Sheffield City Council raises concerns about parish council conduct

Councillors have raised concerns about the conduct of parish and town councils in the city, as they prepare to have more power over money.

By Molly Williams, local democracy reporter
Friday, 14 June, 2019, 16:45
Sheffield Town Hall

Concerns were raised in a Sheffield City Council audit and standards committee meeting where plans were discussed ‘if things did go seriously wrong’ with the authorities.

There are three in Sheffield, which are: Bradfield Parish, Ecclesfield Parish and Stocksbridge Town.

Councillor Alan Law, Firth Park ward representative, said: “I’ve been on this committee since it formed and it’s been 50/50 with parish council complaints of conduct. I think it’s because they’re more isolated and they don’t have the same advice that we’ve got.”

Coun Adam Hurst, West Ecclesfield ward representative, added: “One thing I’m aware of is with changes in things like CIL (community infrastructure levy which collects money from developments), parish councils will have their hands on a lot more money. The actual accountability system they have is no where near as robust as it is for city councils if things do go seriously wrong.

“The last thing we really want to be doing is having the city council sort it out but if things don’t get resolved or if things really do go wrong, the implications are probably now more significant than they ever have been. Have we got a system to address those issues if things go seriously wrong?”

Gillian Duckworth, director of legal and democratic services at the council, said: “They are a separate corporate body so there is a limit to what we can do.

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“There are recommendations for clerks to be qualified before they are allowed to do it, because of the responsibility that they are given.

“So it’s not our authority but we will try and use our influence to help them do the right thing in the proper way.”

She said in extreme cases they do have the power to intervene and cause a referendum on parish council governance but said they try to get them to resolve their own problems first.

She said: “All parish councillors are given training on the code of conduct.

“I think with parish councils there are specific issues that flare up which create a lot of activity and then you don’t hear anything for a while. But I do try to get them to resolve their issues themselves.

“The worst thing for them would be the city council coming in and telling them how to operate. But certainly we would give guidance and support to help them function on their own.”