October 31, 2020

Council FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the quorum for a meeting of the council?
A minimum of three or a third whichever is the greater.

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 a councillor do the clerks job?
Yes, but without remuneration. Council should first resolve that the position of Clerk be unpaid.

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 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.

Do the rules for council meetings (eg notice, agendas etc) apply to sub-committees?
Yes!

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 make sure our clerk, RFO and councillors understand their role?
GAPTC offer training for councillors and clerks, either though courses open to all, or specifically requested by a council for its members.

We would like our Clerk to take a professional qualification. How do we go about helping him/her through?
GAPTC run a training and mentoring service to support Clerks through the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA).

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 much notice should be given for a meeting?
Three clear days not including the day on which the notice was issues, the day of the meeting, a Sunday or public holiday. Best practice is not to include a Saturday to allow councillors plenty of time to read papers sent out with the Agenda.

I’m not sure if what we are planning is something within the power of the town/parish council. How do I found out if we are acting legally?
GAPTC can advise on Town and Parish Council law and procedures – either contact the office or check the Legal Topic Notes in the Members’ section on the website.

I’ve read in the paper that there have been changes to government policies that affect our parish. How do I find out the latest information?
Check the GAPTC website which contains the latest information and guidance from government in the form of Legal Topic Notes and updates through the Local Associations Information Service (LAIS).

It’s 8pm and I want to ask GAPTC about recruitment and need some ideas for job adverts, contracts and person spec?
Check the GAPTC website which has a section with advice on how to write an advertisement as well as model contracts, job and person specs.

Our Clerk has had an operation and will be off for a couple of months. Who can help us in the interim?
GAPTC can make suggestions for qualified people who may help out on a temporary basis.

Through our Parish Plan we have identified that there is a need for a playground but we don’t have the money. How do we apply for a Public Works Loan?
GAPTC assist with the form filling and ensure that the correct procedures have been followed by council before an application can be made.

We are having a few difficulties with our staff.
GAPTC can provide support to councils in employment disputes including grievance and disciplinary guidance. We can also arrange for you to receive free advice from an HR specialist.

We would like to lobby government on issues within the parish that affect so many communities throughout England. How do we go about it?
The National Association of Local Councils lobby central government on topics that concern councils. Through GAPTC your council can submit a resolution for debate at the GAPTC AGM in July or, at other times of year, for county consensus through the Executive Committee.

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”) is £8.32 for 2020-2021.

Where do we get hold of publications relevant to parish and town councils?
GAPTC has a number of key sector-relevant publications for sale.

Who makes decisions in an emergency?
It is good practice to specify in standing orders the kind of decisions that the clerk can make routine decisions, such as dealing with emergencies or spending small sums of money. Standing Orders may require decisions to be taken after consultation with two councillors (including the chairman), but the decision remains with the officer. Most important, the council must not allow delegation to a single councillor – not even to the Chairman.

Who decides if a councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest?
The individual councillor!

We have identified that we would like a leisure area for all age groups in the parish but don’t know where to start in designing one.
At the GAPTC AGM in July council’s get an opportunity to showcase their projects, in order to share best practice, so you can learn from other councils.

Updated: 8 October 2020

See: GAPTC website.

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