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Questions from Parishioners

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At the last full parish council meeting I asked several questions that made the Chairman slightly uncomfortable (they related to governance and poor administration by the Council). After reading them out the Chairman asked that I send them to him by email (which I did, I have still not got an answer after several weeks).
Now I expected the questions to appear in the draft minutes, however there is only a sentence stating that I asked several questions that were to be forwarded by email.

Is it right that the council does not state the content of those questions in the minutes, especially considering it is a matter of public interest?
asked by (220 points)

4 Answers

0 votes
Best answer
There is no requirement for the details of your questions to be recorded in the minutes of the meeting, although the fact that you posed them should be recorded. I would have published something along the lines of "A parishioner asked several questions relating to the administration of the council..."

The model standing orders include a paragraph relating to the public forum part of the meeting, which states that "A question shall not require a response at the meeting nor start a debate on the question. The chairman of the meeting may direct that a written or oral response be given." Strictly speaking, the chairman should have asked you to email your questions to the clerk. Some councils ask for questions to be submitted prior to the meeting to allow a response to be formulated, but this is a matter of choice, not a requirement. The minutes should also record the advice given to you "...and was asked to submit the questions in writing to allow a response to be prepared."

I suggest that you email the questions to the clerk, perhaps pointing out that you have previously sent them to the chairman at his request, but not received a response. Hopefully this will be sufficient to prompt the response you require.
answered by (24.6k points)
selected by
"A question shall not require a response at the meeting nor start a debate on the question..."

Whilst an accurate reflection of many SO's, this is exactly the sort of 'get out clause' that perpetuates public mistrust and apathy towards parish councils.

It 'should' be at the very heart of EVERY public body to provide timely, accurate and fulsome replies to all properly formatted, well considered, serious and appropriate questions rather than rely upon a 'clause' in order to duck awkward questions.
0 votes
In an ideal world your question would have been stated in the minutes and you should have received a response to your following the request of the chair. Unfortunately we have here on this site ample evidence that not all parish councils are run correctly or even according to their own policies  and standing order and even following legal requirements or responsibilities.

Unfortunately until there is a well laid down effective system in place to make parish councils fully accountable these types of problems will continue. I have mentioned in other questions that there is a crying need for a professional PC body to judge and enforce conduct of councils to the required professional standards.

Until something along those lines is formulated you are stuck with reminding the council that they have yet to respond to your question and awaiting their response. In the meantime check out their policy and procedures on handling complaints and follow them to the letter thus avoiding the old and much used get out of "vexatious" being stamped on your question.
answered by (6.2k points)
Couldn't agree more about the need for a body to hold PCs to account! Maybe I should start a petition to parliament...
Petition number 10 to call for the Local Gov Ombudsman to have jurisdiction to do it.
I'll sign and share the petition
If you do it, get it checked before you submit it by quite a few people you trust, and share it here.
So if PC/clerk which seems to be unacountable (apart from the parishoners on election day) who or what action /body/legistlation would be curently an effective encouragement to put them under.
Thanks
I would definitely support the creation of a body to hold Parish Councils to account - there are too many issues that are either ignored or dealt with in a dismissive manner. NALC are not fit for purpose and should be replaced by an organisation with teeth and a robust terms of reference that means something to those Councillors who have raised their head above the parapet. (Incidentally I am awaiting some kind of response from my local branch of NALC to an email sent 10 days ago... I'm not holding my breath!!)
Along with this major changes need to be made in terms of legislation - currently this seems to be based on a loose guidelines perspective that are open to far to much interpretation and dare I say used by Clerks and Chairs to batter away any kind of complaints about how the council is functioning.
The only other route is the Monitoring Officer but who in their right mind would want to do down that hole!!
0 votes
The Chair should not have asked for them to be sent solely to him or her. All Cllrs are responsible for the Governance of actions of their Council.  The Chair does not have elevated powers to unilaterally act on the concerns of another Cllr.

I suggest you submit your questions as a Freedom of Information request, via the what do they know website.
The Council have an obligation to respond (via the Clerk normally, unless you have a different acting FOI officer).   Doing the above means that your questions and the Council's response will be in the public domain.

If the request is ignored, you can update the site with a call for an internal review, and notification of a complaint being made to the Information Commissioner, if things get to that stage.

If the request is not responded to within 20 working days, you should also raise that with your external Auditor.
answered by (18.1k points)
0 votes
We ask for questions to be put in writing  before the meeting for no other reason than to allow questions to be answered.

most verbal questions asked are difficult to have the answer at your fingertips- it is better to have a correct answer tha what someone thinks is the right answer.
answered by (3.7k points)

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