Shadingfield, Sotterley, Willingham and Ellough
Introduction and Welcome to New Councillors
Welcome to a new term as Councillor for Shadingfield, Sotterley, Willingham and Ellough (SSWE) Joint Parish Council, whether as a long standing or more recent member of the team. Since becoming Chair of this Council we have made some good progress improving our Parishes but there is still plenty to keep us busy in the year ahead and beyond. Thinking about this letter, I considered what could help to pull us all together; for this I drew on both my professional past and my experience and training on the Parish Council. Each Chair brings their own management style; for my part, I believe that the most effective teams are those made of a broad spectrum of people with a wide range of skills, each bringing something special to the table, none of us with all the answers. As Chair, I am not looking for everyone to agree with me but for each of you to bring your own perspective to the issues that we face, whether this comes from long service with the Council, bringing a sense of historical perspective, or being motivated to improve local amenities for particular members of the community – the young, the elderly, the vulnerable. Perhaps you are especially concerned about environmental issues, or the impact of policies and planning on business; the list is seemingly endless. I want each of us to feel confident that we can voice our opinions and views freely, honestly and candidly in Council, and to show the same respect for the views of other members. We see too many examples nowadays in parliament and on TV and radio of confrontation and division rather than compromise and consensus. We are an increasingly multicultural society and our communities comprise people from across the social spectrum; as members of the Council, I hope we can set a good example, be prepared to listen to one another with an open mind and work together for the benefit of the communities we represent. I look forward to working with each of you in the coming year (and maybe beyond) in furtherance of these goals.
This guide is to help you understand
Your obligations as a councillor
Your role as an elected member
The council’s rules and procedures for the conduct of its business.
This guide also points you to the Council’s Policies, Standing Orders, Financial Regulations and other documents which you will find offer helpful guidance: http://shadingfield.onesuffolk.net/parish-council/policies/
Suffolk Association of Local Councils(SALC) have produced a brief guide for new Councillors: https://www.salc.org.uk/membersarea/new-councillors/ This page includes a link to the more detailed ‘Good Councillors Guide’ ; the logon details can be obtained from the Clerk.
If you have any queries during your term of office please do not hesitate to contact the Clerk who is always willing to help. The Clerk is your first point of contact for all matters including any complaints, or requests for action or matters concerning the business of the Council.
A list of your fellow Councillors can be found here: http://shadingfield.onesuffolk.net/parish-council/new-home-page/
Maps of the four communities can be found here. http://shadingfield.onesuffolk.net/assets/Laminated-Maps.pdf
WHO DOES WHAT ?
What powers do Parish Councils have?: They have a wide range of powers which essentially related to local matters, such as looking after community buildings, open space, allotments, play areas, street lighting, car parks and much more. The Council also has the power to raise the necessary money through taxation - the precept. The precept is the Parish Council's share of the council tax. The precept demand goes to the billing authority, East Suffolk Council, which collects the tax for the Parish Council.
and what duties?:
The duties and functions of a Parish Council are many and varied. Meetings are conducted in public and part o the meeting is set aside where members of the public can raise concerns and ask questions. Residents can bring to the attention of the Parish Council anything that concerns them, either at meetings or directly through the Clerk. If matters raised are not the responsibility of the Parish Council, the Clerk can bring them to the attention of the proper authority. All meetings are advertised on the council notice boards and the Council's website. There is also an annual meeting which all parishioners are invited to attend.
The Clerk is employed by the Council, under section 112 (1) of the Local Government Act 1972, to provide administrative support for the council's activities. The Clerk's primary responsibility is to advise the council on whether its decisions are lawful and to recommend ways in which decisions can be implemented. The Clerk is not answerable to any individual councillor. He or she is the ‘Responsible Finance Officer’ (responsible for the administration of the financial affairs of the Council) and the ‘Proper Officer’ of the Council – managing any legal or statutory obligations.
East Suffolk Council (the District Council) – is responsible for housing, leisure and recreation, environmental health, waste collection, planning applications and local taxation collections.
Suffolk County Council – provide or oversee schools, social services, public transport, highways, waste disposal and trading standards.
If you receive queries about issues for which the District Council or County Council are responsible, the Clerk can assist with how best to get in touch with the relevant department.
1 Declarations of Acceptance of Office
On accepting the role of Councillor you will be asked to complete a Declaration of Acceptance of Office.
When you sign the Declaration you will undertake to observe a Code of Conduct (see sections 3 and 7 below). This is the Code adopted by Suffolk County Council and it is essential reading, in conjunction with the seven principle of public life, (the ‘Nolan Principles’).
2 Registering Financial and Other Interests
As a member of a local authority you are also statutorily required complete a Register of Pecuniary (Financial) Interests. Completion of this form is managed by the monitoring Officer at East Suffolk Council and is a publicly-available record showing your employment, land ownership or tenancy, and any relationships which you may have with the Council. The purpose of this record is to ensure that members of the public and other councillors are aware of where conflicts of interest may arise from council business. You should ensure that this record is up-to-date but also note that it is not exclusive and if you are in any doubt about participating in a discussion the Clerk will always give advice on what course of action to take. More details are provided at Section 6 below.
3 Code of Conduct
As an elected member you are required to consider all matters with an open mind, in an open and transparent process free from an interest. The Council has adopted the Suffolk County Council Code of Conduct which reflects the statutory requirement to promote and maintain these high standards of conduct as required by the Localism Act 2011. The Code applies to you whenever you are acting as a councillor or the public perceive you to be acting as a councillor and it is essential that you become familiar with its contents as soon as possible.
The Council recognises that Members and the Clerk should attend regular sessions to update and improve their understanding of matters affecting local government. It supports and encourages Members and the Clerk to attend training events, conferences and seminars provided by organisations including the Suffolk Association of Local Councils, the Society of Local Council Clerks, and East Suffolk Council. Examples of training available include:
Code of Conduct
Dealing with planning applications
Finance including budgeting, audit and risk management
Please contact the Clerk for further information on your training requirements.
5 More about Meetings
Meetings usually take place in the Shadingfield Village Hall. All meeting start at 7 p.m. unless the summons and agenda states otherwise.
An agenda is produced by the Clerk for each meeting, and copies of the agenda and supporting material are emailed to Members generally before the date of the meeting, giving you the statutory 3 clear days notice.
The statute requires that you are ‘summoned’ to attend a Council meeting. This formal notice will give you the date, time and place of the meeting and will include an agenda to give you details of the items to be discussed and the level of discussion to take place i.e. whether you are considering what action to take, receiving a report, resolving to take action. It is important that you take the time to read these papers before attending the meeting to familiarise yours elf with the issues to be discussed. After each meeting, minutes are prepared by the Clerk. Any errors or omissions should be notified to the Clerk promptly; once signed off as a correct record, they form a legal record of the decisions made.
Most meetings include consideration of planning applications. The Clerk scans new applications weekly and Councillors are advise at once, although formal discussion only takes place at meetings. This link is to the searchable register at East Suffolk Council, use the ‘Simple Search’ or ‘Advanced Search’ options: https://publicaccess.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/online-applications/
ESC also provides guidance on how it deals with applications and what constitutes ‘material considerations’ and this can be found here. https://www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/planning/planning-applications-and-enforcement/planning-application-process/
6 Declaration of Interests
The law relating to the declaration of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and Non Registerable Interests is complicated. It is laid out in the Localism Act 2012 and associated regulations but the purpose of this note is to simplify matters as far as possible.
During your term as a councillor you will from time to time have close links to items being discussed, for example a planning application submitted by a neighbour may have an effect (maybe negative or positive) on the value of your property.
There will be an opportunity at the beginning of the agenda for the council to notify the meeting of any interest but you also have a duty to declare an interest as soon as you become aware of it later on. This may mean declaring the interest during the discussion. You must state the level of interest and the nature of it and ensure that these are recorded in the Minutes of the Meeting.
The Council will also discuss many things which may have an impact or relevance to yourself, a family member, a close personal acquaintance or an outside body on which you serve. If this interest is financial i.e. would have a financial impact on you, a family member, close personal acquaintance or outside body, you have a Non Registerable Interest.
Only you can decide this, but remember it is not whether you think that your judgement of the public interest would be prejudiced, but what a member of the public with the relevant facts would reasonably think. In other words, you must put yourself in the position of an ordinary member of the public and view the situation through their eyes, and not have regard to what you might consider to be your incorruptibility. If you decide that you do have a Non Registerable interest, you MUST LEAVE THE ROOM any time when the item is being discussed. Again, your withdrawal from the meeting will be recorded in the Minutes.
7 The General Principles of Public Life
The following is a list of principles, which the Secretary of State has ordered should govern the conduct of Members. The Code of Conduct is consistent with these principles.
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Holders of public office should be truthful.
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.