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PARISH REFERENDUMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TIMETABLE

1. Collect 6 signatures, to call a Parish or Town Meeting (use Draft Notice ).
2. Post notice of meeting in at least one prominent place in the Parish or Town.
3. Tell the Chairman or Mayor, and the Parish or Town Clerk, and tell the local press at the same time (use the letter to the Chairman/Mayor and Parish/Town Clerk).
4. Make sure 10 people (including yourself) are at the Parish/Town Meeting to support a motion to hold the Referendum.
5. Make your speech including a motion to hold a Parish/Town Referendum.
6. Tell the District Council immediately afterwards (use letter). 
7. Canvass. 
8. Vote.
9. Be at the count.
10. Give the result to the local press.

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON ORGANISING A PARISH REFERENDUM

Q. What do I have to do to get a referendum on keeping the Pound held in my small town or parish?
A. Five main things:
1. Get together 9 other people who will
attend a Parish Meeting and vote with you to call for a referendum.
2. Arrange a meeting place for the Parish Meeting (You decide where the Parish Meeting will be held -see below)
3. Get six of you to prepare and sign a Notice of Meeting, calling for a Parish Meeting to be held.
4. Attend the Parish Meeting with 9 other people and formally propose that the District Council organise a referendum.
5. Notify the District Council (immediately following the Parish Meeting) that your local town or parish requires a referendum to be held on "_____________________________________________________"(issue)

Q. Do the 10 people calling for a Referendum at the Parish Meeting all need to be residents of the Parish?
A. Yes, They need to be residents of the town or parish and on the electoral roll. You should look at the electoral roll for your town or parish and check that you and the other 9 people are on the electoral roll.

Q. Where can I inspect the electoral roll?
A. If there is a Post Office in your small town or parish, they should have a copy of the electoral roll for your parish. If not, copies are held by your local Council at their Town Hall or District Offices, or at your local library .

Q. How do I find out the boundaries of my parish or town?
A. Ask at the Planning or Estates Department of your local District Council. They will have a map.

Q. What's the procedure for calling a Parish/Town Meeting?
A. 1. You -and 5 other people -call the Parish/Town Meeting yourselves. You don't even have to ask the Town Mayor, Parish Council Chairman or Parish Clerk, though you should notify them (see below).
2. Use the draft 'Notice of Town Council/Parish Meeting' . Have a look at the leaflet: "The Conduct of Town or Parish Meetings" (Document 5 in the Action Kit) where full details of the procedures are set out.
3. The minimum you need to do is post one notice of the proposed Parish/Town Meeting in a prominent place. It might the Parish or Community Noticeboard. Or it could be elsewhere. You could even advertise it in the local press if you can afford to.
4. You should also copy your Notice of Meeting and send it to 
    (a) the Town or Parish Clerk and 
    (b) the Town Mayor or Chairman of the Town or Parish Council (use letter).

Q. How much notice do I have to give of the Parish Meeting?
A. At least 7 clear days i.e. excluding the date the notice is posted and the date of the meeting.

Q. Where should the meeting be held?
A. You can hold it wherever you like! Town Council and Parish Council Meetings in the larger parishes will usually be held in the Town Council Offices or the Parish Hall. Sometimes a Community Centre may be used. But you can choose any reasonable venue. You could hire a hall. Or you could even organise it in the lounge of your house (in the case of smaller parishes ), or in a suitable room in a hotel or pub.

Q. What time of day may the Parish Meeting be held?
A. Not before 6.00pm.

Q. To what extent should I publicise the Parish Meeting?
A. It's up to you. The really important part of this project is the Referendum, not the Parish Meeting. As long as you can guarantee to get 10 of you to ask for a Parish Referendum, that is all you need to make sure a Referendum is held. The real need for publicity comes when you know the date the Referendum is to be held (see below).

Q. What do I say at the meeting?
A. All you have to do is propose a motion to the meeting calling for a Referendum to be held.  Model speech and motion you can use or adapt as necessary .

Q. Who conducts the Parish Meeting?
A. If the Town Mayor or Chairman of the Parish Council is at the meeting, he or she does. 
In his or her absence, the Deputy Town Mayor or Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council must preside.

If neither of them are present (which is possible in some cases), then the Parish Meeting itself chooses a Chairman ( see Paragraph 6 of the leaflet: "The Conduct of Town or Parish Meetings"). Think about this before the Parish Meeting -and if no Mayor or Chairman or Deputy is present, decide who you wish to chair the meeting. If more than one person is nominated to chair the meeting, there will have to be a vote.

Q. Why do 9 people need to come with me to the Parish Meeting?
A. Because if any 10 electors support the motion to hold a Parish/Town Referendum on keeping the Pound, then a Referendum must be held even if more than 10 object to a Referendum.

Q. If we get a successful vote to hold a Referendum, what happens next?
A. You need to record the decision on whether to hold a Parish Referendum. You should write down something like this:
" At 8.00pm at a Meeting of Parish/Town Council, the following motion was put to the meeting by (Name ): "That this Parish/Town Council Meeting hereby requires the District Council to hold a Referendum under Schedule 12, Part 3 of the Local Government Act 1972. The question to be asked shall be: .............................................
The voting was: For: ( ); Against: ( ); Number of Electors Present at the Meeting: ( ).
The requirements for holding a Referendum in this Parish have therefore been met ( at least 10 electors supporting the motion, or at least one-third of those electors present).

Q. Do I need to do anything following the vote to hold a Referendum?
A. Yes. The Chairman or Mayor, or Parish or Town Clerk should convey the decision of the Parish Meeting to hold a Referendum on keeping the Pound as soon as possible to the Chief Executive or General Manager of the District Council concerned.

But don't leave it to him/her. Send your own letter (use letter).

Q. When will I know when the Referendum is to be held?
A. The Chief Executive/General Manager of your District Council should notify you as soon as possible, when the Referendum is to be held. You should normally hear from him/her or one of his/her staff within a matter of days. We strongly advise you to chase the matter up on a daily basis. Keep chasing them (politely) until you get a firm Referendum date.

Q. Should I just drop leaflets through each house, or should I door-knock?
A. Where possible, knock on people's doors. It will help you to explain what the Referendum is all about, and answer any questions. Take someone with you if you possibly can. If you can't door-knock, then try and put a leaflet through each house in the Town/Parish.

Q. Am I entitled to be at the count?
A. Yes. Contact the Chief Executive/General Manager or the Elections Officer of your District Council well in advance, and make sure that you get invitations to the count for as many people as you require. District Councils usually have a limit of between 2 and 6 people.

Q. What do I do when the result is announced?
A. The District Council Chief Executive/General Manager or Elections Officer will announce the result at the count.

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DRAFT NOTICE OF TOWN COUNCIL/PARISH MEETING

Notice of Meeting

......................................................... Parish/Town

All electors of Parish/Town are hereby invited to a meeting to be held:

AT (Venue ): .........................

ON (Date): .................................... TIME: ................................... p.m.

The Agenda will be:
A motion proposing that a Referendum of the whole Parish/Town be held, on the following question:

".............................................."

" .....................................................(Brief detail of why the referendum is being called)........................................................................................"

This meeting is called by the undersigned six electors of this Parish: 
Name: .......................Address: ...................................................
Name: .......................Address: ...................................................
Name: .......................Address: ...................................................
Name: .......................Address: ...................................................
Name: .......................Address: ...................................................
Name: .......................Address: ...................................................

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COURTESY LETTER TO PARISH COUNCIL CHAIRMAN/TOWN MAYOR AND PARISH/TOWN CLERK

From: Name:

Address :

To:

I.) Parish Council Chairman/Town Mayor
2.) Parish/Town Clerk

Dear Sir or Madam

RE: Notice of Town/Parish Meeting

Date: ...............................Time: ................... Venue: ........................................................

As a matter of courtesy, I am writing to confirm that today I have posted up in a prominent place in the Parish/Town, notice of a Parish/Town Meeting to be held on the above date, at the above venue.

A COPY OF THE NOTICE OF MEETING IS ENCLOSED FOR YOUR ATTENTION.

At the Parish Meeting, I or one of those calling the meeting will propose the following motion:

"That this Parish/Town Council Meeting hereby requests the District Council to hold a Referendum under Schedule 12, Part 3 of the Local Government Act 1972.
The question to be asked shall be: ".................................................................................................?"

If you have any queries about the proposed Parish/Town Meeting, please contact me.

Yours faithfully,

.........................................................
(Signed)

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MODEL RESOLUTION AND MODEL SPEECH

Mr/Madam Chairman, [my Lords and Ladies (if present)], members of the Council, Ladies and Gentlemen

I propose that a Parish Referendum be held, under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972, as soon as possible.

A referendum must be called if at least 10 electors of any Town Councilor Parish call for a referendum at a Town or Parish Meeting. This may be on any subject relevant to the government and decision-making process in this country , local or national. I believe there are at least 9 other people here tonight who will support my call for the following question to be put to the electors of this Town/Parish in a Referendum:

" ........................................................................ (text of the issue) ................................................................................"

(Madam) Chairman:

I now propose that a vote be taken on this motion:

"THAT THIS PARISH/TOWN METING HEREBY REQUIRES THE DISTRICT COUNCIL TO HOLD A REFERENDUM UNDER SCHEDULE 12, PART 3, PARAGRAPH 18 OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972.

THE QUESTION TO BE ASKED SHALL BE:

"....................................................................................................................................................?"

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LETTER TO CHIEF EXECUTIVE/GENERAL MANAGER OF DISTRICT COUNCIL, NOTIFYING REFERENDUM RESULTS

From: Name:

Address:

To: Chief Executive/General Manager
______________________District Council

Dear Sir or Madam

RE: Meeting of ________________ Parish/Town -Decision to hold a Referendum on keeping the Pound

I am writing to inform you that at a meeting of the

Parish/Town held on _________________ ( date ), the following motion was carried:

"That this Parish/Town Meeting hereby requests the District Council to hold a Referendum under Schedule 12, Part 3, Paragraph 18 of the Local Government Act 1972. The question to be asked shall be:

"________________________________________________________________?"

The voting was: For: (  ); Against: (  ); Number of electors present at the meeting: (  ).

The requirements for holding a Referendum in this Parish have therefore been met ( at least ten electors supporting the motion, or at least one-third of those electors present).

I should be grateful if you could now hold a Parish Referendum, posing the above question, within 14 to 25 days as required under the Regulations.

Please inform me as soon as possible the date on which the Referendum will be held, and the hours during which people will be able to vote.

Yours faithfully,
_______________________
(Signed)

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The Referendum in Parishes

COUNTERING OBJECTIONS

You are likely to run into obstacles and objections from officials and others who want to stop these referenda taking place.

Here are suggested responses to the road-blocks you are most likely to encounter.

1. This is illegal- Refer to schedule 12 of the Local Government Act 1972. Part III, para 18(2) says: " A poll may by demanded before the conclusion of a parish meeting on any question arising at the meeting". Note: ANY question.

2. You haven't got a majority -You don't need one. The Act is perfectly clear. If one third of those present, or ten people -whichever is the smaller number -demand a referendum it must be held.

3. This has nothing to do with the local council/local issues -There is nothing explicit in the Local Government Act 1972, schedule 12 ( or anywhere else) that says a referendum must be specifically related to local issues (and see above, question 1).

Indeed, the 1980 referendum in several East Anglian parishes, including Thetford, on the siting of cruise missiles was tenuously local. More recent parish referenda on the growing of GM crops were a national issue with local consequences.

In any case, it is the categoric duty of local parishes to "act as a forum for the discussion of local affairs (not issues, proposals or questions, be it noted) and to represent the interests of the local community to the district council and other local and national bodies generally".

4. This is a waste of money -On average it costs about 400 to hold a parish referendum. Even if 10,000 parishes held a referendum, the total of 4 million would represent a mere fraction of what local and national government spend on NOT asking the public.

How better could we spend 400 of our own money as council-tax payers?

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THE CONDUCT OF TOWN OR PARISH MEETINGS

1. In Parish or Town Meetings parishes and towns have an unique statutory democratic institution, capable, if rightly and interestingly organised, of strengthening the influence of the council both inside the parish or town itself and in its dealings with other authorities, with government departments and with the Local Government Boundary Commission. In addition it can be used to evoke public interest in local government generally and so to overcome some of that apathy of which so much is heard-

2. Whilst it has been said that attendance at such meetings is often habitually low or non-existent, the National Association of Local Councils often knows of many cases where a high or at least a creditable attendance is normal year after year. These "good meetings" are often oases in the middle of a desert of '.bad" ones.

3. This leaflet is mainly concerned with the Annual Assembly, but paragraphs 5-9 and 12 apply to any Assembly of a Meeting. Its object is to suggest to those responsible ways of attracting larger attendances. It is based entirely on information kindly supplied by clerks and chairmen who have been successful.

Law
4. Under the Local Government Act, 1972, the Annual Assembly must take place between Ist March and Ist June (both inclusive) in each year, and may not commence before 6 p.m.

5. All parish or town electors are entitled to speak and vote, and under The Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act, 1960, the general public and the press may attend. To avoid confusion on vQting it is important to separate the electors clearly from the ordinary public.

6. The Town Mayor or Chairman of the Parish Councilor in his absence the Vice-Chairman or Deputy Mayor must preside if present; if not the meeting may appoint a chairman for the time being. Where parishes are grouped under a common council each meeting, subject to any provision in the grouping order, chooses its own chairman.

7. At least seven clear days' public notice must be given, but if the agenda is to include any of the following items fourteen days' notice must be given:-
(a) Dissolution of the Parish Council. (Possible where there are fewer than 151 electors.)
(b) Grouping the Parish with another Parish.
.At least one notice must be displayed in a conspicuous place in the town or parish.

8. The notice must specify the business to be done and must be signed by the conveners. The Town Mayor. the Chairman. or two parish or town councillors or six electors may act as conveners.

9. The expenses are paid by the parish or town council.

10. A few resolutions of a town or parish meeting are necessary to or binding on the town or parish council. These are as follows:-
    (a) A resolution by a well attended meeting requiring the council to provide allotments. places upon it an obligation to do so.
  
(b) Where a trust instrument requires a resolution of the parish meeting for some act of the council as trustee.

11. Under the Charities Act, 1960, the accounts of parochial charities other than those for the relief of poverty must be laid by the council before the parish or town meeting.

12. No method of voting at the meeting is laid down and therefore any convenient method may be used, but a poll (i.e. a vote of the whole body of electors by ballot) may be claimed before the end of the meeting and must be held if demanded by ten persons present, or one-third of those present (whichever is the less), or if the chairman consents.
The poll is conducted by a returning officer appointed by the Borough or District Council.

General Considerations
13. (a) It is useless to publicize a meeting where there is nothing to discuss, or to organise an interesting meeting without proper publicity .
  
   (b) The object should be to make the meeting a social as well as a formal occasion and make people feel that they are important in their village or town.

Agendas
14. It is generally agreed that it is important to frame the agenda so that everyone who has some public standing in the locality should have an appointed time when he can tell the meeting what he is doing. The county councillor and district councillor should be invited to speak; there should be a report on the activities of the parish or town council; the trustees of the charities should be given their opportunity and so can representatives of such bodies as the village hall committee, the Women's Institute and the sports and other clubs. This is an excellent opportunity for them to make their mark and their friends will be glad to support them.
One further advantage of this is that it makes co-operation with the local voluntary bodies automatic. and obtains their assistance in the publicity.
A non-elector may always speak during a meeting with its consent. This should be treated as having been given if there is no objection. On the controversial topics it may be desirable formally to adjourn the meeting for non-electors .speeches so as to indicate clearly who is speaking as an elector and who as a guest.

15. Accounts which are put before the meeting should be topical. It is better to exhibit recent unaudited accounts than to produce audited statements which are nearly always a year old and therefore irrelevant to much likely to be said at the meeting.

16. In some parishes outside speakers are invited. These can be local government officials or experts on matters likely to be of local interest.

17. It is useful to place on the agenda a particular local public issue which is important or controversial; there are more of these than are sometimes suspected, e.g. a village plan; planting trees on the green; the approach of a motorway; more houses; water or sewerage schemes; the amalgamation of charities; telephone kiosks and post-offices; bus and train services; commons; clearing the churchyard.
On the other hand it is perhaps wise to restrict the number of these to be raised at anyone meeting.

Publicity
18. It is often useful to issue a preliminary notice about three weeks in advance, inviting the public to send in resolutions or subjects which they wish to discuss.

19. Apart from the largely inadequate statutory publicity, many councils give a very wide circulation to their parish meeting notices. These include:-

(a) Press publicity. It is better to get the local press to use the agenda as a news item appearing in the columns which people read rather than to insert advertisements in official columns which are mostly ignored.
(b) Invitations. In some parishes the agenda is framed as part of an invitation and a copy delivered to each household by volunteers. This works very well.
(c) Parish Magazines. Articles on local council affairs and notices of meetings can be put in parish magazines which are often glad of the material.
(d) Parish Fixture Bulletins. Where there is a parish bulletin of future events it is an obvious vehicle for this type of notice.
(e) Notices. In many cases shopkeepers and publicans have been induced to put up notices in windows and bars. ,
(f) Oral Announcement. Loudspeaker vans have been used, and in a few cases someone has acted as village crier.
(g) Special invitations are often sent to each voluntary association.
(h) Annual Reports. Some local councils produce and circulate a formal annual report, which is sometimes printed.

20. Posters should be large and legible, and their design gives considerable scope for originality .Schoolchildren can sometimes be given much pleasure painting them. They need not be stereotyped.

21. One parish council always refers to its parish meeting as "The Village Conference".

Arrangements at the Hall
22. Reasonable refreshments can, and should, be provided by the council.

23. It is a mistake to arrange the seating in straight rows parallel to and facing a stage. Those in front cannot see those behind; those behind see only the platform and the back of the heads of those in front; and those at the back of the hall usually have only a very imperfect vision and understanding of proceedings. It is better to arrange the chairs in a deep horseshoe or rectangle (as in the House of Commons) so that everyone can see the face of at least half the meeting and recognise the speakers.

24. Depression is apt to set in if a small meeting is held in a very large hall. While the object is to fill the very large hall, it is undoubtedly helpful to be able to screen off the empty part of a hall where necessary .

25. Stewards are desirable if a large meeting is expected. They can be allotted blocks of seats for vote counting.

26. The stewards should try to persuade people to fill up the front rows first, Otherwise late-comers invariably interrupt the proceedings by having to find seats at the front.

27. Tables and agendas should be provided for the press.

Conduct of the Meeting
28. The meeting ought to be as informal as is consistent with order.

29. There is much to be said for allowing any subject (except those mentioned above in paragraphs 7 and 10) to be raised informally. but the electors should be encouraged to give some written notice of their intention to do so even if only by a scribbled note to the chairman during the meeting. If a matter has not been specified on the public notice no formally binding decision can be taken on it.

30. The following comment on a very successful parish meeting in Sussex deserves repetition: "The writer happened to be present ...and in his view it was largely because of the efficient manner in which the meeting was handled, the way that speakers were held to the point and brevity insisted on, that people left the meeting interested and stimulated and prepared to come again."

Issued by the National Association of Local Councils.
108 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LD. Telephone: 0716371865