This is a basic guide to HALC’s recommended standards for “good practice” for all parish and town councils, regardless of size.
To be an effective body serving its community the local council requires proper organisation and a team of councillors and clerk who can work harmoniously together.
All councils should adopt a set of Standing Orders. These are the agreed procedures for the way a particular council will work with regard to discussions, decision-making, the conduct of meetings and the setting up of committees and other council officers. A set of model standing orders is available from HALC.
All councils should appoint a Responsible Financial Officer (R.F.O.). This is often, although not always, the Clerk. Councils are also required to adopt a set of Financial Regulations (copies also available from HALC).
A council will manage its affairs most effectively if it meets on a regular basis. If frequent meetings are held then their agendas will not become too long and the business raised can be dealt with thoroughly and quickly. All councils are required by law to meet on a minimum of four times per year, including the Annual meeting. Many councils will meet on more occasions than this and it is recommended that councils aim to meet at least six times per year.
Code of Conduct
All councillors are required by law to abide by the council’s Code of Conduct. Each new councillor has to sign a Declaration to that effect once elected.
The Code of Conduct is designed to give each community faith in the councillors’ integrity and conduct while dealing with council business.
The Code is there to protect public interest, but also to protect councillors from accusations of improper behaviour.
All enquires about the Code of Conduct should be directed to the council’s clerk or the county council’s monitoring officer.
Working as a Team
As a rule the most effective councils are those where the councillors and clerk have:
- A clear understanding of the legal, procedural and community aspects of local council work.
- A proper understanding of each others roles.
- A chairman who chairs meetings well, provides leadership and is forward looking.
- A clerk who is competent and adequately rewarded for the number of hours actually worked.
Training can be a vital link in achieving the above-mentioned attributes for both clerks and councillors. HALC highly recommends that all councillors take part in some training in order to be better equipped to tackle their duties. Full details of training courses organised by HALC can be found under Training in the “Developing your Council” section of this website.