On this page are some of the most frequently asked questions about Parish Councils.  We’ll keep adding to this list so if you have a question that you’d like answering please contact us.

How do I become a Parish Councillor?
Elections are held every 4 years.  At this time all existing Councillors must stand down.  There are 15 seats in Cottenham and there is only an election if more than 15 people choose to stand; if it is 15 or less then those candidates are automatically elected and no formal election takes place.  During the 4 year term there may be occasions when Councillors decide to step down.  In that instance a notice is publically displayed alerting residents to the vacancy.  There is a set timescale in which 10 residents would have to contact the Monitoring Officer at SCDC to request an election.  If this doesn’t happen then the Council will advertise to co-opt someone onto the Council.

Are Parish Councillor’s paid?
No, it is a purely voluntary role.  They may however claim expenses e.g. mileage, telephone calls.

How do I complain about the Council?
We have policies in place that deal with both general complaints about the Council (and employees) and the Councillors themselves (copies on request and on our website).  In the first instance any complaint should be sent in writing to the Clerk and it may be passed to our Standards Committee for further investigation.

What is the Code of Conduct?
All Councillors are bound by a Code of Conduct during meetings and when acting as a member of the Council.  The Code stipulates the behaviour expected by members of the Council.  Outside of these instances the Code doesn’t apply however it is accepted that public perception should be taken into account even when acting as a private individual.

What is a pecuniary disclosure?
All Councillors are required a complete a Register of Interests within 28 days of taking office.  The Register of Interests is required so that the public know which of interests might give rise to a conflict of interest when making council decisions.  Failure to register a disclosable interest is a criminal offence.  Disclosable interests are defined in The Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012. Councillors are required by law to declare DPI’s relating to themself and their partner.

Can the public speak at meetings?
Yes. Time has to be set aside at the start of meetings specifically for public participation.  During the meeting once Standing Orders have been reinstated the public are no longer allowed to speak.

What are Standing Orders?
These are the set of rules that govern the Parish Council.  A copy is available on our website and on request.

What does quorate mean?
Meetings can only legally take place if at least one third of the whole number of members are present.  For full council meetings this means there must be at least 5 members present; numbers for our Committees are detailed in their Terms of Reference but must be at least 3.  If the meeting becomes inquorate for some reason then no business may be transacted and the meeting will be immediately adjourned.

What is a Proper Officer?
The Proper Officer is another name for the Clerk and RFO (Responsible Finance Officer).

What does the Clerk do?
The Clerk is responsible for enacting the parish council’s decisions and is not responsible for making them.  All decisions and polices are made by a properly constituted committee of the Council.  The Clerk is not an elected member of the council but is employed by them.  The Clerk is responsible to the council and is there to ensure that their policies and decisions happen.  In Cottenham we have an Assistant Clerk and separate RFO who is responsible for all of the finance matters.

When are agendas published?
It is a legal requirement for agendas to be published at least 3 clear days prior to a meeting.  This excludes Sundays and public holidays.  There is a legal requirement to give public notices of all meetings and agendas are posted on our noticeboards and on the website.

How I get hold of copies of paperwork?
A model publication policy is available on our website.  All paperwork is available for inspection at the office by appointment.  Additionally minutes, agenda report packs, annual returns, budgets and policies are all published on our website.

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