Signing Documents

It is with regret that Faringdon Town Council had to make the following resolution at its meeting on 11th September 2019:

“In accordance with this advice it was PROPOSED, SECONDED and RESOLVED not to use the FTC s Town Council Seal for identification purposes for members of the public. The seal must only be used on Town Council documents.”

The advice received from the National Association of Local Councils has made it impossible for the Town Clerk to continue to sign and verify personal documents on behalf of residents.

Residents are advised to contact a solicitor to provide this service.

The Council are sorry for any inconvenience caused

NALC ADVICE

We have been asked to advise on whether there is a power for a local council to use its official seal to authenticate a document on behalf of a private individual. We understand a practice has developed of the clerk or a councillor using their council’s seal to authenticate a document confirming, for example, that a resident is still alive, for people receiving a pension from abroad. 

NALC’s view is that a council should not use its seal to authorise documents not directly related to that council. 

In many European countries the local authority has a specific role in authenticating documents – that is not the case here.

A council seal is to be used for confirming the council’s consent to a particular document and the related transaction (e.g. the sale or purchase of land).  The seal should never be used without a formal resolution authorising the specific use and a council’s standing orders should set out the procedure for the use of the seal. When a council uses the seal on a document relating to a council transaction, the power to use the seal is incidental to that transaction (s.111 of the Local Government Act 1972).

When the seal is used on a document to which the council is not a party, there is no power to do so and that use is not incidental to any other of the council’s powers. In addition, because of the role of a foreign local authority, the council could be taking on an open ended liability if there was something wrong with a document that it applied the seal to as the foreign authority would take the seal as a guarantee by the town council of the validity of the underlying transaction.