A parish council in England must hold not less than four meetings in each year, one of which must be the Annual Parish Council Meeting, which has to take place every year in May.
ANNUAL PARISH COUNCIL MEETING – At the Annual Parish Council Meeting a new chair person must be nominated. A vice-chairman may be nominated also and appointments to committees made. In an election year the Annual Parish Council Meeting must take place on the day when councillors take office, or within 14 days thereafter.
The Agenda sets out the business of each meeting. The Clerk must display a signed agenda, in a public place, at least 3 clear days before an ordinary meeting and send a copy to all members of the council.
The purpose of an agenda is for councillors and the public to know what issues will be discussed and voted on. A council cannot lawfully make decisions on anything that is not on the agenda.
Place of meeting
Parish council meetings often take place in a community venue, such as a Village Hall or school room. Meetings must not take place in licensed premises unless no other room is available free of charge or at a reasonable rate. It is not advisable to meet in a private home – it may deter members of the public from attending or may not be large enough to house public and press numbers.
Attendance at meetings
- In order for meetings to be quorate one third of council members, or 3, which ever is greater, must be present.
- Attendance and apologies, with reasons for absence, must be recorded.
- A councillor is disqualified if s/he does not attend a meeting in 6 months and his/her long-term absence has not been agreed upon by a full parish council meeting.
- If a councillor is late or leaves early, a record must be made as this could affect quorum, etc.
- Parish council meetings must be open to the public and press. However, they may be excluded for part of the meeting if the council resolves that publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest, or for other special reasons stated in the resolution.
All matters coming before a council must be decided upon by a majority of councillors present and voting. Each councillor has one vote and must vote in person. (Councillors who have been disqualified by declaring a prejudicial interest will not vote). In addition the chair has the casting vote if it is required.
Minutes must be kept of all proceedings of a council meeting. They should be short and concise. The pages must be numbered and after they have been approved, signed by the Chairman. Minutes are only legal evidence after they have been signed. The agenda and the minutes must tally up. Each resolution must be either Approved, Rejected or Actioned.
More information about parish council meetings can be found in the following publications, both published by Shaw & Sons Ltd, and are available from any good book shop:
“The Local Council Clerk’s Guide” by Paul Clayden
“The Parish Councillor’s Guide” by Paul Clayden