The Chairman is in a position of authority, responsible for ensuring that effective and lawful decisions are taken at meetings of the Council. In law, the Council must appoint a Chairman – this is the first business of the May meeting each year – the Annual General Meeting.
The Chairman should be consulted on the content of the agenda, but as the legal signatory, the Clerk has the final say. The Chairman works in partnership with the Clerk to make sure that the Council is properly informed for making lawful decisions during meetings.
The Chairman is responsible for involving all Councillors in discussion and ensuring that Councillors keep to the point. The Chairman summarises the debate and facilitates the resolving of clear decisions.
It is the Chairman’s responsibility to keep discussions moving so that the meeting is not too long. It is unfair and inefficient to ask people to concentrate for long periods.
The Chairman has a casting vote. The first vote is a personal one as an ordinary Councillor. If there is a tied vote, the Chairman (as Chairman) can have a second, or casting vote.
The Chairman often the public face of the Council, and often speaks on behalf of the Council, but must remember to express the views of the Council and not personal views. If in doubt the Chairman refers to points agreed in the Council minutes. The Clerk should be able to give the Chairman clear guidance on the Councils corporate view.
By law the Chairman cannot make a formal decision on behalf of the Council. Occasionally this can put the onus on the Clerk to decide whether it is lawful to act on the Chairman’s advice.