When, where and how often are meetings called?
An Annual General Meeting must be held between 1st March and the 1st June, both inclusive. There must be at least one other meeting during the year, with no limit on the number of meetings during any one year. Meetings should always be held in a place to which the public has access. The meeting must not start before 6pm.
The AGM includes a treasurer’s report on the annual expenditure. Officers – chairman, vice-chairman, clerk and treasurer – are elected at the AGM. The chairman has a casting vote as well as an original vote as an elector. Where the chairman is not present, the vice-chairman will preside.
A parish meeting is entitled to use a schoolroom, or a room maintained out of any rate, free of charge but subject to the payment of expenses. Meetings may not be held in licensed premises unless no other room is available free or at a reasonable cost.
Who can attend and how are they told about a meeting?
Anyone, including the press, can attend a parish meeting. But only those on the electoral roll have the right to speak and vote.
An agenda/notices giving the time, place and business to be discussed at an intended meeting must be put in a conspicuous place(s) normally at least 7 days before the meeting. Should there be a meeting to discuss grouping Broughton with another parish then the notice given would have to be at least 14 days.
Anyone wanting to raise an issue to be raised at a meeting should let the clerk have this in writing in good time for inclusion on the agenda. Otherwise it will be raised under Any Other Business but as no vote can be taken, this may lead to the matter being adjourned to the next meeting when it can be included on the agenda.
Who can call a meeting and what is the quorum?
A meeting can be convened by the chairman or the district councilor or by six people on the electoral roll. The quorum is only two unless a document has to be executed in which case it is three.
Parish Meetings have the right to discuss any public matter of a parochial nature and can pass resolutions on the public activities or policies in the parish of any other local authority, public body, government department or public service provided that they affect the parish specifically.
As Broughton often has only two meetings a year, consultations are rarely brought before meetings.
Voting and Polls
Parish Meetings are not required to vote in any particular way. Decisions are taken by the majority of those present. In practice the Chair would judge where there is a majority unless too close to call in which case a count must be taken – either by persons or if required, by voting papers.
Polls can be requested only if at least ten electors are present or if the person presiding consents. The wording of any question to be answered in the poll must be decided before the meeting ends. The Chairman then has to immediately notify the district council and the poll would be conducted in a way similar to that of electing a councillor.
A Parish Meeting cannot own property (see below under Parish Trustees). Neither can it be sued or sue someone else.
A Parish Meeting is the lowest tier of local government and it is allowed to exercise functions such as administering allotments and is the burial authority. In special cases a parish meeting can be granted the same function as a parish council where it has requested the district council to make such an order.
Even though a Parish Meeting is not a body corporate, it is recognised as a local government body or a public authority for a number of statutory purposes.
Parish Trustees can only be found in parishes where there is no parish council. Where there is no parish council in the parish, the parish meeting is a body corporate. The chairman of the parish meeting and the proper officer of the district council are the body corporate; and known as “the Parish Trustees”. Their function is to be the depository of the title to parish property. They have no discretion but must act on the directions of the Parish Meeting. They do not have to keep minutes.
The Parish Meeting can set a precept to raise monies for spending for the benefit of the parish, subject to the regulations. How much money is raised and how it is spent is largely up to residents – but they need to make their views known by attending meetings where they can vote. The Parish Meeting’s allowable expenditure (PDF) is laid down in the regulations.
Minutes are taken of meetings. Rules on signature and admissibility are the same as those for a parish council. Minutes have to be accepted by the meeting as a true record and then signed as being a true record by the chairman. This happens towards the start of meetings.
Minutes are a public record of the meeting and the decisions made and should give the status of the meeting, the place and date. It is deemed good practice to produce minutes as quickly as possible after the meeting. They can be published on a website or notice board, or by provision of copies to members of the public. Under the Freedom of Information Act anyone can request in writing to be given their own copy of the minutes or a copy of the accounts.
Minutes should be preserved to form part of the archives – in practice many parishes use a book in which minutes are handwritten. Others maintain typewritten copies of minutes. By providing parishes with a website, Ryedale District Council gives a new way of achieving an archive which is open to everyone anywhere in the world at any time.
It should be noted they do not become valid minutes until their acceptance as a correct record and signing by the chair at the next meeting. Consequently those publicized before such validation may carry the wording ‘Minutes subject to approval at the next meeting.’
It is a legal requirement that parish accounts are audited annually.
The Audit Commission Act 1998, Section 2(1), provides that the accounts of a Parish Meeting must be made up each year to 31 March or some other date as directed by the Secretary of State and audited by an auditor. Fees to cover this can be included in any precept.
The documents submitted for the audit are known as the Annual Return. There is a statutory requirement for all local councils, including Parish Meetings, to allow an inspection of the accounts and supporting documentation before they are sent off to the auditors.
There must be an inspection period of 20 working days and this period must be advertised at least two full calendar weeks before the start date. A document detailing where (must be a convenient place) and when the accounts can be inspected must be displayed in a conspicuous place(s). It is normally pinned on the parish noticeboard. In practice it is likely to appear sometime in June. Objections can be made to the accounts and the auditors can be questioned.
There is a charge to the parish for the audit.
The present auditors are Mazars of Regency House, 3 Grosvenor Square, Southampton, Hampshire SO15 2BE, tel 02380 232428 Web www.mazars.co.uk.
For further details concerning parish councils/meetings see:
Open Government is something to which all local authorities should aspire.
References used/help given to compile the above came from:
Butterworths Local Council Administration (the book can be found at all good book sellers).
Yorkshire Local Councils Association
National Association of Local Councils