Signs of a Failing Council


Even in the best councils, things go wrong so one of the most useful resources is the council’s clerk. Trained clerks can recognise when something needs attention and if they cannot x the problem, they will know someone who can.

Risk management allows your council to anticipate where breakdowns and accidents might occur. For example, it is unhelpful if the clerk and councillors (including the chairman):

  • are unsure of their respective roles, duties and responsibilities
  • don’t work as a team or respect each other’s roles
  • don’t communicate with each other
  • concentrate on scoring points.

Furthermore, the council will have diffculty if it:

  • allows one person or a small group of councillors to dominate its work
  • allows a councillor (including the chairman) to make decisions on its behalf
  • doesn’t listen to and communicate with its community, other local councils, principal authorities, outside bodies
  • ignores or antagonises the press
  • doesn’t have written contracts of employment for staff
  • doesn’t keep its records in order
  • lacks a robust system of financial control
  • doesn’t manage meetings e ectively
  • is not well-informed on topics to be discussed.Everyone in the team is responsible for checking that the council avoids these dangers; ultimately the council is liable. By contrast, well-prepared and well-informed councillors avoid difficulties and spend their energies on serving their communities.