Blackwater and Hawley Town Council

Parish Profile and Roles and Responsibilities

Parish Profile

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The Council

The council is a corporate body and has a legal existence of its own. Its decisions are the responsibility, not of individual councillors, but of the council as a whole. A council cannot exist with less than five councillors.

The council must appoint a chairman each year and must ensure that all the rules for the administration of the council are followed. The rules and procedures of the council are enshrined in its standing orders (see reference under chair). Each councillor is equipped with a handbook which includes the standing orders relating to the council’s business and proceedings, as a reference tool. Three councillors must be in attendance for a meeting to be quorate (the minimum number of councillors to be in attendance for the meeting to proceed).

Voting. See under councillors.

The council has to set a precept and a budget.

The council is required to take security in relation to its officers who handle money or property in the form of a fidelity guarantee insurance policy. It must also have employer’s liability insurance against injury or disease sustained by its employees.

The council consults with its residents. Members of the public are always welcome at council meetings, which are regularly advertised (See calendar of meetings). At the meetings they have an opportunity to have their say in a democratic question time agenda item. In addition the council hosts the annual town meeting for the residents. The council is consulted on planning matters and is able to represent the community it serves by seeking to influence decision makers at the district and county tiers of local government and with other statutory bodies, for example the police on crime or anti-social behaviour related matters.


The Chair

The chair has the role of team leader for meetings. The chair is elected each year at the annual meeting and must sign a declaration of acceptance of office and an undertaking to observe the council’s code of conduct in the performance of her/his duties.

Council meetings have a purpose to make decisions and are not talking shops. The chair must ensure that all decisions taken are lawful and must adhere to the council’s standing orders. These are a set of written procedures regulating the council’s business and proceedings at meetings.

She/He introduces agenda items, invites members to speak, focuses discussion and controls the conduct of the meetings. She/He is not permitted to take decisions unilaterally and exercises her/his right to vote along with the other councillors. If a vote is tied the chair has a second or casting vote. It is unlawful to delegate a decision to any councillor or the chair.

The chair is the figurehead of the council and can exercise goodwill in the community. She/He represents the council at many different events during the year and may receive a small chairman’s allowance to defray any expenses incurred. The chair is not remunerated for this role.

The success or otherwise of the council largely depends on the mutual respect that the council’s staff, chair and other councillors have for each other and this comes from an appreciation and clear understanding of each others roles. The chair plays a significant part in creating and cementing these bonds for the benefit of the residents in the efficient, effective and economical running of the council’s business.


The Councillors

To be eligible to become a councillor candidates have to be aged over 18, be a British subject or European Union citizen, be on the electoral roll and have in the previous twelve months prior to nomination resided in the locality or within three miles of it or occupied as owner or tenant any land or premises or had her/his principal or only place of work there.

Councillors may be elected or co-opted. They cannot act as a councillor until they have signed a declaration of office and the councillor’s code of conduct. They work with their colleagues to serve their community and will be held accountable for the running of their council. They are not remunerated. Meetings usually take place fortnightly and duties can on average take up to three hours a week.

At meetings councillors vote by a show of hands.

Councillors have a duty to act responsibly and must never use their position to secure personal advantage for themselves, their family or friends. They must promote equality, treat others with respect, not compromise the impartiality of council staff, not disclose confidential information or use council resources for party political or any other reason.

Councillors must declare a personal interest as soon as they are aware that they may benefit more than most other people in the parish from the outcome of a discussion on the agenda. A prejudicial interest arises if a member of the public might think that a councillor’s judgement could be affected. In which case the councillor leaves the meeting while the particular agenda item is discussed and voted on.


Town Clerk

The executive officer has many roles, duties and responsibilities. He implements the council’s policy decisions, is impartial and answers to the council as a whole. He is the proper officer in law specifically appointed for the purpose, responsible for the day to day running of the council’s business and is also the responsible finance officer in dealing with all the financial affairs of the council.

In addition to ensuring that the information included in the annual return is accurate he has the duty to ensure that its availability is advertised to the general public within a designated timescale. He prepares the annual budget for presentation to the council for its deliberation.

His role is a mixture of management, operational and financial responsibilities and duties. He signs the summonses to attend meetings. The business to be transacted at a council meeting must be specified in the summons to attend (the agenda). This is publicly advertised at least three clear days (not including the date of issue and meeting) and affixed in a conspicuous public place. It is unlawful to decide anything that is not on the agenda. He also takes the minutes at the meetings and is responsible for council deeds and documents. He is responsible for supervising other staff and his duties include ensuring the health and safety of his colleagues and the other members of the public, who use the council facilities and amenities.

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