The role of a parish clerk to a local
The role of a Parish Clerk covers a lot more than the
official title suggests. Many people
confuse the title as being linked with the Church which is no longer the case. The Parish Clerk is the proper officer (a
legal title) of a local council which may be a Parish, Town, Community, Village
or Neighbourhood Council. A local council is the first tier of local
government. Local Council’s range from
small village council’s where the clerk may only work a few hours per week from
home to large Town Council’s where the Clerk would be full time and probably
manage a team of staff based in an office.
Typically, the Clerk of a small to medium council will also
be the council’s Responsible Finance Officer (RFO) which in larger council’s
maybe a separate role. In addition to administrative skills a Parish Clerk
& RFO will need financial management skills to be able to manage the council’s
budget and prepare bank reconciliations and year end accounts for
auditing. The Clerk will also manage any
council assets on a day to day basis and prepare reports for council’s
consideration for any contracted out works. The Clerk will need to be able to
interpret legislation which applies to local council’s such as the Local
Government Act 1972. A local council manages its business using public funds
called the precept which is the local council’s element of the council tax. It
is therefore imperative that robust policies and procedures are in place for
the transparent management of the council’s affairs.
Large Local Councils
The range of assets held by a local council will vary from
council to council, with some council’s having no assets at all. Having no
physical assets doesn’t stop a local council from being pro-active in the
community as they can be heavily involved in planning by creating a
Neighbourhood Plan and may arrange a number of events such as summer fairs,
bonfire nights, Christmas events etc. All local councils are the voice of the community
they serve and may be a consultee for the purpose of consultations from the
principal authority (the next tier of local government e.g. District Council
with County Council above them or a unitary authority such as a Metropolitan
Borough Council), central government or other organisations such as the local
public transport authority.
A medium to larger size local council could have many assets
which may include a range of facilities such as allotments, cemetery, play areas,
trim trail, multi use games area, recreation grounds, community centre, war memorials,
woodlands and open spaces, village green, bus shelters and benches. Some local councils
have also taken on the local pub or village shop as a community asset to save
it from closure.
A Parish Clerk in a Town Council maybe known as the Town
Clerk and will line manage all other staff. The number of staff will depend on
the size of council and the types of assets it holds but may include a
Responsible Finance Officer and/or Deputy Town Clerk, Administration
Assistant/Receptionist, Cemetery Administrator, Mayors Secretary, Planning
Officer, and Events Manager based in the office (remember that a part time
clerk to a small council will be expected to wear all these hats at some time
if the council has the need) in addition to grounds maintenance staff ( if the council
manages a football field, cricket field, recreation ground or park), cemetery
maintenance staff and handyman.
A Typical Day in
the life of a Parish Clerk/RFO (small to medium size council)
There is no such thing as a typical day!
Variety is the key word in the working life of a Clerk. To
give an example of a Clerk/RFO’s work, lets consider a week in the life of a part
time clerk working around 20 hours a week (note this is in addition to the
usual telephone calls, e-mails and post):
Monday – Finance Day - production of a finance report to the
council including updating the receipts and payments schedules, bank
reconciliation and budget monitor
Tuesday – Complete VAT return, update electoral register and
do all filing then attend an evening planning committee meeting
Wednesday - walk around recreation ground and woods with
handyman to agree work schedule for maintenance then type Planning committee
minutes and submit comments on applications to the planning authority.
Thursday – Type council meeting agenda and start a grant
application form to War Memorials Trust for a structural survey of the war
memorial. Book councillors on training event (chase up replies).
Friday - meet contractor to discuss quote for trim trail and
suitable location on recreation ground. Start
a report to council on the feasibility of installing a trim trail including
suggested locations, quotes and possible grant funders.
If the thought of mixing administrative and financial skills
with a bit of contractor management, events management and allotments
inspecting appeals to you then the role of a part time Clerk & RFO may be
The Yorkshire Local Councils Association provides training
for new clerks and the SLCC (Society of Local Council Clerks) runs a basic
qualification for new clerks called the ILCM (Introduction to Local Council
Management). The recognised qualification for a Parish Clerk is the CiLCA
(Certificate in Local Council Administration) which follows on from the ILCM
and is administered by the YLCA where Clerks will have a designated tutor and
access to training days.
Only councils with a qualified clerk can apply for LCAS (the
Local Councils Awards Scheme) which is the quality mark for local councils.