Manifesto Promises, Legal Updates & Place Shaping

Dear Colleagues

I cannot fail to acknowledge the big event which took place this week.  The General Election virtually silenced our email inbox which enabled me to crack on with a long list of administrative tasks for the Association.  Today we wake up to the establishing of a new government with fresh ambition and energy and as the first tier of local government, we shall all be holding our breath to see what this might mean for us.

To wet your appetite, I’m resharing the link to the NALC briefing prepared by their policy and communications colleagues highlighting key commitments in the Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat party manifestos of relevance and interest to local government.  If you haven’t already read this, now might be a good time and you only need to home in on one section.

A new NALC Legal Bulletin was issued for June 2024

Resignation of Chair – no volunteer to stand.  We were recently asked what happened when a newly elected Chair resigned and no one put themselves forward for election as the new Chair.

As per paragraph 25 of Legal Topic Note (LTN) 8, section 15 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that the Chair of a local (parish and town) council must be elected from among the councillors as the first business of the annual council meeting in May. They remain in office until their successor is elected (at the following meeting unless in the interim they resign, die or otherwise vacate office – see section 87 of the 1972 Act).

Section 88 of the 1972 Act deals with the filling of a casual vacancy in the case of the Chair. In these circumstances, section 88 (1) provides for an election to fill the vacancy to be held:

  • not later than the next ordinary council meeting held after the date on which the vacancy occurs (in the case of resignation, upon the receipt of the notice of resignation by the person or body to whom the notice is required to be delivered – section 87 (1) (b) of the 1972 Act),
  • or if that meeting is held within 14 days after that date, then not later than the next following ordinary meeting of the council.

The election is conducted in the same manner as an ordinary election, that is, from among the councillors.

Section 88 (1) says an election to fill the Chair vacancy “shall be held”. The 1972 Act does not specify what a council must do if there are no candidates for chair. In practice, councillors need to work together to choose someone or persuade one of their number to stand.

Use of rental income for recreational facilities – We were asked an interesting question which arose because of some council correspondence from 1975. A letter from a sports club to the council in question suggested that the Local Government Act 1972 said that rental income from recreational facilities had to be ploughed back into the facilities. We could not see anything indicating this was the case in the 1972 Act and earlier versions.

The point was moot in the case in question because the rental income was a peppercorn. However, we were also alerted to paragraph 14.10 of Arnold-Baker on Local Council Administration (13th edition) on payment and rents. This says that in the case of the management of allotments and recreation grounds, surpluses must be ploughed back and not used for any other purpose without special leave. A reference is given but it only applies to allotments.

We contacted the editor of Arnold-Baker who confirmed that the reference was a historical oversight from previous editions. He also could not find anything suggesting rental income had to be ploughed back. We will update if there are further developments.

Notification of councillor resignation – We were asked if a resignation is valid if a councillor sent his resignation to the Clerk and asked the Clerk to communicate his decision to the Chair.

Section 84 (1) (c) of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that a person elected to any office under the 1972 Act may at any time resign his office by written notice delivered in the case of a parish or community councillor, to the Chair of the parish or community council and his resignation shall take effect upon the receipt of the notice by the person or body to whom it is required to be delivered.

In our view, what happened was not sufficient to amount to a valid resignation. It relies on another person (the Clerk) forwarding it to the right person (the Chair) for the right person to see the written resignation. We are not aware of relevant caselaw so this is a view.

In our August 2022 legal update bulletin, we advised as follows:

“Resignation by email – copying in the Chair?

We were recently asked about the validity of a councillor’s resignation. The councillor concerned had emailed his resignation to the Clerk, copying in the chair to his email. S.84 (1) (c) of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that a person elected to any office under the 1972 Act may at any time resign their office by written notice delivered in the case of a parish or community councillor, to the Chair of the parish or community council.

Our view was that this was a resignation, even given the potential grey area. The email (the written notice for the purpose of s.84) went to the chair even though it also went to the clerk”.

Our view is that this can be distinguished from the present matter where the email did not go straight to the Chair. The practical advice was for the Clerk to refer the councillor to section 84 and suggest they write to the Chair, for the avoidance of doubt.

Charging voluntary organisations for advertising – We were asked if a council could charge voluntary or community groups for advertising in the council’s newsletter. Our view was they could not. Section 142 of the Local Government Act 1972 (provision of information etc relating to matters affecting local government) does not provide a mechanism for charging. We also did not think that charging for advertising would be in the spirit of a council promoting and supporting community organisations.

New hedgerow regulations – We were alerted to new regulations on maintaining hedgerows that recently came into force (The Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024) which cover agricultural land including allotments. The rules relate to hedges which are 20 metres long (or more) or which join a hedge at either end. The rules do not apply to hedges around a house and garden. A relevant hedge (there are exemptions) must not be cut or trimmed in the period March to August inclusive. 

Reissued 

  • LTN 22 (disciplinary and grievance arrangements) and 
  • LTN 23 (health and safety). 
  • Briefing on the pre-election publicity period (Briefing L01-24).

That was the national view, locally we completed Day 2 for both cohorts for CiLCA training, 16 candidates this year, a record for us.  We also met 22 current or aspiring Chairman/women to examine Chairing Skills.  After a long absence of in person training on this subject it was tremendous to have them back in the room and we look forward to a further delivery of this course at the end of July.  

Our 2023-24 analysis of Events, Training and use of the Bucksalc.gov.uk website reports are in draft and will soon be available to share with you.  Our members benefits are more comprehensive than ever and our supporting material for Councils continues to grow.  

Next week I shall be representing BMKALC at a ROUNDTABLE ON COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IN NEW LOCAL PLAN MAKING. Other participants are: 

• Development Plans Team at DLUHC (person TBC) 

• Liz Hobden, Principal Consultant at the Planning Advisory Service 

• Planning Aid England (person TBC) 

• Helen Williams, Head of Neighbourhood Planning at Locality 

• AECOM (person TBC) 

• TCPA (person TBC) 

• Justin Griggs, Head of Policy at the National Association of Local Councils 

• Angela Makinson, Chair of Horsford Parish Council 

• Tony Burton, Convenor at Neighbourhood Planners London 

• Katie Lea, Director at Place Studio Ltd 

• Leani Haim, Planning Director at ONH Ltd

Lorraine and I wish you a peaceful weekend, no party political broadcasts, and we look forward to speaking to you next week.

Kind regards

Mel & Lorraine

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