Q? What Parish Councils are not?
A: Whilst a Parish Council can exercise influence, it does not have the final say in matters such as highways and planning, but will represent the Parish’s interests. It is neither political nor sectarian.
Q? How does the Parish Council work?
A: Parish Council business is only conducted at its main council meeting or at a committee meeting. All decisions must be taken at these meetings or delegated to others (clerk or councillors) at those meetings. Parish councillors can only speak for the parish council if a decision has been previously made. Decisions are taken as ‘resolutions’ which are voted on by those councillors present.
Working groups can be formed of councillors and members of the public to deal with projects and single issues and make recommendations to the main council.
Q? Where and when does the Parish Council meet?
A: Combe St Nicholas Parish Council meets on the last Monday of every month in the Combe St Nicholas Village Hall at 7.30pm. See website for upcoming meetings.
Q? Can I attend Parish Council meetings?
A: Yes, every parish council meeting and committee meeting is open to members of the public. The council can however exclude the public from all or part of a meeting if the item is a confidential business transaction or for other special reasons. These exclusions are rarely used and the reasons are always documented.
Meeting agendas must be published at least 3 clear days prior to a meeting (excluding Sundays and public holidays). Details of all meetings agendas and draft minutes are posted on our website and on noticeboards in the village centre.
Q? Can I speak at a Parish Council meeting?
A: Yes, there is always an item for public questions at the start of every meeting. If you feel your matter needs to go onto the agenda please let the Clerk know at least a week in advance.
Q? Can I see the minutes of Parish Council meetings?
A: Yes, all current and past agendas and minutes of parish council and committee meetings are available on the parish council website. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 you may see and have a copy of the ‘recorded’ information held by the council (unless it is classed as exempt information in the Act). This includes reports, minutes and correspondence. The information has to be provided within 20 working days. There may be a photocopying charge for hard copies.
Q? How do I become a Parish Councillor?
A: SDC organises elections every 4 years (the next one is due in 2023) when all existing Councillors must stand down. There are 10 seats in Combe St Nicholas Parish Council. An election is held if more than 10 people apply to stand; if 10 or fewer people stand those candidates are automatically elected and no formal election takes place. During the 4-year term there may be occasions when Councillors decide to resign and so a vacancy notice is published. There is a set 14-day (excluding weekends and bank holidays) period during which ten residents would need to contact the SDC Returning Officer to hold an election. If this doesn’t happen then the Council is able to co-opt someone onto the Council.
Q? Are Parish Councillors paid?
A: No, it is a purely voluntary role. Councillors may sometimes claim expenses e.g. mileage, telephone calls.
Q? What are Standing Orders?
A: These are the set of rules that govern the Parish Council. A copy is available on our website and on request.
Q? What is the Code of Conduct?
A: All Councillors are bound by a Code of Conduct during meetings and when acting as a member of the Council. At other times it is expected that councillors take account of public perceptions when acting as a private individual.
Q? What is a Pecuniary Interest?
A: A Pecuniary Interest is defined in The Relevant Authorities Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) Regulations 2012 and relates mainly to financial and property ownership interests. All councillors are required to complete a Register of Interests within 28 days of appointment. The Register of Interests is required so the public know when there may be a conflict of interests when making council decisions. Failure to register a disclosable interest is a criminal offence. Councillors are required by law to declare DPI’s relating to both themselves and their partner. The DPI register for Combe St Nicholas Parish Councillors can be viewed on the Parish Council website.
Q? What does Quorate mean?
A: Meetings can only take place if at least one third of the whole number of members is present. For full council meetings this means there must be at least 4 members present; numbers for our committees are detailed in their Terms of Reference but must be at least 3 councillors. If the meeting becomes inquorate for some reason, then no business may be transacted, and the meeting will be immediately halted.
Q? What powers do Parish Councils have with respect to Planning Applications?
A: Parish Councils are consulted by the relevant Planning Authority on all planning applications. Views expressed by the Parish Council are taken into account by SDC before a decision is made. However, those views can be over-ruled as the final decision is made by SDC, not the Parish Council.
Q? How do I complain about the Council?
A: We have policies in place that deal with both general complaints about the Council (and employees) and the Councillors themselves (copies on request and on our website). In the first instance any complaint should be sent in writing to the Clerk or Chairman. Some complaints will be passed to the Legal and Democratic Services Manager at SDC for resolution.
Q? What is a Proper Officer?
A: The Proper Officer is another name for either the Clerk or Responsible Finance Officer (RFO).
Q? What does the Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer do?
A: These roles can be separate or combined. Neither is a member of the council but is employed by it. The Clerk is responsible for enacting the parish council’s decisions but is not responsible for making them. All decisions and polices are made by the Council or one of its Committees. The Clerk is responsible for ensuring the Council has the relevant technical, legal and financial information to make the necessary decisions.
The Responsible Finance Officer (RFO) is responsible for the finance matters of the Council and will produce the annual accounts and have them audited.
Q? How does the Council manage its finances?
A: The Responsible Finance Officer (RFO) is responsible for the management of the Council’s finances and reports to the Chairman and to the Finance Committee. All payments have to be agreed beforehand at a Council meeting. Also, all bank accounts are reviewed and reconciled at each Council meeting. The financial year starts on 1 April and yearly accounts are produced and audited both internally and externally. An Annual Return is prepared and published on our website and noticeboards.
Q? How does the Parish Council raise its money?
A: Each household in the parish of Combe St Nicholas pays a Council Tax which is collected by SDC and distributed to SSCC, SDC, Sussex Police and your Parish Council. The Parish Council sets and agrees an annual budget in the autumn and informs SDC who send out the Council Tax bills for all the authorities in the following financial year. Information on each year’s budget is published on our website.
Legal information regarding this website
Names and email addresses of contributors will only be used for the administration of the website and will not be given or sold, or given in exchange to, a third party.
2. Data ProtectionData Protection
The Parish Council and the Administrators will administer the website in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. In doing so they agree:
- They must obtain data from individuals fairly and lawfully and be open and honest about why it is required
- They must hold data only for specific & lawful purposes & not process it in any manner incompatible with those purposes.
- Data must be relevant, adequate and not excessive for those purposes and this should be monitored.
- Data must be accurate and where necessary kept up to date.
- Data must not be kept longer than necessary. There should be a system for removing different categories of information after certain periods, e.g. when it is no longer required for audit purposes.
- Data should be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects. This means that individuals must be informed on request of all information held about them.
- Security precautions must be in place to prevent the loss, destruction or unauthorised disclosure of the data.
- Data must not be transferred outside the EEC unless the country can provide adequate security for it.
Information set out in websites is considered to be “published” and therefore qualifies for copyright protection. It is not considered to be in the public domain simply because it was posted on the Internet and therefore free for anyone to download and copy. You may not publish any material, including photographs, from this site without the permission of the Administrators.