Role of the Parish Clerk
Becoming a Clerk to a Parish or Town Council can be one of the most rewarding jobs in a local community. It is important to understand however that being a Clerk to a Parish or Town Council is a job not a spare time activity, even if it takes only a few hours each week to do.
Skills and attributes needed include a good deal of common sense, confidence to handle the administrative work, being a good organiser, IT literate and able to get on with most people. Underwriting these qualities is a sense of public duty - of wanting to help others in the community.
The job is no different from large to small councils. What is different however is the amount of time needed to deal with the volume of business. For small parishes this need be only a few hours each week while for the larger councils it could be a full time commitment.
Various courses are available and a lot of learning will take place on the job during meetings and at District/Borough/County level where you will meet other clerks and start to get answers to the many questions you will have.
A clerk can go on to complete the nationally recognised Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA). Some councils may require that you obtain this qualification as a condition of employment. Further opportunities include structured training and study, leading, if you choose, to degree level qualification.
Most councils operate nationally recognised rates of pay and conditions. You should expect a clear job description, a contract of employment and pay in accordance with national rates for the size of council.
Most council meetings are held 'out of hours' and a parish clerk can be called upon at all times of a day so being a part time clerk is not just a daytime activity.
The Parish and Town councils in the county are often viewed as the part of government closest to the people. They are the only local government tier that represents residents at parish level.
The parish clerk to the Council will be the Proper Officer of the Council and as such is under a statutory duty to carry out all the functions, and in particular to serve or issue all the notifications required by law of a local authority's Proper Officer. The Clerk will be totally responsible for ensuring that the instructions of the Council in connection with its function as a Local Authority are carried out. The Clerk is expected to advise the Council on, and assist in the formation of, overall policies to be followed in respect of the Authority's activities and in particular to produce all the information required for making effective decisions and to implement constructively all decisions. The person appointed will be accountable to the Council for the effective management of all its resources and will report to them as and when required.
As with all local authorities a local council must arrange for the proper administration of its financial affairs and ensure that one of its officers has responsibility for those affairs. This officer is called the ‘responsible finance officer’ and is almost invariably the clerk.
Responsibilities of a Parish Clerk
- To ensure that statutory and other provisions governing or affecting the running of the Council are observed.
- To monitor and balance the Council's accounts and prepare records for audit purposes and VAT.
- To ensure that the Council's obligations for Risk Assessment are properly met.
- To prepare, in consultation with appropriate members, agendas for meetings of the Council and Committees. To attend such meetings and prepare minutes for approval.
- To attend all meetings of the Council.
- To receive correspondence and documents on behalf of the Council and to deal with the correspondence or documents or bring such items to the attention of the Council.
- To issue notices and prepare agendas and minutes for the Parish Meeting: to attend the assemblies of the Parish Meeting and to implement the decisions made at the assemblies that are agreed by the Council.