Questions about town and parish councils
Follow Councillor Q&A on X/Twitter

Follow us on X/Twitter

0 votes
Our clerk has advised that if a councillor cannot attend a meeting the apology has to be sent to them only.  The apology cannot be passed on through another councillor, under any circumstances, and if they are, the absence will be recorded as non-attendance.
There is nothing in the standing orders which speaks to this issue.  The clerk advises this is part of national governance frameworks for parish councils.

We cannot find any such reference but we may not be looking in the right place.  Is this correct?  Thanks in advance.
by (940 points)

3 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer

Section 85(2A) of the Local Government Act 1972 says that a cllr ceases to serve if they fail to attend at least one council meeting in  a six month period  -   unless the reason for absence is approved.  Therefore it seems to me that the Council, not the Clerk, should determne if the reason for absence is acceptable for the rule to be waived, and by implication, it the method of notification of absence is acceptable too.  Challenge the CLerk to quote the actual legislation and article that backs his/her assertion.

If the Clerk does not make themselves easily contactable then it is reasonable for the Council to be advised by somebody elese, If a cllr suffers an unexpected illness or accident hours before and evening meeting and does not do E mail. they might not be able to inform the Clerk by phone.  If the Cllr is rushed to hospital in a road traffic accident, is it unreasonable for somebody else to inform a mamber of the Council?

by (35.5k points)
selected by
Thank you.  That’s exactly how we viewed it. We’re all fairly new and for now we’re checking out what appears to be ludicrous. We need to go with our gut I think
+1 vote
You have to wonder, with so many of these patently unreasonable, illogical and dictatorial scenarios, where are these errant clerks getting this sort of advice and guidance from. Or does the role just attract sociopaths?

The other side of the coin of course is why do Cllr’s tolerate such obviously unreasonable behaviour from an employee?  Are we so desperately lacking in Cllr’s with the necessary experience and confidence to call out this type of behaviour for what it is?
by (6.4k points)
There is a way to test the validity of such an assertion by the clerk - but it is a bit radical!

Don't attend meetings for 6 months, send apologies via a route other than the clerk and then see if the clerk / council can legally / realistically seek to have you removed.

Joking aside, you wouldn't actually have to do that, but you could present it as a scenario to the clerk and say - go on then, provide the references that show this would even be possible / viable.  If they can't, then by exclusion, their statement that apologies are only valid if received by the clerk is shown to be nonsensical and the point is proven.
Thank you for the responses.  We’re all new and I think our clerk is perhaps relying on our lack of experience to enforce things such as this.  Our lack of experience is of course unhelpful and it would be a great help if the clerk actually did what a clerk should do - partner with us, advise and guide rather than acting as an adversary.  This seemed non-sensical which promoted further research. It seems we need to rely on our common sense and challenge more forthrightly as the situation is becoming quite ridiculous.
‘New’ to being a Cllr maybe, but don’t ever underestimate the value of previous life experience. OK, so there may be a few historic idiosyncrasies associated with PC business that may be unfamiliar, but the vast, vast majority is just as simple as - if it don’t feel right, it probably ain’t right.
I don’t buy this supposed great value which is placed on long time served Cllr’s as mentors either. Experience is only a commodity if it is GOOD experience. Bad experience simply perpetuates poor performance.
Those that seek to over inflate complexity are probably just using a smokescreen to divert attention from incompetence.
Yep.  Withholding of knowledge as a form of power and over complicating things are definitely well worn tactics used by many to cover up a host of issues.  Thanks so much. This is very helpful
+1 vote

Whilst I don't agree with the stance of your Clerk, this is what it says in the NALC Good Councillors Guide 2018 and this is maybe where this position comes from 

"AT THE MEETING - What if you cannot attend? Remember, you have a duty to attend but sometimes things crop up and you are unable to make it. You must contact the clerk with an apology and explanation. A darts match is not an adequate excuse whereas illness or work commitments are acceptable reasons. If you fail to attend any meetings for six months, you will automatically cease to be a councillor unless the council approved your reason for absence before the end of the six month period."

It may also be in your standing orders that your council had decided in the past that apologies had to be received by the Clerk.  But this could be changed easily at the next review.

by (24.6k points)
Thank you for this.  It’s not in our standing orders.  Our clerk has advised that it’s pretty much promulgated but it doesn’t make sense and I can’t find any such legislation.

Welcome to Town & Parish Councillor Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers from other members of the community. All genuine questions and answers are welcome. Follow us on Twitter to see the latest questions as they are asked - click on the image button above or follow @TownCouncilQA. Posts from new members may be delayed as we are unfortunately obliged to check each one for spam. Spammers will be blacklisted.

You may find the following links useful:

We have a privacy policy and a cookie policy.

Clares Cushions logo Peacock cushion

Clare's Cushions creates beautiful hand made cushions and home accessories from gorgeous comtemporary fabrics. We have a fantastic selection of prints including Sophie Allport and Orla Kiely designs and most covers can be ordered either alone or with a cushion inner. Buying new cushions is an affordable and effective way to update your home interior, they're also a great gift idea. Visit our site now

3,001 questions
5,890 answers
10,223 users
Google Analytics Alternative