Hertfordshire Association of Parish and Town Councils

Hertfordshire Association of Parish and Town Councils

Carina Helmn

County Officer: Carina Helmn
Kimpton Memorial Hall, Hall
Lane, Kimpton, Hertfordshire

Tel: 07956 590094

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can a chairman preside at his or her own re-election?

Yes. A 'retiring' chair can preside, can nominate her/himself, vote for her/himself, and use her/his casting vote in their own favour.

Can a councillor do the clerks job?

Yes, but without remuneration. Council should first resolve that the position of Clerk be unpaid.

Can a parish council enforce the conditions of a planning application?

No; that is the prerogative of the planning authority, to whom the parish council may only make representations.

Can allotments be measured using rods and poles?

Yes, it is still legal to use the traditional units of rods and poles to describe the measurement of allotments.

The National Allotment Society states:
"An allotment is traditionally measured in rods (perches or poles), an old measurement dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. 10 poles is ... the equivalent of 250 square metres or about the size of a doubles tennis court."

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 complaints about parish councils be made to the Local Government Ombudsman?

No. An aggrieved parishioner should request a copy of the council's complaints policy and follow its procedures. The final form of redress is by way of judicial review.

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.

Can the summons to members to attend a council meeting be sent electronically?

Councillors can only receive summonses electronically where they consent to it being transmitted by this method and they may at any time withdraw their consent. There is no obligation to adopt delivery of summons by email.

See LAIS1375 the Electronic Summons

Sample consent form:
Consent to receive the summons to meetings electronically

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 I become a parish or town councillor?

Everything you need to know can be found here.

How do I find out about Data Protection and Freedom of Information?

The Information Commissioner's Office:
Casework department: casework@ico.org.uk
Helpline 0303 123 1113
Website www.ico.org.uk
ICO Guidance index

Also see the workshop presentation in our documents section: ICO Workshop Data Protection & Freedom of Information

How do I get a copy of Model Standing Orders?

Local councils EXPLAINED is NALC's new book for local councils

It has over 200 pages which clearly explain the role of parish, town and community councils, their councillors and officers and how they work. It offers comprehensive and practical guidance about the legal issues that local councils are exposed to.NALC's new book will equip local councils with answers to frequently asked questions about all aspects of their work. There is commentary about:·committee and staff structures·publication schemes·handling freedom of information requests·data protection·neighbourhood planning (England)·the general power of competence(England)·preparing for meetings and agenda preparation·rules of debate at meetings·how to chair meetings·work after meetings·preparation of minutes·code of conduct·political groupings·publicity about the work of a council·councillors' interests and dispensation requests·predetermination·precept setting and council tax increases·accounts, audit and financial management·contract negotiation·staff management·parish and community meetings·working with volunteers, businesses, charities and other local authorities·dealing with the media·handling complaints·judicial review·community youth representatives (Wales) and·much more

Local councils EXPLAINED:

- is easy to understand- uses examples, tables and diagrams- contains up-to-date statutory references- is competitively priced at £49.99 only for NALC members (15% discount) and- includes updated model standing orders (an electronic version of which is free to NALC/HAPTC members from the "documents" page of this website http://www.herts-aptc.gov.uk/documents.html; put "Standing Orders" in the left hand search box then click "Filter", you will need to login).

To view a sample of Local councils EXPLAINED click here

How to order:

Local councils EXPLAINED is priced at£49.99 +P&P for members & £59.99 +P&P for non-members. Please contact the HAPTC office

How does a parish council become a town council?

By resolution of the council. There is no necessity of approval by any outside authority.

How does the council take out a loan?

The council would need to seek Borrowing Approval from Department for Communities & Local Government

Please contact the HAPTC office for the Guide to Borrowing Approval and the Application Form; please also see the "Borrowing Factsheet" under the documents page of this website

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 many meetings must a council have?

At least four meetings per year, one of which must be the annual meeting of the council.

How many people are needed to call for a referendum at a parish meeting?

This can be demanded by not less than 10 or one third of the electors present at the meeting, whichever is the less.

How much notice should be given for a meeting?

Three clear days (excluding Sundays and public holidays) for a meeting of the full council.

See Notice for meetings

How soon must a casual vacancy on the council be advertised?

Immediately, or as soon as practicable.

If a meeting is adjourned, does a fresh notice have to be issued?

No; the re-convened meeting is considered to be a continuation of the original meeting at which all members will have been made aware of the adjournment.

New Councillors - what should they sign & what documents should they be given?

All new Councillors must sign:
Declaration of Acceptance of Office
Register of Members Interests
before attending their first meeting.

Also, many Councillors will now receive summons for meetings electronically and so must sign:
Consent to Receive Electronic Summons

New Councillors should also be given the Council's:
Standing Orders
Financial Regulations
Code of Conduct
Any other relevant Council policies

What are the current pay scales?

The pay scales were last updated in November 2014 see: Current Pay Scales

What is a DSB check? How can we get them done and keep them up-to-date?

Disclosure and Barring Services
DBS Checks are required for any person who works with children or vulnerable adults, previously CRB checks. The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) merged into the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

North Herts Council for Voluntary Services are registered as an umbrella body with the DBS and can process checks for all Parish, Town and Community Councils in any District of Hertfordshire. Current charges and full information/contact details can be found on their web page at: http://www.nhcvs.org.uk/services/dbs-checks

All checks are done face to face, by prior appointment, at their Letchworth office and usually take 10-15 minutes.They may be able to visit your council to undertake the checks if you have a large number to be completed.

Contact: 01462 689400 rebeccafatharly@nhcvs.org.uk http://www.nhcvs.org.uk

Whilst DBS checks are FREE to volunteers / unpaid staff within voluntary organisations, North Herts CVS charge an administration fee for each check carried out. Discounts are available for multiple checks and for community and voluntary groups.

Identification Documents

The person requiring the check will need to bring along original identification documents to the appointment:

· Passport, Driving Licence or Birth Certificate

· National Insurance number (on either a p45 or p60)

· Bank statement or utility bill with your current name and address which is less than 3 months old


If you have moved with the last 5 years, previous address details, including postcodes will be required. If you have changed your name, you will need to bring details including the date that your name changed.
For more information about DBS checks and suitable identification, please visit the DBS website.

Pro-Action supports youth provision across the county, you can sign up with them and they will do annual checks and let you know of any changes: www.pro-actionherts.org

What is the limit of Section 137 Expenditure?

Section 137(4) (a) of the Local Government Act 1972 ("the 1972 Act") is the power of local authorities to incur expenditure for certain purposes not otherwise authorised.
See: Section 137 Limit 1718

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