History

In 1439, Symkyn Birches was the first awarded the office of "Toun Clerk" of Coventry for the rest of his life and the position became commonplace as local government developed throughout England and Wales.

In 1835 the Municipal Corporations Act required every borough council to appoint a salaried Town Clerk. The position of Clerk was further consolidated by the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894 which granted , respectively, County Councils and then Urban and Rural Districts and the newly created civil parish councils the specific power to appoint a “Clerk of the Council”.

The importance of the Clerk’s position was underlined by Lord Justice Caldecote ruling in Hurle-Hobbs ex parte Riley and another (1944) observed: "The office of town clerk is an important part of the machinery of local government. He may be said to stand between the local Council and the ratepayers. He is there to assist by his advice and action the conduct of public affairs in the borough and, if there is a disposition on the part of the council, still more on the part of any member of the council, to ride roughshod over his opinions, the question must at once arise as to whether it is not his duty forthwith to resign his office or, at any rate, to do what he thinks right and await the consequences."

There has been much discussion that the title Clerk does not properly reflect their important managerial role.

Even in the smallest parish council, it is often thought “clerk” suggests a secretary with some admin skills and does not reflect the many other roles the modern parish council officer must fulfil including legal and financial advisor, publicity officer, events organiser, staff supervisor etc.

As a result there is a growing use of other titles such as Council Manager and Executive Officer. 

Becoming a Clerk to a Parish or Town Council is one of the most rewarding jobs in a local community - a competent Clerk underpins a good Council.

The role of Clerk is to ensure that the Council as a whole conducts its business properly and to provide independent, objective and professional advice and support.

Being a Clerk puts you in the centre of things

Parish Councils are part of local government District/ Borough councils.

The County Council is responsible for strategic services such as highways, education, libraries social services, strategic planning and refuse disposal.

District councils are responsible for local services including housing, local planning and refuse collection.

The Parish and Town councils in the county are often viewed as the part of government closest to the people. They are the only local government tier that represents residents at parish level.

Importantly Parish Councils can "Precept" - raising a council tax each year to improve facilities and services for local people.

All Parish Council meetings are open to the public. They are led by the Council's Chairman and advised by the Clerk who is there to see that business is conducted within the law.

A job description will always list the duties in detail but here's a useful summary:

- ensures that the council conducts its business lawfully
- administers all the council's paperwork
- ensures that meeting papers are properly prepared, that the public is aware of meeting times and that agendas and minutes are published within the guidelines
- implements the council's decisions
- oversees the implementation of projects
- supervises staff (if any)
- keeps property registers and other legal documents
- keeps up to date by training /qualification

It is very important to understand that being a Clerk to a Parish or Town Council is a job not a spare time activity - even if it takes only a few hours each week to do.

Most councils operate nationally recognised rates of pay and conditions. You should expect a clear job description, a contract of employment and pay in accordance with national rates for the size of council

Skills and attributes needed include a good deal of common sense, confidence to handle the administrative work, being a good organiser, IT literate and able to get on with most people. Underwriting these qualities is a sense of public duty - of wanting to help others in the community.

The job is no different from large to small councils. What is different however is the amount of time needed to deal with the volume of business. For small parishes this need be only a few hours each week while for the larger councils it could be a full time commitment.

Most council meetings are held 'out of hours' so being a part time clerk is not just a daytime activity.

Various courses are available and a lot of learning will take place on the job during meetings at District/Borough/County level where you will meet other clerks and start to get answers to the many questions you will have.

Further opportunities include structured training and study, leading, if you choose, to degree level qualification.

You can then go on to complete the nationally recognised Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA). Some councils may require that you obtain this qualification as a condition of employment.

Most councils operate nationally recognised rates of pay and conditions. You should expect a clear job description, a contract of employment and pay in accordance with national rates for the size of council

Skills and attributes needed include a good deal of common sense, confidence to handle the administrative work, being a good organiser, IT literate and able to get on with most people. Underwriting these qualities is a sense of public duty - of wanting to help others in the community.

CiLCA - Certificate in Local Council Administration

The National Training Strategy has developed a customised qualification for the sector, the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA).

This core skills qualification is awarded to those who submit a portfolio of evidence, within 24 months of registering, demonstrating the skills they have in local council administration.

For further information please visit the NALC website.


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