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The Chair's Role

The Chair is responsible for ensuring that effective and lawful decisions are taken at meetings of the council and, assisted by the clerk, guides activities by managing the meetings of the council.  The Chair is responsible for involving all councillors in discussion and ensuring that councillors keep to the point.  The Chair summarises the debate and facilitates the making of clear resolutions and is responsible for keeping discussions moving so that the meeting is not too long.  Their first vote is a personal vote as a member of the council.  If there is a tied vote, the Chair can have a second, casting vote.

  • Holds a statutory post defined in law

  • Is a member of the Council and is elected annually

  • Has the authority at meetings and must be obeyed when issuing lawful direction or direction in line with Standing Orders.

  • Is the interface between the public and Council

  • The one to welcome speakers and make them ‘feel at home’

  • Is to make sure the decision is clear for the clerk to act upon.

The Chair should:-

  • Know that the agenda was put up in time and be familiar with business to be covered

  • Arrive in good time, adequately briefed and with all the necessary papers in correct order.

  • Ensure the meeting is quorate

  • Start the meeting on time by declaring it open, and end it by clearly stating it closed and the time it ended.

  • Know that he/she has no more statutory power than any other Councillor except that of the casting vote.

  • Ensure that all points of view have a clear hearing

  • Keep the discussion to the point, and that it is relevant and ensure the Council deals with clear issues

  • Ensure the Council/committee acts only within its terms of reference and/or legal powers and functions

  • Ensure compliance with standing orders, financial regulations, Council policies, etc.

  • To ensure that where and when appropriate and allowable the Council takes a vote to exclude the public and press from Council meetings.

  • Understand the principles of debate and voting (see NALC Standing Orders and Good Councillor Guide)

  • Remain impartial and not ‘guide’ Councillors to his/her desired decision.

  • Ideally not allow the meeting to continue for more than 2 hours without a break (depending on Standing Orders).

  • Create an atmosphere which encourages participation

  • Be in control of the meeting.

  • Know that he/she cannot be a committee of one (Hillingdon Case Law)

  • Respect and understand the role of the clerk/RFO and other officers, and ensure that employment issues (e.g. performance, disciplinary matters) are only raised in Council meetings when appropriate and in line with Council policy and employment law.

  • Co-operate with officers and Councillors

The Chairman on his own has no power to make decisions without the Resolution of the Council.

 

The Chairman cannot decide which items should appear on the agenda for meetings. The Clerk is responsible for the agenda, apart from Extraordinary Meetings. Normal practice would be for the Clerk to consult with the Chairman when drawing up the agenda to ensure that appropriate and necessary items are added.

 

The Chairman should not involve themself in the day to day administration of the Council, but can be a point of reference for officers if agreed by Council.

The Chair will often be the public face of the council and will represent the council at official events.  They may be asked to speak on behalf of the council in such circumstances should only expresses the agreed views of the council and not their personal views.  The Chair cannot legally make a decision on behalf of the council.

Presiding at the first Annual Meeting of the Parish Council

The retiring chairman, or in their absence, the vice chair must preside at the meeting for the first item on the agenda (after apologies and checking previous minutes) ‘To Elect Chairman’.  If it is a meeting after an election then the retiring chair or vice chair presides, even if they are no longer councillors.  If both are absent then the meeting may appoint another councillor to preside.  It is illegal for a clerk to take the chair at a meeting.

Election of the Council Chair

If the presiding chair is no longer to be a member of the council then they only have a casting vote.  If they are still going to be a member then they have a vote and a casting vote (they can vote for themselves if they wish).  Once voted in, the new chair signs their declaration of acceptance of office and presides over the meeting immediately.  They serve for twelve months under Section 15 (1) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Election of a Committee Chair

For all committees/sub-committees, the Chair is elected at the first meeting of that committee after the Annual Meeting of the Parish Council. The Chair of a committee does not have to be the Chair of the Parish Council.

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