A GUIDE TO ATTENDING AND SPEAKING AT MEETINGS
The Council hopes that this short guide will encourage members of the public to attend its meetings and will be particularly helpful for those unfamiliar with meetings procedure.
Why are meetings held?
Aside from the fact that there is a statutory obligation for the Council to meet at least four times a year, meetings are the Council’s principal means by which to discuss issues, formulate policies and make decisions on matters affecting Horningsham Parish Council or its governance.
Who can attend?
Anyone - however, if the Council needs to consider certain matters in confidence (such as employee issues, negotiating contracts or pursuing/defending a legal action) Councillors may vote to exclude the public and press.
When are meetings held?
Meetings of the Parish Council and its committees are generally held at Horningsham Village Hall on a Thursday, with the meeting of the evening commencing at 7.00pm.
A timetable of meetings can be found on the Council’s website:
Minutes of previous meetings and further useful information about the Council is also on the website.
The agendas for meetings (usually published 3 clear days earlier) appear on the Council’s website and the Parish Council notice board outside of the school.
What meetings are held?
Full Council –9 scheduled meetings are held each year.
Extraordinary Planning meetings- held when necessary.
Why should I attend?
When can I speak?
Members of the public have no automatic right to speak during a meeting. However, at the beginning of all Council meetings the agenda allows the public to participate regarding items on the agenda. It is the Chairman who determines who shall speak, in which order and for how long. Councillors with a prejudicial interest statement may also address the meeting at this time. If the Chairman of a meeting considers that a member of the public present may have information which would help Councillors or committee members make an informed decision, the Chairman may – with the permission of the meeting – invite that member of the public to speak during the meeting.
Note: Other opportunities exist to raise concerns with the Council, including contacting Councillors directly or contacting the Clerk. Also note that Councillors with a prejudicial interest in a topic will be limited in their ability to act in a Council meeting, see Councillor Personal and Prejudicial Interest (page 4) but they can ask another Councillor to raise any issue for them.
What happens at meetings?
The Clerk is the ‘proper officer’ appointed by the Council to discharge its functions and is responsible for preparing agendas, taking minutes and helping Councillors make decisions that are informed, procedurally correct and lawful. Meetings are run according to Standing Orders agreed by the Council. Standing Orders include statutory legislation for the organisation and transaction of Councils’ business.
The order of business at every meeting will generally be as set out on that meeting’s agenda and we ask that everyone attending respects the office of the Chairman who is responsible for the conduct of the meeting and for ensuring that the business specified on the agenda is carried out.
Councillor Personal and Prejudicial Interest1
In the interests of democracy and transparency, Councillors have to consider any personal or prejudicial interest they may have in any topic on the agenda in accordance with the Model Code of Conduct2 issued by the Standards Board for England. All Councillors are issued with a ‘Guide for Members’ of the Code when they accept office and every Councillor has the opportunity to attend training seminars given by the Unitary Council Monitoring Officer. It is each Councillors responsibility to abide by the Code.
Personal Interest: A non-council interest in a topic under consideration where a Councillor or a member of their family or close associate might benefit, to a greater extent than the majority of those in the parish from a Council decision but does not affect the Councillors judgement of the public interest.
Prejudicial Interest: Personal interests become prejudicial interests if a member of the public (with knowledge of the relevant facts) might think that a Councillor’s judgement of the public interest could be prejudiced i.e. the topic under consideration directly affects a Councillor (or a member of their family or a close associate) with a financial interest, or relates to a licensing or regulatory matter.
1. Councillors sign a formal declaration of acceptance of office and an agreement to abide by the Model Code of Conduct adopted by the Council.
2. The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2007 (SI 2001/1159), parts 1 and 3