Trefriw Community Council
©Trefriw Community Council 2014
The Council as a corporate body is made up of several parts
The Council as a corporate body
Any council decisions are the responsibility of the council as a whole. The council is responsible for the services it provides. It establishes policies for action and decides how money will be raised and spent on behalf of the community. It is responsible for spending money lawfully and without risk, and for achieving best value for money. The Council represents and services the whole community equally, and in its duty to serve them all, must balance the different interests of all the electors within the community.
The Community Council is the tier of local government closest to the people and tries to establish close links with the County Borough Council to avoid ‘double taxation’. Community Councils have the power to raise money through taxation (the precept) and a range of powers to spend public money. The individual councillors have responsibility for regulating the statutory range of services provided, suggesting ideas, engaging in constructive debate, responding to the needs and views of the community and behaving in an open and fair way to enable the council to function satisfactorily for the benefit of the community.
Councillors as individuals
A councillor, once elected, must sign a declaration of acceptance of office and the Members’ Code of Conduct, and complete a Register of Members’ Interests document (Local Government Act 1972, Declaration of Acceptance of Office Order 2001). A councillor’s role for the four-year term is to suggest ideas for the benefit of the community, to get the best value for money possible and to make sure that the council is run in a lawful way. It is necessary for the councillor to represent the whole electorate, not just the people who voted for him. It is important to represent the community in the best possible light and discussion in or out of the Community Council meeting should be constructive and reflect the views and needs of the community. If in doubt on any issue, a councillor can contact the Clerk for advice.
A councillor has a duty to declare a personal or prejudicial interest at meetings. At all times councillors should behave in an ethical way. An individual councillor should abide by the majority decisions of the council even if they do not coincide with his own personal view.
It is important for councillors to attend meetings regularly, comment on proposals and help the council to make decisions on behalf of the community. Preparation for meetings by studying the agenda and researching items for discussion is also important.
In law, the council must appoint a chairman (Local Government Act 1972 S.14). The chairman holds a position of authority and is responsible for ensuring that effective and lawful decisions are made by the Council. He signs the minutes that record Council decisions.
The chairperson should have a close working relationship with the Clerk to ensure that the council is properly informed and advised in making decisions. The chairperson works with the Clerk on the agenda content, although as legal signatory the Clerk has the final say. At meetings, the chairperson should ensure all councillors have an opportunity to speak if they wish to contribute. He should ensure that debate is kept relevant, summarising the debate as appropriate and ensuring clear decisions are made. The chairperson has the casting vote in any situation involving a tied vote. The first vote is a personal vote as an ordinary councillor. The second vote is the casting vote as chairperson.
The chairperson is the public face of the council and it is common for an allowance to be given to enable him or her to represent the council at civic and other functions. By law, the chairperson cannot make a formal decision on behalf of a council – only the full council can do that.
The Clerk is appointed, not elected, and is a paid officer of the Council. A councillor can act as Clerk, but cannot be paid.
The Clerk is the ‘proper officer’ of the Council, (the appropriate officer for the relevant function). In finance, the proper officer is the Responsible Financial Officer (R.F.O.) who, in Trefriw, as in many councils, is also the Clerk. The Clerk is not answerable to any individual councillor, not even the Chairperson, but to the council as a whole. The Clerk is an objective servant of the council, recognising that the council is responsible for all decisions and he or she takes instructions from the council as a whole. The Clerk must be independent and objective, and should not favour any single councillor or group of councillors.
The Clerk provides administrative support and professional advice on all the council’s activities, based on law or good practice. He or she implements the decisions of the council as required. The Clerk is the main contact on council issues for the public, press and other tiers of local government.
The Clerk is responsible for a broad range of activities. This includes meeting agendas, minutes, report and letter writing, general administration, press liaison and public communication, risk assessment, assets, managing staff, and while acting as R.F.O., the keeping of the accounts and budgeting. He or she is also the day-to-day manager of the Cemetery and the Registrar of Burials.