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Updated March 2017 edition of Governance and Accountability
The Joint Practitioners Advisory Group (JPAG) has published an updated Governance and Accountability Guide. At their February meeting JPAG approved some modest amendments to the wording of the guide and while the content is not greatly changed a minor error affecting parish meetings has been corrected and some of the explanations in Part 5 have been made clearer.
This new 2017 edition of the guide applies to the statutory reporting of the financial year 2017/18, however JPAG has authorised the early adoption of the guide for 2016/17 on a voluntary basis, with the decision whether to do so resting with individual councils.
A copy is in the Members Area of our website.
NALC Star Council Awards 2017
NALC launched their third Star Councils 2017 Awards. The Star Councils 2017 Awards play a key part in NALC’s call for more power to be devolved from Whitehall to England’s towns, villages and neighbourhoods, which is why they would like everyone to submit nominations to highlight the good work councils are doing across the country. This year NALC are looking to place an emphasis on non-traditional service activity in the council project category focussing on all aspects of health and well-being.
Restricting increases in parish precpts
Below is a letter from Cllr Sue Baxter, Chairman, NALC
She is clearly signaling that ministers have deferred introducing a cap on precepts through the mechanism of a referendum if the increase is above a set level but that the deferral is conditional. Our sector of local government has had this particular sword of Damocles hanging over us for many years and the threat does not appear to be going away. There is a continuing failure by those in central government to grasp that while the percentage rise might be in the order of say 15% the actual amounts are very small (6p per week) when compared to those of the District or County Council.
Town and parish councils need to put more effort into communicating with your tax payers in your parish, tell them what you spend their money on, how you budget, don’t assume that people understand what a precept is. By educating your community they will hopefully come to understand what a good and efficient service you provide for them so that when they get their precept bill they will understand the line in the bill which says XXXX parish council 10% increase. They will know that the council negotiated a new grass cutting contract, that it made grants to vital village organisations and that 10% actually represents good value for money.
Dear Colleague, 10th March 2017
In December the government decided not to extend council tax referendum principles to any size of parish or town council for the 2017/18 financial year.
This was a direct result of extensive advocacy by NALC on your behalf to ensure councils continue to have the freedom and flexibility to set budgets according to local needs and priorities.
I very much welcomed this decision given the important and indeed growing role our councils play in communities and local democracy and I am pleased the secretary of state acknowledged this in his statement to the House of Commons and has listened to the sector’s concerns.
However the decision is very much a deferral and the government has issued a clear challenge to the sector to demonstrate restraint.
This point was reiterated to me in a letter from the local government minister which we circulated through the chief executive’s weekly bulletin, but given the importance of this issue I wanted to draw to your attention again some of his key points:
- Following careful consideration of responses to the technical consultation the government decided to defer the setting of referendum principles;
- The government has issued a challenge to demonstrate restraint when increasing precepts that are not a direct result of taking on additional responsibilities and will monitor the sector’s response to the challenge;
- Deferral can be revisited and government is prepared to consider ways in which large increases can be made more transparent to local tax-payers;
- Stressing the importance of all parishes making effort to comply with existing transparency code publication requirements;
- Thanking NALC and the sector for the constructive engagement during the technical consultation;
- Reiterating how much the government values parishes increasing role in service delivery.
Just this week the minister was interviewed for the forthcoming Spring edition of LCR and it is clear parish precepts remains very much a priority as he took the opportunity to restate his challenge to the sector to demonstrate restraint, stressing he had not taken extending council tax referendums to parishes off table, but adding he was also keen to work with NALC to promote other ways to fund local projects. This latter point we will be following up with him as we are keen to help councils by publishing some guidance on income generation.
However in terms of parish precepts themselves, the government’s own figures show increases to parish precepts in recent years have been very modest – going up by on average 6 pence per week – and we know this has been a direct consequence of councils taking on additional responsibilities such as services from principal councils, an increase in costs including National Insurance and funding not being passed on for example council tax support funding.
What you can do
While I have no doubt councils will respond positively to the government’s challenge in setting precepts for the forthcoming year I wanted to stress the importance of engaging with residents over increases and being transparent about how their money is spent.
On this latter point I want to encourage councils to step up their efforts to explain spending decisions and significant increases in precept in particular. This may include use of public meetings, newsletters and other publications, the local press such as newspapers or radio, social media including Facebook and Twitter, council websites, notice boards and information sent out with or at the same time as council tax demands.
I am very keen for us to share good practice in this area hence I would be grateful if you could tell us what you are doing so we can promote this more widely.
There are a number of other things we are doing to help councils such as developing good practice on income generation as mentioned above as well as on consultation and we will be publishing these in coming months.
We will of course be continuing to engage with the government to ensure they fully understand what is going on at the local level.
Finally I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for everything you do. While these are challenging times for local government I am very proud of the role our councils play in improving our communities as I know you are increasingly doing more. Local services remain under severe pressure and I know our councils are often stepping up to the plate taking on new responsibilities and services.
COUNCILLOR SUE BAXTER
If you are two months or more in arrears with your Council Tax you cannot vote on the precept
Private Eye conducted an investigation into local authority councillors that were in arrears with their council tax. They sent a Freedom of Information request to 377 local authorities and the results have been mapped on their website http://www.private-eye.co.uk/issue-1436/councillors
If a councillor is in arrears for at least two months with their council tax they are prevented from voting on setting of the precept, or any decision relevant to that precept, Local Government Finance Act 1992, section 106.
The question arose as to whether this also applied to town and parish councillors. The short answer is YES. Please remember this when it comes to precept time.
The long answer supplied by NALC is the 1992 Act states that the section applies to local authorities as covered by sections 94 and 97 of the Local Government Act 1972. The problem is the definition of ‘local authority’ for those sections of the 1972 Act was in section 98 of the 1972 Act and all of those sections were repealed from 22 May 2012 by the Local Government Act 2000 but the 1992 Act was not modified to include a new definition. The result is that strictly there is no relevant definition of ‘local authority’ but the repealed sections of the 1972 Act used an extended form of the definition of local authority in section 270 of the 1972 Act which includes a Parish Council. Therefore if asked a court would hold that a Parish Council is covered by section 106 of the 1992 Act. Thus any parish councillor who is in arrears of council tax for two months or more cannot vote on the precept or associated matters. This restriction is absolute and cannot be removed by a dispensation.
Section 137 Local Government Act 1972 limit for 2017- 8 announced
The Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed that the appropriate sum for parish councils for the purposes of section 137(4)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972 for 2017-2018 is £7.57.
Separate trade union for clerks - Association of Local Council Clerks (ALCC)
If your clerk is a member of the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC), and we hope they are, please read this:
In October 2016 the professional body for the parish and town council sector, the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) reorganised its business and corporate governance structures and a separate, independent trade union was formed which will be called the Association of Local Council Clerks (ALCC)
The Association of Local Council Clerks (ALCC) is the only trade union dedicated to supporting people working in the local council sector across England and Wales.
On its website it states “We are committed to serving the interests of our members and stand for their right to be respected, listened to and treated fairly whilst at work. Our members benefit from professional support, advice and representation in accordance with our approved terms of service.”
Henceforth, any SLCC member who is seeking advice about their personal employment circumstances (rather than advice for their role of Clerk to a council) will be referred to the ALCC Advice Centre and a separate membership fee will be levied annually. ALCC will provide advice and can represent their members at hearings related to their employment e.g. disciplinary, grievance, or redundancy negotiations.
The annual fee for the ALCC will be £10 for an individual whose council is already a member of SLCC or £50 for those who do not have SLCC membership. This membership fee is for the employee’s own account whereas the council can, and usually does pay the SLCC fee.
The ALCC has membership from over 2,000 councils across England and Wales.
More information is available on www.alccunion.co.uk
NALC publish Devo+ with a case study of Oxfordshire
NALC has published its own guide, Devo+ to help local councils through the complexities of devolution. It is called the Devo + toolkit and promotes onward devolution to local councils and communities.
The booklet is here http://www.nalc.gov.uk/library/our-work/devolution-1/2328-devo-plus-toolkit-december-2016/file
Plunkett Foundation - Call to Action
This call to action aims to raise awareness within Town and Parish Councils across the UK of the potential for community co-operatives to address problems local communities are facing and the support available from the Plunkett Foundation.
Our goal is to provide Town and Parish Councils with the tools and information they need to either get involved directly, or to pass onto other community groups and individuals in their locality.
The Plunkett Foundation and Rural Community Co-operatives
The Plunkett Foundation is a national charity that helps communities across the UK to set up and run community co-operatives; enterprises that are owned and run democratically by large numbers of people in their community. Community co-operatives help people to tackle a wide range of issues, from social isolation and loneliness to poverty, and come in many different forms including community shops, pubs, cafes, woodlands, food and farming enterprises and anything in between. Since 1919, Plunkett has supported over 500 such enterprises to set up by providing help, advice, and when funding allows, financial support.
Plunkett’s 2015-17 strategy aims to build on our achievements to date, and inspire an even larger movement of people who solve their challenges by running community co-operatives. Key ambitions within the strategy include:
- Inspiring more communities than ever before to consider co-operative solutions to the problems they face;
- Applying the co-operative solution to a wider range of business models, for example, transport, housing and health and social care;
- Reaching all parts of the UK, particularly where there is less of a tradition for co-operation;
- Increasing our impact in addressing place based problems such as poverty, isolation and loneliness.
Call to Action
It is very rare for Town and Parish Councils to be directly involved in the setting up or running or community co-operatives, but in our experience, they have been critical to the early stages of their journey in some way. Very often, it is the Town or Parish Council that has spotted an opportunity to save a valued asset or service, or called a public meeting, or highlighted potential avenues of funding.
This call to action, sets out the various ways in which Town and Parish Councils can get involved.
7 ways to take action:
- Consider registering land and buildings in your community as an Asset of Community Value (or support another community group to do so).
- The 2011 Localism Act allows communities and parish councils to nominate buildings or land for listing by the local authority as an Asset of Community Value.
- In the event a listed asset comes to be sold, a moratorium on the sale (of up to six months) may be invoked, providing local community groups with a better chance to raise finance, develop a business and to make a bid to buy the asset.
- More information is available in this helpful tool produced by Locality or visit the Locality website at www.locality.org.uk
- Neighbourhood Planning was introduced in 2012 to enable communities to have more say in the future development, regeneration and conservation of their area. Plans are based on a robust programme of community engagement and consultation of the views, aspirations, wants and needs of local people and can become part of the statutory development plan for the area.
- By going through the Neighbourhood Planning process, you will certainly identify problems your community is facing, and potentially opportunities for community ownership to be part of that solution.
- More information is available in this helpful tool produced by CPRE or visit the CPRE website at www.cpre.org.uk
- The Plunkett Foundation offer free support by phone, via our website and through our national network of advisers.
- A guide to the support we can offer and how we work is appended here or can be found at www.plunkett.co.uk/gettingstarted You may wish to signpost a link to this on your website, or refer it to the editor of your parish newsletter.
- If a valued service or asset is at risk of being lost to your community, e.g. the last village shop, or a popular community building such as a pub, club or faith based building, you could call a public meeting to seek views on whether there is appetite to save it in community ownership. Plunkett can send guidance for running such a meeting, including presentations, case studies and explanatory guides.
- This doesn’t mean it is the responsibility of the Town/Parish Council to lead the next steps – the purpose of the meeting is to establish whether there is appetite for an independent working party to be established.
- Once an independent working party is established to assess the demand and feasibility for a community owned enterprise, it can be helpful for the Town/Parish Council to nominate a councillor to be part of the group. Their local knowledge and understanding of the planning system could be vital to the groups success.
- Alternatively, or additionally, you might want to issue a small bursary award to the community group to help them with early stage feasibility and planning costs. This might be to fund meeting room space, printing, consultation exercises or professional fees.
- Town and Parish Councils (subject to eligibility criteria) have access to affordable public loan finance (Public Works Loan) which they could apply for and use to purchase the asset the community has in mind. Once in parish ownership, it could then chose to donate, rent or lease to the community co-operative for them to take on the day to day management.
- More information on Public Works Loan finance is available here or visit www.dmo.gov.uk
- Plunkett receives over 750 new enquiries each year from town and parish councils and other community groups seeking advice on community ownership. This service is currently provided free of charge, but it is only possible through a combination of donations, membership income and some project income.
- You don’t need to be a member to receive advice from Plunkett, but members do benefit from regular news updates, bulletins and invitations to networking events and meetings.
- You can join Plunkett by visiting www.plunkett.co.uk/become-a-member
State of Rural Services - Rural England
Today (17th January 2017) sees the publication of the first State of Rural Services report to be published by Rural England.
It recognises that providing accessible and quality services to rural communities poses particular challenges given the geography of small and scattered settlements. And these difficulties are further compounded by the loss of economies of scale, additional travel required and the delivery costs involved.
However, innovation and good practice can address many challenges, often by working with local communities including through local (parish and town) councils. Also the report finds that having a sound evidence base about rural services is equally important.
According to Rural England (NALC is a stakeholder member of the group), this report has been produced in response to growing concerns about the state of knowledge. Policy makers and those delivering services need a proper understanding of the position and trends in order to take informed decisions. It is the aim of this report to inform policy debate and to assist policy making for the benefit of rural residents and businesses.
The full report is here
Cllr Sue Baxter, chairman of NALC, commented:
“NALC welcomes the publication of this authoritative report on the state of rural england in 2016. England’s 10,000 parish councils play a huge and increasing role in these communities and would recognize the reports conclusions that access to services particularly transport and broadband are falling behind urban areas and that community volunteering including involvement in parish councils is key to the quality of rural life. NALC would call on the government to support and encourage this volunteering and ensure that the needs of rural areas are not overlooked as Brexit gains pace.”
Letter from Cllr Sue Baxter, new Chairman, NALC
To all parish and town councillors in England
As the new chairman of NALC, I hope you have a really great 2017 and wish you all the very best for the New Year!
Local councils, their clerks and 80,000 councillors do a brilliant job on behalf of their communities and I would like to thank you all for the work you do. I look forward to working with you over the coming year to make the sector even more respected, effective and clearly recognised as the first tier of local government in England.
I would like to particularly congratulate the following people for receiving New Year Honours:
Barnaby Usborne (MBE), former chair of the Lee Parish Council, Buckinghamshire; Cllr Eric Carter (BEM), New Frankley Parish Council, Birmingham; Cllr Jane Coston, chair of Milton Parish Council, Cambridgeshire; Cllr Derek Old, Ibberton Parish Council, North Devon; Cllr Gordon Routledge, Arthuret Parish Council, Cumbria; Cllr John Clowes, Holmes Chapel Parish Council, Cheshire; Cllr Peter Bromell, Tedburn St Mary Parish Council, North Devon; Cllr Sheila Bruce, Kinnerley Parish Council, Shropshire; and Doug Haynes, clerk to Beeston Parish Council, Cheshire
I feel very proud to have been elected as chairman of NALC especially as there probably has never been a more exciting time to hold this important office:
• Local councils are well placed to address the sense of disengagement felt by communities from traditional politics and governance; such a feature of 2016.
• We are the only growing sector of local government. 2016 saw the creation of Kidderminster and Sutton Coldfield town councils and we currently have 150 communities working towards creating parish councils including in, Swindon, Ashford, Lowestoft, London and Birmingham. The growth of garden villages will add an increased force to this movement. NALC’s ambition of seeing the whole of England parished has never been more realistic.
• Local councils are doing incredible things. Recent research for NALC identified extensive involvement in “big ticket” items – 15% of councils said they were delivering health and wellbeing services and 12% active in economic development. Encouragingly 70% of councils said they wanted to add such services to their remit.
• We are at the forefront of neighbourhood planning leading 90% of them and using them to shape communities and boost housing provision. These areas have 10% extra housing compared to those without neighbourhood plans.
• Local councils are also working with principal councils helping with the austerity and devolution agenda, and running discretionary services, which would otherwise cease.
A big part of NALC’s work is to lobby government, national bodies and the media on your behalf and we will continue to do this in 2017:
- We will push for fair funding. Before Christmas with your help we persuaded Government not to extend referenda principles to the sector and this will continue to be a priority for this year. We will press for access to business rates, an effective Community Infrastructure Levy regime and a share of other income streams.
• We will press for more effective powers for the sector and in particular to see neighbourhood plans strengthened, their influence enhanced and their recognition as a key building block of local communities.
• We will push for strengthened local democracy, making it easier to create new councils, to reduce the number of vexatious parish polls by increasing the number of electors required to trigger them and seek widespread support for encouraging people to get involved in councils and stand for elections.
• We will work with the Local Government Association to make sure principal authorities see us as part of the solution to their financial problems. Principal authorities need to work more closely with local councils giving them time to prepare to take over discretionary services, to engage them in meaningful dialogue particularly around planning and development and to support the creation of local councils across the country.
I want to see NALC continue to improve its influence with government and its services to you. Good progress has been made and our overall membership stands at the highest ever. I will work with the 42 other councillor representatives from county associations which manage NALC to ensure it is well run, works smartly, and provides the value for money services you want. NALC only exists to help councils help their communities.
Our strategic plan set by councillors at each year’s AGM will continue to set our priorities and over 2017. We intend progressing the following issues on your behalf:
• Embedding the new external audit service through the sector led body we set up in 2016 – SAAA (Smaller Authorities Audits Appointments) Ltd.
• Raising the sector’s profile in parliament through our third lobby day on 28th March 2017
• Package of support on devolved services
• Addressing issues related to the code of conduct and standards regime
I will also continue to foster the “team” approach with county associations setting NALC’s agenda, providing key local services and supporting lobbying work with MPs, Government and others. Further I encourage county associations to invite me to speak at their events or visit their local areas.
I will need your help with all this and in particular:
• To ensure your councils are well run, adequately resourced to do the job, with trained staff and councillors working on priorities your residents want.
To make sure your councils are financially prudent and transparent and engage fully with residents when any large precept increases are being considered – this is vital if we are to continue to successfully resist the application of referenda principles. And please if you are a small council access the £5m transparency grants available through NALC.
• To consider joining the other hundreds of councils accredited through the local council award scheme. This will demonstrate compliance with new transparency arrangements, provide an independent verification of your effectiveness to residents and enable us to demonstrate to Government and others that the sector is well run
• Get involved in the work of your county and national association. Identify issues you would like to see addressed or raised nationally. Propose policy motions for potential legislative change. Persuade non-member councils to become part of the movement. Stand for election to county associations and national council
• Communicate effectively with your residents, use the new media available, engage with your local MPs and opinion formers and let NALC know the amazing work you are doing through Council Spotlight (http://www.nalc.gov.uk/our-work/council-spotlightnew ) and Star Councils (http://www.nalc.gov.uk/our-work/star-councils-awards ) so we can showcase your efforts to the wider world.
• Put the dates of NALC’s Annual Conference in your diary and register for a place. It is going to take place on 1/2 November. This is already the largest event in the sector and I want it to be at the centre of policy making and the networking event to share good practice, celebrate the sector and understand current challenges such as devolution and Brexit.
I believe local people understand the needs of their area best. There must be the transfer of more powers, so people can make more decisions locally, solve their own problems and create strong, attractive and thriving neighbourhoods.
If 2016 taught us anything it was that some communities feel left behind by our national economy and politics. Local councils and the work they do to support these.
Cllr Sue Baxter, Chairman
National Association of Local Councils
Community Housing Fund
In the Budget 2016, a £60 million fund was announced to support community-led housing developments in areas where the impact of second homes is particularly acute. DCLG are now informing local authorities what their funding allocation for 2016/17 financial year is.
The fund will enable local community groups to deliver affordable housing units of mixed tenure on sites which are likely to be of little interest to mainstream housebuilders and will thereby contribute to the overall national effort to boost housing supply. The fund will also help build collaboration, skills and supply chains at a local level to promote the sustainability of this approach to housebuilding. The fund will enable capital investment, technical support and revenue to be provided to make more schemes viable and significantly increase community groups’ current delivery pipelines. The funding is allocated between local authorities proportionate to the number of holiday homes in the local area and taking account of the affordability of housing to local people.
In bringing this fund forward, the Department has worked closely with the National Community Land Trust Network and other members of the community-led housing sector. These organisations are well placed to offer advice on how the funds may be most effectively deployed (including, potentially, through registered providers of affordable housing).
Payments of funding will be made in two tranches; the first being paid now. The second tranche will follow in early 2017 subject to your authority providing satisfactory evidence that the money is being spent in accordance with the objectives outlined in the Budget announcement. Similarly, from 2017/18 onwards, allocations will depend in part on how the 2016/17 allocation has been spent.
Should you have any questions about this funding, please contact Nigel Kersey at: Nigel.Kersey@communities.gsi.gov.uk
In Oxfordshire according to the table which accompanies the letter from DCLG, the district councils have been allocated:
- Cherwell DC £0
- South Oxfordshire DC £139,915
- Oxford City £54,859
- Vale of White Horse DC £0
- West Oxfordshire DC £376,976
Battle’s Over – A Nation’s Tribute - 11th November 2018
On the 3rd August 1914, Britain’s Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Grey, was looking out of his office window. It was dusk, and gas lights were being lit along London’s Mall, leading to Buckingham Palace, when he remarked to a friend, "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”. Our country was about to be plunged into the darkness of the First World War, and it would be four long years before Britain and Europe would again experience the light of peace
In commemoration and remembrance of the end of the war and the many millions who were killed or came home dreadfully wounded, a chain of 1,000 beacons will be lit throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories at 7pm on the 11th November 2018 – a century after the guns fell silent.
You will be pleased to know therefore, that more than 320 town and parish councils have already confirmed their involvement, and will be lighting a beacon at 7pm on 11th November 2018, as part of their plans for this important anniversary that day.
The event will also commemorate the huge army of men and women on the home front who, often in dangerous and exhausting conditions, underpinned the war effort - keeping the wheels of industry turning, bringing the harvests home and ensuring the nation did not starve.
The beacons will symbolise the ‘light of hope’ that emerged from the darkness of war, and we hope that your council and local community will join us in this important national commemoration on Sunday 11th November 2018, especially as the majority of you would have had a previous member of your family involved in this four year conflict, so will become a personal tribute in their memory.
Detailed co-ordination begins in April 2017, when we will publish a special Guide to Taking Part, similar to that produced for Her Majesty The Queen's Birthday Beacons on 21st April this year. If you can confirm your involvement before the end of March 2017 we will be able to include your organisation in the guide’s acknowledgements pages before it is distributed to others encouraging their involvement too.
The reason for sending this information so far in advance, is because we understand from those already participating, they have started to plan their events for this commemoration.
Participating councils, organisations and community groups will receive a special certificate as a permanent reminder of their involvement in this special tribute.
There are a number of cost-effective ways of participating in the chain of beacons.
(1) Use existing beacon braziers on tall wooden poles erected in 1988 and for other recent anniversaries.
(2) Use gas-fueled beacons lit for The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
(3) Use the gas-fueled VE beacons lit to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of VE Day in 2015.
(4) Use the gas-fueled beacons lit for The Queen's 90th birthday in April this year.
(5) Build a traditional bonfire beacon.
I would be grateful if you would confirm your involvement by providing me with the following details as soon as possible to ensure that you are included in the guide when published, and put on the events website at the end of April 2018.
Name of organisation:
Name of beacon co-ordinator:
Address of beacon co-ordinator:
Please confirm if your beacon will be open to the public or will be lit at a private event for family and friends. This is important because private beacons will not be included in the acknowledgements pages of the guide but will be included in the list kept in memory of this unique occasion.
When planning your beacon, your local newspaper could help you in contacting a relative of someone who served their country in WWI so you can invite them to light your beacon. This will also help you to gain media coverage for your event while providing a personal and touching aspect to the occasion, so do hope your council will join us in this special tribute and look forward to hearing from you soon.
Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR
Pageantmaster, Battle's Over - A Nation's Tribute 11th November 2018
Tel: + 44 (0) 7737 262 913
No capping for 2017-8
Today (Thursday 15th December 2016) Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government confirmed in his speech https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/provisional-local-government-finance-settlement-2017-to-2018 that there would be no capping for town and parish councils in the coming financial year. However, he has deferred the proposal and expects councils to demonstrate restraint. Please see below the relevant extract from his speech:
However, last year we saw a worrying 6.1% rise in precepts by town and parish councils.
That’s why, earlier this year, we consulted on extending Council Tax referendum principles to larger town and parish councils.
These councils play an important role in our civic life. And I understand the practical considerations of scale.
So we will defer our proposals this year, while keeping the level of precepts set by town and parish councils under close review.
I expect all town and parish councils to clearly demonstrate restraint when setting increases that are not a direct result of taking on additional responsibilities.
I am also actively considering with the sector ways to make excessive increases more transparent to local taxpayers.
You can attend sessions of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Democracy
There are two sessions of the Local democracy All Party Parliamentary Group in the New Year which you can attend: a joint session with the Civic Societies APPG on housing and neighbourhood planning on 25 January with speakers including housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell MP; and a dedicated event with the secretary of state for DCLG Sajid Javid MP on 31 January!
The Councillor Commission issues its interim report (October 2016)
The quality and effectiveness of local government and local democracy rests on the contribution made to both by councillors as elected representatives. The office of councillor is one of the most fundamental political positions in any democracy and it is the political office through which localities, and the communities within them, are able to govern themselves. Councillors live in close proximity to those they govern, represent and serve and they are part of the communities about whom and for whom they make political decisions that will have lasting consequences for local well-being.
The Local Government Research Unit, in partnership with The Municipal Journal launched a Councillor Commission to conduct an independent review of the role and work of the councillor and of the contribution made by councillors to the governance of their communities and the country. The work of the Commission is being supported by Clive Betts, MP, Chair of the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee. Although the Commission is independent of the committee it will submit its final report to the chair of the committee for consideration.
The Interim Report is on the De Montfort University site here
Public Service Ombudsman Bill - NALC consultation
The Cabinet Office has published draft legislation setting out the Government’s plans for a new Public Service Ombudsman (PSO) which will abolish the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) and the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).
The aims of the new body are to improve access to the Ombudsman’s services by: allowing for all complaints to be made with or without the help of a representative and in a variety of formats to meet the digital age; providing simpler access to individuals who believe that they have suffered injustice or hardship; and sharing the learning from failures to improve services for everyone. The Draft Bill proposes to bring parish and councils into scope of the new Ombudsman.
The link to the draft Bill can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/574487/draft _public_service_ombudsman_bill_web_version.pdf .
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published a consultation in March 2015 titled ‘Extending the remit of the Local Government Ombudsman to larger parish and town councils’, proposing to extend the redress available to the public by extending the jurisdiction of the LGO to larger parish and town councils responsible for substantial sums of public money and whose decisions affect a large number of people. The definitions consulted upon were councils whose population base was 35,000 or more, over £1m precept income, or a combination of population over 25,000 and £1m precept. We consulted members on whether the jurisdiction of the Local Government Ombudsman
should be extended to larger parish and town councils and how larger parish and town councils should be defined for this purpose.
The draft Bill would:
• Create a single Public Service Ombudsman for UK reserved matters and for public services delivered solely in England, absorbing the existing remits and responsibilities of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman.
• Abolish the existing Parliamentary Ombudsman, Health Service Ombudsman and Local Government Ombudsman.
Abolish the MP filter, meaning that all complaints of maladministration can be made directly to the PSO. Currently, complaints to the Parliamentary Ombudsman have to be made through an MP – this is known as the ‘MP filter’. Under the draft Bill MPs would still be able to submit complaints if constituents wanted them to.
• Create a statutory body, known as the Board of the Public Service Ombudsman, to provide staff and resources for the PSO to carry out her functions.
• Provide for Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of the Board
• Equip the PSO with powers to investigate complaints and to promote good complaints handling.
• The Housing Ombudsman is unaffected by the draft Bill and would continue. However, the draft Bill gives the Minister for the Cabinet Office the power to pass secondary legislation which would enable its responsibilities surrounding complaints against social landlords to be absorbed into the PSO’s remit at a later date.
Although the timescale for parliamentary passage is unclear – an issue we are picking up with Cabinet Office and DCLG – we would welcome your comments on the Bill as soon as possible, please e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by 17.00 on 24th January 2017.
There is a House of Commons Library Briefing Paper CBP 7864 on this here
Collective effort saves smaller authorities millions of pounds on new audit arrangements
The local (parish and town) council sector together with local drainage authorities has successfully taken charge of procuring their external audit saving millions of pounds for some 10,000 councils and drainage boards.
Following the abolition of the Audit Commission, smaller local authority representatives successfully persuaded government to allow them to collectively procure external audit services for smaller authorities (under £6.5 million) from 2017-18. All but a handful of the 10,000 local councils in England signed up for the collective procurement and appointment of external auditors; this is the first example of such an initiative, which is being replicated for principal authorities.
The company established by a consortium of smaller authorities sector bodies (National Association of Local Councils, Society of Local Council Clerks and the Association of Drainage Authorities) and authorised by the department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to undertake this role – SAAA (Smaller Authorities Audit Appointments) Ltd – has today (30 November) issued the following statement on its website (www.saaa.co.uk).
“SAAA Ltd is pleased to announce that it has successfully concluded the procurement process and has awarded contracts for the supply of limited assurance audit reviews for smaller authorities. Three audit firms have been appointed as suppliers for the five-year period commencing 1 April 2017: PKF Littlejohn, Mazars and Moore Stephens. Contracts have been signed ahead of schedule on terms that will enable SAAA to undertake its various tasks including the quality control and monitoring of suppliers without making any further call on public funds. Further details of the audit appointment areas to be covered by the three firms will be communicated in due course.”
Speaking on behalf of the consortium, Jonathan Owen, Chief Executive of National Association of Local Councils (NALC), said: "This is a brilliant example of smaller authorities working together saving local authorities and councils many millions of pounds with the scale of fees set for the next 5 years substantially the same as that has applied to the sector for the last 10 years."
Community Asset Transfers
This guide, produced by Locality in partnership with the Local Government Association and the National Association for Local Councils, highlights the strategic importance of Community Asset Transfer (CAT) for councils and communities in England.
Community asset ownership isn’t new – there is a long and rich history going back centuries of communities owning and managing land and buildings2. More recently, CAT is the recognised mechanism to enable the community ownership and management of publicly owned land and buildings, to enhance social, economic or environmental wellbeing in local areas.
The positive opportunities as a result of CAT have been given fresh impetus by the present
Devolution agenda. However, there continues to be a need to inform and encourage councils to work with local people, Parish and Town Councils and other stakeholders to ensure that the role that CAT can play in building resilient communities and thriving neighbourhoods is maximised.
In order to help councils to be clear about the set up and ongoing resources required to get the process right, this guide reiterates the critical success factors that underpin CAT. There also advice on the risks and mitigating actions that should be considered, and a step-by-step approach to developing a fit for purpose CAT policy to help inform council decision making.
Therefore, whether your council is new to CAT and you are seeking to make the case for its strategic adoption, or you are looking to scale up and embed this approach across departments, this guide aims to help officers and members better understand how CAT can help support your council's priorities.
Local Government Finance Settlement Technical Consultation – parishes and council tax referendums –
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT CONSULTATION – please respond
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published a technical consultation on the Local Government Finance Settlement including proposals regarding council tax referendum principles for local parish and town councils.
The link to the full consultation paper can be found at:
The Government is proposing to subject principal councils to the same referendum principles as were set in 2016/17. This includes a core principle of 2% (or £5 – whichever is greater – in the case of lower-quartile police and crime commissioners and shire district councils), plus an adult social care precept worth an additional 2% for councils with adult social care responsibilities.
However, the consultation also says that the Government is minded to extend referendum principles – the 2% core principle or £5, whichever is greater – to the larger, higher spending local councils for the first time.
The proposal is to cover only those parishes whose Band D precept is higher than that of the lowest charging district council in 2016/17 (Breckland - £75.46), and which had a total precept for 2016/17 of at least £500,000. It is proposed that there could be flexibility in the principles for local councils who have had responsibilities transferred to them from principal councils so that they are not unduly constrained. Based on these thresholds, the Government expects this principle will affect around 120 local councils (the full list is included at the end of this paper).
Councils who may be caught by the proposed referendum principles may be ultimately required by the legislation to make their own determination of whether they are affected.
The consultation also states the Government is aware that increases in precepts continue to concern local tax payers and is therefore prepared to consider extending referendums to ALL parishes.
Referendum principles are voted on by the House of Commons at the end of the calendar year or the beginning of next year and, if approved, will apply to precepts set for 2017-18.
The consultation questions are set out below:
- Question 4: Do you agree that referendum principles should be extended to larger, higher spending town and parish councils in 2017/18 as set out in paragraphs 3.3.3 to 3.3.4?
- Question 5: Do you agree with the proposed approach to take account of the transfer of responsibilities to town and parish councils as outlined in paragraph 3.3.5?
- Question 6: Do you agree with the suggestion that referendum principles may be extended to all local precepting authorities as set out in paragraph 3.3.6? If so what level of principle should be set?
- Question 7: Do you have views on the practical implications of a possible extension of referendum principles to all local precepting authorities as set out in paragraph 3.3.7?
NALC initial response
NALC will be responding to this consultation in the strongest possible terms, setting out our opposition to these proposals as well as calling for the removal of the Secretary of State’s powers on council tax referendums in the Localism Act 2011.
We do not believe any local council (including higher spending councils) should be included within this regime, especially given the current financial climate and funding of public services coupled with local councils increasingly taking on more services from principal councils. Our press release published in advance of the consultation sets out in more detail our initial reaction to the proposals, points on which we will elaborate further in our final response to the Government.
The chairman of NALC Councillor Ken Browse has today written to the local government minister Marcus Jones MP seeking an urgent meeting with him to discuss the consultation proposals and related issues.
The DCLG consultation closes on 28 October 2016 but NALC would welcome feedback on the consultation questions to inform its own response – please send these to NALC Jessica.Lancodfrost@nalc.gov.uk by at the latest 17.00 on Tuesday 21 October 2016.
Planning Aid Direct – Service Change from 1st August
Planning Aid Direct offers free and independent planning advice via e-mail at email@example.com and guidance on a range of planning issues via the Planning Aid Direct web-site at: www.planningaid.co.uk
The range of advice items on the Planning Aid Direct website is currently being updated and added to by Planning Aid staff.
NB: The telephone Advice Line has been temporarily suspended from 1st August. This is to allow Planning Aid to review its need, the capacity of others providing something similar and the potential for it to be developed in a more sustainable way.
Helping communities make the most of their landscape (2011)
The Landscape Institute produced this booklet in 2011 to inspire local communities and decision-makers to make the most of their land - at the same time helping wildlife flourish, reducing flood risk, providing green open space for all, and delivering a wide range of economic, health and community benefits. It still has relevance and might be of interest to your council.
Commonwealth Day 2017
Monday 13th March 2017 will mark the Fly the Flag for Commonwealth day. NALC is urging all local councils to get involved in these important celebrations.
Monday 14th March this year marked Commonwealth Day 2016. Over 900 Commonwealth Flags were raised together at 10am that morning by local authorities (including over 200 parish and town councils) and a small number of others, throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, UK Overseas Territories.
This was the largest, single, raising of the Commonwealth flag in the history of the Commonwealth which bodes well for the future, especially as this event is to become an annual occasion growing in size and stature over the next few years, involving the countries and communities of all the other 52 Commonwealth countries on Commonwealth Day each year, (which always falls on the second Monday in March).
Being a good employer 2016
All town and parish councils are employers.
Therefore all councillors need to be aware of their responsibilities as an employer. All councils would benefit from having a separate Personnel or Staffing Committee to discuss matters such as the clerks’ annual appraisal and pay which should not be considered in public.
To help your council understand more about its employment responsibilities NALC has updated Being a Good Employer. It will be available to download free from the Members Area of our website after the middle of June 2016 or as a printed booklet from OALC cost £3 per copy + £1.20 p&p
Resources to make things happen and improve your community
Just Act helps anyone involved with a community project to find information. The 10 Steps go through the key stages of running a project and the Knowledge Bank has information for different types of projects. - See more at: http://www.justact.org.uk/#sthash.UNOvk3ma.dpuf
There is a good case study arising from a study of 120 community buildings in Oxfordshire called Managing energy use in community buildings, more information here
Pay Award 2016-18: 1% pay increase agreed
The National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC) has agreed a 1% pay increase for 2016 and 2017. The pay increase will apply to all local council staff employed on NJC terms including the SLCC/NALC model contract.
All member clerks were sent the NALC E02-16 briefing on 19th May, it is in the Members Area of this website too..
New Regulations which allow removal of unnecessary road signs
New powers to remove pointless road signs that are an eyesore and distract drivers will be given to councils on 22 April 2016 under the The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016.
According to DCLG the number of signs on our roads, more than doubled from 2.45 million in England in 1993 to an estimated 4.57 million in 2013.
Now simpler rules are being brought in to give town halls the power to take down unnecessary signs and for the first time, signs that say ‘new’ layout ahead will have ‘remove by dates’ on the back so they are not needlessly left in place for years
Life is too short to read all 547 pages of the new Regulations which have come into force but if there are nugatory signs in your village we would suggest your council suggest their removal to the Highways Authority.
Council tax levels 2016-17
For those that are interested, National Statistics published on March 31st the annual statistics on council tax levels set for 2016-7.
They report that "The average Band D precept charged by a parish or charter trustee for 2016-17 will be £57.40, and increase of £3.28, or 6.1%, from 2015-16."
The report which goes into greater detail can be found here
Transparency Code - there is money available for your council to get a website
By now your council and your clerk will be familiar with the requirements of the Transparency Code and should be compliant with it placing the required information on your council website.
Smaller councils (turnover under £25,000) should publish, on a freely available website, information about:
- all items of expenditure above £100
- end of year accounts
- annual governance statement, internal audit report
- list of councillor or member responsibilities
- the details of public land and building assets
- Minutes, agendas and meeting papers of formal meetings
If your council does not have a website it will be eligible to receive a grant towards a computer and setting up a website to enable compliance with the Code.
Contact OALC for more information and an application form.
Nine councils in Oxfordshire have benefitted so far; £7,672 was paid out in the last financial year 2015-6 to 9 councils.
Spot checks will be made to ensure that the money was used in the required way but otherwise there are no strings attached. The sole purpose is to increase transparency, to enable councils to publish the required information and to make democracy more open to scrutiny, after all it is public money that town and parish councils is spending.
Audit - things to note and be aware of for 2015-6
You will have received from your external auditor BDO their Spring Briefing, March 2016.
Please read it thoroughly, there is a lot of useful information in it. Please also read the new version of Governance and Accountability 2016 together with the two briefings from NALC F02-16 and F03-16 sent to clerks on Thursday 31st March. The BDO briefing reflects on the changes brought in by the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 which are applicable for the Annual Review of the year just ended (March 2016)
We would draw your attention to:
- The period for the exercise of public rights is 30 working days. The setting of the date for the exercise of Electors Rights is now the responsibility of the council not the External Auditor as previously. The date should follow immediately after the adoption of the Annual Return by the Council. These 30 working days must include the first 10 working days in July. The earliest you can start will be Friday 3rd June and the latest is Friday 1st July.
- The Responsible Finance Officer must publish on the council website before the inspection period starts - the Annual Governance Statement; Statement of Accounts and a statement setting out the period for the exercise of electors rights and details of the auditor and where the documents can be inspected.
- Parish Meetings are exempt from publishing the above information on a website but it must be displayed in a conspicuous place for 14 days.
National Living Wage
The National Living Wage (NLW) comes into force on 1st April 2016, replacing the National Minimum Wage for all workers over the age of 25. The NLW is set at £7.20 per hour. The National Minimum Wage continues to apply to those under 25.
NALC has issued a briefing on this (E01-16) which is in the Members Area of the OALC website.
Is the pay of clerks affected? No. LC1 the lowest scale that applies to clerks starts at SCP15 – an hourly rate of £8.613.
However, councils may have other staff affected. The salary rate SCP 5 was deleted on 1st October 2015. This leaves SCP 6 and SCP7 below the NLW. Any council employee who is employed on SCP 6 or 7 should be paid at the NLW until such time as these grades exceed the NLW.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have guidance on calculating minimum pay entitlements.
For current pay scales see NALC briefing E03-14 in the Members Area of the OALC website.
Two new Financial Briefings from NALC and a new edition of Governance and Accountability for Smaller Authorities 2016
(all three documents are in the Members Area of the website)
F02-16 Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 – changes to audit appointments and arrangements
This briefing deals with changes to audit appointments and certain other amendments that will start to come into effect during the course of 2016. Please note the final paragraph which details a change which comes into effect immediately and concerns the setting of the date for the exercise of Electors’ Rights.
F03-16 Governance & Accountability for Smaller Authorities in England – a Practitioners Guide to Proper Practices 2016
This briefing announces the publication of the latest Practitioners Guide which replaces the 2014 Guide. The guidance applies to Annual Returns in respect of financial years commencing on or after 1 April 2016 .
NALC is campaigning for the government to introduce a limited third party right of appeal for town and parish councils to the planning Inspectorate against planning decisions
The planning system is one of the few decision-making processes that gives no right of appeal to affected third parties. NALC feels the government should introduce a limited third party right of appeal by giving parish councils a right to appeal planning decisions to the Planning Inspectorate.
NALC believes there is a fundamental imbalance in the planning system. Under current rules, if a council refuses a planning application, the applicant is allowed to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. If a council approves an application, no one has the right to appeal. With the national presumption in favour of sustainable development throwing the planning system into disarray, in the interest of justice, the government should give parish councils the right to appeal planning decisions.
If your council feels strongly about this then you might like to sign the petition which is here
The closing date is 19th April, so far there are 8,954 signatures. If 10,000 signatures are gained the government will have to respond. And if 100,000 signatures are reached then it will be considered for debate in parliament.
Sec 137 for 2016-17 finally announced
NALC Legal briefing L01-16 (in the Members Area of the website) confirms that the appropriate sum for parish councils for the purposes of Sec 137 (4)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972 for 2016-17 is £7.42 per elector.
Neighbourhood Plan Roadmap - new updated edition available
This guide is for all those involved in, or thinking about, producing a Neighbourhood Plan, and for those who are just curious to find out more. Whilst other guides are predominantly concerned with the legislation and process, Locality has attempted, wherever possible, to include guidance on good practice and worksheets for carrying out each part of the plan. It is available here
Flatpack democracy - politics without the parties - Frome Town Council, Somerset
On 7 May last year a small Somerset town voted against traditional party politics and gave a coalition of independents control of all 17 seats on its council. As the crucible of ‘flatpack democracy’, Frome is leading a small-scale political revolution.
Read more here in an article from The Independent newspaper. Food for thought......
Becoming NALC Council of the Week just got easier
NALC has been celebrating the work of member councils through its Council of the Week feature since the launch of the new website in November 2014.
Each week, the exemplary work of a parish or town council in England is shared on the NALC website, showcasing our members’ achievements to a national audience, whilst inspiring good practice amongst others.
We would love to see your hard work recognised.
To be considered for Council of the Week, all you have to do is fill out the simple nomination form and send it with a high-resolution image to firstname.lastname@example.org . More information can be found on the NALC site here
Successful Council of the Week nominees will be contacted by email prior to the piece being published.
All Council of the Week submissions will automatically be entered into the prestigious Council of the Year category of NALC Star Council 2016 awards. So there’s another fantastic reason to put your council forward!
You can use this accolade to promote your council’s work by personalising the template press release for use in your communications and to issue to local media. Don’t forget to share your Council of the Week story on your social media accounts too.
Do you need statistics for your parish?
OALC raised sometime ago with NALC and ONS the problem of the lack availability of small area statistics for Parish Meetings with less than 100 population or 40 households..
In light of this, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK's largest independent producer of official statistics, is undertaking a review of the availability of information on a small area.
ONS conducts the census in England and Wales every 10 years. Following the 2011 Census, around 10% of Civil Parishes in England had a population too small to be allocated a population estimate. In these instances, statistics were not released for these civil parishes. ONS provided 2011 Census population estimates (number of households, males and females only) at the postcode level.
The ONS recognises the importance of producing statistics for parishes. They have subsequently undertaken research to identify a solution where statistical data could be published for the majority of parishes.
They want to share the findings of this research with you and understand your requirements for statistics at the civil parish level. You can do so by reading the research and completing their questionnaire.
You can respond using the online survey: https://consultations.ons.gov.uk/ons-geography/ons-geography-products-and-services-review or submit a MS Word version via email to email@example.com or by post to:
ONS Geography Customer Services, Office for National Statistics, Segensworth Road, Titchfield, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 5RR
DCLG Neighbourhood Planning Bulletin -17
This latest bulletin from the neighbourhood planning team in the Department for Communities and Local Government provides an update on the latest news and policy developments, how the neighbourhood planning team can help communities, and how communities’ varied work on the ground fits with the national picture.
If you want to sign up to receive these bulletins, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
New edition of The good councillors guide 5th edition 2016
A new updated edition of The good councillors guide is available to download in our Members Area at the bottom of the page under Councillor Resources. This is the 5th edition and incorporates changes to legislation since the 4th edition in 2013. NALC has undertaken to review this useful publication each year.
If you wish to order copies of the new 5th edition (2016) please contact us. The price for printed versions has now risen to £3 per copy + £1.20 p&p inc. VAT.
Lord Taylor of Goss Moor is to be the new president of the National Association of Local Councils
C The Planner
A meeting of NALC’s governing body unanimously approved the appointment of the widely respected Liberal Democrat Peer and former Member of Parliament.
Lord Taylor said: "It was a real honour and a privilege to be asked to be NALC’s new president. I was delighted to accept and take up the role at such an exciting time for parish and town councils, as they gain increasing influence in shaping the thousands of local communities they represent and champion.
"NALC is a well-respected organisation with a strong and influential voice, and I'm keen to play my part in taking their work forward as champion of town and parish councils across the country.
"I'd like to pay tribute to Lord Lytton who served NALC and the sector so well over the last decade and a half. He will I know continue to champion parish and town councils in the House of Lords."
Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) to cover deposits of small local authorities
From 3rd July 2015 the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) will cover the deposits of small local authorities. The definition of small local authority being one that has an annual budget of less than €500,000 (currently £355,700 as it is based on the exchange rate on 3rd July each year). This will extend cover to over 8,000 parish and community councils.
The UK FSCS will cover the first £75,000 of eligible deposits, a reduction from the previous figure of £85,000. The previous limit will remain in force for individuals and small companies until 31st December 2015, but the new rate will apply immediately for councils.
The FSCS ensure that eligible bank depositors have access to their eligible deposits within fifteen business days of receipt of a request from the depositor which contains sufficient information to enable the FSCS to make a payment. The formal announcement of the change can be found on the Bank of England’s website.
NALC Financial briefing note F05-15 is in the Members Area of the OALC website
NALC to lead sector led audit body to replace Audit Commission for smaller authorities
The Government has backed a proposal from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) to lead the national procurement of audit for parish and town (local) councils and other smaller bodies from 2017.
In one of his first acts since becoming local government minister, Marcus Jones MP has rubber stamped plans by NALC to set up a ‘sector-led body’ to procure audit for smaller public sector bodies, working in partnership with the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) and the Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA).
The minister’s decision was discussed during his first meeting with NALC chairman Cllr Ken Browse and since followed up in a letter to the umbrella body for England’s 9,000 local councils.
The move follows the abolition of the Audit Commission in April of this year and is an early show support by the new government for NALC and an increasingly sector-led approach to supporting and promoting good governance in the parish sector, who have been described as England’s ‘localist powerhouse’ and are responsible for spending hundreds of millions of pounds of public money each year.
NALC has been calling for a move to a sector-led approach to appointing auditors since the former secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles MP – who was recently knighted by the Queen – announced plans to abolish the Audit Commission after the 2010 general election.
Throughout the passage of the Local Audit and Accountability Act – the legislation which closed down the independent public corporation which had existed for 33 years – NALC argued the process would be complex and costly if small public bodies such as parishes had to procure auditors themselves, proposing a self-financing body be set up to handle these responsibilities and also overseeing the quality and timeliness of auditors' work.
NALC has been working closely with the previous and new government on the future of audit for local councils, Internal Drainage Boards and Port Health Authorities, with the creation of one single body central to delivering shared objectives for increased transparency and a cost effective and quality audit regime.
The Big Pathwatch launched by the Ramblers Association
New changes for energy certificates
from NALC Direct Information Service
Starting on 9 July 2015, the Display Energy Certificates (DECs) will be required for all buildings over 250 square metres occupied by a public authority and frequently visited by the public. The threshold for requiring these certificates was 500 square metres.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said:
“The purpose of this change is to further raise public awareness of energy use and to inform visitors to public buildings about the energy use of a building. DECs provide an energy rating of the building from A to G, where A is very efficient and G is the least efficient and are based on the actual amount of metered energy used by the building over the last 12 months.”
“Affected organisations must display a DEC in a prominent place clearly visible to the public and have in its possession or control a valid recommendation report.”
For more information see NALC Legal Topic Note 76 in the Members Area of our website and DCLG A guide to Display Energy Certificates and advisory reports for public buildings https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/display-energy-certificates-and-advisory-reports-for-public-buildings
Payroll Services – Douglas Tonks
OALC has learnt from a parish council in Cherwell District that the company of Douglas Tonks is in the hands of the Official Receiver, Leeds, having been the subject of a winding up petition from HMRC in respect of NI and income tax dating back to 2012/13 amounting to around £46,000, and a subsequent winding up order effective 15 June 2015.
If this affects your council and you would like to speak to the Examiner at the Official Receiver's Office in Leeds which is handling the case, we are told he is Eric Yarwood on direct line0113 200 6026, email@example.com .
English Heritage split up
Did you know that since April English Heritage has split into two organisations? The first organisation which retains the English Heritage name and logo, will look after the National Heritage Collection, consisting of more than 400 historic sites. Historic England, with a new and different logo, will cover planning, heritage designation, conservation while providing research, guidance and grants.
There are 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK, Blenheim Palace was designated in 1987. Oxford Economics found heritage based tourism directly accounts for at least £5 billion of this countrys GDP and 134,000 jobs. Oxfordshire has a wealth of heritage based tourism, from the Oxford colleges through to literary and tv/film location attractions.
Complete revision of Cilca - April 2015
My Community – free advice and grants
Your council has powers to make a difference in your area - saving local pubs, shops and community centres. Support and grants for developing your area through neighbourhood planning and building for your community are available, help with owning and managing local land and buildings, running services and boosting the local economy opened on 1 April. Visit mycommunity.org.uk for information, resources, advice and grants and connect with others on the My Community Network.
Under the Community Ownership and Management of Assets programme you can save local pubs and shops - new support & grants opened on 1 April at http://mycommunity.org.uk/programme/community-assets/ . Parish councils can either lead consortia to apply to the programme or can support consortia to apply for the programme which seeks to support communities wishing to take on the management or ownership of multiple or complex assets in their area. The deadline for programme applications is 31st May 2015 – parishes are positively encouraged to participate in this programme. Please visit the following specific link to access grant and direct support guidance and application data.
Under the Our Place programme you can have a say over services making them better for all – new support & grants opened on 1 April. Parish councils are positively encouraged to become involved in the programme in 2015-16, as 17 parishes did in 2013-14.
Under the Community Economic Development programme you can help bring real economic benefits to your area - new support & grants opened on 1 April.
My Community Rights
NALC is supporting Locality to deliver certain My Community Rights Programmes on behalf of DCLG during 2015-16. NALC has agreed with Locality that it would promote the launch of the various programmes parishes would be interested in.
My Community – free advice and grants
Your council has powers available to it to make a difference in your area - saving local pubs, shops and community centres. Support and grants for developing your area through neighbourhood planning and building for your community are available, help with owning and managing local land and buildings, running services and boosting the local economy opens on 1 April.
Visit mycommunity.org.uk http://mycommunity.org.uk/ for information, resources, advice and grants and connect with others on the My Community Network.
Under the Community Ownership and Management of Assets programme you can save local pubs and shops - new support & grants open 1 April
Under the Our Place programme you can have a say over services making them better for all – new support & grants open 1 April
Under the Community Economic Development programme you can help bring real economic benefits to your area - new support & grants open 1 April
TRANSPARENCY CODE a slightly unhelpful name for publishing financial information about your council
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 sets out a new audit framework for parish councils and other bodies which are currently covered by the Audit Commission regime. Under the new audit framework parish councils with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000 will be exempt from routine external audit. In its place there are new transparency requirements set out in the Code. The intention is that local electors will be able to access relevant information about accounts and governance through these transparency requirements.
The Code is here and we will be sending out by separate email a briefing we have commissioned to try and make it clear what information your council has to publish on its website. The briefing is already in the Members Area of the OALC website.
Plain English Guide to the Planning System
DCLG has issued a 20 page Plain English guide to the Planning System
It covers all the main basics:
- the purpose of the planning system
- key decision takers: councillors, officers, Secretary of State, Planning Inspectorate
- National Planning Policy
- Nationally significant infrastructure projects
- Strategic planning, duty to cooperate
- Local Plans (flow diagram)
- Neighbourhood planning (flow diagram)
- Contributions and community benefits
- Permitted development rights
- Obtaining planning development (flow diagram)
- Planning enforcement
- Planning appeals
Quality Parish Council Scheme is now Local Council Award
After prolonged consultation the new scheme was launched on 6th January 2015. The scheme has been designed to provide the tools and encouragement to help councils improve, as well as promoting and recognising those councils that are already well run and are examples of good practice.
Councils can apply for an award at one of three levels:
- The Foundation Award demonstrates that a council meets the minimum requirements for acting lawfully and according to standard practice.
- The Quality Award demonstrates that a council achieves good practice in governance, community engagement and council improvement.
- The Quality Gold Award demonstrates that a council is at the forefront of best practice and achieves excellence in governance, community leadership and council development.
The scheme sets out the criteria required to attain each level of the award. It is hoped that councils will want to progress through the levels where resources allow. To achieve any level of award Councils must publish the required documents and information online and pass a resolution at full council confirming their availability.
For more information on the Local Award Scheme, the criteria and a step by step guide to the process for applying go to the NALC website http://www.nalc.gov.uk/our-work/local-council-award-scheme
There are two fees; a registration fee paid to NALC, this is £50 irrespective of the size of the council or the level of award. And an accreditation fee which varies from £50 - £200 depending on the size of the council and the level of award.
The accreditation lasts for four years.
Units of measurement – gardening allotments
OALC has received a letter from the British Weights and Measures Association. The letter states that a Mr David Johnson is emailing parish councils stating that they are “breaking the law” by using rods and poles to describe allotments. Apparently Mr Johnson starts his emails asking under the Freedom of Information Act for allotment prices, then switches context and uses the FoI deadlines to pursue a change to metric.
Mr Johnson does appear to be a prolific user of the What do they know? website
The British Weights and Measures Association, a group that campaigns for the retention of imperial measures points out that no UK legislation has been passed to prohibit the rod or pole or any other traditional unit in relation to allotments. Apparently the metric regulations to which Mr Johnson refers are the Units of Measurement Regulations 1994, aimed at the sellers of loose goods such as greengrocers. The renting of allotments does not fall into the category of loose goods. Allotments are let as plots, to which metric regulations do not apply.
Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014
Further to the introduction of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 which came into force on 6 August, NALC have amended the following Legal Topic Notes (which can be found in the Members Area of this website) :
- LTN 1 Councils powers to discharge their functions - has been amended to consider the new requirements for councils to:
i) record in writing certain decisions made by officers,
ii) make records of such decisions and any background papers available for public inspection and
iii) retain such papers for prescribed periods
- LTN 5 Parish and community council meetings - this has been amended to reflect the changes in the Regulations which allow filming, tweeting, blogging and recording of local authority meetings.
Member councils were also sent Legal Briefing L02-14 which deals with an amendment to Model Standing Orders to reflect these changes.
How well do you know your area? Office of National Statistics quiz
While perusing the ONS website I came across this:
It is a short quiz of 7 questions about the 2011 census results for your post code area. If you type in your postcode it will ask questions such as levels of home/car ownership, levels of educational qualifications. You may be surprised by the results.
The Bribery Act 2010 – impact on local councils, a reminder
NALC have up dated their legal briefing L07-11 on the Bribery Act.
Bribery undermines democracy and the rule of law. Routine local council activities and decision making may expose councils to the risk of bribery offences being committed. Such risks could, for example, relate to entering into contracts for the supply of goods and services, commenting on planning applications, the purchase and disposal of land and premises, recruitment and employment practices.
Councils may be offered corporate hospitality/ gifts by those who want to supply goods and services to them. Bona fide hospitality to establish cordial relations or other business expenditure for activity intended to promote products and services is recognised as an established and important part of doing business. It is not the intention of the 2010 Act to criminalise such behaviour.
Hospitality and promotional or other similar business expenditure can, however, be employed as bribes. The greater the expenditure and the more lavish the hospitality provided, the greater the inference that it is intended to influence and to constitute bribery. This will depend on the nature of business and each council will need to form a view on what is acceptable corporate hospitality. The timing of any hospitality and its purpose will also need to be considered. Councils are encouraged to adopt a gifts and hospitality policy and to keep a register of gifts and hospitality received by staff and councillors. For many small councils the prospect of them receiving any hospitality is laughably remote, for larger councils there is greater potential for hospitality and hence a possible opportunity for bribery.
In England councillors may be subject to obligations under the Code of Conduct adopted by their council, which relate to transparency about the receipt of gifts or hospitality. For example, if a council has adopted NALC’s code of conduct for parish councils (please see NALC Briefing L09-12 – NALC template code of conduct for parish councils for more information) gifts or hospitality worth more than an estimated value of £50 which a councillor has received by virtue of his or her office is an Appendix B interest which must be registered with the Monitoring Officer. Unless they have obtained a dispensation, councillors who have an Appendix B interest in a matter which is being considered at a meeting cannot vote on the matter at the meeting. They may only speak on the matter if members of the public are also allowed to speak at the meeting.
Revised Guidance: Naming and registering local council websites (.gov.uk)
The Cabinet Office and Government Digital Service has launched revised guidance for the naming and registering of council websites aiming to make it simpler, clearer and faster for the user to understand the.gov.uk conditions and to be able to apply for a domain.
Direct Information Service (DIS)
Do you have trouble keeping up to date with all the news and views for town and parish councils?
DIS is a fortnightly news service from NALC which can provide you with a one stop shop for all the latest information which is relevant to our sector.
With a round up of government statements and publications, up to date legal information, ministerial statements, press releases and consultations from across the sector, along with regular events and vacancy listings, DIS is a great source of information.
Available in a hard copy, or delivered by e-mail (DIS Extra) up to five days earlier, and as a slightly enhanced version.
Reflecting the diversity of councils across the country, a typical issue will include a broad range of information on all potential aspects of a councils life including everything from reports on relevant employment tribunals to analysis of latest local government policy, and examples of case law.
All articles where relevant will have follow up points, including websites, postal addresses and telephone numbers to help you find out more detailed information.
DIS are now producing a funding bulletin as well with various sources of funding from Heritage Lottery Funding to Local Sustainable Transport Fund. Have a look at the Funding Bulletin here
Subscription to DIS
To subscribe to DIS complete the online subscription form. Member councils receive a substantially discounted subscription rate which is £115 for 26 issues for the printed version; £90 +VAT for DIS Extra - email version
Download a sample copy of DIS.
Social Media for councillors
Councillors and councils are encouraged to connect with their community, to be open and transparent and to use modern methods of communication - Facebook, Twitter in addition to the usual noticeboard and website. But as yet NALC has not issued any template policies for councils to use although there are various examples out there if you Google. There obvoiusly has to be a clear divide between Tweeting as a councillor and Tweeting or Facebooking as an individual, be very aware of which hat you are wearing and don't confuse them.
OALC is currently, through Oxford Hub, trying to set up a project where Oxford University students set up a Twitter or Facebook account for interested councils. A useful booklet produced by LGA but only available online, not in print, is Connected Councillors. This booklet, while directed at district/principal authority councillors, does have useful guidance in it and is well worth reading.
The Civil Service has also produced Social Media Guidance for Civil Servants the first part of which has guidance on how to use social media emphasising the usefulness of communicating your message to many rather than just on a one to one basis. Some of the Civil Service top tips for using social media are:
- Have a clear idea of your objectives in using social media (behaviour change/service delivery/consultation/communication)
- Learn the rules of each social media space before engaging
- Remember an official account belongs to the Department not the individual
- Communicate where your citizens are
- Build relationships with your stakeholders on and offline – social media is just one of many communication channels
- Do not open a channel of communication you cannot maintain
- Understand when a conversation should be taken offline
- Do not engage with users who are aggressive/abusive
DCLG Allotment disposal guidance; safeguards and alternatives
This document is a guide to how disposal decisions will be handled by the decision makers involved. Information and advice is provided on the criteria used to assess whether local councils can be granted consent to dispose of land used for allotments. The guide’s main purpose is to help councils decide whether to apply for consent to dispose of allotment land and to provide clarity on how disposal applications will be assessed.
The guide is here
Organising a voluntary event: a 'Can do' guide from Cabinet Office
Cabinet Office have issued a guide, January 18th 2014, to help you to plan and run successful events with a minimum of red tape. The guide is in seven parts:
- What do I need to thnk about when planning an event?
- Do I need any licences or other sort of permission?
- How do I keep organisers, volunteers and participants safe?
- How do I make sure that food and drink is safe?
- Can I close a road?
- Do I need insurance?
- Am I planning an event for which there is specialist guidance elsewhere?
The guide can be read or downloaded from here
Parishes encouraged to make direct proposals to DCLG Under Sustainable Communities Act, 2007
The legal order allowing parishes to formally make direct proposals to the DCLG Secretary of State under the Second Round Invitation of the Sustainable Communities Act, 2007 – formally commenced on Monday 14, October, 2013.
NALC is promoting parish use of the Act in forthcoming issues of the E-Bulletin and DIS as the parish sector now collectively needs to focus on promoting appropriate parish proposals and indeed encouraging parishes to submit direct proposals to DCLG under the Act. All parishes in England need to have sight of the link on the NALC SCA web-page when and before making proposals under the Act.
A simple 4-step process has been formulated by NALC and is recommended to parishes to follow before formally submitting their proposals under the Act, to DCLG. A submitting parish council should;
1) Consult its community as to which ideas residents would like to have considered for a direct proposal;
2) Then formally agree with its community (possibly in response to a local policy problem which can’t otherwise be resolved locally) the wording of a formal proposal;
3) Then the council needs to formally resolve to pass the proposal and send it to DCLG at the Barrier Busting website.
4) DCLG then responds saying either ‘yes’ the proposal is passed (in which case the council uses the Barrier Busting Tracker at the above link to track progress with implementing the proposal) or ‘no’. If DCLG say ‘no’ the council can leave it at that and not re-submit a proposal, or can re-word a proposal and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure that the NALC SCA Board makes a decision as to whether to re-submit it (or not), to DCLG. If the Board says ‘no’, it must give reasons to the council. In most cases, though, the Board will probably re-submit a (possibly amended) proposal to DCLG on the council’s behalf and the same process outlined immediately above is followed.
Councils are strongly encouraged to start the process of submitting direct proposals to DCLG as soon as possible.
Working with your Council (WWYC) becomes Introduction to Local Council Administration (ILCA)
The introductory qualification Working with Your Council has been discontinued and is being replaced by the online Introduction to Local Council Administration. The new learning tool has five sections which can be studied in your own time. Each of the five modules contains activities, questions and explanations. You can gain a certificate and CPD points on successful completion. The modules are:
- Core roles
- Law and procedures
To register and find more information go to the SLCC website The cost is £99 +VAT for SLCC members
Local Councils Explained 2013
Local councils EXPLAINED is NALC’s book for local councils in England and Wales.
It has over 200 pages which clearly explain the role of parish, town and community councils, their councillors and officers and how they work. It offers comprehensive and practical guidance about the legal issues that local councils are exposed to.
NALC’s book will equip local councils with answers to frequently asked questions about all aspects of their work. There is commentary about:
- committee and staff structures
- publication schemes
- handling freedom of information requests
- data protection
- neighbourhood planning (England)
- the general power of competence(England)
- preparing for meetings and agenda preparation
- rules of debate at meetings
- how to chair meetings
- work after meetings
- preparation of minutes
- code of conduct
- political groupings
- publicity about the work of a council
- councillors’ interests and dispensation requests
- precept setting and council tax increases
- accounts, audit and financial management
- contract negotiation
- staff management
- parish and community meetings
- working with volunteers, businesses, charities and other local authorities
- dealing with the media
- handling complaints
- judicial review
Local councils EXPLAINED:
- - is easy to understand
- - uses examples, tables and diagrams
- - contains up-to-date statutory references
- - is competitively priced at £49.99 only for NALC members (15% discount) and
- - includes updated model standing orders (an electronic version of which is free to NALC members.
How to order:
Local councils EXPLAINED is priced at £49.99 +P&P for members & £59.99 +P&P for non-members.
The order form is available here.
Complete the form and send directly to NALC.
Vexatious request for information, new guidance from Information Commissioner
New guidance was issued by the Information Commissioner in May 2013. Under Section 14(1) Freedom of Information Act 2000, public authorities do not have to comply with vexatious requests. It is the request which is vexatious, not the individual making it!
In cases where the issue is not clear-cut, the key question to ask is whether the request is likely to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress.
Vexatious = “manifestly unjustified, inappropriate or improper use of a formal procedure”
See the complete guidance on the ICO website
The average age of a parish councillor is 60.2 years
How the Localism Act hands power to older generations.
An interesting report was published in September 2012 by the Intergenerational Foundation, an independent, non-party-political charity that exists to research fairness between the generations in order to protect the rights of younger and future generations in British policy-making.
Its findings were:
- that councillors are getting older
- few young people become councillors
- older people are heavily over represented on local councils
- councillors live in properties which are more valuable than average for the area they represent
- the age bias among councillors exacerbates the housing crisis facing younger people
- the Localism Act hands more power to older people.
While some of the conclusions are debatable, it is correct there are very few town and parish councillors under the age of 30.
The report goes on to reveal that women remain significantly under-represented among town and parish councillors. Although females make up more than 50% of the population in England and Wales, 66% of parish councillors are male and 34% female. 67% of town councillors are male and 33% female. There are significant variations in gender representation between the regions. In the South-East of England the proportion of female councillors rises to almost two-fifths (39.7%).
The Local Government Chronicle (18.7.2013) magazine findings reinforce this, 23% of principal council chief executives were female, while only 12% of leaders were female although since the election in May the percentage has crept up to 13%.
How does your council measure up? What is the age and gender profile of your council?
Of course, it can be difficult to get willing volunteers to become councillors. However, next time your council has a vacancy think about the profile of your council, could it be more representative of the whole community?
The General Power of Competence - empowering councils to make a difference
The Power of General Competence was introduced in the Localism Act 2011 and came into effect in February 2012. The new power is radical in that it allows a council to act as an individual would. (See OALC briefing note in the members Area of this website under OALC briefings and presentations). Town and parish councils can only use the Power if they are eligible. Eligibility depends on satisfying three criteria:
- two thirds of councillors have stood for election (they may have stood unopposed)
- the clerk is qualified - Cilca or higher recognised qualifications
- the council resolves to grant itself the Power.
The number of councils in Oxfordshire with the Power is limited; OALC are aware of Little Milton, Didcot, Bicester, Banbury and Minster Lovell Town and Parish Councils.
LGA had commissioned research into the Power and what is was being used for since 2012. The research identified a number of case studies and drew some conclusions on the constraints on the wider use of the GPC. Eric Pickles was very keen to encourage greater use of the Power stressing the possibilities for enterprising councils.
Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 - Village greens
Under the Commons Act 2006, land can be registered as a town or village green if it can be shown to have been continuously used as of right for lawful sports or pastimes for at least 20 years by a signiciant number of inhabitants of the neighbourhood.
The frequent use of town or village green applications to prevent development has prompted the government to introduce three changes to the law through the Growth and Infrastructre Act 2013:
- a reduction in the deadline for bringing in town and village green registration applications from two years to one year
- giving landowners the right to lodge a formal statement with the commons registration authority which has the effect of interrupting any ongoing period of recreational use. (These two changes are not yet in force.)
- finally the Act prohibits applications once the land has been allocated for development - including a proposed allocation - or is the subject of a planning application. This moratorium lasts until the allocation is no longer in place, or the land is no longer subject to a planning application or permission. (This change came into effect immediately on 25 April 2013)
More information here on the DCLG website
Updated Guidance from DCLG on Code of Conduct and Register of Interests
The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued revised and updated guidance for councillors on the Code of Conduct. It is called Openness and transparency on personal interests, a guide for councillors. It supersedes that issued in August 2011.
There has been confusion and differing interpretations of the legislation particularly concerning whether a dispensation was required by councillors to consider the precept. This advice clearly states that a dispensation is not needed.
The revised guidance can be found here
Reminder about use of email by town and parish councils
NALC have issued a useful reminder about the use of emails; their advice is aimed primarily at clerks but does have relevance for councillors too. Clerks and councillors both need to consider what they retain on their computers. Increasing use of Freedom of Information requests means that any relevant emails will need to be produced within 20 days of the request.
Councils should ensure that the tone and language of internal and external email correspondence sent by their employees is always professional and courteous. Councils should consider emphasising the following points to employees sending work emails:
- Putting a subject in the subject line to make it clear what the email is about;
- Using “urgent” only if the email is genuinely urgent;
- Using the appropriate level of formality for greetings (e.g. Dear Mr Jones or Dear Sue, Dear Cllr Smith,);
- Ending emails appropriately (e.g. Yours faithfully or Yours sincereley);
- Not overusing capital letters or bold text, which can be seen as aggressive;
- Replying within an appropriate timeframe, even if just to send an acknowledgement;
- Checking grammar and spelling;
- Re-reading emails before sending them and
- Setting “out of office” responses and providing alternative contact details when employees are not in the office. This should include the email address of the person to whom Freedom of Information requests should be sent.
Planning for trees and woodland
The Woodland Trust has recognised the importance of the whole Neighbourhood Planning movement and to support groups in creating their plans or development orders have created some on-line resources to help if their local area has trees or woodland. Click here to go to the Woodland Trust website.
Fraud risks in parish and town councils - advice for councillors
Following a succesful training event on Finance we would like to draw your attention to a leaflet issued by NALC, SLCC and Audit Commission. It sets out a useful check list of Do's and Don't's on fraud, behavioural, financial and organisational indicators. Click here to see the leaflet.
Local Government Charity Toolkit
The Toolkit is a free online reference manual developed by the Charity Commission in liaison with the Local Government Association, the National Association for Voluntary & Community Action and the Commission for the Compact. It highlights key issues and is designed to help local authorities work with charities and to explain the legal and fiscal framework within which charities must operate. It is a useful guide for sub-committees and officers administering charitable assets in the council’s care and for councillors nominated to serve as charity trustees. It uses real case studies to do this and it highlights where things can go wrong and offers a range of tips on how to avoid the pitfalls. The Toolkit also provides information on the possible options for modernising, merging, or winding up charities and highlights the legal, financial and governance issues that arise from the relationship between local government and charities that can get in the way of an effective partnership.
Please see the following links to the Charity Commission website. They consist of a link to the Councillor’s Guide to a Council’s Role as Charity Trustee and a link to the Local Government Charity Toolkit:
Guidance on burials
The Ministry of Justice issued guidance for burial ground managers, custodians of war memorials, archaeologists and others directly connected to the upkeep and maintenance of cemeteries.
This guidance has been long awaited and will be of interest to local councils involved in cemetery management. It covers six themes: natural burial grounds – guidance for operators; guidance for burial ground managers; guidance for custodians of war memorials in England and Wales; managing the safety of burial ground memorials; memorial safety guidance: frequently asked questions; and a statement on burial law and archaeology. This guidance can be downloaded at http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/burials.htm.
War Memorial Theft - Prevention and solutions This helpsheet provides guidance on preventing theft from war memorials and what to do if theft has occurred. Theft commonly affects war memorials made from metals with a scrap value such as lead and bronze. It is important to take steps to assess and reduce the risks of theft before it is too late.
The Plunkett Foundation is offering a support package to village shops to enhance their local food offering through the Making Local Food Work programme. They have a limited number of places on the scheme to help improve and stock more local food.
Making Local Food Work looks to stimulate the growth of local foods through community enterprise. To find out more about the Making Local Food Work programme please visit the website – www.makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk .
The free local food support package provides:
- The Look for Local Practical Guide – this offers tips on how to identify Local Food ranges and advice on marketing and displaying them.
- Look for Local point of sale material – including shelf edge labels, posters and window stickers.
- Up to 3 days of free specialist adviser support
- Marketing support worth up to £100 to launch a local food event.
If you think your village shop may be interested in joining the scheme please forward on this information, or ask your shop to contact us directly and we will happily talk through the project in more depth. If you would like to find out more about the scheme please call Nicole Hamilton on 01993 814 383.
New Community Shops Network
An online support network for people involved in setting up and running community-owned village shops has been launched: The network, which already has 150 members, is intended to boost the number of rural communities that are taking over the management of local shops at risk of closure.
The Plunkett Foundation, a membership organisation that offers funding and practical guidance on setting up community-owned or co-operative local services, set up the network.
Through its Village Core programme, the foundation provides grants of up to £20,000 – funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation – and loans of the same amount that the community takes out with lender Co-operative and Community Finance. The community then raises a contribution of the same amount, which provides a total package of around £60,000 that, according to the Plunkett Foundation, is the average start-up cost for a community-owned shop.
The new Community Shops Network - register online at www.plunkett.uk.net
The Public Sector Mapping Agreement
The new Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) offers town, parish and community councils the opportunity to access a range of Ordnance Survey products. The PSMA will enable you to share that data between the public, private and voluntary sectors in your area. And local councils can register from now for a licence.
Geographical data can be used to underpin and therefore enable all town, parish and community councils to provide services, which not only meet local needs, improve quality of life and sustain community well being. They will have access to wider information and perspective which they need to make difficult choices about resource allocation, better data and intelligence at ward and neighbourhood level
From 1 April 2011 English Parish Councils and Welsh Community Councils are eligible to join the PSMA giving them access to a wide range of Ordnance Survey map data free at the point of use.
For further information, please visit our PSMA website
The Parish Councillor's Guide by Paul Clayden - £15.95
This ever-popular book, regarded as invaluable for all parish councillors and clerks, has been updated to a 20th edition to reflect the large amount of new legislation affecting parish and community councils.
Please click here for further information or to buy online.
For details of current consultations please visit our Consultations page.