Working groups are the backbone of town council business. Although they make no decisions and spend no money, they are the forum where councillors discuss ideas, research information, and consider what recommendations might be forwarded to committees.
Working groups are set up by committees to carry out specified activities, they meet during office hours to keep staff costs lower. We have two kinds of working groups “Task and Finish” that look at just one topic, they disband once that task is complete. The other kind referred to as a “Working Group” typically works in an area of interest rather than on a specific task and continues until its parent committee feels it is no longer useful.
Task and Finish groups can be converted to ordinary working groups if it becomes apparent that their work is likely to continue, an example of a long-lived working group would be the Town Improvement group (TIG) which has run for many years. Working group meetings are not public, they cannot spend money or make any decisions on behalf of the town council but report back to their parent group. Members of the public can be invited to sit on working groups where appropriate, groups such as the Events working group that make recommendations for the Summer Event, Remembrance and the Christmas Event are such examples.
Working groups have a chair to run their meetings and a member of staff as clerk. Whilst they do have agendas, most chairs are fairly liberal about what can be discussed. They also have notes which keep brief details of the subject discussed and particularly record any recommendations to be passed to the committee. These notes are not normally published as they contain no decisions, they are used purely to report back to the Council. For many councillors, time spent on working groups actually represents more hours work than the main committee meeting. The number of working groups varies and sometimes are merged where areas have begun to overlap.