monitoring Officer extend beyond monitoring compliance with the Code of Conduct? From my experience, I don't think it does, but I've never seen a job description for the role. In this particular case, we don't know the nature of the breach and it may simply be an oversight that can be rectified easily.
The problem with running to the MO with every glitch that should be dealt with by clerk and council is that the already ineffectual MO position with become more unworkable as they cannot deal expediently or resolve  serious complaints at the moment. The MO should only be involved in my opinion if the resolution cannot be found at council level. I agree with Dave that it appears that the MO deals with breaches of codes of conduct. Standing orders are agreed and adopted by PC's as procedural matters not codes of conduct per say
On the local govt lawyer website Doreen Forrester-Brown says that it is to report on matters he or she believes are, or are likely to be, illegal or amount to maladministration;
to be responsible for matters relating to the conduct of councillors and officers; and
to be responsible for the operation of the council’s constitution.   For a town or parish council that would be their standing orders - if the breach of S.O. s was deliberate and wilful that would say to me that the monitoring officer should at least be informed.
Agreed, but does that refer only to the Council in which they are employed, or do those responsibilities extend to parish and town councils within their district?
Strictly speaking the MO only has jurisdiction against town or parish cllrs beaching their code of conduct. However it could be argued that willfully disregarding SO's or turning a blind eye  is a breach of the code of conduct. All PC or TC codes of conduct should include that members must behave accordingly with respect to  Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership. Allowing a wilful breach of SO's should certainly raise questions about cllrs  compliance with integrity and accountability

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