A Parish Council must appoint such officers as it thinks necessary for the proper discharge of its functions, in addition a Council must secure that one of its officers has responsibility for the administration for its financial affairs , thus a Council may have an “executive and responsible financial officer” but, in practice, all frequently falls upon the modest “Clerk”.
The Clerk is normally employed by the Council to provide administrative support and professional advice for the councils activities. It is important that councillors, partner organisations and the local community appreciate that the clerk is a professional officer.
The Clerk is not answerable to any individual Councillor – not even to the Chairman. The Clerk is an independent and objective servant of the Council, recognising that the Council is responsible for all decisions and taking instructions from the Council as a body.
The Clerk must be objective in responding to the interaction between Councillors. It is not professional to favour one Councillor or group of Councillors over another.
The Clerk is normally the ‘proper officer’ this title used in law refers to the appropriate officer for the relevant function. The Council must appoint the officers it needs to discharge its functions. In finance, the proper officer is known as the Responsible Financial Officer. The RFO is often the Clerk (as it is for Mawnan PC) but not always.
A Clerks workload can include a range of activities – outlined in a clear and meaningful job description.
As an independent and objective professional, the Clerk advises the Council on whether decisions are lawful and ways in which decisions can be implemented. The Clerk can be asked to research a range of topics of concerns to the Council and provide unbiased information that helps the Council make appropriate choices.
It is good practice for a Council to delegate to the Clerk the power to make decisions on its behalf – especially in an urgent situation.
The Clerk keeps up to date with all developments affecting the work of the Council and should therefore be alert to training needs and opportunities.
The Clerk is often a manager whose responsibilities might include for example managing projects, sites, facilities, money, teams, staff.
The Clerk and other staff are employed by the Council as a body and not by each individual Councillor. Councillors should not intervene in the management of other staff which are the Clerks responsibility.
At Mawnan PC the clerk also acts as Responsible Finance Officer (RFO). The RFO advises the council and makes sure that the Council complies with the Account and Audit Regulations – the RFO meets with the internal auditor on a quarterly basis and is responsible for preparing the Councils accounts for audit. The RFO sets up and enforces proper financial controls designed to prevent and detect fraud and to tackle bad debts.