Stephen Tarling - Sway Parish Councillor
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Sway Parish Council Governance

Suggestion for a Sway Parish Council Governance Working Group:  Paper tabled at the 31 May 2012 Sway Parish Council meeting.

I suggest that Sway Parish Council set up a governance working group (to include Councillors, the Parish Clerk and other interested residents and parties) to consider and report back to the Parish Council with their recommendations on: 

1. Amending Standing Orders in a more appropriate framework reflecting recent legislative changes, and including the option of provision for formal committees; 

2. The number, terms of reference and membership of appropriate committees of Sway Parish Council;  and

3. A strategy and timeline to increase the number of councillors on Sway Parish Council to reflect both the increased population and the increased workload brought about by recent changes.


Background notes.  

1.     Standing Orders

Sway Parish Council’s Standing Orders are now out of date - being those previously required by statute.  And current custom and practice means that Sway Parish Council do not necessarily follow those Standing Orders anyway. 

There are now additional legal requirements for Parish Council Standing Orders which should be included [examples: Meetings and Extraordinary Meeting rules, Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2007 (SI No.1159), Power of General Competence (and other items from the Localism Act 2012), Public Contracts Regulations and EU procurement rules, prejudicial interest rules (as amended by the Localism Act), recent amendments to the Local Government Act (1972), and new expenditure rules].

Beyond statutory requirement the current Standing Orders are insufficiently clear to help decide on procedures [examples: no indication whatsoever of any casting vote in the event of a tie; allocates powers and duties of the Chairman without detailing what those are; no rules of debate, no guidance on rescission, nothing concerning the Freedom of Information Act, no details of motions not requiring written notice, not even any indication of how these standing orders may be amended!].  Our current Standing Orders do not recognise the widespread use of the telephone, let alone E-mail or the worldwide web.

Fortunately there are now NALC templates for standing orders – ready to be edited and modified to suit the circumstances of an individual Parish Council and so I would suggest that the Governance Working Group use such a template as a basis for their recommendations.   I would suggest that the proposed Standing Orders should include the option of committees (either now or at some time in the future – vide infra).


2.     Committees

Almost all Parish Councils – certainly those of comparable size and in our area - use Committees as a way of lessening the load of work that has to be covered in each Parish Council Meeting and to bring in appropriate support (from other residents with knowledge,  experience, time and/or interest).   See table 1 below.

On the Planning Working Group we seem to have an increasing workload – particularly as residents seek to extend their properties in the current economic climate, rather than move; and because there is so little new build, social housing or affordable housing in or around our parish. This means perhaps a dozen or so applications coming to every Council meeting which should all be thoroughly examined by all Councillors and the recommendations decided by the entire Parish Council. We frequently find that the end date for consultation on an incoming planning application falls before the next Parish Meeting, and although this can usually be simply dealt with by letting NFNPA know that our recommendation will follow later, this could be avoided and all planning applications thus be dealt with in public by holding Planning Committee meetings between Council meetings.  This is the strategy adopted by many parishes.

A substantial part of our Parish Council meetings are taken up by details for Jubilee Fields – many of those details could usefully be discussed by an Amenity Committee (which could also invite and/or include members of the various user groups) and any major decisions be referred back to the Parish Council.

We currently have the clear basis of possible committees in the form of various Working Parties and volunteer groups  – see for instance annex B (page 11) of

 There are residents with expertise and/or interests in these matters who would be pleased to help with such activity, but who do not wish to become Councillors – we should use these resources where we can. 

The only drawback of having formal committees is that since they are then decision-making bodies the meetings should be public – but a regular booking of a smaller local room would be within our resources and would permit greater transparency and engagement with those areas, as well as a more regular and predicable timetable for such meetings.


3.     Increasing the number of Councillors

Perhaps because of the fact that the population of Sway (civil parish) has increased over the previous decades we still have the same number of Councillors as we did when Sway had a much smaller population.

Furthermore I am told on the best authority that there have been periods when there has been little interest from residents in becoming Councillors – however this may be a vicious circle because with few Councillors and no committees the workload may look daunting. 

I know that we have recently had great difficulties getting volunteers from among the councillors for various roles – for instance we went many months needing councillors to serve in roles such as a Working Group to Plan the Renewal of the Lease of Pitmore Lane Memorial Ground; a Working Group for the Planning of the Summer Play Scheme; and to work on suggestions for Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.

There may be a need for NFDC to conduct a Community Governance Review, which could take a while.  Given the range of activities that Sway Parish Council support – particularly in respect of the extensive recreation and sporting facilities – as well as allotments and more, it seems likely that NFDC would approve an increase in our number of Councillors.  Unless there is some earlier reason (such as a by-election) it seems that the best time to bring this in would be at the next elections – in May 2015; in order to save us additional expenditure.  If we start soon to put in place the option of additional Councillors this would allow a year or two to see whether we could identify and support any residents who might wish to stand at the next election. The provision of co-opting residents outside of the current councillors to serve on committees might provide an ideal introduction.





Number of Councillors

Population per Councillor

Notes on meetings and committees





Meets monthly.  No committees.





Meets Monthly. Decide annually on what standing committees and sub-committees are required. For planning issues they request an extension when they are not able to meet before the end of the public consultation, or hold an Extraordinary meeting.

Ashurst & Colbury




Meets monthly.  7 committees: Planning; Recreation Ground; Newsletter; Flooding; Village Fete; Village Design Statement; Web site (some of which include persons who are not councillors)





Meets monthly.  1 Committee: Planning (meets monthly between council meetings).





Meets monthly. 5 Committees: Allotments; Planning (meets monthly between council meetings); Amenities; Cemetery; Recreation Ground (these last three meet as required)





Meets monthly. 3 Committees: Planning (meets monthly between council meetings); Amenities; Personnel & Resources





Meets monthly. 2 Committees: Planning; F&GP (both meet monthly between council meetings).





Meets twice monthly; to include what were previously 3 committees: Amenities;  Planning & Environment; and Finance, Policy & Resources

Table 1: Population per Councillor, and meetings and committees of some local Parish Councils.



I believe that from the foregoing it becomes clear that these changes to our governance are certainly worthy of consideration.

I therefore suggest that we establish a Governance Working Group to consider these items and to make their recommendations.

Since this would be essentially an ad hoc working group, then under our current Standing Orders there are no guidelines as to composition.  So my initial suggestion would be to ask one parish councillor to convene the working group with the Parish Clerk as an ex officio member, and to start their work by coming back to us at or before our August meeting with suggestions for both membership of group (to include at least one other current Councillor) and to provide draft Terms of Reference and timetable for our comments and approval.

It would be helpful if Sway News would be kind enough to add an item in their July edition inviting interested residents to contact the convenor; and I would suggest that someone appropriate from the Hampshire Association of Local Councils also be approached to act as an advisor.


Cllr. Stephen E. Tarling  25 May 2012

Sway Parish Council Governance