Frequently Asked Questions
Can a chairman preside at his or her own re-election?
Yes. A 'retiring' chair can preside, can nominate her/himself, vote for her/himself, and use her/his casting vote in their own favour.
Can a councillor do the clerk's job?
Yes, but without remuneration. Council should first resolve that the position of Clerk be unpaid.
Can a parish council enforce the conditions of a planning application?
No; that is the prerogative of the planning authority, to whom the parish council may only make representations.
Can clerks claim for any expenses because they work from home?
A local council can certainly pay the legitimate expenses of its officers. This right is expressly affirmed by the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1963, s.5. A council may thus pay a contribution towards expenses incurred by the clerk because the person holds the post of clerk, including, for example, a contribution towards expenditure on a residence because it is used as the councils office.
Can complaints about parish councils be made to the Local Government Ombudsman?
No. An aggrieved parishioner should request a copy of the council's complaints policy and follow its procedures. The final form of redress is by way of judicial review
Can the parish council give a grant to the Village Hall every year?
Yes, under the provisions of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, which include "buildings, equipment, supplies and assistance of any kind".
Can the public attend all our meetings, even committee meetings?
The short answer to this is yes!
Every meeting is open to the public except where the council resolves to exclude the public from all or part of a meeting. This exclusion (which also includes press and other media) should be on the grounds that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest because of the confidential nature of the business.
The decision to exclude must be made by the whole council.
Exclusion should only be entertained in exceptional instances and should not become the norm.
Can the public take part in meetings of the Council?
It is now regarded as best practice for councils to have an agenda item where members of the public are permitted to put questions to the council. This is best placed early on the agenda and should have a time limit of no more than 30 minutes.
Does a parish council need to have a vice-chairman?
No; there is no necessity to have a vice chairman, though many larger councils choose to do so.
How do we elect the chairman?
The Chairman is elected annually in May at the Annual Meeting of the Parish Council. This must be the first business transacted at the meeting. They stay in post until the following May unless they resign during the year. The Chairman can remain Chairman for as many years as the council wish, but has to go through the voting procedure each year.
The position of Chairman is voted on by all the members of the council present. No proxy votes are allowed. Candidates for Chairman do not have to declare an interest and the current chairman has a second casting vote if required. After election the Chairman must sign a Declaration of Acceptance of office.
The outgoing Chairman always chairs the election of the new Chairman even if after an election he is no longer a councillor.
How does a parish council become a town council?
By resolution of the council. There is no necessity of approval by any outside authority.
How long should minutes of the parish council be kept?
These should be kept indefinitely as archive materials. Once approved and signed as a correct record they are acceptable as evidence in a court of law, if there are difficulties in storing past minute books they can be lodged with the county record office for safe keeping.
How many meetings must a council have?
At least four meetings per year, one of which must be the annual meeting of the council.
How many people are needed to call for a referendum at a parish meeting?
This can be demanded by not less than 10 or one third of the electors present at the meeting, whichever is the less.
How much notice should be given for a meeting?
Three clear days (excluding weekends and public holidays) for a meeting of the full council.
How soon must a casual vacancy on the council be advertised?
Immediately, or as soon as practicable.
I've just become clerk - do I need to keep all the boxes of papers I've been given?
The first thing is not to act too hastily. Once something has been thrown out/destroyed you can't get it back and you can guarantee you will then need it. Under "Useful Documents" in this members area there is a File Retention Document with suggested retention dates for many items.
For items not mentioned in the document there is not always a hard and fast answer.
Planning Applications:- Where planning permission is granted, the planning application, any plans and the decision letter should normally be retained until the development has been completed. Therefore, if required, the council can check that the development is proceeding in accordance with the permission. Where planning permission is granted on appeal, a copy of the appeal decision should also be retained. It may sometimes be prudent to keep the appeal decision indefinitely because of the potential wider implications (eg the decision may set a precedent for other developments).
Where planning permission is refused the papers should be retained until the period when an appeal can be made has expired.
Copies of local authority planning documents should be retained as long as they are in force.
Remember - all planning authorities keep submitted proposals/plans
Circulars, magazines and Journals:- Such information should be retained as long as it is useful and relevant.
Correspondence:- Correspondence relating to audit or planning should be retained as detailed in File Retention document mentioned above. For other correspondence no firm guidelines can be laid down.
If a meeting is adjourned, does a fresh notice have to be issued?
No; the re-convened meeting is considered to be a continuation of the original meeting at which all members will have been made aware of the adjournment.
One of our councillors has resigned/died - how do we fill the vacancy
The first thing to do is contact the Electoral Officer of your District /Borough Council. Then you need to advertise the vacancy so that electors of the parish have the option to exercise their right to call an election. The District/Borough Council will advise you of the closing dates for this option to take place (and in some cases supply the adverts.) The request for an election has to be made to the District/Borough not the Parish. After this time has elapsed if an election has been called then notices will be received from the District/Borough requesting candidates, followed by details of the election and finally the election and results.
If no election is called then the council may co-opt someone to fill the vacancy. Eligible candidates can put themselves forward for co-option. If there is more than one candidate, the council must vote, dropping the least successful candidate at each round. The successful candidate must receive an absolute majority of those present and voting at the meeting.
Our clerk's on holiday for the next meeting. Can we still hold the meeting?
This is not a problem - it is just a bother!
The meeting can be held as normal and anyone can take the minutes, but remember, if it is a councillor they cannot get paid. The meeting still requires three clear days notice.
Some councillors want a vote of no-confidence in the Chairman, can they do that?
Yes - but there is no point!
The Chairman can remain in the chair until the next Annual Meeting of the Parish Council, in May, whatever the result of the vote. The main result is squabbling councillors who tarnish the image of their own and other Parish Councils. The only solution is to sit tight and wait until May and elect someone else.
We are only a small parish - does our clerk really need a contract of employment?
However many (few) hours the clerk works they are still an employee. The Council as an employer is bound by employment law legislation. One of the necessities of employing someone is to provide a contract. Also a question often linked with a contract is the clerks employment status. They cannot be self employed as a clerk. The clerk does not meet the criteria set down by Revenue & Customs to establish self employed status. The council is therefore ultimately responsible for the payment of any tax or National Insurance on the clerks salary.
What is the limit of Section 137 Expenditure?
The Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed that the appropriate sum for parish councils in England for the purposes of section 137(4) (a) of the Local Government Act 1972 ("the 1972 Act") for 2019-20 is £8.12 per elector.
What is the quorum for a meeting of the council?
A minimum of three or a third whichever is the greater.
What powers can a parish council delegate to a committee?
A parish council may arrange to discharge any of its functions through a committee of the council (Local Government Act 1972, s.101), other than those of issuing a precept for a rate, borrowing money, and the approval of a lottery.