Chairman of the Council
For a Council to be properly constituted it has to appoint a Chair from amongst its members. Therefore the appointment of the Chair must be the first item of business at the Annual Meeting held in May each year. The Chair holds office until his / her successor is appointed by the Council or he / she resigns, is not qualified or becomes disqualified. The Chairman can receive an allowance for carrying out the duties of office. As St Just-in-Penwith is a town, the Chair is known as the Town Mayor.
The Town Council also appoints a Deputy Town Mayor who presides in the absence of the Town Mayor.
If present at Council meetings the Chair must preside. It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that meetings run smoothly, and that decisions are only taken on matters which are on the agenda, although discussion may take place on other issues which are raised in accordance with standing orders. The Chair signs the minutes on behalf of the Council and can call extraordinary meetings of the Council at any time. The Chair also has a casting vote which is used when there is an equality of votes. The Chair also receives resignations from councillors.
The Chair is the leader and the public head of the Council for the municipal year in which he / she is appointed and oversees the Council’s decision-making process.
The most effective local councils are those where the councillors, clerk and the Chairman work together as a “team”, combining knowledge and skills to deliver real benefits for the local community they serve.
Councillors are elected by the local electorate every four years, retiring on the fourth day after the election, unless re-elected. An election may also be held when a seat falls vacant. A councillor, once elected, takes an elected seat on the Council. If there are insufficient candidates to fill seats the Council can co-opt councillors to fill seats for the remainder of the term.
All councillors must make a declaration of acceptance of office with 28 days of the election, before undertaking any duties, formally agree to abide by the Code of Conduct and complete and maintain the Register of Financial Interests, usually in the presence of the Proper Officer. Councillors are elected to represent the views of the local community and can bring forward items for consideration by the Council.
Councillors are summoned to attend meetings of the Council, participate in debate and cast a vote in respect of decisions. Councillors cannot make a decision on an individual basis only as part of the full Council. A councillor participates in forming policy by making suggestions in response to community and an individual’s needs.
Councillors have a representational role, representing the views local community on the Council and also the views of the Council on other local authorities and bodies to which he / she is appointed.
The Town Clerk is an employee of and the Proper Officer of the Council. At St Just-in-Penwith Town Council, the Clerk is also be the Responsible Financial Officer with responsibility for the Council’s finances, making regular reports to the Council and ensuring compliance with audit regulations.
The Clerk provides the core administrative support to the Council, including preparation of agendas, and minutes, attendance at Council meetings, keeping an accurate record of its decisions and ensuring that decisions are implemented. The Clerk is legally responsible for signing the summons for all meetings.
The Clerk provides impartial advice to the Council enabling it to take decisions in accordance with the law. It is important that the Clerk remains impartial at all times and undertakes duties in accordance with the decisions of the Council, and not at the request of individual councillors. The Clerk should also have a close working relationship with the Chairman / Mayor.
The clerk is responsible for managing staff and contractors employed and / or engaged by the Council.
The Clerk may be asked to undertake research on behalf of the Council to enable it to make informed decisions.
The Clerk is normally the first point of contact for the public wishing to contact the Council. The Clerk offers advice, assistance and signposts queries from the local community and ultimately ensures that the Council meets its statutory duties.
A Town Clerk must:-
- ensure that the Council conducts its business lawfully;
- ensures that meeting papers are properly prepared and the public is aware of meeting times;
- implements the Council’s decisions;
- oversees the implementation of projects;
- supervises staff & contractors as required;
- keeps property registers and other legal documents; and
- keep up to date by training and qualification, such as the Certification in Local Council Administration (CiLCA). A local council wishing to become a “Quality Council” must have a CiLCA qualified clerk.
The Council consists of the Chairman and the councillors who have been appointed through the electoral process. The Council is the body corporate and established by statute. The Council must hold an Annual Meeting and meet on at least three other occasions throughout the year. St Just-in-Penwith Town Council holds two full Council meetings per month, usually on 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month.
The Council is responsible for setting the Council’s policies, priorities and budget, raising money through its precept to enable the Council to meet its statutory duties and exercise its powers. The Council is responsible for spending its budget responsibly and lawfully ensuring that by doing so it is meeting the needs of the communities that it serves.
The Council works with other organisations and bodies to ensure that services and facilities are provided reflecting individual local community need. The Council works closely with Cornwall Council to ensure the effective delivery and provision of services. There are certain statutory rights that the Council has to be consulted on such as planning applications.
The Council acts as a conduit for consultation with the local community on issues affecting it and responds on behalf of the parish. When responding, the Council must take into account all the views from the community and come to a reasoned decision based on the representations received.
Anyone interested in becoming a councillor is recommended to read The Good Councillors Guide which can be downloaded here: Good Councillors Guide 4th Edition (PDF, 1.6MB).