Hannington Parish Council, Hampshire
Council meetings take place in accordance with the Council's Standing Orders (SOs). There are twenty eight sections to the current Standing Orders. To comply with 'best practice', and audit recommendations, Standing Orders are reviewed and adopted at least ONCE a year. A copy of the current version agreed by Council Sept 2016 is available below. Standing Orders cover a very wide range of topics relating to how the Council meetings will be called and managed, public involvement and engagement, rules governing how decisions can be reached, the recording and approval of Minutes etc.
The Council must hold a minimum of four meetings in a year (SO 2.d). The year runs from 1st April to 31st March. There must be a minimum of THREE Councillors present for business to take place (SO 1.x). There must be a minimum of 3 clear days public notice of meetings to be held (SO 1.b). The production and approval, or otherwise, of the Minutes is governed by SO 8. Conduct at meetings (SO 9), voting (SO 10).
In addition to items of general and regular interest on the Agendas such as highways, footpaths, broadband, planning applications, expenditure approvals and budget monitoring etc the general structure of the Annual Cycle of Meetings provides for:-
* May meeting to receive and approve the Final Accounts for the preceding year, and confirmation of its Funding for the current year ie Precept and grants,
* September meeting to receive the Audit Reports (internal and external) for the preceding year, the half-year budget monitoring statement for the current year, and to review, scrutinise and approve the various governance documents eg Standing Orders, Financial regulations, Risk Register,
* December meeting to receive a budget monitoring statement for the year on which the Budget for the forthcoming year is decided and the level of Precept to be collected by the Borough Council through the Council Tax is agreed.
* February meeting to receive the projected year-end financial position and predicted cash balance as at 31st March, to agree the Fixed Asset Register.
As the parish Council plans for only FOUR meetings in the year, it recognised in September 2014 that there was the possibility a significant and potentially contentious planning application could be lodged with the Planning Authority (Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council) and its deadline for a response from the Parish Council might not be until after its next planned meeting. It therefore established a Planning Committee that could be called in such circumstances. The Administrative Arrangements for calling and managing a Planning Committee are covered by Standing Order 28.
Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities
This Code was issued to meet the Government’s desire to place more power into citizens’ hands to increase democratic accountability. 'Transparency' gives local people the tools and information they need to hold local public bodies to account.
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 sets out a new audit framework for local public authorities which are currently covered by the Audit Commission regime. Under the new audit framework smaller authorities, including parish councils with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000, will be exempt from routine external audit. In place of routine audit, these smaller authorities will be subject to the new Transparency requirements laid out in this Code. Hannington Parish Council have opted to continue with BOTH internal audit and external audit, and therefore are NOT ‘subject to the new transparency requirements’ However, Hannington Parish Council has CHOSEN to introduce the Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities as it will further enable local electors and ratepayers to access relevant information about the authorities’ accounts and governance.
The Government considers that publication of the items in the Transparency Code will provide the local electorate, Council Tax payers and ratepayers with a clear picture of the activities of these smaller authorities. Whilst the information is already produced by many of the 'smaller authorities' the significant STEP FORWARD as a result of this CODE is … “The data and information specified in this Code MUST be published on a website which is publicly accessible free of charge.”
In addition to the information that must be published 'annually', generally the data and information relating to the Accounts, the Transparency Code requires the following information to be published more frequently than annually:-
Minutes, agendas and papers of formal meetings
Smaller authorities, such as Hannington Parish Council, "should publish the draft minutes from all formal meetings (i.e. full council, and committee meetings) not later than one month after the meeting has taken place". These minutes should be signed either at the meeting they were taken or at the next meeting. The DRAFT Minutes are posted on the website within a month of the meeting, unsigned. These DRAFT Minutes are considered, amended where necessary, and adopted at the following meeting of the Council. These 'adopted' Minutes are then signed. Signed copies of the Minutes are held by the Clerk. The electronic copies of the 'adopted' Minutes are then posted on the website. The 'adopted' Minutes that are posted do NOT include the 'signature'; for security reasons.
Smaller authorities should also publish "meeting agendas, which are as full and informative as possible, and associated meeting papers not later than three clear days before the meeting to which they relate is taking place".
Compliance with the Transparency Code
The data and information was required to be published:on the first occasion, not later than 1 July 2015. There were practical difficulties in compliance with the 1st July 2015 date for authorities such as Hannington PC that did not have a website which was “publicly accessible free of charge.” Hannington Parish Council’s website went ‘live’ and became ‘operational’ with effect from 1st April 2017. The first concurrent deadline was therefore 1st July 2017 which would have applied to the historical 'financial' data for the year ended 31st March 2017 ie 2016/17. To comply with the ‘spirit’ of the Transparency Code, which had a ‘start date’ of 1st July 2015 the data required under the Transparency Code in relation to:-
* the 'Accounts' have been posted retrospectively on the Hannington Parish Council website for the years ended 31st March 2015 ie 2014/15 and 31st March 2016 ie 2015/16.
* the Minutes, Agendas and supporting papers have been posted retrospectively, where necessary, and subsequently 'concurrently' on the Hannington Parish Council website from the meetings taking place after 1st April 2015 i.e. 2015/16 year.