New Members Guide

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What Does Being a Councillor Involve?

Being a local Councillor involves holding a position of trust and the role can be a rewarding and enriching experience.  It is no easy task being a Councillor.  Society needs to have people, whether at a national or local level, who are able, willing and prepared to take decisions on its behalf.  These can relate to matters which affect the lives of citizens and Councillors must be prepared to be accountable for these decisions.

Democratic election gives local Councillors, like Members of Parliament, a special status in public life which brings with it opportunities to contribute to the wellbeing of society and, in doing so, responsibilities to act fairly and within the law.

What Does Local Council do and what is the Role of a Councillor?

Local Government serves the people:

Providing public services is a prime function of local government.  No other public body provides the range of services which a local Council does.  Providing services to meet community needs and aspirations requires the development of policy about the nature of services to be provided and the planning of delivery and resourcing of those services.

A Councillor, therefore, shares a collective responsibility with other Councillors to:

  • Make policy
  • Formulate and monitor strategies and budgets
  • Take executive decisions
  • Check on the effectiveness of the Council in delivering services
  • Develop an effective Councillor/officer partnership

Local Government represents the people:

Local Councils consist of Councillors who are democratically elected.  Although the majority are elected on a party political basis, they represent all the people of their communities, including those who did not vote for them.  This representational function would remain even if the Council ceased to deliver services.

A Councillor, therefore, is:

  • A representative of his/her constituents
  • A community leader providing a focus for the development of his/her community
  • A representative of the wider interests of Shrewsbury; and may also have a party political representative role

Local Government makes rules:

All societies need principles to which they must conform if they are to safeguard the freedom, safety and wellbeing of their citizens.  At a national level, there is a clear distinction between Parliament, which makes the rules, and Government on the one hand, and Courts (or other tribunals) on the other which have separately defined roles to administer these rules.

A Local Council, however, has three roles:

  • It must administer certain rules which Parliament has laid down for it
  • It may make rules of its own
  • It must administer the rules of its own which it makes

By participating in making or administering the rules which affect the rights and obligations of citizens, Councillors are involved in granting or refusing permissions, licences and planning applications.

A Councillor, therefore:

  • Pays attention to relevant considerations and ignores irrelevant ones
  • Considers and weighs evidence
  • Considers each issue on its merits
  • Acts fairly and within the law

Local Government works with others:

Councils not only plan and deliver their own services but overall have a community leadership role.  As part of this leadership role, Councils take the lead in community planning by drawing together the activities of a whole range of public bodies, and the business and voluntary sectors, in identifying a common agenda and drawing together the plans of the partners to address the needs of the communities.  Beyond that, Councils work in a national framework with Government and Parliament at UK and Scottish level, and with other agencies.

A Councillor fulfils an ambassadorial role:

  • On behalf of his/her community in a local context
  • As a champion and representative of the interests of Shrewsbury Town Council in a wider national and international arena

Councillors and employees:

In the context of the above, it is important to understand the different responsibilities of Councillors and Council employees.  Councillors are responsible to the public and the Council but employees are responsible to the Council as employer.

A Councillor’s role is to decide on policy and not become involved in the direct operational management of the Council’s services; that is the responsibility of the Council’s employees.  As paid employees, senior Council managers:

  • Have responsibility for the day-to-day running of Council services
  • Give professional advice to allow Councillors to make informed decision on the provision of services
  • Implement policies which committees have agreed on
  • Observe a code of strict political neutrality and serve all Councillors irrespective of political party

Senior Councillors and the Council Leader have additional roles and responsibilities which contribute to the effective governance of the Council.

Councillor’s Role Description and Person Specification

A Councillor must apply the following principles in all their dealing with council employees, colleague Councillors and others:

Selflessness: Decisions must be taken solely in terms of the public interest.  Councillors must not act in order to gain financial or other material benefit for themselves or family or friends.

Integrity: Councillors must not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to any individual or organisation that might reasonably be thought to influence them in the performance of their duties.

Objectivity: Councillors must make decisions solely on merit; when carrying out public business including making appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits.

Accountability and Stewardship: Councillors are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public.  They have a duty to consider issues on their merits, taking account of the views of others, and they must ensure that the council uses its resources prudently and in accordance with the law.

Openness: Councillors have a duty to be as open as possible about their decisions and actions, giving reasons for their decisions and restricting information only when the wider public interest clearly demands it.

Honesty: Councillors have a duty to act honestly.  They must declare any private interests relating to their public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership: Councillors have a duty to promote and support these principles by leadership and example, and to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the council and its Councillors in conducting public business.

Respect: Councillors must respect all other Councillors and all council employees and the role they play, treating them with courtesy at all times.  It is also expected that others reciprocate this degree of respect in their dealings with Councillors.

Main Tasks 

  1. Regular attendance at meetings of the Council and of any Committee to which the Councillor is appointed, is an essential component of the policy-making and decision-taking life of the Council.
  2. Contributing constructively to debates within and about the Council.  This is usually done through formal Committee structures but dependent upon the role that you play within the Council, it can also take place informally.
  3. Dealing with issues raised by constituents by correspondence, telephone, electronically and in person on an on-going basis, and making arrangements to make themselves available to constituents, including “surgeries” or in other ways, contributes to the representative role of the Councillor.
  4. Actively being aware of issues affecting the Councillor’s electoral ward and the wider Shrewsbury community (inside and outside the Council) is part of fulfilling a community leadership and representative function.
  5. A key role for a Councillor is to scrutinise how effectively the Council is performing and meeting its targets, and whether it is achieving best value for the money it is spending.
  6. Working in partnership with other local organisations, as well as other ward Councillors, to identify and pursue local needs and aspirations and encouraging community action is fundamental to the role of community leader.
  7. As a local community leader, Councillors will be invited by local organisations to participate in local forums and events which collectively provide a focus for community activity and development.
  8. Representing Shrewsbury on other organisations or agencies to which the Councillor may be appointed or nominated by the Town Council.  This involves an ambassadorial function where he or she must promote the Council’s policies, views and profile while serving the relevant organisation’s or agency’s best interests.
  9. Treating all other Councillors and Council employees with respect and courtesy at all times.

Clearly, becoming a Councillor is a time-consuming occupation and should not be entered into lightly.  Being a Councillor may or may not be a full-time occupation.  Councillors should not be faced with excessive demands on their time but should be able to combine this work with other responsibilities and/or interests.  In addition to attendance at meetings during the day, many of the groups that Councillors have regular contact with meet in the evening and attendance at such meetings can add to the length of the working day.

Skills and Attributes

The list below may seem daunting at first, but Councillors are not expected to have all these skills and attributes when first elected.  Support will be provided to help them develop over time.

  1. A commitment to the ethos of public service and equality lies at the heart of being a local Councillor.
  2. Active citizenship is a commitment to contributing to and focusing on what best improves the wellbeing of communities.
  3. The ability to take on board a wide range of information, combined with clear thinking and common sense and to provide the analytical skills which enable objective and fair decision-making.
  4. Dealing with constituents requires a polite and fair approach to understanding the problems which they bring to their local Councillor.
  5. Presentational and communication skills enable the Councillor to publicise the needs of their constituents as well as the policies and aspirations of the Council.
  6. Resolving often conflicting points of view and contentious issues requires skills of negotiation, diplomacy and clear thinking.
  7. Resourcing the provision of local authority services involves very significant levels of expenditure, which requires a local Councillor to develop an understanding of the Council’s budgeting and control system.
  8. The ability to work with others to attain mutual goals.  This can include partnership working with external bodies as well as cross-party working.

 

Induction Guide for Councillors 

  Welcome

 

  Introduction to the Council

1

  • Contact Information

1.1

  Roles and Responsibilities

2

  • Councillors’ Duties

2.1

  • Councillors’ Role

2.2

  • What a Councillor cannot do

2.3

  • Role of the Clerk

2.4

  • Role of the Chairman

2.5

  • Role of the Council as a Whole

2.6

  Councillors Code of Conduct

3

  • Things a Councillor should not do

3.1

  The Decision Making Process

4

  • Powers and Duties

4.1

  • Meetings, Conduct of Business and Standing Orders

4.2

  • Council Meeting Agendas

4.3

  • Helpful suggestions for Meetings

4.4

  • After the meeting – Council Minutes

4.5

  • Important Documents

4.6

  • Council Policies and Protocols

4.7

  Planning Matters

5

  Dealing with Public Money

6

  • Budget and precept

6.1

  Handling Information

7

  • Freedom of Information and Publication Scheme

7.1

  • Data Protection

7.2

  • ‘Need to know’

7.3

  • Confidential Information

7.4

  • Defamation and Privilege

7.5

  • Press, Media and Local Newsletter

7.6

  Members Services

8

  • Allowances

8.1

  • Training and Development

8.2

  Managing Risk

9

  • Insurance

9.1

  Useful Contacts and sources of advice

10

  Useful Publications

11

Welcome

Congratulations on your election victory and welcome to Shrewsbury Council.  You formally take office on Monday 8th May and remain in office for a four year term, retiring four days after the May 2021 elections.

You are now a part of the democratic framework in Shropshire, at the first layer of government, representing your community at grass roots level.

This Guide is to help you through the early stages of working with council colleagues, the Town Clerk and other members of staff.

In order to take up Council duties, and as a reminder, all councillors are required to complete the following, either at the first meeting of the council or when elected: 

  • Acceptance of Office
  • Code of conduct (See paragraph 3 below)
  • Register of disclosable pecuniary interests (See paragraph 3 below)

1.0 Introduction to the Council

The Council is made up of 17 Councillors, who are elected from 17 Wards in the Town. The population of the Town is 70,000.

Shrewsbury Town Council came into being on 1st April 2009 as a result of Local Government re-organisation. The Town Council's area includes the whole of Shrewsbury town centre and adjoining residential areas. With a population of more than 70,000 it is one of the largest town councils in England.

Our offices are based at Riggs Hall within the Library located on Castle Gates.

The Town Council is responsible for a number of services including; horticulture, The Quarry and Dingle, numerous small parks, sports pitches, recreation grounds, allotments, green spaces and countryside areas, the town’s award-winning market, community facilities, bus shelters, street lighting and public toilets. The Council also recently took over Youth Services from Shropshire Council as part of a continuing commitment to meeting austerity measures.

The Town Council is proud of its reputation for making Shrewsbury a "town of flowers" and was voted RHS Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions in 2014. The dedicated workforce at the Town Council's nursery at Weeping Cross spend months preparing hundreds of thousands of blooms and assemble, distribute and maintain more than 400 hanging baskets, 150 floral poles and numerous troughs and containers annually to make the town's streets and open spaces a floral masterpiece.

Overall, the aim of the Town Council is to 'put Shrewsbury first' making the town a better place to work, live and visit.

 

Local Councils are an essential part of local democracy and have a vital role in acting on behalf of communities they represent by:

  • giving views, on behalf of the community, on planning applications and other proposals that affect their area
  • undertaking projects and schemes that benefit local residents
  • working in partnership with other bodies to achieve benefits for the parish
  • alerting relevant authorities to problems that arise or work needing to be done

1.1  Contact Information

Councillors should be aware of the various ways to contact the Town Clerk, what access they have to the clerk’s ‘office(s)’ and that they can accordingly signpost the public. 

  Name

  Role

  Tel

Email

  Helen Ball

  Town Clerk

  257650

  helen.ball-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Andy Watkin

  Accountant RFO

  257657

  andy.watkin-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Gary Farmer

  Operations Manager

  257651

  gary.farmer-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Carol Pullen

  Mayor’s Secretary

  257655

  carol.pullen-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Debbie Entwistle

  Technical Officer  (Horticulture & Play     Areas)  

  257660

  debbie.entwistle-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Coral Kelly

  Finance Administrator

  257652

  coral.kelly-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Dawn Morris

  Admin/Transport

  257662

  dawn.morris-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Hilary Humphries

  Communications Officer

  257649

  hilary.humphries-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Mike Cox

  Outdoor Recreation & Asset Manager

  257659

  mike.cox-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Mike Pugh

  Technical Officer (Aboriculture/GIS)

  257661

  mike.pugh-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Mark Harris

  Land & Infrastructure Officer

  257658

  mark.harris-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Stuart Farmer

  Technical Assistant

  257648

  stuart.farmer@shropshire.gov.uk

  Rob Plimmer

  Head of Logistics

 

  Rob.plimmer-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Matt Wilcoxon

  Greenspace & Countryside Team           Leader

 

  Matthew.wilcoxon-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Danny Powell

  Recreational Space Team Leader

 

  Danny.powell-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Mark Bowen

  Amenity Space Team Leader

 

  Mark.bowen-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

  Rebecca Oliver

  Committee Clerk

 

  Rebecca.oliver@shropshire.gov.uk

  Ruth Jones

  Office Manager

  257656

  Ruth.jones-stc@shropshire.gov.uk

Details of the Town Council’s Staffing Structure is available on the website

1.2 Difference between Shropshire Council & Shrewsbury Town Council

In Shropshire, local government is made up of two tiers; Shropshire Council (Local Authority) and Parish & Town Councils.  Both have differing roles but the basic roles of both are listed below:

  Shropshire Council

  • Education
  • Social Care
  • Highways & Street Lights
  • Public Protection
  • Planning
  • Libraries
  • Leisure & Recreation
  • Youth Provision

  Shrewsbury Town Council

  • Allotments
  • Public Open Space
  • Leisure & Recreation
  • Play
  • Bloom
  • Christmas Lights
  • Events & Festivals
  • Footway Lighting

The Town Council enjoys a symbiotic relationship with Shropshire Council. 

The Town Council does a number of things for Shropshire Council:

  • Highwayverges, hedges & trees
  • Burial Grounds
  • Castle Grounds
  • Car Park Landscaping
  • Golf Course
  • Sports Centre Grounds
  • Winter Maintenance

Shropshire Council does a number of things for the Town Council:

  • Election Costs - only pay the excess that are Town Council specific costs
  • Administrative Accommodation
  • Payroll & Pension Fund
  • Work in Kind
  • Some Legal Support
  • IT Support

2.0 Roles and Responsibilities

It is important that all Councillors understand their roles and responsibilities (set out below) to avoid any misunderstandings that may lead to conflict later.  Councillors bring different skills, have different attitudes and need to work as an effective team with the Mayor and Leader of the Council.  The Town Clerk is there to provide advice and implement the council’s decisions.  The Town Clerk is termed the ‘proper officer’ answerable only to the council as a whole, the employer.  The Town Council also employs a Responsible Financial Officer who is charged with the management of the council’s finances.  These are professional paid officers and have considerable decision-making powers delegated to them to ensure the effective discharge of the council’s functions and services.  The advice of the Town Clerk is important and should always be a Councillor’s first point of contact.

The term of office of Councillors is four years commencing on the fourth day after the ordinary day of election (Monday 8th May 2017) and ending on the fourth day after the next ordinary election. The ordinary day of election is the first Thursday in May or such other day as may be fixed by the Secretary of State by order. A person elected as a Councillor cannot act in that capacity until he/she has signed a declaration of acceptance of office and delivered it to the Town Clerk. If the declaration is not made and delivered within two months from the day of the election, the office of the person elected becomes vacant.

2.1 Councillors’ Duties

Councillors have the following duties set out in law:

  • Must sign a declaration of acceptance of office, agree to abide by the council’s code of conduct as adopted and register any disclosable pecuniary interests
  • Must attend meetings when summoned to do so and is responsible to disclose any pecuniary interests before an item is discussed
  • Must inform the Town Clerk of an intended absence in order that it can be recorded/approved

(If a member does not attend any meeting of the Council, Council Committee or Sub-Committee, or does not carry out an executive function as a member, for six consecutive months he/she automatically ceases to be a member of the authority. If a member has special reasons for not being able to attend meetings there may be circumstances under which the Council can extend the period. The Council can only extend the period before the six months has elapsed.)

  • Is entitled to vote at meetings
  • Can resign at any time by written notice to the Mayor

NALC publish the Good Councillor's Guide that provides further details.

2.2 Councillors’ Role:

Whilst there is no set Job Description for a Councillor, below gives you a flavour of your role:

  • To abide by the Council’s Code of Conduct and not bring the office of Councillor into disrepute
  • To act collectively with others as employer
  • To be the ultimate policy makers of the council giving strategic and corporate management direction.
  • To serve as advocates for their communities (individual wards), protecting and promoting the community and ensuring that the needs and issues which affect residents are addressed.
  • To deal with individual casework and to act as advocates for constituents in resolving particular concerns or grievances.
  • To act as custodians of the public purse, fixing a budget, setting a precept and monitoring the expenditure of the Council
  • To balance different interests within their ward and to represent the ward as a whole.
  • To balance the needs and concerns of the whole of the Council's area and between areas of competing needs in the interests of the whole of the Town Council’s area.
  • To attend Council meetings and meeting of committees to which they have been appointed, and to be involved in all significant decision-making.
  • To take steps to keep in touch with their communities by attending residents' or local community meetings and training events.
  • To be available to represent the council on other bodies.
  • To deal promptly with correspondence/communication from their constituents and the council’s officers.
  • To maintain the highest standard of conduct and ethics.

2.3 Beware of what a Councillor cannot do!

  • Councillors cannot make a decision on behalf of the Council
  • Instruct the Town Clerk or staff in their duties
  • Write to the press on council matters
  • Represent the Council as and wherever they wish
  • Resign by walking out of a meeting

2.4 Role of the Town Clerk

The Town Clerk is appointed under statute as the Proper Officer of the Council (s270(1) Local Government Act 1972).  The post is akin to the Chief Executive of the principal authority in that it is the Head of the Council’s administration.  The Town Clerk is responsible for seeing that the business of the Council runs smoothly and efficiently and is conducted in accordance with the law.  The Town Clerk has responsibility for the management of the Town Council’s Assets (Its land & Buildings, Finances, Staff and Reputation).  The Town Clerk prepares the council for taking decisions, before, during and after meetings, implements decisions and protects the Council as a Corporate Body.  Responsibilities range across organising meetings and events, managing sites, facilities, staff and finance, to marketing, negotiating and public relations.

The Town Clerk has a number of statutory duties; these include:

  • Signing & serving on Councillors Summons with an agenda to attend Council meetings;
  • Convening meetings of Council if a casual vacancy in the office of the Chairman occurs
  • Receiving and holding copies of Byelaws made by other local authorities which affect the council’s area
  • Receiving and retaining documents or notices.

2.5 Role of the Chairman (Mayor)

The Council must have a chairman (the Mayor), responsible for ensuring that proper decisions are taken in Council Meetings, that meetings run smoothly and on time.  The Mayor ensures that all councillors have the opportunity to speak at meetings and that procedure is followed in accordance with standing orders.  The Mayor is the public face of the Council, representing the Council in a civic capacity and sometimes speaks on behalf of the Council.  The civic role of the Mayor is covered in the Town Council’s Town Council's Mayoral Handbook

2.6 Role of the Council as a Whole

The Council is a corporate body, a legal entity separate from that of its members.  Its decisions are the responsibility of the whole Council.  The Council has many powers and duties granted by Parliament including the important authority to raise money through taxation (the precept) and a range of powers to spend public money.

The Council is responsible for the following services:

  • Quarry Park
  • Recreational Grounds
  • Football Pitches, Cricket Wickets, Bowling Greens, Croquet Lawns
  • BMX Tracks
  • Pocket Parks
  • Open Space
  • Countryside Land
  • Allotments
  • Footway Lights
  • Christmas Lights
  • Floral Features
  • Shrewsbury in Bloom
  • Public Conveniences
  • Community Centres
  • Events
  • Markets
  • Youth Services
  • War Memorials
  • Twinning

The Town Council also manages a number of other sites on behalf of others.  These include:

  • Golf Course
  • Castle
  • Sundorne Sports Village Football Pitches
  • Highway Verges, Trees & Roundabouts
  • Longden Road Cemetery
  • Emstry Crematorium
  • School Grounds
  • Rural Cemeteries, Recreation Grounds & Highway Verges
  • Countryside Land
  • Allotments
  • Footway Lights
  • Christmas Lights
  • Floral Features
  • Shrewsbury in Bloom
  • Public Conveniences
  • Community Centres
  • Events
  • Markets
  • Youth Services
  • War Memorials
  • Twinning

The Town Council also manages a number of other sites on behalf of others.  These include:

  • Golf Course
  • Castle
  • Sundorne Sports Village Football Pitches
  • Highway Verges, Trees & Roundabouts
  • Longden Road Cemetery
  • Emstry Crematorium
  • School Grounds
  • Rural Cemeteries, Recreation Grounds & Highway Verges

2.7 The Council as Employer

Councils often have to deal with a range of employment relation issues which require clear and straightforward employment policies and procedures that help to handle employment issues quickly, fairly and consistently. 

The Town Clerk is employed by the Council and answers to the Council as a whole.  The Town Clerk manages any other staff that may be employed by the Council.  No one Councillor can act as the line manager of either the Town Clerk or other employees.  These rules and principles should build on mutual respect and consideration between the Town Clerk and the Council.

NALC publish the Good Employers Guide that provides further details.

3.0  Councillors’ Code of Conduct

Under the Localism Act 2011 and the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012, members of Parish and Town Councils are required to register theirs and their partner’s disclosable pecuniary interests in a register held by the Monitoring Officer, Shropshire Council within 28 days of becoming a member or co-opted member.  Provisions in relation to Disclosable Pecuniary Interests are enforced by criminal sanction that came into force on 1 July 2012.  A copy of the register is available for public inspection and is published on both the Town Council and Shropshire Council websites.

The Council, in accordance with the Localism Act 2011, Section 27, adopted a Code of Conduct which took effect on 1 July 2012 to promote high standards of behaviour by its members and co-opted members whenever they conduct the business of the Council, including the business of the office to which they were elected or appointed, or when they claim to act or give the impression of acting as a representative of the Council.  The Code is based on the principles of:

  • Selflessness
  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Accountability
  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Leadership

There may be occasions where a number of councillors must declare interests and their withdrawal from that meeting may render the decision making inquorate or ineffective.  There are provisions in the Council’s Rules on Dispensations.

Please make yourself familiar with your obligations under the code, what to declare and how to declare interests (As a reminder every Council & Committee Agenda have standing items for the registration of interests.  The rule of thumb is if in doubt ask), how to apply for a dispensation, and what to do if you are offered gifts or hospitality (training is offered).

3.1  Things a Councillor should not do in relation to the Code of Conduct

It is important for councillors to be aware that they must not:

  • Bring their council or office into disrepute
  • Misuse their official position to their own advantage or to the advantage or disadvantage of others
  • Unduly influence any person who works for the council
  • Stop somebody seeing or getting copies of documents they are allowed to have or
  • Misuse council resources or authorise their misuse, in particular for unauthorised party political purposes

4.0  The Decision Making Process

Council meetings are where councillors play their part as decision makers.  They are formal events where the public and press have a right to observe how the Council operates, the exception being when sensitive matters are discussed such as legal, contractual or staffing matters.

Decisions are called ‘Resolutions’ and these are mostly made by the full Council, please remember these are ‘corporate decisions’.  Decisions can be delegated to Committees and to Officers.  Some committees make recommendations to Council.  The work that these groups undertake should be set out in their ‘Terms of Reference’ (TOR).

The Council has the following Committee Structure:

Organization Chart

There are three Standing Committees, which each have 8 members:

  • Finance & General Purpose Committee
  • Recreation & Leisure Committee
  • Planning Committee

There are also a number of more themed Committees:

  • Youth Service Delivery Committee (involving those wards where youth services are delivered)
  • Civics Committee (involving all Councillors who have been Mayor)

The Council also appoints two Employment related Committees, which meet on a need to meet basis:

  • Personnel Committee (5 members)
  • Grievance Committee (5 members)

The Council also has a Joint Consultative Committee made up of 6 Councillors and 6 members of staff.

Appointment to the following Committees follows the Council’s Political Balance Rules

The Annual Town Council Meeting (also known as Mayor Making) takes place in May, and in an election year on or within 14 days after the day of the election, on which the newly elected or re-elected councillors take office (i.e. the fourth day after the ordinary elections; a total of 18 days following such elections.   

The Annual Town meeting is a completely different meeting and takes place between 1 March and 1 June. This is not a council meeting but a meeting when electors can speak and set the agenda and local issues are debated.

A list of meeting dates is provided annually.

4.1  Powers and Duties

Powers and duties wide ranging activities covered by Acts of Parliament setting out powers and functions giving local councils permission to act upon.  These include consideration of the provision of allotments if requested to do so, provision and maintenance of bus shelters, borrow money, power to provide a wide range of recreational facilities. 

4.2  The General Power of Competence

The Localism Act includes a ‘general power of competence’. It gives local authorities the legal capacity to do anything that an individual can do that is not specifically prohibited. The general power gives councils more freedom to work together with others in new ways to drive down costs and increase their confidence to do creative, innovative things to meet local people’s needs.

Every electoral term the Town Council must consider whether it is an “eligible parish council”, having met the conditions prescribed by the Secretary of State in the Parish Councils (General Power of Competence) (Prescribed Conditions) Order 2012; these being around the competency of the Town Clerk  and the Electoral Mandate of the Council.

4.3  Meetings, Conduct of Business, Standing Orders

Rules about the way meetings must be run, some of which are set by legislation, are contained within the Council’s Standing Orders

Standing Orders set out the order of business, rules about debate, voting requirements, and the procedures for public participation.  Please read Standing Orders so that you are aware of the protocol on the conduct of meetings. 

4.4  Council Meeting Agendas

At least five clear working days before a meeting a public notice of the meeting will be placed on the Council’s Notice Board or other conspicuous place in the town. 

At the same time, councillors will receive a ‘summons’ requesting their attendance at the meeting with an agenda.  Topics requiring a decision cannot be added to an agenda after it has been issued.  If you wish to raise an item for inclusion, contact the Town Clerk with details.  Standing Orders set out how you can give notice to raise a question or ask for a motion to be placed on the agenda.

It is the responsibility of the Town Clerk, often in consultation with the Mayor and Committee Chairmen to set the agendas for Full Council and Committee Meetings. 

4.5  Helpful suggestions for Meetings

Agendas and Reports

  • All agendas and reports are uploaded onto the Council’s website and Councillors are emailed links to those papers.
  • On receipt, read through each agenda and any associated reports to identify important items – those affecting your area.
  • Make sure that you understand what actions are being proposed.
  • Think about what the result will be if those actions are taken.
  • Are the costs involved justified?
  • Think about whether there are any alternatives that could be explored.
  • If you have any questions, please contact the Town Clerk, Mayor or the Committee Chairmen or the author of the report, before you attend the meeting.

In the Meeting

  • Read the Agenda and its associated reports in advance of the meeting and follow the advice set out above.
  • Identify the areas where you feel you have a contribution to make.
  • Prepare yourself – check your facts, the background; ask for an explanation from the Town Clerk and /or fellow Councillors.
  • Read your Standing Orders so that you understand the procedure.  If in any doubt, please ask the Town Clerk.
  • Remember your duty to declare an interest and if in any doubt check with the Town Clerk on the best course of action.
  • If possible, tell the Mayor/Chairman in advance that you wish to speak and on which Agenda Item.
  • Be prepared to intervene on other items – often debates will lead into unexpected territory which may be of particular interest or relevance to you and your constituents.
  • Remember not to confine yourself to the Ward which you represent.  Consider the town as a whole.
  • Beware the law of defamation!

Apologies for Absence

You have a duty to attend but if something crops up and you cannot attend, notify the Town Clerk so that your apology and reason can be recorded in the minutes.  If you fail to attend meetings for six months, without formal council approval, you will be automatically disqualified and cease to be a councillor.

4.6  After the Meeting - Council Minutes

It is the responsibility of the Town Clerk to write the minutes as a legal record of the Council’s decision which are confirmed and signed by the Mayor/Committee Chairman at the next ordinary meeting.  No discussion can take place on the minutes, only their accuracy.  Minutes should contain a heading and a decision at the very least.  They are not meant to be a verbatim record of discussions but the Town Clerk is likely to minute any advice given.  Councillors can request that their comments be recorded in the minutes and may also call for a recorded vote to be taken (see Standing Orders). Draft minutes are placed on the Council’s website marked as such. 

4.7 Important Documents

The following are important documents that councillors should be able to reference in the decision-making process:

  • Standing Orders
  • Financial Regulations
  • Budget for the current year and any projected financial planning
  • Place Plan
  • Local Development Framework
  • Minutes of previous meetings

Also, available for Councillors to view, upon application to the Town Clerk:

  • Assets Register
  • Insurance policy
  • Lease agreements
  • Schedule of Council Fees and Charges

4.8  Council Policies and Protocols

The Council has also adopted policies/protocols; these are all available on the Council’s website

5.0  Planning Matters

Being involved in planning is an important activity for the council.   The Planning Authority (Shropshire Council) must consider the Town Council’s view before it decides to grant or refuse planning permission. 

The Town Council’s Planning Committee is charged with considering all planning applications which include:

  • Full Planning Permission
  • Outline Planning Permission
  • Reserved Matters
  • Listed Building Consent
  • Change of Use
  • Conservation Area Consents to prune/fell trees
  • Licensing
  • Advertising Consent

The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides the main legal basis of the English Planning system as amended by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.  Further changes have been introduced by the Localism Act 2011. 

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the Government’s economic, environmental and social planning policies for England and contains the framework within which Local Plans are developed.  The purpose of the NPPF is to help achieve ‘sustainable development’ that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 placed an obligation on local planning authorities to produce a Local Plan (or Core Strategy) shaping how land use and places will change and develop over the next 15 to 20 years. It also sets out a spatial planning strategy – what the general location of development will be. 

Planning decisions need to be made in line with the development plan, unless there are good reasons why this should not be done.  These reasons are called material considerations and include:

  • Full Planning Permission
  • Outline Planning Permission
  • Reserved Matters
  • Listed Building Consent
  • Change of Use
  • Conservation Area Consents to prune/fell trees
  • Licensing
  • Advertising Consent

The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides the main legal basis of the English Planning system as amended by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.  Further changes have been introduced by the Localism Act 2011. 

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the Government’s economic, environmental and social planning policies for England and contains the framework within which Local Plans are developed.  The purpose of the NPPF is to help achieve ‘sustainable development’ that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 placed an obligation on local planning authorities to produce a Local Plan (or Core Strategy) shaping how land use and places will change and develop over the next 15 to 20 years. It also sets out a spatial planning strategy – what the general location of development will be. 

Planning decisions need to be made in line with the development plan, unless there are good reasons why this should not be done.  These reasons are called material considerations and include:

  • overshadowing
  • overlooking or loss of privacy
  • adequate parking and servicing
  • overbearing nature of proposal
  • loss of trees
  • loss of ecological habitats
  • design and appearance
  • layout and density of buildings
  • effect on listed building(s) and Conservation areas
  • access or highways sefety
  • traffic generation
  • noise and disturbance from the scheme
  • disturbance from smells
  • public visual amenity, but not loss of private individual's view
  • flood risk
  • There are however a number of areas that cannot be considered as material/relevant; these include:
  • loss of value to individual property
  • loss of view
  • boundary disputes including encroachment of foundations, gutters
  • private covenants or agreements
  • the applicant's personal conduct or history
  • the applicant's motives
  • potential profit for the applicant or from the application
  • private rights to light
  • private rights to way
  • damage to property
  • disruption during any construction phase
  • loss of trade or competitors
  • age, health, status, background, work patterns of the objector
  • time taken to do the work
  • capacity of private drains
  • building or structural techniques
  • alcohol or gaming licences

The Localism Act 2011 gives local communities more say in planning by encouraging local councils to prepare neighbourhood plans, to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in their neighbourhood.  Shropshire Council is offering a simplified localised planning approach, giving support to those wishing to develop Community Led Place Plans, which will include information from previous parish plans and design statements.  Once in place these will form material considerations when considering planning applications.  Emerging from the Core Strategy Local Plan in Shropshire is the Site Allocations and Management of Development Plan (SAMDev) which sets out just how much development is permitted and where.

For further information about Planning CPRE have a number of helpful publications:

  • Planning Explained
  • How to respond to planning applications
  • How to shape where you live

6.0  Dealing with Public Money

The Responsible Financial Officer administers the finances of the Council and collectively Councillors are responsible for ensuring the proper management of the Council’s finances to avoid risk of fraud, loss or bad debts. 

The Council must operate a sound system of internal control in accordance with The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 and to prepare an annual governance statement in accordance with proper practices in relation to accounts. The law requires another audit to be carried out so that local taxpayers can be assured that the risks to public money have been managed.  Following the abolition of the Audit Commission, new arrangements take place from 31 December 2016 for external audit. 

The Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities and the Local Government Transparency Code 2015 requires certain councils to publish a range of financial information on line.  The codes can be viewed at http://www.alcshropshire.co.uk/transparency-code

Detailed information is set out in ‘Governance and Accountability in Local Councils; the Practitioners Guide in England’, http://www.nalc.gov.uk/library/publications/803-governance-and-accounability-with-appendix/file. The Guide sets out how accounts should be kept, their format and how and when they must be approved and published; where and for how long taxpayers can view the accounts and details behind them. 

The council’s finances are controlled by checking spending against budget plans regularly at council meetings.  The Council’s own Financial Regulations sets out how the council must manage its finances and its overall system of internal control.  As part of this, the Council appoints an independent ‘competent’ auditor to conduct an internal audit, which is in turn reported with the accounts.  As a member of the Council you are responsible for ensuring that the annual return accurately presents the financial management by the Council. The Council’s finances are controlled by checking spending against budget plans regularly at council meetings. 

6.1  Budget and Precept

The Council is empowered to incur expenditure in the execution of its statutory powers.  It obtains its funds (the precept) from the principal authority for the expenses it is expecting to incur in the financial year ahead and so it is important that an accurate budget is set for the proper carrying out of the Council’s functions.  The budget setting process normally starts around October each year and request for the precept is normally sent in late January.  The 2017/18 Budget is on the council website.

6.2 Annual Return

He Council’s financial year begins on 1 April and ends on 31 March in the following year.  Legislation requires a council to prepare accounting statements for each year, which must be externally audited.  Proper practices provide for a council to prepare its accounting statements in the form of an Annual Return which summarises the accounts and includes an annual governance statement.  The 2015/16 Accounts and Annual Return are on the Council’s website.

7.0  Handling Information

7.1  Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 allows the public access to certain types of information held by the Council, subject to release of personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998.  Requests must be in writing, email is accepted and the Council must respond promptly and normally within 20 working days.  The Council is entitled to make a charge which must be set out in a  Freedom of Information & Publication Scheme which also sets out the type of information published and the manner in which is published.  The Council does not have to respond to repeated or ‘vexatious’ requests if it has already responded to an identical or substantially similar request from the same person.  There are some other exemptions which fall into the category of ‘absolute exemptions’ such as court proceedings or personal information that would breach the Data Protection Act.  The Council then has a duty to consider whether disclosure is required in the public interest.  Guidance is available from the Information Commissioner.  See your Council’s website to view the Publication Scheme or your clerk may provide a copy.

7.2  Data Protection

All Councils hold a wide range of information and are required to ‘notify’ the Information Commissioner of personal data it holds, subject to certain exemptions.  Personal data may be as simple as holding someone’s name and address but in addition includes amongst other things details of complaints, lists of contacts, employee/personnel records and information provided for the purpose of placing a contact to which the data subject is a party.  Images taken by CCTV systems can now also fall within the data protection regime. 

Councillors are covered by the Council’s notification and have the same responsibilities with regard to data protection as the Clerk/employees of the Council.  If councillors are processing electronic personal data in an individual capacity (ie where you are not acting on behalf of the Council) you are likely to be classed as data controllers and would individually need to notify the Information Commissioner.  For advice and guidance, go to https://ico.org.uk/

7.3  ‘Need to know’

Councillors do not have a ‘need to know’ for all council business and cannot claim an automatic right to see all council documentation and information.  There is a general rule of thumb in establishing whether a councillor has a ‘need to know’:

  • If you are a member of a committee, you have the right to inspect documents or to obtain information relating to the business of that committee
  • If not a committee member, you need to demonstrate why sight of the information in question is necessary to enable you to perform your duties as a councillor
  • The document/information will be held if a councillor’s motives are indirect, improper, or ulterior
  • Councillors may not go on a fishing expedition in respect of council documents but should specify precisely what information they need and for what purpose.
  • Be aware that the reporter has deadlines and these are even tighter than for newspapers – local radio has bulletins every hour!
  • Remember that a recorded interview may be cut and edited in just the same way as a press report.
  • Beware of radio reporters who ring you and say that they want to do a recorded interview immediately over the telephone.  Unless you are very confident, ask them what they want to talk about and ring them back in ten minutes.  Use this time to compose yourself, to decide what you are going to say and, if necessary, to take advice.
  • When taking part in live broadcasts (including phone-ins), always agree beforehand what areas you will and will not discuss.
  • Do your homework and learn all the facts before you go to the studio. 
  • Be honest in your answers.  Even the slightest hesitation on air can sound like evasion, dishonesty or incompetence. 
  • Even if you do not know the answer to a particular question, it is better to admit that, rather than make up something which, with hindsight, may have been improper.
  • Broadcast appearances are best left to those who feel at home on radio or TV.  Most of us need extra coaching, so if you are likely to be a Spokesperson, try to get broadcasting skills training.

8.0  Members’ Services

All Councillors will be given access to a Town Council email address and tablet devise for accessing emails.

A carparking pass shall be provided for use by Councillors during Council business.

Business cards shall be printed for every Councillor.

Carol Pullen (The Town Clerk & Mayor’s Secretary) shall be the first point of call for any additional support from the Council.

8.1  Members’ Allowances

The Town Council pays a basic allowance of £1000 (paid in 12 monthly instalments) to its elected Members having taken into consideration the recommendations from Shropshire Council’s Parish Remuneration Panel and publishes at the end of the financial year any amounts paid.  Allowances are taxable under the PAYE system and so records should be kept.

The Council also pays Travel and Subsistence in accordance with the recommendations of the Remuneration Panel regarding the payment of Travel Expenses for approved duties. 

Quarterly a Claim Form is produced and distributed to each Councillor.  This claim form will already include mileage in respect of travel to/from Council Meetings; any other expenses will need to be added.

Councillors have the option of whether or not they wish to take such allowances.

Any further details regarding expenses and allowances should be directed to the Responsible Financial Officer.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor receive a Mayoral Allowance.  This is dealt with separately to the Councillor Allowance. 

9.0  Managing Risk

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 places a duty on Councils as employers and employees to protect the health and safety of its employees and the public visiting its premises.  This includes maintaining the safety of any places of work, the working environment (including equipment) and without risks to health for which the Town Clerk will undertake appropriate risk assessments.  The Disability Discrimination Act 2010 imposes obligations on Councils as employers and wider obligations to ensure access to services, including permanent physical adjustments to premises and meeting rooms.

9.1 Insurance

The Council undertakes a review of its risks annually.  Using the Asset Register as a guide, the Council will identify the level and severity of any likely risk and take appropriate steps to manage the consequences, which includes reviewing its insurances prior to renewal date.

Policies normally cover core risks, such as property and public liability in addition to mandatory cover for Employers’ Liability, Fidelity Guarantee (Employee Dishonesty), and Hirer’s Indemnity.  Other optional cover is available.  Your Council’s insurance may also cover councillors for Personal Accident, Libel and Slander and Officials’ Indemnity.  The Town Clerk & Responsible Financial Officer will advise.

10.0 Useful Contacts and Sources of Advice

11.0 Useful Publications

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