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Setting up a community run post office

Just under 200 community-run shops and pubs also provide post office services, often in rural areas where people can face significant barriers to accessing essential services.

Citizen’s Advice Bureau research last year into community-run post offices showed the significant benefits they deliver to local communities. However, setting one up can be difficult.

Since then Citizen’s Advice Bureau have worked with the Plunkett Foundation and Post Office Limited to produce this guide [ 280 kb] to make it easier for community-run enterprises to apply to run a post office.  

Further advice and support for community-run groups and businesses can be accessed through the Plunkett Foundation here.

Councillors don't have to pay ICO fees from 1st April 2019

The Data Protection (Charges and Information) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 came into force on 1st April 2019 and exempt parish councillors from payment of the data protection fee to the Information Commissioner's Office.

Committee on Standards in Public Life issue their report

A year-long Parliamentary inquiry into ethical standards in local government, was published  on 30th January.

NALC has campaigned for a range of measures, including the re-introduction of sanctions, greater emphasis on training and development, and a single code of conduct for all tiers of local government based on NALC’s own model code.

The report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life makes 26 recommendations and 15 best practice recommendations. The main points for town and parish councils are:

  • Local Government Association to create an updated model Code of Conduct
  • No requirement for candidates/councillors to publically disclose their home address
  • Presumption councillors are acting in an official capacity in their public conduct, including statements on publically accessible social media
  • Extend Regulations to include ‘other interests’ such as trusteeships, management roles on charities etc.
  • LA’s to establish a register of gifts & hospitality, requirement to be included in model Code of Conduct
  • A councillor shouldn’t participate if a member of the public would reasonably regard the interest as prejudicial
  • Enhanced role for Independent Person
  • Councillor can be suspended for up to 6 months but can appeal to LGO
  • Criminal offence to be abolished
  • Parish council clerks to hold an appropriate qualification
  • Town and parish councils to adopt code of the their principal authority or the new model code
  • Sanctions imposed on parish councillors to be determined by the principal authority
  • Councillors be required to attend formal induction training by their political party


Relevant best practice points are:

  • Local authorities should include prohibitions on bullying and harassment in codes of conduct. These should include a definition of bullying and harassment, supplemented with a list of examples of the sort of behaviour covered by such a definition.
  • Councils should include provisions in their code of conduct requiring councillors to comply with any formal standards investigation, and prohibiting trivial or malicious allegations by councillors.
  • An authority’s code should be readily accessible to both councillors and the public, in a prominent position on a council’s website and available in council premises.
  • Local authorities should update their gifts and hospitality register at least once per quarter, and publish it in an accessible format..
  • Councils should publish a clear and straightforward public interest test against which allegations are filtered.
  • The Independent Person should be consulted as to whether to undertake a formal investigation on an allegation, and should be given the option to review and comment on allegations which the responsible officer is minded to dismiss as being without merit, vexatious, or trivial.
  • Where a local authority makes a decision on an allegation of misconduct following a formal investigation, a decision notice should be published as soon as possible on its website, including a brief statement of facts, the provisions of the code engaged by the allegations, the view of the Independent Person, the reasoning of the decision-maker, and any sanction applied.
  • A local authority should have straightforward and accessible guidance on its website on how to make a complaint under the code of conduct, the process for handling complaints, and estimated timescales for investigations and outcomes.
  • Formal standards complaints about the conduct of a parish councillor towards a clerk should be made by the chair or by the parish council as a whole, rather than the clerk in all but exceptional circumstances.
  • Monitoring Officers’ roles should include providing advice, support and management of investigations and adjudications on alleged breaches to parish councils within the remit of the principal authority. They should be provided with adequate training, corporate support and resources to undertake this work.
  • A local authority should have procedures in place to address any conflicts of interest when undertaking a standards investigation. Possible steps should include asking the Monitoring Officer from a different authority to undertake the investigation.
  • Senior officers should meet regularly with political group leaders or group whips to discuss standards issues.

Cllr Sue Baxter, chairman of NALC, said: “NALC is fully committed to promoting and supporting the highest standards of conduct by local councillors and officers in the first tier of local government, which is increasingly playing a bigger role in communities including the delivery of public services and community facilities.

“Since the Localism Act was introduced in 2010, NALC has long-called for its review, including the standards regime it introduced, and therefore strongly welcomed this inquiry into local government ethical standards.

“Whilst the present regime is not fundamentally flawed, it does require some strengthening, therefore I am pleased the Committee on Standards in Public Life has listened to the concerns of NALC, county associations of local councils, and local councils themselves.

“The Committee rightly acknowledges it is a minority of local councillors who engage in bullying or harassment, or other highly disruptive behaviour, therefore NALC is delighted the Committee agrees with our proposal for the regime to have more teeth through the re-introduction of sanctions for breaches of the code.

“We support the recommendation to develop an updated model code of conduct to reflect the proposed changes, but given over half of local councils and many principal authorities use NALC’s model code of conduct, this should be the foundation for the development of an updated model code of conduct for all tiers of local government. NALC looks forward to further dialogue and engagement with the Committee and the government over taking forward the report’s recommendations.”

 The full report can be read here

Sec 137 amount for 2019-2020

NALC has issued a legal briefing (L11-18) (in the Members Area) which sets out the Sec 137 expenditure limit for financial year 2019-2020.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed the appropriate sum for parish councils for the purposes of section 137 (4)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972 for 2019-2020 is £8.12. This is an increase from £7.86 for 2018-19.

New salary scales for 2019-2020

 The National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC) has agreed the new pay scales for 2019-2020 to be implemented from 1 April 2019.

The NALC briefing E02-18 was sent to clerks on 10th December, it lists the new pay scales for clerks and other employees employed under the terms of the model contract including SCPs 50 and above.
The numbering of the Spinal Column Points has altered instead of going from 6-68, they now go from 1-62 hence there has been some consolidation. The briefing is in the Members Area of the OALC website.

The calculations have been checked by ALCC and are based on the changes agreed by the NJC. These should be applied from 1 April 2019. Due to the introduction of the national living wage, the NJC agreement includes the introduction of a new pay spine on 1 April 2019, the briefing translates the existing spinal column points and scale ranges used in the sector to the new scales

NALC Digital Mapping Toolkit

NALC and OALC believe maps are vital to help local councils understand their geographical area and where their assets are located. Digital mapping is making the process of creating and editing maps a lot easier and is also helping to build partnerships between local councils and their principal authorities by making it easier to harness local knowledge and share it with each other to deliver more efficient services.

Until recently, most local councils relied on principal authorities to provide mapping support. However, digital mapping software is getting cheaper and easier to use, and NALC is encouraging all local councils to use digital mapping as ‘best practice’.

NALC has partnered with digital mapping software providers, Parish Online and Pear Technology to promote the benefits of digital mapping and guide local councils through the process of using the software.

The toolkit was produced as part of the partnership and gives a step-by-step guide on how to use digital mapping. It also highlights case studies of local councils that have used digital mapping to plot cemeteries, protect communities against flooding, map council assets, maintain trees, consult with communities and work with principal authorities.

Read the Digital Mapping Toolkit which is here on the NALC website

Get your parish council to sign the Tree Charter

On 6 November 2017, the 800th anniversary of the influential 1217 Charter of the Forest, the Woodland Trust launched the Charter for Trees, Woods and People. They believe the people of the UK have a right to the benefits brought by trees and woods. The Charter will recognise, celebrate and protect this right. 

There are 10 principles associated with the Charter:

  • Plant for the Future
  • Sustain landscapes rich in wildlife
  • Celebrate the power of trees to inspire
  • Protect irreplaceable trees and woods
  • Plan greener local landscapes
  • Recover health, hope and wellbeing with the help of trees
  • Make trees accessible to all
  • Combat the threats to our habitats
  • Strengthen our landscapes with trees
  • Grow forests of opportunity and innovation

The Woodland Trust would like parish councils to sign the Charter and show their commitment to these principles.


More information here on the Woodland Trust website


Civil Society Strategy published by H M Government - Big Society Mark II?

The government launched in August 2018 a Civil Society Strategy designed to enable people and charities to play a bigger role in the provision of public services, from social care and homelessness to libraries.

The introduction says:

"This Strategy sets out how government will work with and support civil society in the years to come,
so that together we can build a country that works for everyone.

For the purpose of this Strategy, civil society refers to individuals and organisations when they act with the primary purpose of creating social value, independent of state control. By social value we mean enriched lives and a fairer society for all.

The government believes that social value flows from thriving communities. These are communities with strong financial, physical and natural resources, and strong connections between people. This includes public funding, private investment, buildings, and other spaces for a community to use. It also includes trust and goodwill, and the organisations and partnerships that bring people together.

To help communities thrive, the government believes we need to look at five foundations of social value: people, places, the social sector, the private sector, and the public sector. In the past we have too often thought of these foundations as separate from each other. But when they work together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Government can help to bring together the resources, policies and people who, between them, can do so."

Ministers say they want to help the public sector, private businesses, charities and volunteers to work together more closely to solve social problems, build stronger communities and create a fairer society. However, the cynics amongst us might suggest that continued and greater emphasis on the third sector picking up the services no longer funded by principal authorites is Big Society all over again but without much funding. 

The government believes that we need to look at five foundations of social value - people, places, the social sector, the private sector and the public sector and get them all working together. There is a chapter on each of these foundations. Chapter 2 Places - empowerment and investment for local communities is most pertinent to town and parish councils. Apparently the government believes that 'Global Britain' is rooted in 'local Britain' and it will:

  •  launch “innovation in democracy” pilots in six regions around the country to trial ways for people to take a more direct role in community decision-making through possible online polls, apps or “citizens’ juries”
  • design a programme to look at more sustainable community spaces
  • continue to encourage the take up of community rights and improve guidance to help communities take ownership of local assets like community buildings
  • Local Enterprise Partnership reform to strengthen the role of local stakeholders
  • work with partners to develop new models of community funding

 The Strategy is apparently not the final word 'it is the beginning of an ambitious, evolving work programme to help build a strong society'. 

We watch with interest!

Revised NALC Model Standing Orders 2018

 NALC have issued revised Model Standing Orders (April 2018) which incorporate or reference new legislation introduced after the last model standing orders were published in 2013.

L03-18 Sec. 137 Expenditure: limit for 2018-9

The Ministry of Housing, 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 the financial year 2018-9 is £7.86.

Rural communities are being failed by Government – House of Lords Select Committee March 2018

The Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 concludes that the Government has diminished the resources given to departments and bodies which protect the UK's natural environment and promote the needs of rural communities. The Committee argues that this has had a profound, negative impact on England's biodiversity, environment and the social and economic welfare of rural areas, and must be addressed.

Chairman of the Committee, Lord Cameron of Dillington said:


"It is clear that the Government are failing to take proper account of the needs of rural communities.  Departmental decisions and policies continue to demonstrate a lack of rural understanding among Whitehall policymakers. Each and every Government department should be required to think about the ways in which their policies affect rural people, and the Government must take action to ensure that this 'rural-proofing' of policy happens. 

"The Committee also heard concerning evidence of the ongoing decline of biodiversity, species and habitats. The 2006 Act, which created Natural England and introduced a new biodiversity duty, was supposed to address this, but has failed to do so. The biodiversity duty suffers from weak wording and poor enforceability, whilst Natural England's status has been diluted and weakened over recent years, so that it now struggles to perform all of its key functions. The Government needs to act now, before our natural environment, protected species and cherished landscapes suffer further damage.

"The Committee's overall vision is for balanced protection and promotion of the natural environment and a reversal of the biodiversity decline. This must be coupled with better recognition of the potential of rural communities and the rural economy, and a greater effort from the Government to ensure that policy changes do not work to the detriment of rural areas."


Recommendations included in the report

  • We recommend that responsibility for rural affairs should be transferred from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This change would ensure that responsibility for rural communities sits within the central Government department that is responsible for communities as a whole as, indeed, it did prior to the creation of Defra.
  • We recommend that Natural England should be funded to a level commensurate with the delivery of its full range of statutory duties and responsibilities. We share the concerns of witnesses who have told us that Natural England no longer has a distinctive voice, and urge the Government to take action in recognition of these concerns.
  • We recommend that responsibility for promoting and embedding rural proofing across Government departments should be assigned to the Cabinet Office, within a single purpose unit with the necessary resources and experience required to exert influence on all departments.
  • We recommend that the NERC Act should be amended in order to add a reporting requirement to the biodiversity duty; the Government should also consider strengthening the wording of the duty.


More information here

Updated version of Governance and Accountability - March 2018

Governance and Accountabulity for smaller authorities has been revised to reflect the new audit regime. The revised edition (March 2018) is in the Members Area of the website.

New model announced for funding the data protection work of the Information Commissioner’s Office

The Government has announced a new charging structure for data controllers to ensure the continued funding of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The new structure was laid before Parliament on Tuesday 20 February as a Statutory Instrument and will come into effect on 25 May 2018, to coincide with the General Data Protection Regulation.

Until then, organisations are legally required to pay the current notification fee, unless they are exempt.

To help data controllers understand why there’s a new funding model and what they’ll be required to pay from 25 May 2018, the ICO has produced a Guide to the Data Protection Fee.

The ICO’s data protection work is currently funded through fees levied on organisations that process personal data, unless they are exempt. This is done under powers granted in the Data Protection Act 1998.

When the GDPR comes into effect on 25 May 2018, it will remove the requirement for data controllers to pay the ICO a fee.

The Government, which has a statutory duty to ensure the ICO is adequately funded, has proposed the new funding structure based on the relative risk to the data that an organisation processes.

The model is divided into three tiers and is based on a number of factors including size, turnover and whether an organisation is a public authority or charity.

For very small organisations, the fee won’t be any higher than the £35 they currently pay (if they take advantage of a £5 reduction for paying by direct debit).

Larger organisations will be required to pay £2,900. The fee is higher because these organisations are likely to hold and process the largest volumes of data, and therefore represent a greater level of risk.

There will continue to be financial penalties for not paying fees, but these will be in the form of civil monetary penalties rather than a criminal sanction.

The fees are:

Tier 1 – micro organisations. Maximum turnover of £632,000 or no more than ten members of staff. Fee: £40 (or £35 if paid by direct debit)

Tier 2 – SMEs. Maximum turnover of £36million or no more than 250 members of staff. Fee: £60

Tier 3 – large organisations. Those not meeting the criteria of Tiers 1 or 2. Fee: £2,900


original article on ICO website here 

NALC GDPR Toolkit (revised) August 2018

The original GDPR toolkit was sent to all member councils on 26th February 2018. It has now been revised to to reflect changes since then concerning:

  • town and parish councils no longer required to have a Data protection Officer
  • the need to register with the ICO

the revised edition is in the Members Area of this website.


Reports on the results of auditors’ work

Audited accounts are the main way public bodies show accountability for managing public money. Publishing timely audited accounts is a fundamental feature of good governance.

The Audit Commission previously published Auditing the Accounts reports summarising the results of the work of auditors appointed by the Audit Commission at local government and local NHS bodies.

In July 2016, the Secretary of State specified Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) as an appointing person under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. Public Sector Audit Appointments reports annually in December on the results of auditors’ work at councils, police bodies, fire and rescue authorities and local government bodies. The report on the results of auditors’ work at local government bodies summarises the results of auditors’ work at 497 principal bodies and 9,752 small bodies for 2016/17.

For small bodies, auditors were able to issue their opinion on the Annual Return by 30 September 2017 at 97 per cent of parish councils. This is consistent with the previous year. The number of qualified opinions issued to parish councils increased from 14 per cent in 2015/16 to 23 per cent. The list of parish councils with qualified accounts can be found here:

Information Commissioner's Office help line extended to parishes

The Information Commissioner’s Office announced they were extending to parishes the advice line set up to help small organisations with the General Data Protection Regulation, which we recently requested as part of a package of support measures.

Ambitions to increase affordable housing

Members of NALC are being invited to support the recently launched National Housing Federation’s 5-star plan for rural housing, which succinctly sets out an ambition to increase the supply of affordable rural homes.

The plan contains five key points set out below which advocate increased investment, innovation and partnership working with local communities.  The overarching principle is to secure a fair deal for rural communities from housing associations and all the partners who work with them. 

Housing associations will:

  • Work with and for rural communities, in accordance with the Rural Alliance pledge
  • Increase the current level of housing supply in rural communities by 6% per year for each of the next five years
  • Bid for at least 10% of HCA investment to deliver new homes in rural areas
  • Ensure that homes delivered benefit the local economy, including the farming and food economy
  • Meet the needs of rural communities and contribute towards five key tenures as appropriate – homes for affordable rent, market rent, affordable home ownership, self-build and market sale.

For organisations and boards wishing to learn more, the National Housing Federation has produced a brief document about the 5-star plan and each of its points.

To ensure success, the plan needs a broad base of support from those who recognise the importance of delivering affordable rural homes for local people. 

NALC along with other national rural advocates have signed-up to support this ambition. Cllr Sue Baxter, chair of NALC, said: “ The National Association and its membership are fully aware of the supply problems of affordable rural housing. So we want to change this situation and hence why we have signed to this plan. We also encourage all our members to sign up to this essential 5-star plan.” 

Rural Coalition Good Practice Case Studies

The Rural Coalition is twelve national organisations (which includes NALC) who subscribe to a vision for a living and working countryside in England. Given many shared values, we seek to be more influential by joining in common cause. Below we set out our key principles, policies and actions which we would urge the Government to apply to rural communities.

Our policy principles

The Rural Coalition believes that the following four principles should underpin policy making:

  • Brexit discussions must recognise ‘rural’ is more than agriculture and the natural environment.
  • All Brexit negotiations and post-Brexit policies must be rural proofed.
  • Policies and funding must deliver a fair deal for rural communities.
  • Decision-making, funding and delivery must be devolved and involve rural communities.

The Rural Coalition believes that the evidence points to four policy priorities

  • A meaningful increase in the delivery of affordable housing in villages and small towns.
  • Proper recognition of rural service delivery challenges and services designed to meet rural needs.
  • Long-term support for social action, to help communities become more resilient.
  • Business support and infrastructure which reaches rural areas, so the rural economy can grow and create quality jobs.


The Rural Coalition has produced Good Practice Case Studies read more here

The Good Councillors Guide to Neighbourhood Planning

NALC has announced the publication of the Good Councillors Guide to Neighbourhood Planning. This guide is the first of its kind and is aimed at local councillors who are interested in finding out more about their role in relation to neighbourhood planning.

The guide is available now to download from our Members Area.

Election of Chairman and Annual Parish Council Meetings

By the end of May every parish council should have held their Annual Parish Council Meeting, and the Chairman of the parish council should have called the Annual Parish Meeting (which must be held by 1st June each year).

We know that there is still confusion in some quarters about the requirements in relation to these meetings.

To summarise:.

  • The Annual Parish Council Meeting must by law be held in May. This is a statutory requirement.
  • The first business of the Annual Parish Council Meeting must be the election of the Chairman. This is a statutory requirement. If no Chairman can be elected the meeting cannot continue beyond this agenda item.
  • There is no statutory requirement for a Councillor to be present at the Annual Parish Council Meeting in order to be elected as Chairman.
  • The Clerk should not be in the chair during the election of Chairman, this is a common misunderstanding. A Clerk can never take the chair of a council meeting.
  • The current Chairman must by law use their casting vote in the case of a tie in the election of Chairman (see NALC Legal Topic Note 2 for full details).
  • The newly elected Chairman must sign a declaration of acceptance of office form before taking the Chair, which they should do immediately following their election.
  • There is no statutory process or requirement for nominations, etc. Your council's Standing Orders may provide for this, but if they do not then any councillor can stand for election as Chairman at the Annual Parish Council Meeting without notice or nomination by another.
  • The Annual Parish Meeting is not a Council meeting, but rather is a meeting of local government electors registered for the area for which it is held. It must be held between 1st March and 1st June. It is entirely separate from the Annual Parish Council Meeting, though is sometimes held on the same evening.
  • The minutes of the Annual Parish Council Meeting must be approved at the next Parish Council Meeting, and must not be held over until the following year's Annual Parish Council Meeting.

The Good Councillors Guide

The Good Councillors Guide is available. It can be downloaded for free from the members are of the NALC website (the username and password are in the Members Area of our website) or printed copies are available from OALC - £4 per copy + £1.20 p&p per copy

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

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.

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

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.”

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. 

Our strategy

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:

  1. 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
  2. Explore developing a parish or neighbourhood plan, and incorporate the community ownership solution to problems highlighted by your residents
    • 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
  3. Promote the concept of community ownership and the support available from the Plunkett Foundation via your community newsletter and website
    • 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 You may wish to signpost a link to this on your website, or refer it to the editor of your parish newsletter.
  4. Call a public meeting in the event an asset or service in your community becomes at risk, and help to establish an independent working party to consider the community ownership approach.
    • 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.
  5. Support community groups that are exploring community ownership by joining their committee, or contributing to their feasibility costs
    • 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. 
  6. Consider purchasing the asset the community is exploring through a Public Works Loan and rent or lease the asset back to the community
    • 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
  7. Join the Plunkett Foundation for £75 as a contribution towards helping other rural communities access community ownership advice and support.
    • 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

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 buildings. 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 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, this guide aims to help officers and members better understand how CAT can help support your council's priorities.

Planning Aid Direct – Service Change from 1st August 2016

Planning Aid Direct offers free and independent planning advice via e-mail at and guidance on a range of planning issues via the Planning Aid Direct web-site at:

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.

Being a good employer 2016

All town and parish councils are employers, the clerk may be the only employee.

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 £4 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:

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

NALC is campaigning for the government to introduce a limited third party right of appeal for parish

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.


Subscription to DIS

To subscribe to DIS complete the online subscription form.

Member rate: £90 + VAT (one-year subscription: 26 issues)
Non-member rate: £135 + VAT (one-year subscription: 26 issues)

If you subscribe for multiple years you'll receive an additional discount. A two-year subscription will come with a 5% discount and a three-year subscription will come with a 10% discount.

Download a sample copy of DIS.

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

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 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) is now Introduction to Local Council Administration (ILCA)

The introductory qualification Working with Your Council has been discontinued and replaced by the online Introduction to Local Council Administration (ILCA). 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
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Community

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:

  1. committee and staff structures
  2. publication schemes
  3. handling freedom of information requests
  4. data protection
  5. neighbourhood planning (England)
  6. the general power of competence(England)
  7. preparing for meetings and agenda preparation
  8. rules of debate at meetings
  9. how to chair meetings
  10. work after meetings
  11. preparation of minutes
  12. code of conduct
  13. political groupings
  14. publicity about the work of a council
  15. councillors’ interests and dispensation requests
  16. predetermination
  17. precept setting and council tax increases
  18. accounts, audit and financial management
  19. contract negotiation
  20. staff management
  21. parish and community meetings
  22. working with volunteers, businesses, charities and other local authorities
  23. dealing with the media
  24. handling complaints
  25. 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.

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.

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:

Charity Commission Toolkit & Guidance for Local Authorities


Councillors Guide to a council's role as charity trust - PDF


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

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.

Councillor Commission report

The Councillor Commission – organised by the local government magazine, The MJ and De Montfort University, Leicester and supported by NALC – publish its final report ‘The Voice of The Councillor’ in July 2017.

When the Commission was launched NALC pressed for our sector and our 10,000 councillors not to be overlooked, securing representation on the Commission and a dedicated stream of work to ensure the voice of parish and town councillors was heard. The 124 page report (which is in plain language and easy to read!) includes a dedicated chapter on parish and town councillors and four specific recommendations out of the twenty in total.

The Commission heard specific messages from parish and town councillors which indicated the differences in their roles compared to those of principal authority councillors and heard about the very specific issues that relate only to parish and town councils. Consequently, the report recommends

  • A national independent inquiry be undertaken by National Association of Local Councils to fully understand the relationship between parish and town councils and principal authorities with the aim of identifying best practice and producing a national framework for parish-principal relationships.
  • The parish and town council statutory right to be consulted on planning matters be extended to all statutory policies, strategies and plans resting with principal council
  • As far as possible parish and town councils avoid appointing to a chair or vice-chair of a town or parish council councillors who also sit on principal authorities.
  • The power of principal councils under the Local Government & Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 to conduct Community Governance Reviews be abolished.

NALC CEO, Jonathan Owen is extremely grateful to Cllr Mike Evans of Whiteley Town Council and chairman of the Hampshire ALC for his vital contribution as the parish commissioner.

Click here for an Executive Summary of the report

No Capping for 2018-9 and for three years

  • Council tax referendum principles have not been extended to parish and town councils in 2018/19.
  • The secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid MP, has just announced the provisional local government finance settlement for 2018/19 in the House of Commons, an extract from his speech is below:

“I can also confirm the government intends to defer the setting of council tax referendum principles for town and parish councils. This is subject to the sector taking all available steps to mitigate the need for council tax increases and the government seeing clear evidence of restraint in the increases set by the sector as a whole.” 

More details of the statement are here

Importantly the government intends to defer the setting of referendum principles for town and parish councils for three years:

3.4 Town and parish councils

3.4.1 Since the introduction of council tax referendums in 2012-13, no referendum principles have been set for local precepting authorities such as town and parish councils (“parishes”), although the Government has made it clear that it would keep this under review and take action if necessary.

3.4.2 Ahead of the 2017-18 round of council tax setting, the Government issued a challenge to parishes to demonstrate restraint when setting precept increases that were not a direct result of taking on additional responsibilities, and to make precept decisions more transparent to local tax-payers. The average increase set by the sector in 2017-18 was 6.3% and the Government indicated that continued deferral of referendum principles would be dependent upon it receiving clear evidence of how the sector is responding to the challenge.

3.4.3 In response, the sector provided details of a range of activities around fiscal responsibility, transparency and engagement, the promotion of good practice and use of other sources of income, county-level engagement regarding significant precept increases’ and publishing the Good Councillors’ Guide to Finance and Transparency.

3.4.4 Having noted this work and the sector’s request for longer-term certainty to aid financial planning, the Government intends to defer the setting of referendum principles for town and parish councils for three years. However, this is conditional upon:

- the sector taking all available steps to mitigate the need for council tax increases, including the use of reserves where they are not already earmarked for other uses or for “invest to save” projects which will lower on-going costs, and;

- the Government seeing clear evidence of restraint in the increases set by the sector as a whole.

  • In NALC’s response to the local government finance technical consultation we said if the sector is to respond effectively and efficiently to the range of fiscal challenges and onward devolution that the same confidence and certainty afforded to principal councils should be extended to local councils, calling for a multi-year initiative within which timeframe council tax referendum principles would not be extended to the sector, this would provide not only much needed financial certainty but also sufficient breathing space needed by the sector to re-dress the imbalance caused by changes to the tax base and loss/reduction of local council tax support grant.
  • The full settlement consultation is attached, you can also read or watch (12.44.46 – 12.55.57) the full speech from the secretary of state.
  • A short statement from our chairman Cllr Sue Baxter in response to the settlement which we have issued to media outlets is below for your information and use:

The Chief Executive of NALC, Jonathan Owen writes:

“The government’s decision not to extend council tax referendum principles to parish or town councils for three years is hugely welcome and significant.

“In his recent speech to NALC’s annual conference the secretary of state was full of support and praise for the sector, in particular the important and growing role of parishes in both rural and urban areas in tackling the big challenges facing our communities, from housing to health and well-being to economic development.

“NALC called for a multi-year settlement to give our councils – who account for just 1.7% of overall council tax – financial certainty and help them plan for the future, and the government has listened and acted on the sector’s concerns.

“While today’s decision is a confidence boosting shot in the arm for our most local level of democracy, I am urging councils to continue to be fiscally responsible and consider ways to mitigate the need for precept increases such as the use of reserves, ‘invest to save’ projects which will lower on-going costs and other sources of income.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Government on the important issue of parish funding, including exploring ways in which we can together help communities to help themselves through flexible and diverse funding.”