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Can a clerk put her own items on the agenda, without any discussion with anyone?

0 votes
Our Clerk has send me the agenda for the full Town Council meeting to look at. (I am the Chair but have to ask or it gets sent anyway).
She has added the following agenda item: The Clerk has written a report, emailed seperately, suggesting the introduction of two further committee's for the full Council to consider. Please discuss.

I have asked for 'the report' as she sends any documents relevant to the agenda later rather than with the agenda. Sometimes only the day before the meeting. She has not mentioned this to me or the Vice Chair at all despite the fact that we hold a weekly meeting.

Can a clerk just add random items to the agenda?
asked by (830 points)

3 Answers

–1 vote
Yes, the town clerk is responsible for the agenda, although it is usual for the clerk to do so in consultation with the chair.
answered by (130 points)
Thank you CllrBob.I was aware that the Clerk is responsible for putting the agenda together and can make decisions about what goes on it. I was not aware that he/she could put items on it without at least the courtesy of discussing with the Chair.
Unfortunately, I have encountered a few times where there were items that needed to go on the agenda that the chairman did not want on there, but that is a rare occurrence and usually indicates a poor choice of chair.

However there needs to be a good working relationship between the clerk and the chair (and indeed the council as a whole). It is certainly worth raising with the clerk, as you need to have mutual trust to work well together.
Thanks again CllrBob. I would however like to point out that I have absolutely no objection to the item the Clerk has put on the agenda. It's an excellent item and should be a addressed. I just was not sure this normal practice, especially with no discussion. My predecessor gave the Clerk very little support or help. I have tried to do both. I have a weekly meeting with the Clerk and Vice Chair, where we can discuss any problems, agenda items or just have a bit of a catch up. One of these meetings was just a few days before the agenda was sent to me but there had been no mention of the item put on by the Clerk. I admit I was a bit taken aback!
In my experience, the best councils run when there is a good link between the chairman and the clerk, if the mutual respect for each other isn't there then it doesn't work and it sounds like you are doing a cracking job. in response to the agenda item, maybe at the meeting say this item has just come to light and suggest this would require further investigation before any decisions can be made and just ask the clerk why they felt the need to not speak to both yourself and the Vice-chair, maybe there could be some underlying issues with other councillors, bullying etc
+1 vote
It is also good practice that any items on the agenda must have documentation available in good time for councillors to examine, check and prepare questions in good time so that they are fully informed for the meeting. This doesn't mean late afternoon of the meeting day. An efficient transfer of the information to councillors and the community ( via website) goes a long way to providing a steam lined and efficient meeting with fully informed decision making( and of course full compliance with requirements of transparency)

Why many councils go out of their way to avoid this practice which leads them into ever increasing chaos is frankly beyond me for one
answered by (7.9k points)
Thank you for the reply. But is it always the Council at fault! Is it not sometimes an uncooperative and stubborn Clerk. I have already tried to address the issue that the Council does not see (nor can download) the minutes of a meeting until just before the next one. The clerk is basically refusing to change it. I have given several reasons for the minutes to be posted promptly. Her reason for not doing it? A hand written note from a SLCC training course she attended 4 years ago!
It is for the council to decide when and what the clerk produces for the council and this is the job of the employment( or whatever title) committee to discuss and agree with the clerk. Mutual agreement is the way forward. The quoting of what a group says doesn't make it law or cast in stone. The clerk can only advise what has been said. If the council choose to ignore whatever advice given by the clerk then they are responsible for whatever transpires not the clerk
A good contract of employment is essential to avoid misunderstandings of duty requirements. NALC via local offices issued a guidance that DRAFT minutes of meetings should be published on websites as soon as is practical after the meeting to which they refer and replaced with a copy of the agreed minutes after the meeting at which they are accepted by council. As far as I know this hasn't changed and again there is no reason why this should not be adopted as best practice by councils for the reasons given before. I think there may be a smattering of doing whatever is necessary to reduce the time spent by the clerk (and  cost of wages) on council business.
It has been conveniently forgotten that the amount of required legislation and compliance on councils has increased quite significantly over recent years and it seems that the problem is being tackled form the wrong end. Pay the clerk what they had before rather than the time they need to work professionally and efficiently for the good of the council and the community. Come on people get into the 21st century. We should all be paying the clerk their true value to their council and not look upon them as a budget item to be trimmed to the bone. "Pay peanuts get.........."
In reference to the many reply`s posted the comment the "Transparency" quote by Mentorman sums up the complicity of a Clerk with their own agenda from Empire building to manipulating the minutes to pre suggest options for the next agenda, and they are not paid peanuts.
I would note that the clerks advice, and that supplied by SLCC and LALC is not always good.  As a Chartered Engineer and HSE professional, I have had some pretty poor advice placed in front of me to vote on.  It then falls on those councillors with appropriate expertise to convince the rest of council they have been sold a pup.  Councillors are on the hook if they take bad advice, so should seek the advice of councillors and experts, direct to councillors as well as that from clerks as appropriate. IMHO
0 votes
The simple answer "should be" an emphatic NO.

The Clerk is an EMPLOYEE of the council and is paid to SERVE the administrative needs of the council not dictate what should be subject to discussion / debate BY the council.

Providing ADVICE on what may or may not be appropriate - or assisting in proposing a correct format or content for agenda items would be appropriate.
Elected councillors should be generating agenda items and clerks should be facilitating their proper discussion.
answered by (1.8k points)

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