The World of Locum Clerking – Is It Right For You?

3 Jul 2024

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Julie Flenley, Clerk to Alfold Parish Council in Surrey, and a Local Council Consultancy (LCC) Locum Clerk, writes about the benefits and drawbacks of being a locum.

I have been a parish clerk/responsible financial officer (RFO) and locum clerk for a number of years in the Surrey villages. Whilst I was aware of the LCC register, I only looked at it more closely after a fellow clerk mentioned it to me as I was looking to broaden my horizons. I had already worked for multiple councils – and after much thought, bit the bullet 18 months ago and registered as a locum. I can honestly say that I have not regretted it. 

Registration was straightforward (an email to [email protected] started the process for me). I was asked to complete paperwork and submit my CV for them to pass on to prospective councils. I quickly found there are many opportunities to take all manner of town and parish councils nationwide, with different hourly requirements, and a host of different parish assets to manage. Putting yourself forward for a new contract was simple, a return email to LCC, followed by a call with the incoming council would ensue. Requirements would be discussed and if it was felt by both parties that it would work, the incoming council would contact LCC and formalities finalised. 

I personally feel the range of councils is hugely interesting; I have successfully locumed in several somewhat challenging councils of different sizes (both precept and councillors). This has really served to broaden my skill set, particularly dealing with difficult personalities both within and outside the council. Monitoring officers have had to be addressed, alongside grieving families, and outspoken members of the public.   

Councillors have had to be reminded that remonstrating in public was not appropriate and that we were all working for the benefit of our residents. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, even when it has been difficult – and I have witnessed first-hand the benefits of my work when I have handed a council back. 

Notwithstanding the issues prevalent in harder councils, I have developed a network outside Surrey of clerks coming into a profession which has its challenges and rewards in equal measures. The privilege of onboarding and preparing them for working in the public spotlight – as well as walking them through the potential pitfalls of the role have been really enjoyable, and I can say with much conviction that it is really special when a previous council keeps in touch with updates on their matters. 

I would advise anyone who is contemplating joining the register to do so – it really is an excellent way to develop relationships, test your skills and learn ‘best practice’ in other towns and villages. I have been able to look at what other villages are doing right, and transpose this into my home council, where my supportive councillors have appreciated my input and adopted methods to improve our service to our residents. 

Top tips: 

  • Keep your CV updated – you never know when a good opportunity will come 
  • Always keep notes of what you have done in locum councils to pass on to your incoming clerk 
  • Be open to bad/troubled councils, they provide new opportunities and will broaden your knowledge 
  • Get to know your SLCC and Association of Local Councils (ALC) reps if you are working outside your county – they are a valuable asset and will be aware of issues when they arise 
  • Never, ever judge a book by its cover as there are always two sides to every story!