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Community Councils

Chairperson: Role on community councils

The chairperson leads community council meetings efficiently and effectively.

Office bearers take on dedicated roles within the community council and ensure that the business of the community council is run smoothly. These key roles are the chairperson, the secretary and the treasurer. Training and support will be available from East Renfrewshire Council for all office bearers.

The chairperson is elected in accordance with the rules set out in the community council's constitution. The criteria for a chairperson's permitted periods of office is provided in the Advice Notes panel.

A community council may also decide to appoint a vice-chairperson to carry out the chairperson role when they are unable to attend.  The vice-chairperson has no specific duties other than deputising for the chairperson when he or she is unable to be present. Often, the vice-chairperson is the next "chairperson in waiting".

The chairperson has perhaps the most important single role to play in ensuring that community council meetings are run well. However, but even a good chairperson will find the task exhausting, unless the other members of the community council give the role appropriate respect and support.

The constitution is very important because it provides the framework of procedures which govern the work of your community council.  Overall, the chairperson's job is to make sure that decisions are taken on all of the items that are on the agenda. In practice, this usually means that the chairperson will have to make judgements about how much time to allocate to each agenda item. It also means that he or she may occasionally have to bring speakers back to the agenda and generally encourage people to make their contributions brief and to the point.

In regular meetings, the role of the chairperson is a formal one. All speakers will be expected to address their comments to (through) the chairperson. This helps the chairperson to keep control of the discussion. In sub-committee meetings, such as those held for developing a local project, where proceedings need not be so formal, the chairperson may be content simply to steer the general direction of the discussion - this may be described as an enabling role. The extent to which a chairperson adopts one or the other of these approaches will be dependent upon the circumstances prevailing at a particular time or occasion. Set out below are some of the characteristics of these two approaches. Perhaps most importantly of all, the chairperson is expected to know the rules by which the community council functions and ensure that at all stages of its work, the community council is operating in accordance with the procedures that are set down. In this context the chairperson may be called upon to act as an arbiter when there is a disagreement about how the rules should be interpreted.

It is also important to recognise that the chairperson's role extends outwith the meeting itself. The chairperson may be called upon to act on behalf of the community council between meetings, or to represent the community council in dealing with outside bodies. This role may also be delegated by the community council to other office bearers or members.

Very often the chairperson is seen as the "official" spokesperson for the community council and must be seen as authoritative and fair in all dealings with outside bodies, groups, individuals and the media (the community council may decide to delegate this role to a dedicated media representative).

Formal Role and Enabling Role

During meetings, the chairperson can be described as having two main roles - formal and also enabling. The following table describes the various elements of these two roles:

Formal and enabling roles of the community council chairperson

The formal chairperson

The enabling chairperson

General role and responsibilities

Ensure fair play

Have an overview of the task/goals of the meeting

Stay in charge

Help to clarify goals

Remain neutral

Help the group to take responsibility for what it wants to accomplish and to carry out its tasks

Have little emotional investment

Agenda and timekeeping

Open the meeting

Run through the agenda at the beginning and get the meeting's approval for it

Introduce all agenda items

Arrange in advance for someone to introduce each agenda item

Be familiar with all agenda items

Update latecomers

Get through the agenda in the allotted time

Keep track of the time

Evaluate how the meeting went


Select speakers

Encourage and help all to participate

Summarise discussion

Encourage expression of various views

End discussion

Encourage people to keep to the subject

Ensure that people keep to the subject

Clarify and summarise discussion

Make it safe to share feelings

Suggest ways of handling conflict

Decision making and voting

Ensure decisions are taken and agreed

Suggest structures for decision making

Decide when to and conduct the vote

Look for and test areas of agreement


Check that the meeting has been called in accordance with the rules

Have a thorough knowledge of the rules

Rules on points of order and procedure

Outside the meeting

Act on behalf of the organisation

Pursue decisions made in meetings

Represent the Council to outside bodies

Ensure someone will carry out decisions

Ensure that responsibility for action is allocated

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