Being a Parish Councillor

The Role of the Chairman
The Parish Council is not properly constituted until it has appointed a Chairman; therefore the appointment of the Chairman must be the first item on the Agenda of the Annual meeting of the Parish Council in May. The Chairman is the proper person to represent the Parish on ceremonial occasions elsewhere.

The Chairman must preside at council meetings, unless absent, and is responsible for seeing that meetings are conducted properly. When voting at a meeting is equal, the Chairman has a second or casting vote.

The Role of A Councillor
In brief the role of a councillor is as follows:

Fixing a budget – there is a statutory duty to prepare an annual budget. The responsibility for preparing the budget lies primarily with the Responsible Financial Officer, but the Council must approve the final version.

Making Management policy decisions – some decision-making is delegated to the committees.

Issuing guidance to staff

Checking that decisions made by the Council and its committees are implemented. The responsibility for policy implementation rests with the Clerk: the Council makes the decisions and the Clerk carries them out.

To suggest new initiatives or developments of existing policies.

To ensure that the views of the community are put to the relevant persons or bodies and that the special interests of the community are protected or promoted. This will involve attending meetings of outside bodies from time to time. Members may also be asked to represent the Council at additional meetings arranged by KCC, TWBC or other groups as and when required.

Councillors must sign a declaration of acceptance of office before or at the next meeting after his/her election. This must be signed in the presence of the Proper Officer of the Council (Clerk). Members must also complete the Declarations of Pecuniary Interest Form and undertake to observe the Code of Conduct (Copy attached)

Attend training courses as appropriate.

Members are asked to notify the Clerk before the agenda is issued if there is an item requiring a decision they wish to have included. Members should also contact the Clerk prior to the meeting if they require any further information about an agenda item

Members must declare any interests they may have at the beginning of the meeting, and state whether it is personal or prejudicial.

Personal interests such as they know someone in a report are quite common in a village.

“A prejudicial interest is one in which a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts would reasonably regard as so significant that it is likely to prejudice the member’s judgement of the public interest.”

If they have a prejudicial interest they must leave the room whilst the item is being discussed and cannot vote.

If during the course of a meeting a member realises that they do have an interest they must declare it at that point. Anyone who is unsure as to whether or not they have an interest should, in the first instance, contact the Clerk.

If necessary advise from the Monitoring Officer at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council should be sought. It is however, the member’s responsibility to declare an interest. It is not the Clerk’s role to remind members to do so. Failure to declare an interest could result in a breach of the Council’s Code of Conduct.

Some useful references are

Local Council Administration – Charles Arnold Baker (the Clerk’s bible)
The Parish Councillors Guide – Paul Clayden
Local Council Clerk’s Guide – Paul Clayden
Accounting Guidance Notes for Councils – CiPFA