South Hykeham Parish Council Protocol on Communications
Adopted at the Parish Council meeting of ....................................................
A. Parish Council Correspondence (including email communications)
(i) The point of contact for the parish council is the Clerk, and it is to the Clerk that all correspondence for the parish council should be addressed. All correspondence/emails addressed to the council should be opened by the Clerk. Once correspondence has been opened all members are equally entitled to see it.
Correspondence is confidential until it has been dealt with at a meeting.
(ii) The Clerk should deal with all outgoing correspondence following a meeting.
(iii) No individual Councillor or Officer should be the sole custodian of any correspondence or information in the name of the parish council. Councillors and Officers do not have a right to obtain confidential information/documentation unless they can demonstrate a ‘need to know’.
(iv) Where correspondence from the Clerk to a Councillor is copied to another person, the addressee should be made aware that a copy is being forwarded to that other person (e.g. copy to XX).
(v) Councillors and staff shall not disclose confidential or sensitive information which for special reasons would not be in the public interest.
(vi) Anonymous correspondence will not be considered and will be destroyed on receipt.
(vii) There will be a separate procedure to deal with correspondence deemed to be vexatious which has insufficient grounds for a complaint and seemingly made only to annoy or for reasons that the complainant does not make obvious.
(viii) Attempts to harass, verbally abuse or otherwise seek to intimidate staff or members in the course of dealing with their complaint by use of foul or inappropriate language or by the use of offensive or discriminatory language will not be tolerated and will be referred directly to the Council for immediate action.
B. Agenda Items for Council, Committees, Sub-Committees and Working Parties
(i) Agenda should be clear and concise. They should contain sufficient information to enable Councillors to make an informed decision, and for the public to understand what matters are being considered and what decisions are to be taken at a meeting. The agenda, papers that support the agenda and the minutes of a meeting shall not disclose or otherwise undermine confidential or sensitive information which for special reasons would not be in the public interest.
(ii) Items for information should be kept to a minimum on an agenda.
(iii) Where the Clerk or a Councillor wishes fellow Councillors to receive matters for “information only”, this information will be circulated via the Clerk.
C. Communications with the Press and Public
(i) The Clerk will clear all press reports, or comments to the media, with the Chair of the council in accordance with the policy for dealing with press and media enquiries adopted at the Parish Council meeting of July 2016.
(ii) Press reports may be made via the reporter’s own attendance at a meeting.
(iii) Unless a Councillor has been authorised by the council to speak to the media on a particular issue, Councillors who are asked for comment by the press should make it clear that it is a personal view and ask that it be clearly reported as their personal view.
(iv) Unless a Councillor is absolutely certain that he/she is reporting the view of the council, they must make it clear to members of the public that they are expressing a personal view and not necessarily that of the Council.
(v) If Councillors receive a complaint from a member of the public, this should be dealt with under the Council’s adopted complaints procedure, or via a council agenda item.
D. Councillor Correspondence to external parties
(i) As the Clerk should be sending most of the council’s correspondence from a Councillor to other bodies, it needs to be made clear that it is written in their official capacity and has been authorised by the parish council beforehand.
(ii) A copy of all outgoing correspondence relating to the council or a Councillor’s role within it, should be sent to the Clerk, and it be noted on the correspondence, e.g. “copy to the Clerk” so that the recipient is aware that the Clerk has been advised.
E. Communications with Parish Council Staff
(i) Councillors must not give instructions to any member of staff, unless authorised to do so (for example, three or more Councillors sitting as a committee or sub-committee with appropriate delegated powers from the council).
(ii) No individual Councillor, regardless of whether or not they are the Chair of the council, the Chair of a committee or other meeting, or are styled “Leader” of the Council, may give instructions to the Clerk or to another employee which are inconsistent or conflict with council decisions or arrangements for delegated power.
(iii) Telephone calls should be appropriate to the work of the parish council.
• Instant replies should not be expected from the Clerk; reasons for urgency should be stated;
• Information to Councillors should normally be directed via the Clerk;
• E-mails from Councillors to external parties should be copied to the Clerk;
• Councillors should acknowledge their e-mails when requested to do so.
(v) Meetings with the Clerk:
• Wherever possible an appointment should be made;
• Meetings should be relevant to the work of that particular officer;
• Councillors should be clear that the matter is legitimate council business and not matters driven by personal or political agendas.