Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Questions for Chairman Strelczenie, and Councillors Carstairs, Davidson, Drew, Sedman & Stebbings, and the Parish Clerk Mrs. Julie Leighton-Eshelby (Part 1)

Have you bothered to read ‘The good councillors guide, 4th edition’, 2013, Department for Communities and Local Government?

If you have, why have you forgotten the following requirement?

“The words risk management should be engraved upon every Councillor’s mind.”

Any Hemingbrough association, club, resident or landowner with an asset of possible benefit to the village could ask the Parish Council to take it into public ownership for a variety of reasons.  They may have financial, technical or administrative reasons or want to ensure the law will protect it for future generations. 

The Parish Council is not free to make such decisions instantly.  The Council is a corporate body that raises money through taxation of local residents.  The Government sets rules to ensure Councils do not take unacceptable risks with that public money and Councils do not court disaster.  “The words risk management should be engraved upon every Councillor’s mind.[i]”  

Councillors must protect public money by formal assessment of risks before taking significant decisions.  They must have a visible management process ensuring contract compliance.  Councillors must understand every risk that affects its duties, activities and proposals, and record how it will manage such risks.  The Council must insure risks to protect the public, public money, employees and assets.  The Council must set up regular safety checks and record they carried them out.
Councillors share collective responsibility for the financial management of the Council[ii]

The Council must have a Responsible Financial Officer (RFO), usually the Parish Clerk, to guard against the risk of loss, fraud or bad debt, whether through deliberate or careless actions, protect community assets and use public money wisely[iii].

Standing Orders and Procedures controlled by law or accepted as good ‘custom and practice’ set boundaries for Councillors, for example, an individual  asking the Council to take an asset into public ownership should not also be significantly responsible for the Councils own risk assessment or  having a tie-breaking vote in the decision to take over the asset. 

Imagine a private, second-hand car dealer knowing his dodgy car may have significant technical risks being in any way responsible for the Council buying that car with public money.  Prudent Council’s avoid such situations by having Committees, untainted by Members with personal reasons for involvement in the subject, which seek the opinions of electors, assess the risks and costs, and then report to and make recommendations to the full Council.

“Nolan Principles” apply to the conduct of people in public life.  They include always acting in the public interest, avoiding obligations to family, friends or close associates[iv], submitting to public scrutiny, promoting, supporting, and exhibiting high standards of conduct and being willing to challenge poor behaviour, such as bullying.  

Any Hemingbrough association, club, resident or landowner with an asset to sell or transfer to public ownership must expect the Parish Council to take time to understand the risks and rewards fully. 

It cannot be any other way!

Unless you are an elected Hemingbrough Parish Councillor!

[i] The good councillors guide, 4th edition, 2013, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
[ii] The good councillors guide
[iii] The good councillors guide
[iv] The good councillors guide