Are you interested in being a Parish Clerk

The role of a parish clerk to a local council

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. 

Small/Medium and 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 for you.

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.