Yesterday evening Godshill Parish Council held its monthly meeting, not that residents take a blind bit of notice. You may be lucky to find a few residents in attendance, sometimes there are none. Both the Parish Church and Godshill Residents and Business Association do there best to have someone attend and there is often the mother of one of the councillors, but neither she nor her councillor daughter are Godshill residents any more.
Also, it is as if the Parish Clerk and the Chair of the Parish Council go out of their way to make it as difficult as possible for residents to know about their activities, or should that be lack of activities. Take yesterday’s meeting as an example. Whilst the agenda was posted three clear working days before the meeting as is legally required, it contained hardly any information that informs residents what is to be discussed. It is just a list of headings. What’s more, draft minutes of the previous meeting were not made available either on their largely naked noticeboard or on their woefully out of date website.
How much notice should Parish Councils give for their meetings?
The legal position which has stood for very many years is that a parish council has to give three clear working days notice of a meeting. That means, as Godshill Parish Council holds most of its meeting on a Monday, the notice must be posted no later that the previous Tuesday. It has to be said that the Godshill Parish Clerk does manage to achieve this albeit the notice is sometimes only posted on one of the noticeboard or the website, not both – so one out of ten!
Godshill Parish Clerk adheres to this absolute minimum amount of notice which is viewed these days as being very far from ‘best practice’.
Current best practice is to distribute meeting agendas 5 or 7 ‘clear days’ before a parish council meeting. Clear days do not include weekends, the day of the notice or the day of the meeting. So, in order to give the advised 7 clear days period of notice, the agenda should be posted a clear calendar week before the Godshill Parish Clerk ever posts its ‘skeleton’ agendas.
This ‘7 clear days’ makes perfect sense if the council was intent on proper communications with those it serves, the residents. There is then time for residents to consider the matters to be discussed at a meeting and to approach councillors or the clerk if they have any questions or comments relevant to items on the agenda.
But even that would fail in Godshill as the clerk produces the absolute briefest of agendas which also fail miserably to live up to advised ‘best practices’.
Here is a simple example for you. Below are the agendas posted by Godshill Parish Council and also Chillerton and Gatcombe Parish Council for their October meetings:NoticeOctober2022
By the way, the budgeted salaries for these parish clerks for 2022/23 are:
Godshill Parish Clerk £7,100
Chillerton and Gatcombe Parish Clerk £5,700
UPDATE at 10:45 on Wednesday 5 November 2022 – It appears that the Parish Clerk has posted the minutes of the September meeting this morning – only a week late and arguably at least THREE WEEKS LATE to be of any use to residents.