Information on Town and Parish Councils
Specific information for Parish Clerks
Vacancies arising on the Parish Council following an election
Where insufficient members are elected at an ordinary election but the Parish Council nevertheless has a quorum, the Parish Council can fill the vacancies by co-option (without the need to advertise the vacancy).
Paragraph 12 of Part II of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act provides that three or one third of the total number of Parish Councillors, whichever is greater, is necessary for a meeting to have a quorum.
The Parish Clerk should therefore:
- Establish whether or not sufficient Parish Councillors have been elected to constitute a quorum. This will depend upon how many Councillors there should be in that Parish Council. For example, if a Parish Council has six Parish Councillor "seats" and three of these seats have been filled at the election (i.e. three Councillors were elected), then, provided that all three Parish Councillors attended a Parish Council meeting, that meeting would have a quorum. If, however, only one "seat" were filled at the election (i.e. only one Councillor was elected), it would be impossible for a Parish Council meeting to be quorate (since 1 is both: (i) less than 3; and (ii) less than a third of six).
- If there are sufficient councillors in the Parish Council for a quorum, then, provided that a particular Parish Council meeting has sufficient Parish Councillors to constitute a quorum (i.e. provided that all the Parish Councillors needed to establish the quorum turn up to that meeting), new Parish Councillors can be co-opted at that Parish Council Meeting. (The Parish Clerk should then ensure that the requisite steps are taken in respect of this appointment.)
- If there are insufficient councillors in the Parish Council for a quorum, the Parish Clerk should advise Ribble Valley Borough Council's Legal Department. In these circumstances, Ribble Valley Borough Council may (by order) appoint persons to fill all or any of the vacancies until other councillors are elected and take up office. Ribble Valley Borough Council's Legal Department can also advise the Parish Clerk as to the steps that will need to be taken in order to fill the vacancies.
Vacancies arising on the Parish Council at other times - Casual Vacancies (and by-elections)
Vacancies might arise on a Parish Council for various reasons "between elections" (for example, a vacancy might arise due to the resignation or death of a Councillor or due to a Councillor's repeated failure to attend meetings or his/her disqualification). Such vacancies are referred to as "casual vacancies".
We would suggest that the following procedure be used in respect of all casual vacancies (except for casual vacancies arising within six months of an election):
- The parish council (i.e. the parish clerk) is responsible for publishing the notice of vacancy as soon as practicable and ensuring that it is displayed for the requisite time (i.e. a 14 working day period, which excludes Saturdays, Sundays and bank/Public Holidays).
- The Parish clerk should use the Notice of Vacancy for this purpose. The completed notice should be copied and then displayed on the parish notice board and in any other convenient places in the parish. The parish clerk should make a note of the date that the notice is first displayed (as this date is relevant for elections/appointments).
- The Parish Clerk should write to Ribble Valley Borough Council (Legal Department), or email firstname.lastname@example.org copying in Lynne.email@example.com and provide us with: (i) details of the vacancy (which councillor, which ward, and why); (ii) a copy of the notice; and (iii) the date from which it is displayed (this date will be particularly important if an election is required).
- If on or before the date 14 working days from the date that the notice is displayed, Ribble Valley Borough Council Legal receives a notice, signed by 10 electors for the relevant parish ward (or parish, if the parish is not warded) stating that they wish there to be an election, there must be an election. A precedent notice requesting an election should parish clerks be asked for one by electors. Further information on what will happen if a notice/no such notice is received, is set out below.
If we receive a valid notice requesting an election, then:
- We will contact the Parish Clerk to advise them that we will work out an election timetable and will send the Parish Clerk a further notice inviting nominations. The polling day for the election must be within 60 working days of the publication of the notice of vacancy, as decided by the Returning Officer.
If only one nomination is received (or, in the case of multiple vacancies, if only sufficient nominations to fill the vacancies are received), the person nominated will be elected unopposed. (The Parish Clerk should then ensure that the requisite steps are taken in respect of this appointment.)
If more than one nomination is received (or, in the case of multiple vacancies, if more nominations are received than there are vacancies), there will be an election. We will liaise with the Parish Clerk in these circumstances.
If there is a by-election for a parish council and there are not enough candidates to fill the vacancies, any validly elected candidates are declared elected and there must be a new election to fill the remaining vacancies. The polling date for the new election should be within 35 working days of the date on which the poll would have been held if the first election were contested.
If no notice is received, then:
As soon as practicable after the end of the 14 working day period, the Parish Council must fill the vacancy by co-option (they may wish to check with us first, to ensure that no notice requesting an election has been received).
This means that the parish council must, at its next meeting, consider the co-option of a person to the council. There are no set procedures for how a person will be co-opted and the process for this is a matter for the remaining members of the parish council. If they do not fill the vacant seat at the next meeting, it should remain a matter of business until the seat has been filled through their chosen co-option process.
The Parish Clerk should then ensure that the requisite steps are taken in respect of the appointment(s).
Casual vacancies arising within six months of an election
Elections to parish/town councils are held every four years. The last Parish Council elections were held in May 2015. The next Parish Council elections will therefore be held in 2019.
Where a casual vacancy in the office of a Parish Councillor occurs within six months before the day on which the Councillor would have regularly retired (i.e. at the next ordinary election), the Parish Council may (i.e. there is no obligation to do so), as soon as practicable after the expiry of the period of 14 days after public notice of the vacancy has been given, co-opt a person to fill the vacancy.
Any vacancy which is not so filled must be filled at the next ordinary election (as per Rule 5(6) of the Local Elections (parishes and communities)(England and Wales) Rules 2006). A Casual Vacancy notice within 6 months of an election is available for use by clerks in these circumstances.
Vacancies that occur before the six-month period are not affected by the six-month rule in any way.
Who can be a Parish Councillor (qualifications)?
Legislative provisions set out the necessary qualifications for a person holding office as a Parish Councillor. Parish Clerks should refer to these provisions.
The Parish Councillor Nomination Form may prove useful to Parish Clerks in verifying whether a particular candidate is qualified.
Steps to be taken once a Parish Councillor has been elected, or appointed by co-option
Certain steps must be taken once a new Parish Councillor has been elected. The Parish Clerk is responsible for ensuring that these steps are complied with.
For example, at a minimum:
each Councillor should sign a Declaration of Acceptance of Office;
each Councillor should complete a Notification of Interests form; and
each Councillor should be given a copy of the Parish Council's Code of Conduct (as explained below, each Parish can now pick its own Code of Conduct, subject to certain pre-requisites).
Each Parish Clerk should forward a copy of each of the first two forms completed by each Parish Councillor, onto the Monitoring Officer, Mrs Mair Hill, at Ribble Valley Borough Council. See Parish Councils - Register of Members' Interests.
Declaration of Acceptance of Office
Once elected, the Local Government Act 1972 (Section 83(4)) provides that a person elected to the office of Chairman of a Parish or Parish Councillor must make in the presence of a Member of the council or of the Proper Officer of the council (i.e. the Parish Clerk) and deliver to the Parish Council a declaration of acceptance of office.
The Local Elections (Declaration of Acceptance of Office) Order 2012 prescribes the type of form that should be used for such purposes.
Parish Clerks may wish to download a blank Declaration of Acceptance of Office form but will need to amend this, as applicable, and then delete the explanatory notes.
Register of Members' interests
All Parish Councillors have to notify the Monitoring Officer of any disclosable pecuniary interests that they have at the time the notification is given. In particular:
Section 30(1) of the Localism Act 2011 provides that within 28 days of becoming a member each Parish Councillor must notify the Council's Monitoring Officer of any disclosable pecuniary interests ("DPIs");
Section 31(3) of the Localism Act 2011 provides that any DPIs in matters considered at meetings at which the member is present, and therefore disclosed to the meeting (pursuant to section 31(2)) must be notified by the member to the Monitoring Officer within 28 days of disclosure; and
Section 30(4) and 31(9) of the Localism Act 2011 provide that the Monitoring Officer will cause the interests notified to be entered into the authority's register (whether or not they are disclosable pecuniary interests).
Pursuant to section 29(4) and 29(9) of the Localism Act 2011) the Monitoring Officer of the Ribble Valley Borough Council, namely Head of Legal and Democratic Services, is the Monitoring Officer for each of the Parish Councils within the Ribble Valley.
The Monitoring Officer must establish and maintain a register of interests of members for each Parish Council.
This must be published on the Ribble Valley Borough Council's website, and on the Parish Council's website, if it has on.
Each Parish Clerk must ensure that a Notification of Members' Interests form for each Parish Councillor is completed within the requisite time scale and that the completed forms are then sent onto Head of Legal and Democratic Services at the Ribble Valley Borough Council.
The Parish Clerk may wish to keep a copy of the completed forms for his/her own records and for reference during Parish Council meetings.
Parish Clerks will be responsible for ensuring that details of the register are placed on their Parish Council's website, if one is available.
Please note that section 34 of the Localism Act 2011 provides for criminal offences in certain circumstances where the new Standards provisions are willfully breached.
Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and precept setting
As explained above, the legislation (section 31) provides that where a parish councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest ("DPI") in any matter to be considered at a parish council meeting at which he is present, and s/he is aware that s/he has such an interest, s/he must:
disclose that interest to the meeting; and,
if that interest is not already in the parish council's register, notify the monitoring officer within 28 days.
There is some ambiguity over whether or not a parish councillor who has a beneficial interest in a property in their area (as is usual, as most councillors live in their authority and many own or rent their own homes) needs to seek a dispensation before setting the precept.
Reading the legislation as face value, it would seem that parish councillors who -or whose spouses, partners etc. -have a beneficial interest in land in their parish, will have a DPI and will therefore need to seek dispensation before setting a precept.
Unofficial advice from a Government Minister has suggested that this will not be necessary.
The Code of Conduct
Section 28 of the Localism Act 2011 provides that each authority must secure that a Code adopted by it:
is consistent with seven principles;
includes provision in respect of the registration in its register and discclosure of pecuniary interests and interests other than pecuniary interests.
Details on the Code being used by your Parish Council should be kept by the clerk and a copy of your Parish Council's Code should please be provided to Diane Rice, in her role as Monitoring Officer.
Training on Localism Act
The Council's Solicitor provided training to Parish clerks and Councillors in 2012 on the standards provisions in the Localism Act 2011, including information on the new provisions on Code of Conducts and DPIs etc. Slides accompanied this presentation.
Complaints about Parish Councillors
New arrangements are being brought into force to deal with conduct complaints pursuant to the new regime in the Localism Act. Please contact Diane Rice for further information.
Elections (not by-elections)
Parish councils have elections for all of their councillors every four years. This is typically combined with the Borough Council's election year and elections are typically held on the same day as the ordinary local government election.
The last Parish Council elections were held in May 2015. The next Parish Council elections will therefore be held in 2019.
When a UK or European parliamentary general election occurs on the date of the ordinary local government election, the poll for any parish elections due on that date is postponed for three weeks.
Not enough candidates to fill the seats
Where there are not enough validly nominated candidates at the ordinary election of a parish council, those candidates who are validly nominated are elected (section 39, RPA 1983).
If the Parish Council is quorate, the elected councillors may co-opt councillors to fill the remaining seats.
If, however, after a period of 35 working days from the date that would have been the polling day if the election had been contested, the council has not filled all the vacancies by co-option , we may:
by order make direct appointments of people as parish councillors;
do anything necessary or expedient for the proper holding of the parish council and properly constituting the council;
direct that a new election is held to fill the remaining vacancies and fix the date of that election.
We must not exercise this power within 35 working days of the ordinary date of election and may allow a parish council a period longer than 35 working days to fill vacancies by co-option if it wishes.
We may additionally use these powers if:
The parish council is not quorate after the ordinary election and therefore may not proceed with co-option (or indeed carry out any other business);
any any point after the ordinary election for the parish council the council has so many vacancies that it is unable to co-opt, such as where less than the quorum of councillors remain and an election is not held (for example, because a number of councillors have resigned but there have not been enough requests received for an election to be held to replace them).
Further information on parish council issues, including useful information for parish clerks, is available from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC). NALC represents the interests of town and parish councils in England - a total of around 8,500 councils.
- The Electoral Commission's advice for Electoral Administrators provides guidance on elections and co-option.