Communications Policy

Adopted September 2023
Reviewed  May 2024

A. Parish Council Correspondence

(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.

(ii) The Clerk should deal with all 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, a committee, sub-committee or working party. In particular, Councillors and Officers do not have a right to obtain confidential information/documentation unless they can demonstrate a ‘need to know’.

(iv) All official correspondence should be sent by the Clerk in the name of the council using council letter headed paper.

(v) 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).

(vi) Parish Councillors are advised against acting as an intermediary with the County Council & District Council, this is not being unhelpful, but to direct enquiries to the appropriate department at the County or District Council.

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.

(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 or the Chair of the relevant committee.

(ii)  Press reports from the council, its committees or working parties should be from the Clerk or 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.

(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.

(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.

(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.

(iv) E-mails:

• 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 or other officers:

• 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.

F. Purdah

Purdah is the period prior to an election, once a notice of poll has been officially given by the returning officer. It applies to Parish & County Council Elections as well as other national elections (e.g. General Election)

It also applies if there is a local by-election.

During such a period, special care is needed to avoid any impression that the Parish Council, as a body, supports any aspirant for elected office or a particular party.

More specific advice will be issued by the NALC and/or the returning officer at the County Council.

G. Obscene & Abusive Language

Staff & Councillors are not obliged to listen to abusive and obscene tirades or address members of the public in this way. In such a case, the caller should politely be asked to desist and advised that if they continue to use such language the call will be terminated. If the abuse or obscenity continues then the call can be terminated.

Care however should be taken as some ‘vivid descriptions’ are used in the ordinary course of speech by certain sections of the community. A judgement should be made from the tone if that is the position. In such cases a councillor or member of staff can ask for moderation but may choose to continue the contact.