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Chair's use of Executive powers in an Ordinary Meeting?

0 votes
Firstly need to apologise for this... but I'm very confused with the situation and the advice being given by both our Proper Officer and our local NALC team and I need some guidance.

We are currently struggling with the performance and attitude of our current Chair to the council, which is being supported by our Clerk.

As with a lot of councils we did not have an AGM in May due to Covid-19, however, this is now coming back to haunt us. Our current Chair has taken this as a licence to do what they believe the council needs but more worryingly they are using it make sure the Council achieve nothing of worth to the town and it's residents. Don't get me wrong community events are important but so are the major regeneration projects that Town Councils are the main drivers on. As a council we have slipped into a world where the current Chair can take centre stage at organising Christmas cards, making poppies, etc. rather than supporting the council to make a change to what is available in the town and help community groups to develop.

Recently this came to a head when a number of councillors resigned (we have not seen the resignation letters as both Chair and Clerk believe it is not in our best interests and would be a breach of Member code of conduct - these have been asked for but dismissed.) As a result a councillor called for a vote of no confidence, this was responded to by the Chair with statements from the Clerk. The underlying message was that this had not been done correctly as it had not been seconded, surely this should not be the case as a vote of confidence doesn't necessarily have to come from more than one councillor as it is not in the Standing Orders. Following this and after taking advice from NALC, a call for an AGM was made. After much ignoring of this, the Chair used her Executive powers at an Ordinary meeting to discuss this at the end of the meeting. This was not brought up at the beginning of the meeting and was a surprise to all, the Chair then stated that she did not have the authority to call an AGM and asked councillors to vote on whether an AGM should take place... the Proper Office allowed this to go ahead. Is this correct and will the calling of an AGM by two members now be possible?

I need advice as I can no longer be complicit in this underlying negative factor in the running of the council.

So many questions... so little time - any help appreciated... I'm worried that this will extend into 2021/ 22 if no elections are called in May 2021. Help!
by (330 points)

3 Answers

0 votes
Oooof where do you start?!  First thing you mention AGM - do you actually mean Extraordinary meeting rather than the Annual Parish Council meeting which takes place in May and is when the Chair is elected?

As far as I am aware the Chair of a Town Council or Parish Council has no Executive Powers to note - they have the ability to cast a second vote and can call an Extraordinary meeting and that is about it.  If they refuse, then 2 councillors can call an EO (check your standing orders as your council may require more).  If they do then the Council is obliged to have one, regardless of what the Clerk says.  The summons would be signed by the councillors, giving 7 days notice and if the Clerk refused to attend, it could still continue.  There is no legal requirement for a Clerk to be present for the meeting to be legitimate.

As the law stands, the allowance to not have an Annual Parish Council Meeting (May) was only for 2020 and the legislation states that all Covid related changes come to an end next May, so this 'holding over' will not go on for another year unless the law is changed.

BTW, the Chair has no right to add items to the agenda at the end of the meeting.
by (21.1k points)
MrsAbster.. thank you for your response. I know... it is a minefield.
We were advised to call an AGM by NALC rather than an Extraordinary meeting (seemly other TC's having same problem and have called AGM's later in the year once things had got back to some kind of normality...) as that is the way to change the officers and remove the Chair. As you say the allowance not to have an AGM was guidance rather than law but not sure the council can deal with another 5 months. There is nothing in the Standing Orders relating to the calling of an AGM just Extraordinary meetings so I can assume that if 2 members requested an AGM that cannot be prevented by either the Chair or Clerk. I'm going to have one last go at speaking to NALC.
0 votes
Did the council pass a resolution not to have the Annual Meeting in May, or simply not do it? As MrsAbster has said, the emergency legislation for this year removed the requirement to hold one and allowed appointments to continue until the next annual meeting "or until such time as that authority may determine." Some councils passed resolutions giving the Chair specific emergency powers to act without prior approval from the council, although this proved unneccessary, as we have adapted to virtual meetings for normal business, with a few hiccups along the way. I presume your chair has no such powers.

Resignation letters - have you asked your former colleagues whether they would be willing to share their letters with you?

Vote of confidence - there is no formal process for this in parish and town councils, so you can ask for one, but even if you get it, the chair can ignore the outcome.

Annual Meeting - are you saying that you have already discussed and resolved to have an Annual Meeting during the year? You say that the Proper Officer allowed this to go ahead. If not, any member may ask for it to be on the next agenda with a proposal to hold it at the following meeting.
by (45.9k points)
Thanks DavetheClerk..
AGM: No resolution was passed not to have the Annual Meeting in May, we simply did not do it! Interesting statement "or until such time as that authority may determine" which is why a number of councillors wanted to call an AGM. However, the Chair brought up the request for an AGM at the end of the meeting (not officially added to the Agenda) stating that they had no authority to call an AGM. They then went on to ask for a vote as to whether the councillors on the Zoom meeting wanted an AGM this year. Is this allowed?
Resignation letters: I have seen a copy of one of the resignation letters, it is the principle that is at stake here or are there no official rules regarding the transparency of the letters?

Vote of No confidence: I agree there is no formal guidance on this and to be honest it isn't how I would have approached the issue at hand.

AGM: the advice we were given by NALC was that two members could call for an AGM. However, now that the Chair has called for a vote for & against at an Ordinary meeting does that mean this cannot take place?
Annual Meeting - you should not have voted on an item not on the agenda. It should be added to the next agenda. If the matter is now on an agenda for a forthcoming meeting, there is no need for members to call for a meeting.

Resignation letters - The Act specifies that the casual resignation of a member of a parish council should be done by letter to the chairman, not to the council (S84). In the absence of any contrary legislation, the chair could define this as personal correspondence and not share the detail.
0 votes
The chair does not have "Executive Powers" other than the right to unilaterally call an extraordinary meeting and countersign the Annual Governance and return which goes to the external Auditor.  She is not empowered to spend Council precept money on poppies or christmas cards without a resolution of full council.  If that happened it must be reported to your External Auditor, as it amounts to uncontrolled and unauthorised use of Council financial assets.

I personally wouldn't put too much creedance in NALC advice. I would suggest that you and another member call an extraordinary meeting and circulate your own agenda. Bear in mind he request for the EM has to go to the chair first, but if there no response after 12 days you can go ahead with it.  First thing should be to agree the date of an AGM for next year and agree that it can be held virtually covid restrictions are still in place.  Second item is for the Clerk to produce a report of Council spending. This is important as evidence provision to the External Auditor.  Identify what the chair has spent on pet projects and call on her to produce a resolution that authorised it.  Third put the vote of confidence on the agenda.
by (32.8k points)

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