See National News section as well, for items which may be news as well as consultations
Parish Council newsletters- Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity
On 31 March 2011 the Secretary of State issued a new Publicity Code which applies to all local authorities including town and parish councils. Where local authorities comply with the recommendations of the Publicity Code, local taxpayers can be confident that any of their money spent by their council on publicity is being used appropriately; and local independent newspapers - important contributors to sustaining a vibrant local democracy - will not be at risk through unfair, taxpayer funded, competition. Whilst the majority of local authorities comply fully with the Publicity Code’s recommendations, it is a matter of concern to the Government that there are still cases where this is not so - for example, continuing cases where there are weekly publications of council (principal authority) newspapers, or concerns about the political character of a (mainly principal) council’s publicity.
Though the current Publicity Code covers parishes, this latest consultation is mainly aimed at reducing (in the Government’s eyes) the waste of public money by a small minority of principal local authorities abusing the Code for (party) political ends. The web-link to the main consultation documents is here
The National Association is minded to support the proposals contained in the Department’s consultation knowing that their thrust is aimed at overly political principal authorities. However, this support would be on the proviso that parishes can continue to publish their newsletters, as appropriate, on a monthly basis. Of course – the proposals contained in the consultation represent the Government’s own thinking and not this Association’s per se.
The final deadline for receipt by the Department for Communities and Local Government, of consultation responses, is in early May, 2013. The National Association welcomes responses from local councils and County Associations to inform its own submission and asks for them to be submitted to email@example.com by at the latest Noon on 29 April 2013.
Making it easier to set up new town and parish councils
As part of broader Government plans to open up local public services, the Department for Communities and Local Government has today launched a discussion paper entitled Making it easier to set up new town and parish councils. This is an important opportunity for the sector and for communities to comment on the ways in which the process of setting up parish and town councils can be made less onerous, which we have been actively lobbying on in recent years.
The Government recognizes that the current process presents a number of problems, including the demand on campaigners; the broad scope of Community Governance Reviews; the length of time taken to conduct them; and that there is no right of appeal if the local authority decides not to create a town or parish council.
The Government is asking for views on a range of proposed options to address these issues, including amending existing guidance; changing legislation; and providing new powers to neighbourhood forums to start the process of creating a town or parish council.
The paper reinforces the Government’s commitment to the Localism agenda and to the parish and town council sector: “The Government wants to make is as easy as possible for people to play and active part in society and improve their neighbourhoods…parish and town councils provide a formal democratic representation for the neighbourhood and have the ability to deliver services to the community.”
The Local Government Minister, Eric Pickles, said: "Parishes are popular with people and for too long communities have battled with burdensome bureaucracy to get them created…
"We want to give local people a real sense of community control in their areas, giving them freedom to make changes and improvements which best serve their community and area."
The formal consultation documents can be downloaded here
This consultation ends in early January 2013 and the National Association will formally respond. Since many local councils will have strong views about the proposals to make it easier to set up new town and parish councils, the Association wants to give them the chance to inform its own formal response.
County Associations and member local councils are strongly encouraged to submit their own responses to the consultation and we would welcome being sent a copy of your submission. In order to help shape our own submission we would welcome your responses by close of business on Wednesday 12 December, 2012 to Victoria.firstname.lastname@example.org. The National Association accepts and includes responses from individual clerks and councillors (there is no expectation that responses must simply come from councils as bodies corporate) which we will also draw on in developing our response.
Improving Local Government Transparency
- The Government is consulting on making regulations to require local authorities to publish data falling within certain descriptions of information specified in the Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency (‘the Code’), which was issued on 29 September 2011 under section 2 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980;
- This would therefore apply to local councils with an annual budgeted spend or income of £200, 000 or more, as proposed in the original Code;
- The regulations will also require authorities to publish information in the manner and form specified in the Code;
- The Code is concerned with making data generated by authorities available and accessible to the public;
- The authorities to whom the Code applies, and to whom the regulations will apply, are listed in section 2 of the Act (and are set out in paragraph 4 of the Code);and
- The National Association is minded to support the proposals contained in the Government’s Improving Local Government Transparency consultation, provided the minimum budgetary threshold (at this stage) of an annual budgeted spend or income of £200, 000, is retained.
The Communities and Local Government Improving Local Government Transparency consultation documents can be downloaded from
There has been a significant delay within Communities and Local Government with the publication of this consultation document. The need for transparency will also act as a driver for local councils to modernize (as appropriate), and be at the vanguard of Information Technology changes to communications methodologies.
Localising Support for Council Tax
As part of the 2010 Spending Review the Government announced its intention to localise support for Council Tax from 2013-14 and to reduce expenditure on this benefit by 10%.
The existing arrangements for council tax benefit are standardised across the country and are paid for out of national taxation. The new arrangements will be implemented by amending the Local Government Finance Act 1992. The new localised schemes will be implemented in the financial year 2013-2014. The Bill is central to delivering the Government’s commitment to reducing expenditure, increased devolution of services through Localism and cutting benefits which will help to stimulate economic growth. This Government will only be providing a grant to fund 90% of the council tax benefit liability so the localised schemes have to address how to cope with the 10% shortfall in funding.
On 12 May 2012 the Government published a consultation paper, Localising Support for Council Tax: Funding arrangements with a closing date of 12 July 2012. A lot of concerns were raised that the 10% reduction would be passed down to town and parish councils causing a reduction in the tax base and therefore cause an increase in the precept.
DCLG have now issued the Draft Statutory instrument for consultation.
It would appear that the Government have conceded that there would have been an unforseen impact on local precepting authorities of their proposal and have agreed that:
3.8 " ...the council tax base for local precepting authorities would be calculated excluding council tax support reductions.
3.9 The local precepting authority's element of the council tax band D would therefore remain at the same level as now....
3.10 This approach provides certainty for local tax payers and because billing authorities are required to fund the precept, there would also be certainty over the funding of local precepting authorities."
The consultation asks three questions the most pertinent one for town and parish councils is:
Do you agree that the council tax base for local precepting authorities should be calculated excluding council tax support reductions in order to provide certainty for local taxpayers and for the funding of local precepting authorities?
The consultation closes at 5pm on 9th October
Cheque Signatories Legislative Reform Order
(this article is also in the National News section)
A ten-year campaign by NALC has resulted in the Government publishing a consultation on a Legislative Reform Order which could allow local councils to move to electronic banking and modernise how they make payments.
Many local councils are likely to continue with the tried and tested process of two signatures, but others will move to new electronic systems. Proper safeguards will be necessary and normal banking arrangements now allow for remote approval of payments, though it is possible that some Banks in the future will stop issuing cheques altogether.
The Consultation Document on the Legislative Reform Order to repeal section 150(5) of Local Government Act 1972 was published on Tuesday 17th July 2012 following a Written Statement tabled in the House of Commons.
The full paper is available at http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/parishcouncilspayments .
There are four specific consultation questions on which responses are sought.
The National Association will be responding separately but a weight of numbers will help convince the Government that the sector should not be overlooked on the simple administrative issues that cause so much anxiety at the grass-roots.
Members should note that, whilst cheques continue to be provided by the Banks, it is proper and appropriate for councils to continue with the 2 signatories rule until such time as the formal repeal of section 150(5) of Local Government Act 1972 takes effect.
New forms of payment will, in due course, be open to local councils.
There will need to be a new set of NALC Model Financial Regulations for Councils to consider.
A Draft for Consultation has been prepared and is available for download from http://www.nalc.gov.uk/Members_Site/Policy_and_Parliamentary_Affairs/Policy_and_Parliamentary_Affairs_2.aspx Electronic copies are also available from the National Association upon request.
Consultation on review of wildlife legislation
Defra has tasked Natural England and the Law Commission to review all legislation relating to wildlife laws with a view to creating a more streamlined statute.
The current law regulating wildlife is spread over a collection of Acts dating back to 1831. The original purpose of much of the law was to govern activities such as hunting and fishing, including poaching. Over the years it has expanded to conserve certain species, ensure the welfare of wildlife and protect local biodiversity from invasive species.
The result is a legal landscape that is out of date, confused and often contradictory. For example, the hunting, management and welfare of pheasants is governed by four separate statutes. Much of the older legislation is out of step with modern requirements, and the principal modern Act – the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – has been amended to such a degree that it is difficult for any non-specialists to use.
The proposals the Law Commission are putting forward in this consultation aim to simplify the existing complex framework, placing wildlife law into a single statute. The new regime would reduce the current dependency on criminal law, by allowing an appropriate mix of regulatory measures such as guidance, advice and a varied and flexible system of civil sanctions – such as fines and bans.
The consultation closed on 30th November 2012 and can be viewed here
Defra has issued a press release confirming the scope of the review
PC16-12 Funding arrangements for localising support for Council Tax
As part of the 2010 Spending Review the Government announced its intention to localise support for Council Tax from 2013-14 and to reduce expenditure on this benefit by 10%.
The existing arrangements for council tax benefit are standardised across the country and are paid for out of national taxation. The new arrangements will be implemented by amending the Local Government Finance Act 1992. The new localised schemes will be implemented in the financial year 2013-2014. The Bill is central to delivering the Government’s commitment to reducing expenditure, increased devolution of services through Localism and cutting benefits with the aim of stimulating economic growth. This Government will only be providing a grant to fund 90% of the council tax benefit liability so the localised schemes have to address how to cope with the 10% shortfall in funding. The potential impact on town and parish councils as precepting authorities could be considerable particularly where there is a high proportion of council tax benefit claimants. The Government expects billing and local precepting authorities to work together to manage the potential impact of the Council Tax reductions on the local precepting authority Band D council tax levels.
OALC have had a meeting with William Jacobs, Head of Finance, South and Vale District Councils to alert him to the concerns which town and parish councils have about the impact this change could have for them. It would appear that the Government did not anticipate the effect this would have on us as precepting authorities. The district council anticipate running a briefing session for councils in the autumn.
On 12 May 2012 the Government published a new consultation paper, Localising Support for Council Tax: Funding arrangements consultation with a closing date of 12 July.
NALC issued a Policy Consultation PC16-12 ‘Funding arrangements for localising support for Council Tax’ asking for responses by 5th July for inclusion in their response to Department of Communities and Local Government. OALC Executive and Policy Committee considered a paper on this at their meeting on 2nd July and its response, below, was included in NALC’s response to DCLG.
" Oxfordshire Association of Local Councils regrets the lack of consultation with this sector of local government and the lack of recognition of the potential impact it will have upon them as local precepting bodies.
Oxfordshire ALC calls for District Councils to be required to ensure there is a neutral effect on town and parish councils, that District Councils absorb the decrease in central government funding, not passing it on.
Town and Parish Councils and Parish Meetings while being central to the Government’s Localism agenda have limited ability to alter income through New Homes Bonus and retention of the Business Rate, particularly in the current economic recession. This change if passed on by the District Council could have the effect of increasing council tax ‘excessively’ forcing a referendum."
The OALC briefing paper which went to Executive and Policy Committee on 2nd July is available here See the National News section for a possible rethink by Government on this.
Paths for Communities
New proposals to modernise the process of recording rights of way, developed in consultation with groups such as the Ramblers and Country Land and Business Association, have been announced.
Plans are expected to cut the time taken to record a right of way by as much as several years, so that routes set to be lost in 2026 can be preserved.
All unrecorded footpaths and bridleways created before 1949 cannot be recorded after 1 January 2026. This ‘cut off’ date by which to claim these historical rights of way was set in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
As well as making it easier for walkers, horse riders and cyclists to protect unrecorded rights of way, the proposed system is expected to save almost £20 million a year by cutting needless bureaucracy.
No changes are being made to the protections for rights of way; rather proposals have been made to make the process of recording or changing them more efficient.
Landowners’ applications to move a right of way will continue to be approved only if they do not affect the public’s enjoyment of it, in which case it will be more straightforward for landowners to see them through.
Under logical new plans, paths and trails that are used by the public will be easier to protect, whilst redundant routes and unsubstantiated rights of way claims will be prevented from getting in the way of farming and business interests.
A £2 million grant fund has opened for applications from local communities today to improve access to rural areas in ways that will grow the regional economy.
The Paths for Communities initiative is part of the Government’s £165 million Rural Economy Growth Review announced in November 2011. Local volunteer groups are invited to bid for funding to create new rights of way or increase the accessibility of existing ones. This may include making rights of way accessible for horses and bikes, improving way marking, creating maps and making better links with local transport services and tourist destinations.
The consultation closed on 6 August 2012.
Defra: Consultation on the registration of new town or village greens
The consultation is seeking views on proposals to reform the system for registering new town or village greens under Section 15 of the Commons Act 2006.
Around 185 applications were made in 2009 to register new greens. The volume of applications to register new greens, the character of application sites, the controversy which such applications often attract, the cost of the determination process on the parties affected, and the impact of a successful registration on the landowner, are all giving rise to increasing concern. In this context, and the Government’s commitment, announced in the Natural Environment White Paper, to introduce a Local Green Spaces designation through the planning system, the consultation presents the Government’s case to reform the registration system so as to achieve an improved regulatory balance between protecting high quality green space valued by local communities and enabling the right development to occur in the right place at the right time. It also seeks to reduce the burden on local authorities which are responsible for implementing it, and on landowners who are affected by applications. There is no intention to review sites already registered.
The key proposals are:
- An applicant would be charged a fee set by each registration authority
- The proposal would take decisions on the future of site into the planning system. It would prevent registration which was subject to a planning application or was designated for development or was a green space in a neighbourhood plan
- Registration authorities could reject applications at an early stage if there was insufficient evidence
- Landowners would be given the opportunity to make a statutory declaration to "negate any evidence of use of a claimed green during the period while the declaration remained ineffect. "
- A character test would be used to judge whether a piece of land could be registered.
The consultation closed on 17th October 2011, the Defra web site has more details
Regional & Local
Minerals and Waste Development Framework for Oxfordshire
A new Minerals and Waste Development Framework for Oxfordshire is being prepared that will eventually replace the Minerals and Waste Local Plan. The County Council has prepared some draft minerals spatial strategy options for where mineral working could take place over the next 15 years. Taking into account the feedback from workshops, from the Sustainability Appraisal and from other stakeholders such as the Environment Agency and Natural England, OCC will refine and modify these options, which will be the subject of further, public consultation in the summer. Further details here.
Cherwell District Council’s Consultation Portal can be accessed here.
Details of South Oxfordshire District Council's current consultations can be found here.
West Oxfordshire Planning Policy Consultations
West Oxfordshire District Council's latest Local Development Framework Newsletter
Local Government in Oxfordshire: Consultation Tracker
Consultation tracker is a database of all County and District consultations. Using the consultation tracker you can:
- find out when the consultations are taking place
- find out who to contact to have your say
- view the archive of consultations and research reports.
The consultation database is updated regularly on the County Website (www.oxfordshire.gov.uk). If you cannot find your consultation please contact email@example.com.