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History of the Role of the Parish Clerk

 

In 1439, Symkyn Birches was the first to be 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."

The Local Government Act 1972 was the start of Parish and Town Councils as we know them today. This Act has been amended and received various additions ever since to which the Parish Clerk needs to be conversant but, from 2000 we have seen many pieces of new legislation which has increased the responsibilities of the clerk exponentially; The Freedom of Information Act 2000, The Localism Act 2011, The Data Protection Act 2018 which includes the General Data Protection Regulation, are those which have created the largest impact on parish clerks recently. In addition there have been numerous ammendments and additions to these Acts including changes to financial regulations, all requiring the clerk to keep up to date in the administration of the council and in advising and guiding the council members.

 

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