Parish Council Roles

A Parish Council must appoint such officers as it thinks necessary for the proper discharge of its functions

Read more below about the roles of each member of the Parish Council

 

Chairman

The Chairman is in a position of authority, responsible for ensuring that effective and lawful decisions are taken at meetings of the Council. In law, the Council must appoint a Chairman – this is the first business of the May meeting each year - the Annual General Meeting.

The Chairman should be consulted on the content of the agenda, but as the legal signatory, the Clerk has the final say.  The Chairman works in partnership with the Clerk to make sure that the Council is properly informed for making lawful decisions during meetings.

The Chairman is responsible for involving all Councillors in discussion and ensuring that Councillors keep to the point.  The Chairman summarises the debate and facilitates the resolving of clear decisions.

It is the Chairman's responsibility to keep discussions moving so that the meeting is not too long.  It is unfair and inefficient to ask people to concentrate for long periods. 

The Chairman has a casting vote. The first vote is a personal one as an ordinary Councillor. If there is a tied vote, the Chairman (as Chairman) can have a second, or casting vote.

The Chairman is often the public face of the Council. A Chairman's allowance is a useful sum of money in the budget to enable the Chairman to represent the Council in a Civic capacity (not currently applied). It allows for the purchase, for example of a bouquet of flowers for a Councillor who is ill, raffle tickets or moderate hospitality. The Chairman must keep an accurate account of any money spent under this allowance.

The Chairman often speaks on behalf of the Council, but must remember to express the views of the Council and not personal views. If in doubt the Chairman refers to points agreed in the Council minutes. The Clerk should be able to give the Chairman clear guidance on the Councils corporate view.

By law the Chairman cannot make a formal decision on behalf of the Council. Occasionally this can put the onus on the Clerk to decide whether it is lawful to act on the Chairman's advice.


 

Parish Clerk

A Parish Council must appoint such officers as it thinks necessary for the proper discharge of its functions, in addition a Council must secure that one of its officers has responsibility for the administration for its financial affairs , thus a Council may have an “executive and responsible financial officer” but, in practice, all frequently falls upon the modest “Clerk”.

A member of the Parish Council may be appointed Clerk without remuneration, but it is more usual for Councils to appoint some other suitable person to the post and pay him or her such reasonable remuneration as it may determine.  A person who has been a Parish Councillor may not be appointed as Clerk with remuneration until twelve months have elapsed since he ceased to be a Councillor. The appointment of a Clerk is made by a resolution of the Council.

The Clerk is normally employed by the Council to provide administrative support and professional advice for the councils activities. It is important that councillors, partner organisations and the local community appreciate that the clerk is a professional officer.

The Clerk is not answerable to any individual Councillor – not even to the Chairman. The Clerk is an independent and objective servant of the Council, recognising that the Council is responsible for all decisions and taking instructions from the Council as a body.

The Clerk must be objective in responding to the interaction between Councillors. It is not professional to favour one Councillor or group of Councillors over another. 

The Clerk is normally the ‘proper officer’ this title used in law refers to the appropriate officer for the relevant function.  The Council must appoint the officers it needs to discharge its functions. In finance, the proper officer is known as the Responsible Financial Officer.  The RFO is often the Clerk (as it is for Clanfield PC) but not always.

A Clerks workload can include a range of activities – outlined in a clear and meaningful job description.

As an independent and objective professional, the Clerk advises the Council on whether decisions are lawful and ways in which decisions can be implemented. The Clerk can be asked to research a range of topics of concerns to the Council and provide unbiased information that helps the Council make appropriate choices.

It is good practice for a Council to delegate to the Clerk the power to make decisions on its behalf – especially in an urgent situation. 

The Clerk keeps up to date with all developments affecting the work of the Council and should therefore be alert to training needs and opportunities.

The Clerk is often a manager whose responsibilities might include for example managing projects, sites, facilities, money, teams, staff. 

The Clerk and other staff are employed by the Council as a body and not by each individual Councillor. Councillors should not intervene in the management of other staff which are the Clerks responsibility.

Clanfield Parish Council employ the clerk (also the RFO) for 26 hours per week (business hours not usually Fridays); the Council employ (as of September 2017) an Administrative Assistant/Open Spaces Officer for 10 hours per week whose role is to support the Clerk in an administrative role and also check the Parish Open Spaces and manage the allotment as of 2017/18.


 

Administrative Assistant / Open Spaces Officer

The Parish Council employs a part time Admin Assistant / Open Spaces Officer - Mrs Emma Barritt who works from home she is responsible for supporting the Clerk with the admin duties and also making regular inspections of the Parishes Open Spaces and will also be the point of contact for the Parishes allotments.


 

Responsible Financial Officer

The RFO advises the council and makes sure that the Council complies with the Account and Audit Regulations – the RFO meets with the internal auditor on a quarterly basis and is responsible for preparing the Councils accounts for audit. The RFO sets up and enforces proper financial controls designed to prevent and detect fraud and to tackle bad debts. The RFO is the Clerk.


 

Councillors

If there is a vacancy on the Council or if elections are due, the elections officer or returning officer at EHDC is the best source of advice. The Clerk acts on behalf of the returning officer and must comply with instructions.

A Councillor must be a European national, at least 21 years old and elector and living within three miles of the parish for 12 months or someone with land or a primary place of business in the Parish.

The whole Parish Council is put up for election every 4 years. The Government expects at least one candidate for every seat. The Clerk must make sure that the necessary forms are handed in by the deadline – the applicant must return his own papers to the District Council.

A Councillor resigns in writing to the Chairman and the Chairman resigns in writing to the Council. A verbal resignation is not legal. The vacancy is formally declared and starts when the resignation is received. If it is over 6 months before the next election, the vacancy must be filled.

The Council must give the electorate an opportunity to nominate Councillors. If 10 electors notify the returning officer within fourteen days that they want an election, there must be an election. If there is no request for an election, then (and only then) a new Councillor can be co-opted.

If there are fewer candidates than vacant positions, either at election time or after a casual vacancy then the Council must notify the District Council and co-opt someone to fill the remaining vacancies. The Clerk advertises the intention to co-opt and asks interested people to get in touch so as to inform them of what the task involves and to ask them to write in with their interest etc. The Council conducts a ballot among Councillors to select a new member from potential co-optees at a Council meeting.

Councillors must make a formal declaration accepting the Office of Councillor at (or before) the first meeting after an election (normally the AGM) or at a Councillors first meeting. The Chairman makes a separate declaration to accept the office of Chairman every year – but a declaration is not required from the Vice Chairman – the Councillors declarations must also be signed by the Clerk.

Councillors must make a written undertaking to observe the local Code of Conduct. This normally accompanies the declaration of acceptance of office.  Co-opted Councillors may not act as Councillors until they have made the written undertaking. The written undertaking is normally combined with the formal declaration of acceptance of office.

The declaration and agreement should be an item on the appropriate agenda. If Councillors fail to declare their acceptance of office or to sign up to the Code within the time limit, in law, they are not Councillors.

Councillors are disqualified from office if they do not attend at least one  meeting of the council during a period of six consecutive months – all meetings count including sub committees, working parties, site meetings (usually related to a planning issue) and meetings where that Councillor represents the Council.

It is good practice to note that the reasons for a Councillors apology were accepted (or not) as a matter of routine but the reasons do not need to be recorded. If it is appropriate to prevent disqualification after six months, the Council must vote on whether to accept the reason given for continued non attendance.

Councillors are also disqualified if they are declared bankrupt, if they have been convicted in the last five years or if they have engaged in corrupt or legal activity. For further information on this the Clerk can enquire as to what convictions apply.


 
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