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Document Retention Policy

Cholmondeley & Chorley Parish Council Policy on Retention, Preservation and Destruction of the Parish Council’s Records

Date approved: 16 September 2014

Updated: 24 November 2020


Parish Councils are required by law to retain some records. Some merit permanent preservation as archives because of the unique evidence they contain about the community, whilst others can be destroyed.

This report lists the main documents which are held by town and parish councils and indicates the minimum retention period. The list is based on guidance issued by the National Association of Local Councils and Local Council Administration (11th Edition) – Charles Arnold-Baker.


The following is a list of the main types of town and parish council records which are required for auditing and other purposes.

In general, Clerks should retain records until the day-to-day administrative use to the Council has ceased. At that point, a decision should be taken as to whether they should be permanently preserved (i.e. deposited with the County Archivist) or destroyed.

Type of RecordMinimum Retention PeriodReason
Minutes of Council meetings and committees (signed series)PermanentArchive
Contemporaneous minutes taken at meetingsThe hand-written notes act as a legal record of the meeting, and can be admitted into court proceedings, until the minutes are approved by the Council
AgendasEnd of administrative use (no legal requirement to retain beyond the meeting to which the agenda refers)
Reports/documents distributed with agendasRetain until end of administrative use
Correspondence and papersEnd of administrative use. (Note: the majority of correspondence issued to town and parish councils is now via e-mail)
Correspondence and papers on important local issues and activitiesEnd of administrative use
Register of electorsClerk to retain until new register in force
Policy documentsEnd of administrative use
Retention Guidance for Administration Records

Type of Record
Planning Applications
a. Where planning permission is granted, the planning application, any plans and the decision notice should normally be retained until the development has been completed so that, if required, the Council can check that the development proceeds in accordance with the terms and conditions of the permission. Where planning permission is granted on appeal, a copy of the appeal decision should also be retained. It may sometimes be sensible to retain an appeal decision indefinitely because of wider implications (eg the decision may set a precedent for other developments in the locality).

b. Where planning permission is refused, the papers should be retained until the period within which an appeal can be made has expired. If an appeal is made, and dismissed, the decision letter may, as in (a) above, be worth retaining against further applications relating to the same site.

c. Where a substantial number of planning applications are received from the local planning authority, it is advisable for a council to have an effective referencing and filing system.

d. Copies of Structure Plans, Local Plans and similar documents should be retained as long as they are in force.
Retention Guidance for Planning Application Records

Type of RecordMinimum Retention PeriodReason
Risk AssessmentsUntil superseded by new assessment
Receipt and payment booksPermanentArchive
Annual audited accounts6 years
Accounts and statements6 years
Bank paying-in booksLast completed audit yearAudit
Cheque book stubsLast completed audit yearAudit
Bank statementsLast completed audit yearAudit
VAT Records6 yearsVAT
VAT Claims6 yearsVAT
Members’ allowances register

CCPC does not have an allowances scheme
6 yearsTax, Limitation Act 1980
Quotations and tenders6 yearsLimitation Act 1980
Paid invoices6 yearsVAT
Paid cheques (if returned by bank)6 yearsLimitation Act 1980
Petty cash, postage and telephone books

n/a for CCPC
6 years

(n/a for CCPC)
Tax, VAT, Limitation Act 1980
Retention Guidance for Financial Records

Type of RecordMinimum Retention PeriodReason
Legal and Property
Title deeds, leases, agreements, contractsPermanentAudit, Management
Retention Guidance for Legal and Property Records

Type of RecordMinimum Retention PeriodReason
Insurance Policies
Certificates of insurance against liability for employees40 years from date on which insurance commenced or was renewedThe Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations 1998
Insurance policies should be retained for as long as it is possible for a claim to be made under them. Irrespective of how long policies and correspondence are retained, the recommendation is that Councils ensure that they keep a permanent record of insurance company names and policy numbers for all insured risks.

Article 4 of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations 1998 (SI.2753) requires local councils, as employers, to retain certificates of insurance against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment for a period of 40 years from the date on which he insurance is commenced or renewed.
Retention Guidance for Insurance Policies Records

Type of Record
Documentation relating to staff should be kept securely in accordance with the Data Protection Act (as updated by the Data Protection Act 2018 which incorporated the General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR) and in accordance with the data protection principles contained in the Act. The principles provide that personal data in relation to staff should not be kept for longer than is necessary for the purpose it was held; however, even after an employment relationship has ended, a Council may need to retain and access staff records for former staff for the purpose of giving references, payment of tax, national insurance contributions and pensions, and in respect of any related legal claims made against the Council.

The time limits within which a claim (and any appeal) may be lodged against an employer at an employment tribunal are set out in the legislation which contains the employment right in question or, failing that, by reference to the Limitation Act 1980 (as amended). The time for lodging a claim at an employment tribunal is usually measured from the date that the employment relationship ended, or the date of the act complained of. Subject to where the Limitation Act 1980 applies, the most common time limit for lodging a claim at an employment tribunal is 3 months (for example, a claim for unfair dismissal must, by virtue ofS.111 of the employment Rights Act 1996, be lodged at an employment tribunal within 3 months of the date of the termination of the employment contract) although 6 months applies in redundancy and equal pay claims.
Retention Guidance for Staff Records

Type of RecordMinimum Retention PeriodReason
Papers concerning rights of wayEnd of administrative use
Press cuttingsEnd of administrative use
PhotographsEnd of administrative use
Reports, guides, handbooks etc. received from other organisationsEnd of administrative use
Retention Guidance for Miscellaneous Records


Legal Proceedings: Most legal proceedings are governed by the Limitation Act 1980 (as amended). The 1980 Act provides that legal claims may not be commenced after a specified period. The specified period varies, depending on the type of claim in question. The table below sets out the limitation periods for different categories of claim.

CategoryLimitation Period
Negligence (and other torts)6 years
Defamation1 year
Contract6 years
Leases12 years
Sums recoverable by statute6 years
Personal injury3 years
To recover land12 years
Rent6 years
Breach of trustNone
Retention of Legal Proceedings Documents for Legal Purposes

Some limitation periods can be extended; examples include –

  • Where individuals first become aware of damage caused at a later date; for example, in the case of personal injury
  • Where damage is latent (eg, to a building)
  • Where a person suffers from a mental incapacity
  • Where there has been a mistake or where one party has defrauded another, or concealed facts

In such circumstances, individual councils will need to weight the cost of storing the relevant documents and the risk of –

  • Claims being made;
  • The value of the claims; and
  • The inability to defend any claim should relevant documentation be destroyed.


In accordance with S.227 of the Local Government Act 1972, if a town or parish council requests the district council in which the parish is situation, the relevant principal authority must provide proper depositories for all the specified papers (defined as public books, writings, council papers and all documents directed by law to be kept) belonging to the parish or community for which there is no other provision. Documents of local and/or historical importance, if not retained and stored by a local council (ie a town or parish council) with or without reliance on the provisions of S.227 of the 1972 Act, should be offered first to the County Records Officer. The County Archivist can advise on which records should be permanently preserved.

Local councils are advised to implement systems of paper and electronic records management (including those records retained for audit purposes reviewed annually by a council’s internal auditor). Such systems should ensure the storage and security of the records, access to and disposal of both paper and electronic records. It is essential that any such system(s) (and policies) relating to record management, include an annual review of the records themselves and also the effectiveness of such system(s) and policies.

Records to be destroyed by the Parish Clerk

A large number of town and parish council records can be destroyed once they become inactive or the minimum retention period expires. Financial records account for the majority of this category. Typically, these must be kept for a minimum of 6 years after the last entry (Limitation Act 1980 (as amended), VAT Act 19974 etc.), but may be retained for longer depending on local circumstances. Records not given a minimum retention period can be destroyed once there is no longer an administrative requirement for their custody.

To protect confidential information, all records assigned for disposal should be securely destroyed (ie by shredder, pulping or burning). Electronic records require a separate process for confidential destruction either by the use of appropriate software applications or by out-sourcing to a company which specialises in this type of records destruction.

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