The life of a Parish Clerk can be a dynamic balancing act, especially throughout the current pandemic and trying to home school two primary aged children! There is no commuter train for me, or even a car journey, just the short walk to my fourth bedroom which acts as my home office packed with Parish Council documentation, files, and Clerk’s survival manuals. Some days are so busy I do not know where to start – the days vary from one day to the next from answering emails and telephone calls to keeping up to date with legislation, managing allotments, cemeteries, finances, staff, grant applications, liaising with Councillors, mundane admin tasks and the usual meeting preparations.
Here I detail an average day of a Parish Clerk working from home ……………
8:00am – Coffee, plenty of coffee, the nectar of my existence and the fuel which keeps my wheels turning. As its Monday morning, a weekend of emails beckon. I sift through the usual junk and spam while deciding what important correspondence needs to be passed to Councillors or added to the next Council meeting agenda. I deal with the usual complaints from parishioners such as potholes, drainage issues and dog fouling and signpost them to the correct departments at the District or County Council. Due to the pandemic, I spend some time reading the Coronavirus webpage on the NALC website to see if there is any updated guidance, things are changing daily at present, so it is important to keep on top of any potential legislation changes. I have spent many an hour over the past year laminating Covid-19 signs to be placed around the parish. I take a look at the SLCC Virtual Conference I have registered for and sign up to some sessions. Really pleased to see that there are a few sessions about the management of closed Churchyards as my Council is soon to take back the maintenance of the Churchyard and although I have many years’ experience managing an open burial ground, I have never overseen the administration of a closed Churchyard.
9:00am – Time to send out the summons and agenda for our upcoming meeting, most of which I finalised at the end of the last week. I always try to work a week or so in advance, to manage my time accordingly. Of course, that doesn’t always go to plan! I spend a few minutes on Scribe completing my bank reconciliations to send out with the summons, which, if you keep your financial administration up to date is a simple and quick task to complete. Time is spent attaching documents and planning application information to the email accompanying the summons which Councillors need to read prior to the meeting. Once the email is sent the agenda is uploaded to the Council website and I drive over to the Parish to put copies in our two noticeboards. While there, I complete my weekly play area and recreation ground inspections, thankfully, all is well. Once back in the office, I prep all my paperwork ready for the meeting taking place next week.
11.00am – After another coffee I setup all payments for the meeting on Unity Trust Bank ready to be authorised by signatories following the meeting and add all invoice information to Scribe. Since moving to Scribe, the Council’s finances are managed seamlessly and efficiently which saves a lot of my time and the number of reports which can easily be submitted to Council area godsend. The Scribe software is cloud based so can be accessed easily and completing VAT reclaims is now a quick and easy task which takes mere minutes. Adding all your financial information into one competent software package allows the Council to possess an effective audit trail – even internal auditors can gain access, which has been fantastic while undertaking virtual audits during the pandemic. TIP: Keeping your financial documentation up to date on Scribe makes the bank reconciliations swift and effortless at the end of each month!
1.00pm – I eat lunch at my desk and make a couple of phone calls to our Handymen to make sure they are well and there are no issues which need sorting. Turns out some signs requesting dog mess to be picked up have once again been removed, very frustrating. I make a mental note to add this to our Open Spaces agenda for discussion. I also note that it will soon be time for both mine and they Handymen’s annual reviews and send an email to our HR team to commence planning.
2.00pm – It’s that time of the year when the allotment renewal letters need circulating and rentals need to be collected. I spend a couple of hours going through our Excel database and putting together the renewal letters and invoices. This year a new tenancy agreement comes into force, so the rental amounts have increased slightly, we had to give a year’s notice to increase the rents so I am hoping that the allotment holders have not forgotten and I won’t be inundated with complaints!
4.00pm – The Council recently spent some months getting quotes and receiving demos of cemetery management software and resolved to purchase the new Scribe Cemetery package which seamlessly links to our finance software. Again, it is cloud based and allows for all cemetery, burial and memorial records to be stored digitally. For me, this means hours of work adding all the historic records to the system, something I have been doing when I have a quiet few hours – which are few and far between! The mapping system is fantastic and although it is time consuming adding all the historical data the software is excellent and the effort will be well worth it for the future management of our burial records. We can easily add images and information about the safety of memorial stones within the burial ground and quickly and efficiently search for a plot. There is a wide range of legally required cemetery management documentation which can effortlessly be adapted to suit your Council.
Take a look at adding burial records to Scribe Cemetery…
5.00pm – No meeting this evening, so time to log off for the day and prepare dinner and get some cleaning done. Sadly, Parish Council’s don’t provide cleaning staff for their Clerk’s, one can live in hope!