The Parish Council
Councillors are collectively responsible for making Council policy, for which they are accountable to the electorate. They are recognised nationally as the level of local government closest to people.
Councillors are not directly involved in the day-to-day provision of services to the public. This does not of course mean that there should be no contact between Councillors and the Clerk on such matters and, indeed, Councillors may often find that they are asked by electors to pursue matters on their behalf. However, Councillors have no executive authority and will need to deal with all matters either through a properly constituted meeting or in liaison with the Clerk concerning for example, a Parish opportunity or problem. It therefore follows that there are no circumstances where an individual Councillor can issue an instruction to the Clerk or a Contractor. Likewise, a Councillor must never act “on behalf of the Council” in the organisation of any function or service. Particular care should be taken in all types of communication, especially via comments to ensure understanding you speak as a “Parish Councillor” and not on behalf of the Council as a whole. Generally, The Clerk on behalf of the Council, normally issues all correspondence but there are times when some communication is best sent by the Chairman – after an agreement by the full Council.
All Councillors will attend the monthly meeting, held on the second Monday of each month. In addition, Councillors can become members of Committees or Working Parties established in different service areas and these meetings are held as agreed by either the working party or the Committee as required. In some cases, Committees/working parties of the Council can be given delegated powers to investigate and make final decisions on issues.
Statutory Powers and Duties
The Council derives its powers from statute. A few of these are mandatory ( i.e. the Council must carry them out ) but most are discretionary ( i.e. the Council can carry
them out if it wishes ). In all cases, both Councillors and Clerk must work within the law.
The Role of the Parish Clerk
The Parish Council Clerk provides the ‘engine’ of an effective Council. The position of Clerk is a set under statute and is the legal Proper Officer. The Clerk is the professional advisor to the Council on matters of policy, and the executor of Council policy, i.e. in carrying out the instructions of the Council.
The Clerk must always:
- Keep their knowledge up to date at all times.
- Obey the lawful and proper instructions of the Parish Council.
- Comply with all the Standing Orders and known policies of the Parish Council.
- Is expected to co-operate fully with the Chairman/lady of the Parish Council.
- Should assist individual Parish Councillors, but the Clerk must never place the interests of individual Councillors above duty to the Parish Council as a whole.
- Take instruction from the full Council not by any individual Councillor and, in particular the Clerk must not be induced to disregard statutory duties.
The Clerk also acts as an Executive Officer and uses statutory powers to take any appropriate action required for routine council administration that requires no policy decision. This power includes all urgent safety work. The Clerk may seek information, draw up proposals, or present ideas or suggestions to assist the Council when they are making decisions. As the Proper Officer the Clerk performs all routine administration without specific instructions from the Parish Council. This includes statutory duties such as service and issue of statutory notifications, attending meetings, and acting as a representative of the Parish Council. The Clerk will arrange insurance, keep and file records, record interests and standing orders, prepare and distribute agendas, prepare minutes and press reports, examine reports and other data, present information, deal with all routine correspondence, and perform all other office work. The Clerk also takes on the role of Responsible Finance Offer (RFO), working with auditors and providing annual accounts and other routine financial matters without specific instructions from the Parish Council, to include preparing budgets and accounts, orders, receipts, invoices, cheques, VAT returns, and audit returns. The Clerk will monitor and balance accounts, present reports, make purchases and complete all other routine financial functions. Many matters are delegated to the Clerk, who can make decisions on them working within established Council policies and lines of authority. The day to day management of services is the responsibility of the Clerk.
Page updated 19/03/2021