A guide to  Council Meetings 

Procedural Guidance


1.1 Chairing meetings

The Chair of the parish council (and in his/her absence the Deputy Chair, if there is one) shall chair or preside meetings of the council.

In the event that the person normally expected to preside the meeting is not able to, those members present should decide who amongst them shall preside. The Clerk should supervise the selection by inviting nominations and putting them to the vote. Where a chairman has to be selected, the meeting starts when the selection decision is made. The minutes should record the selection of the chairman and the period of office (i.e. ‘Cllr X was selected to chair the meeting for the municipal year 2019/20).

1.2 Quorum

No business shall be considered at a meeting of the parish council unless one- third of the total number of Councillors is present, or, where more than one-third of the Councillors are disqualified from acting, then one-third of the remainder is present. In any event, there must be no fewer than 3 Members present at a meeting.

Unless the quorum is met, the council meeting cannot commence, no business may be transacted, and no decisions can be made.

A meeting which is inquorate is unlawful and those Members present are not competent to resolve that the meeting is adjourned. It is desirable to have a Standing Order which has the effect of declaring that the meeting shall stand adjourned if the quorum is not present within 30 minutes of the start time of the meeting.

In practical terms, the meeting should be reconvened.

1.3 Holding meetings

1.3.1 An annual meeting of the parish council shall be held every year in the month of May. In the year of ordinary elections of parish Councillors the annual meeting of the parish council shall be held within 14 days after the day on which Councillors elected take office.

1.3.2 The annual meeting of the parish council may be at any time but if the council does not fix a time, the meeting shall take place at 6pm.

Most meetings of a parish council take place in the evening and should not last more than 3 hours. It should be possible to transact the business of a meeting in 1 hour or 1 hour and 30 minutes. If a meeting is scheduled for a longer period, e.g. 2 or 3 hours, it is difficult to maintain the interest of members of the public and Councillors. Meetings of parish councils and their committees are required to be open to the public and in the interest of facilitating public attendance and engagement, it is important that meetings are not convened too late in the evening and do not run over time.

Standing Orders should lay down the time and duration of meetings of the council.

1.3.3 In addition to the annual meeting of a parish council, at least 3 meetings shall be held in every year. In most cases a parish council will need to meet more than 3 times a year. The frequency of meetings will depend on the size and activities of the council, the volume of business to be transacted and the level of delegation of functions to committees, sub committees or Officers. Standing Orders should diarise meetings of the full council to fit with the cycle of committee (and sub-committee) meetings. The regular meetings of a parish council convened by its proper officer in accordance with the Standing Orders which dictate their timetable are known as ordinary meetings.

1.3.4 An extraordinary meeting of the parish council may be called at any time by the Chair (and in his absence by the Deputy Chair if there is one).

An extraordinary meeting is one which is called specifically. They are usually convened to deal with urgent or unforeseen business.

1.3.5 Any 2 Members of a parish council may submit a written request signed by them to the Chair of the parish council to call an extraordinary meeting. In the event of the Chair not calling an extraordinary meeting within 7 days of receiving the request, the 2 members may call an extraordinary meeting.

1.3.6 Meetings shall be held at a place, date and time fixed by the council. Meetings shall not be held in premises being used at the time for the supply of alcohol as permitted by the Licensing Act 2003 unless no other suitable room is available free of charge or at a reasonable cost.

1.3.7 Notice of the time and place of meetings must be fixed in a conspicuous place in the parish at least 3 clear days before the meeting. Where a meeting is called by Members of the council (1.3.4 above), the notice shall be signed by those Members and shall specify the business proposed to be transacted at the meeting (the agenda).

1.3.8 All Members of the council (or the committee, if this is the case) shall be given at least 3 clear days written notice (at their residence) of all meetings of the council (or committee) from the Proper Officer specifying the business proposed to be transacted which will take the form of an agenda.

Agendas and any relevant background papers should, wherever possible, be published and circulated to members with as much notice as possible.

1.4 Order of Business for Annual Parish Council Meetings

1.4.1 Section 15 of the 1972 Act provides that the first business to be transacted at the Annual Meeting of a parish council is the election of the Chair. This is because a parish council is not lawfully constituted unless a Chair has been elected by Members of the council.

The person elected as Chair is required to make and deliver his declaration of acceptance of office to the Proper Officer of the council at that meeting (this is on a statutory prescribed form). If the declaration of office cannot be delivered at that meeting the parish council can resolve to do this at a later meeting (but see Note at the end of this paragraph 1.4).

Legislation does not require a parish council to have a Deputy Chair. However, to address problems caused by the absence of the Chair, most parish councils do elect a Vice–Chair who is able to step into the role during such absence.

1.4.2 Apart from the above, legislation does not prescribe any other business to be completed at the annual meeting. However, the annual meeting is an ideal opportunity for parish councils to deal with significant administrative arrangements essential for conducting everyday business and activities. This will include a review of the delegation of functions to any committee, sub-committee, officer or to another local authority and Standing Orders.

Below is a list of other business matters which may be dealt with in the following order:

  • Election of Deputy Chair – as appropriate;
  • When the Annual Meeting follows council elections, there should be receipt of declarations of acceptance of office by Members. If this is not possible a decision must be made as to the date of the meeting by which, or at, they should be received (but see Note at the end of this paragraph 1.4);
  • Record Members present;
  • Record apologies from Members unable to be present;
  • Declarations of acceptance of office by Members. If this is not possible a decision must be made as to the date of the meeting by which, or at which, it should be received;
  • Members’ disclosures of interests in respect of relevant items of business on the agenda;
  • Agreeing the minutes of the last meeting and signing them;
  • Comprehensive review of any arrangements delegating functions to committees, sub committees, Officers and local authorities
  • A review of arrangements to contribute to the expenses of another local authority that is exercising the functions of the parish council (s136 of the 1972 Act);
  • A review of a parish council’s ability to meet the criteria to qualify as a parish council eligible to exercise the power of well-being;
  • Consideration of public participation at council meetings. This includes the right for the public to make representations, answer questions and give evidence. If these rights are given, will the public be permitted to participate in all meetings of the Council and their committees and sub committees or only those where it is likely that they will have a particular interest (e.g. meetings at which planning applications or local festivities, recreational facilities, allotments are discussed)?
  • A review of any existing committees (and sub committees) and confirmation that their terms of reference and applicable Standing Orders (if any) are clear and still relevant. If not, it may be necessary to make changes in arrangements for delegation;
  • Appoint any new committees and sub-committees, determining the terms of reference, the number of members and term of office and to implement Standing Orders in relation to them;
  • Receive nominations or make nominations to any committee or sub committee;
  • Set the dates, times and place of meetings of the council for the year;
  • Receive recommendations from committees.

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