Order, order… mine’s a pint

Are you allowed to hold a meeting in your kitchen, or a quiet corner of the pub? You can, but neither location is really ideal, and only if the meeting is a working group making recommendations and not a sub-committee which makes decisions.

A kitchen or the pub as locations for council-related meetings are not really very professional, and while the rules do allow for such meetings of a non-decision making working group, it could set tongues wagging.

To hold a meeting of a council or a sub-committee which then makes decisions in such a manner would be illegal. Such meetings have to be advertised and held at a venue open to the public.

Council and committee meetings are formal events, not social occasions, and, most importantly, are public events. The press, who are often the only representatives at a meeting, are also entitled to attend.

There are exceptions to public and press attendance – some sensitive matters can be discussed in closed session, with press and public excluded, but more about that next month.

Working groups, sometimes called task and finish groups, are generally set up for a short-term purpose and are not subject to the strict rules applying to formal council and committee meetings. They do not need to be held in public, the press do not have a right to attend. The meeting does not have to be minuted. This freedom is useful as it gives opportunity to explore an issue openly and without restraints or intimidation.

Working groups can also include those who are not councillors – they may have expertise to offer or may be useful for a different viewpoint and involves the local community in council work.

But don’t forget, the working group cannot make decisions and a short report back to the parish council to consider proposals and take a decision is required.

Really useful advice about the rules around meetings can be found in the attachment to this issue – “The good councillor’s guide: Essential guidance for local councillors”.