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Best Practice re Standing Orders

0 votes
Hi, help / advice please, is it best practice / lawful to make resolutions and suspend standing orders at informal Council meetings? many thanks.
asked by (280 points)

5 Answers

+2 votes
There is no such thing as an informal council meeting. It's either a council meeting or it isn't. If it is, it must be conducted in accordance with standing orders.
answered by (24.6k points)
Hi, thank you 'Dave the Clerk' for your help / advice, take care, stay safe.
0 votes
If you try and fit everything into a public meeting, they would be too long, sometimes you may wish to discuss items  prior to a public meeting so that all councillors understand the concept. Often councillors do not read the documentation prior to meeting and that prolongs unnecessary discussions which quite often loses members of the public.

Use informal meeting as a team check - An informal meeting can often bring out anomalies. If your councillors need it explaining then maybe the proposals are not clear enough for the public meeting
answered by (3.7k points)
edited by
I have seen these deployed in a way that resembles simply fast-tracking the decisions (leaving the public baffled and convinced members walked into debates with closed minds very much pre-determined).  Left public wondering a) what was the point of the actual formal meeting b) whether the "secret" informal meeting meant things were badly wrong with process
Many thanks for your advice.
+2 votes
So called informal meetings should be avoided at all costs and the perceived justification for them should be questioned. Standing orders do not apply to them and making resolutions at them is certainlyunlawful. Without a published agenda, invitation for the public to attend or formal recording of minutes their very existence leaves a council open to challenge on suspected secrecy, inner circles and lack of transparency.
answered by (18.1k points)
Hi, many than
Hi, many thanks for your advice.
–1 vote
There is no reason why an informal meeting cannot be open to the public but my question is how do you get through all you business if you are only meeting 2.5 hours a month.

Our pre budget setting meetings are informal to discuss projects but are open to the public. This way the public can ask questions about setting the budget levels and allows councillors to explain what the different regulations such as section 137

The budget setting / precept is done ata full council meeting
answered by (3.7k points)
Hi, many thanks for your response and advice.
Perhaps your council needs to get some consultants in to analyse your business processes, and recommend improvements. It might be that your cllrs aren't prepared to put in enough time to read background papers and reports outside meetings.
Such things are a result of lack of effort on the part of councillors. Unfortunately there are still councillors who think they are there for some imagined kudos that the title councillor bestows.
Councillors are there to work unpaid for the good of the community not their own self importance. It comes with the position that you are expected to complete the tasks required of the office to the best of your abilities. If you cannot or will not then get out and move over for those with the motivation to do so.
The " suggestion" from NALC recommendations that )C meetings should not exceed X hours apparently because efficiency during long meetings cause inefficiency only ensures that corners are cut to fit into an arbitrary time table. I personally have never seen any evidence to support such a restriction on times of meetings. The meeting should take whatever time necessary for the agenda items not the agenda edited to fit the suggested time. How many councils have reduced audience participation to fit the timetable. All I would guess. You should always have time for democratic debate for public and council.
If your informal meeting is open to the public, why not call it an additional meeting of the council? If you're not operating under standing orders, you have no right to exercise the normal controls over the proceedings, so if members of the public decide to take over the meeting to lobby for their own projects, there is nothing you can do about it. Standing orders exist to protect the council, as well as govern its business.

For the record, two of my councils meet bi-monthly, but still get through all of the business in under 2½ hours. We don't allow verbal reporting; everything is written down and circulated beforehand. All papers are taken as read. The report author has an opportunity to add anything they consider relevant (but not to read out or summarise the written report) then members may ask questions. Occasionally this will take five or ten minutes, but the average is far less, then straight to a vote on the recommendations of the report and we move on.

If you wish to educate the public about local government finance regulations, which is a very worthwhile objective, why not have 15 minutes of this at the Annual Assembly?
Dave, it all depends on the level of dedication and commitment by those involved. Unless this dedication and commitment is not as close to 100% as it can be then things will fail in a proportionate scale. Just think how efficiently PC's would perform for the community if there was 100% commitment by 100% of the council ( and clerks) . Ah! utopian dreams?
If I had a quid for every time a person joined the council for their own gain (ie double yellow lines near their drive)
There needs to be a pre councillors training course to explain what you are signing up for even if it’s a modular on line type that produces a “certificate of understanding”
Mentorman - utopia may be some distance away, but we must strive to create the world we seek. If the chair allows time in the meetings to read the paperwork, there is no incentive for anybody to read it beforehand. Clear guidance is required. From today, thou shalt read every word before the meeting. No exceptions. For this to happen, the paperwork must be distributed in a timely manner. If you have persistent offenders, name and shame them. Don't mollycoddle them.

Clerk Gable - we publish a one-page summary of the role of a parish councillor on our website and when anybody expresses an interest in becoming a councillor, we send them this document and a copy of the Good Councillor's Guide. We then arrange an informal discussion to ensure that they understand the role. We do not assess their suitability as part of this process, as that falls into the co-option process.

Happy to share the document if you think it would be helpful.
Hi, many thanks for your response.
0 votes
The only proper meetings are those you are summoned to attend. Everything else is just a chat-in-a-pub approach as far as I see it. Decisions certainly don't stand but some will think they do.
answered by (4.2k points)

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