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Our clerk invited a member of the public, who provides contract maintenance services to the PC, to our PC meeting to meet us.  We are all new councillors and are being guided through processes by our clerk although we feel at times we’re being controlled.  We may be wrong of course.  This member of the public stayed throughout the meeting and actively contributed to all the discussions.  In fact the clerk put him onto one of the works groups as a special advisor.  My main question is whether his ongoing input and participation in the meeting is normal?  I thought the public had a specially allocated time and if, after that, they choose to stay for the duration of the meeting they are not to comment or participate. Could you please advise.  Thank you
by (940 points)

4 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer
You are able to have non-councillor members of committees but they would not have the ability to vote.  The reason for their inclusion would be for their knowledge on an item that would help the committee with their work.

If you are all new Councillors, then you should expect the Clerk to guide you through the legislation but as Mentorman states, get some training asap and don't forever rely on the Clerk.

Within meetings, it can be hard to control non-councillors from joining in the meeting but it really is down to the Chair to take control of the event.  Staying for the duration of the meeting and being invited to speak at the appropriate time is fine but not throughout the meeting.
by (24.4k points)
selected by
Many thanks for this.  Our clerk cancelled our training explaining our emails were not compliant due to the change over of previous councillors - we’re brand new councillors.  We have had to very rapidly find a new email provider (although. The reasons. We’re never made clear) and resisted the extreme pressure placed on us by the clerk to accept a single, inflated quote for a new email system.  This didn’t go down well and the following week the clerk cancelled the training for the reason mentioned.  Given a neighbouring parish uses gmail and still manages to get training, we remain confused.  We’ll get there.
+1 vote
First port of call with any issue like this is what  do your Standing Orders say about it ?

If a member of the public wishes to contribute to a particular item I don’t have a problem with SO’s being suspended for that item but not the whole meeting

Also were they a Councillor would they be considered to have a pecuniary interest ?
by (11.6k points)
Thanks for this.  No they were not a councillor and having re-read the standing orders, member of the public may only speak on a topic  have specifically come to the meeting for.
No problem I believe all Councillors should read Standing Orders, Financial Regs etc on a regular basis as many Councils drift away from them over time
The point I was making is that irrespective of the fact they are a member of the public or a Councillor if they are being paid by the Parish then they could be prevented from speaking as they have a pecuniary interest
0 votes
It is not unusual for persons with particular knowledge or experience in a matter being dealt with by the council to be invited to speak to and answer questions from councillors on particular matters and as such should be on the agenda as such and also outside of the "public participation" agenda item. The Chair, who controls the meeting, should ensure that such an item is where the person only participates and does not becomes a pseudo councillor. That is not to say that they cannot be called upon by a councillor (through the chair) to clarify points arising.

It is understandable that the burden placed upon your clerk with so many "new" councillors can be seen as controlling, motivated by a desire to "get the business of council done efficiently". The best solution is for new councillors to ensure that they are brought up to date with procedures and requirements ASAP by education themselves ( or receiving training ) to the job they took on. That is the way to become good councillors. In the "good old days" there were very long serving and experienced councillors who would mentor newbies on councils and also clerks who would do the same. Sadly this appears to have changed somewhat with our box ticking culture rather than service to the community as the priority.
by (27.0k points)
Thank you.  Yes we were definitely looking forward to leaning on our very experienced clerk. However after said clerk tried to arm wrestle us into accepting an inflated quote which was at least 4 times higher than market rates, and then tried to write to residents on a highly sensitive matter without first discussing with the councillors, we have lost trust and so we’re using this forum quite a lot to try and gain understanding.  Quite a conundrum.
0 votes
I remember what it was like to be a new councillor, it's quite daunting. I would advice that first of all you make sure you read your Standing Orders and your Financial Regulations. I don't understand why your email address affects your ability to go on training courses! We have 14 councillors they all have their own individual email address. Most (like myself) set up new email addresses purely for council emails. It's easily done with Gmail. Others are still using their original personal email address. Once a meeting has gone into standing orders members of the public cannot speak. Unless the Council agrees to set aside standing orders for a brief time. Members of the public usually speak at the start of the meeting before standing orders are adopted.

Research as much as you can and learn as much as you can. The NALC/One Voice Wales training sessions are very helpful. As are their websites. And keep using this forum for anything you are unsure about. There's some very experienced people on here and I've found it a huge source of help and information. Good luck.
by (2.8k points)

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