Communications Policy 1

Communications policy

Introduction

This policy outlines the various means by which Hockliffe Parish Council will:

  • Communicate externally with parishioners, third parties and other agencies.
  • Communicate news and information to our village community.
  • Communicate internally between councillors and the Clerk.
  • Assist residents and village groups to share their own news, events, and information.

 

Scope

This policy is not intended to restrict the freedom to communicate or to enforce strict rules and regulations. Rather, it provides guidance on how to ensure effective and efficient communications between the Clerk, councillors, the community and third parties. It seeks to protect councillors from legal redress by acting independently and to ensure that all matters within the remit of the Parish Council are properly recorded and actioned. It should be read in conjunction with the related policies covering:

  • Social Media
  • Website Management
  • Dealing with Requests from the Media

 

Aims

  • To ensure that responses to correspondence and ongoing communications accurately reflect the decisions and policies of the Parish Council.
  • To ensure that responses to correspondence are sent in a timely fashion.
  • To maintain confidentiality when appropriate.
  • To provide an audit trail and record for communications.
  • To establish clear channels of communication between councillors, the Clerk, the community, and other agencies.
  • To share information on important matters affecting the community and to encourage informed comment from interested individuals and groups.

 

Meetings & Minutes

  • The Parish Council will normally meet on the second Monday of each month (excluding August).
  • The Parish Council reserves the right to cancel or postpone meetings, when necessary, although a minimum number of 3 ordinary meetings (not including the Annual Meeting and Annual Parish Meeting) must be held each year.
  • Agendas will be published on the nominated noticeboard and the parish council website at least 3 clear days before each meeting.
  • The minutes of each meeting will be published on the Parish Council website once they have been approved as a true record.
  • Unless otherwise stated, meetings will commence at 7pm and will usually be held at Hockliffe Lower School.
  • At each formal meeting, there will be an opportunity for parishioners to raise matters of concern or comment on the agenda during a 10-minute period. After this, they will not be allowed to contribute further unless permission is granted by the Chairman.
  • The Annual Meeting of the Parish Council will be held in May each year when councillors will elect a chair and appoint a vice chair for the forthcoming year. In an election year, this meeting will be held within 2 weeks of the election result.

The Annual Parish Meeting will take place in April or May each year.

If a parishioner wants a matter included on a meeting agenda, and it is an appropriate subject for discussion, the Clerk must be notified at least 10 days before the meeting date and at least 7 days before the publication of the agenda.  The Chairman, in liaison with the Clerk, will decide whether or not the matter is to be included.

  • Members of the Parish Council have a collective responsibility for decisions made at meetings – whether they supported that decision or not.

 

Correspondence and External Communications.

  • The initial point of contact for new issues raised by parishioners or third parties should be the Parish Clerk, who will ensure that all matters are recorded and, where necessary, passed to councillors for their attention at the next formal meeting.
  • Formal written responses by letter will be on Parish Council headed notepaper and sent by the Clerk on behalf of the Parish Council.
  • All external emails will be sent using official Parish Council email accounts to ensure a record chain. Private email accounts will not be used for Parish Council business.
  • Where councillors are approached direct about new issues, whether verbally, by email or by letter, they should first inform the Clerk so it can be properly recorded and included for discussion at the next meeting where appropriate.
  • The Parish Council will determine the response to all external correspondence received and reserves the right not to respond to anything that is not within their remit or would take up a disproportionate amount of time or cost.
  • Should vexatious communications be received, appropriate advice will be sought by the Clerk and acted upon accordingly.
  • Individual councillors should avoid corresponding externally on matters not yet discussed, resolved and recorded. Thereafter, and for expediency, councillors can correspond directly provided any views expressed or actions taken are in accordance with recorded decisions or an agreed collective position. The Clerk will be copied in to all such communications to ensure a record is maintained.
  • Unless specifically tasked following a meeting, councillors should not engage in correspondence with anyone who has a contractual arrangement with the Parish Council. Such matters are normally the responsibility of the Clerk.

 

Internal Communication

  • Councillors and the Clerk should only use their official email account for all internal Parish Council business.
  • E-mails should be kept to a minimum and be appropriate for the work of the Parish Council.
  • Where emails are circulated for the attention of other councillors, they should normally be directed via the Clerk to ensure a record chain. Instant replies should not be expected.
  • Councillors should be aware that emails can be subject to audit and must always be professional in content.
  • Telephone calls should be kept to a minimum and be appropriate to the work of the Parish Council.

 

Website

  • In the interests of transparency, and to provide electors with a clear picture of its activities, Hockliffe Parish Council will publish information on a website at hockliffepc.org.uk.
  • This will include meeting dates, meeting agendas, the full minutes of meetings, policies and procedures, finance reports, councillor and clerk contact details, annual reports, parish documents and any relevant consultation information.
  • The website will be managed under contract by an external Webmaster and the Parish Clerk will be responsible for ensuring the website is regularly and appropriately maintained.
  • Any requests for entries on the website must be made via the Parish Clerk.
  • For more information, see our separate Website Management Policy.

 

Newsletter

  • When time and resources allow, the Parish Council will produce a simple village newsletter entitled “Here’s Hockliffe”. This will initially be for a trial period of 12 months and then reviewed annually thereafter.
  • To keep information relevant, the newsletter will be published bi-monthly, 6 issues per year, although this will always be subject to availability of content and the designated Editor’s discretion.
  • The content of the Newsletter will be restricted to village life matters and notifications. Business advertisements will not be permitted.
  • Special editions will be published when timing and importance of content make it necessary.
  • The newsletter will be primarily published electronically on the Parish Council website, the Parish Council Facebook Page and shared to the Hockliffe Village Facebook Group.
  • Printed copies will be posted on village notice boards by the designated councillor.
  • Residents are asked to notify the Parish Clerk if they are aware of anyone without internet access, and who is also unable to visit notice boards for health reasons, so that a printed copy can be delivered to their home – alternatively, residents can download and print copies for them if they wish.
  • Anyone wishing to include village news, events, relevant stories, special birthdays, or anniversaries should contact the Editor on the email or phone number provided.
  • The Editor reserves the right to edit or exclude items where necessary and any decision will be final.
  • Contact details and publication rules will be included in each edition and on our website.

Noticeboards

  • The Parish Council is legally obliged to maintain one primary noticeboard in the village, all others are discretionary and will be utilised if time and resources allow.
  • As the noticeboard outside Hockliffe Stores is to be removed, the new primary location will be the one at the corner junction of the A5 and Woburn Road.
  • Noticeboards will be used to display Parish Council information (including agendas and minutes) the Here’s Hockliffe newsletter, information from village groups or services, the church, the school and details of village events. (nb: agendas and minutes will only be displayed in the primary noticeboard on the corner of Woburn Road)
  • Display of business advertisements or other business-related information is not permitted.
  • A councillor will be designated keyholder for all noticeboards and will be the main contact for anyone wishing to display notices. His/her decision to display or remove an item will be final.
  • Contact details of the designated key-holding councillor will be shown in the noticeboards and on the Parish Council’s website and Facebook page.
  • Those wishing to display items should ensure sufficient notice is given for any publicised event.

 

The Press and Other Media

  • All Parish Council meetings are open to both the public and press.
  • Councillors and the Clerk should be aware that anything said at a meeting is legally reportable in the media.
  • Minutes of meetings are legal documents and can be quoted by the media.
  • When speaking to the media, councillors must make clear whether they are speaking on behalf of the Parish Council or making a personal comment.
  • When speaking on behalf of the Parish Council, councillors and the Clerk must ensure their comments are in line with Parish Council policy and decisions.
  • For further details, see the Dealing with Requests from the Media Policy on our website.

Social Media

Whilst it is a valuable resource, the use of social media is a complex issue with significant risks. See the separate “Social Media Policy on the Parish Council website for more information.

 

Comments

Any comments or queries regarding this document should be made to the Parish Clerk.

Review

Reviewed in February 2024.

Next review date – February 2025.

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