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NALC Spring Conference 2020, 17th March, London

NALC Spring Conference 2020, 17 March, London

 

NALC Spring Conference 2020 is an essential event for the local government sector, bringing local (parish and town) councils together with others sectors to share, celebrate and advance the crucial work local councils do to build stronger communities. 

The conference will focus on one of NALC's key campaigns for 2020, health and wellbeing, and how local councils can create healthier communities.

The conference will include speakers on the latest health and wellbeing policy issues, interactive panels, dedicated time for a Q&A to ask your questions, promoting good practice and an expanded sector-specific exhibition showcasing products and services that can support your council’s needs. In addition, there will be a range of sessions to help answer some critical issues, such as: 

what are the health challenges communities are facing?

  • how are different tiers of local government collaborating?
  • reaching out to help local councils tackle hidden disabilities.
  • how the public and private sectors can work together?

To find out more and to get your tickets go to www.nalc.gov.uk/springconference .

Late rates will begin on 2 March 2020 — prices start from £260.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact NALC at policycomms@nalc.gov.uk .

Village Halls Week 2020 20th -26th January


Village Halls Week — 20-26 January

Village Halls Week ran for the first time in 2018, it is an annual and national celebration of rural community spaces and the people whose time and dedication keep them going. Organised by colleagues at ACRE, the campaign runs in January and sees a huge variety of events happening across England – you can find out more information including how to get involved (please do!) here.

LGA - Reaching out - Guide to helping councils tackle loneliness

Loneliness can often be associated with older people who live on their own, but it is not just about social isolation or older people; LGA recognise that being lonely can have an impact irrespective of age and circumstance. Frequent loneliness can also ramp up pressure on public services, increase referrals to adult social care and trigger multiple attendances at GP surgeries – the significance of this being likened to issues such as obesity and smoking.

This ‘Reaching out’ guide is an important starting point and a practical resource in supporting principal and local councils to tackle loneliness. In preparing this guide, LGA has explored how best practice can be shared to support commissioners, service providers, councillors and leaders across the tiers, as well as those people affected by loneliness. This guide outlines the current loneliness policy context, uses a range of case studies to demonstrate effective local delivery models working in practice, and provides useful checklists and top tips on how to measure and evaluate outputs.

In our February 2019 edition of the Update we raised the idea of the Friendly or Chatty bench as a simple starting point.

The Reaching out  guide has action planning checklists around four themes:

  • making connections – finding ways to reach and understand the needs of those experiencing loneliness
  • making a difference – providing services that directly improve the number and quality of relationships that people have
  • linking up – providing support such as transport and technology to help sustain connections
  • the right environment – creating the right structures and conditions locally to support those affected by, or at risk of, loneliness.

The guide can be found at this link here

20 actions town and parish councils can take on the climate emergency

This guide complements Friends of the Earth’s template Local Climate Action Plan1 .
The guide identifies actions that parish and town councils can take on climate
change and nature. Its purpose is to support those of the 10,000 local councils across
England and 750 community councils in Wales who want to “do their bit” in addressing
the climate and nature emergency.

The actions are grouped under three headings:

1. Be a force for good
2. Demonstrate leadership through your own practical actions
3. Use your powers wisely

 

https://policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/reports/20-actions-parish-and-town-councils-can-take-climate-and-nature-emergency

VE Day 75th Anniversary 8-10th May 2020

LOCAL MAYOR'S, LEADERS & CHAIRMAN OF TOWN & PARISH COUNCILS TO TAKE THE LEAD IN VE DAY 75 CELEBRATIONS

8TH - 10TH MAY 2020

 

Mayor's, Leaders and Chairman of town and parish councils throughout the UK are to take the lead in local celebrations marking the 75th Anniversary of the end of the war in EUROPE on the 8th May 2020. (VJ Day will be commemorated on the 15th August 2020). After years of fighting, the end of hostilities were officially announced on the 8th May 1945 by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, from the Cabinet Office, 10 Downing Street, London, that date has since become enshrined in history as VE Day.

The VE Day 75 weekend of 8th - 10th May 2020, will be an international celebration of peace – a time to remember, reflect and pay tribute to the millions at home and abroad who played such a vital part in achieving it. This includes the Armed Forces personnel from many countries who gave their lives or were physically and mentally injured; the hard-working women and men who kept the factories, mines, shipyards and farms operating throughout the years of turmoil; the ARP wardens, police officers, doctors, nurses, firemen, local defence volunteers and many others safeguarded the home front.

SSAFA the Armed Forces Charity - which has been supporting service personnel, veterans and their families since 1885 - is the charity partner for this series of VE Day 75 commemorative events.

The planned activities over the weekend are as follows, please go to the VE Day 75 website – www.veday75.org to see the complete overview for this anniversary:

  • The Playing of Battle's O'er & VE 75 Years.
  • The 'Nation's Toast to the Heroes of WW2.'
  • The 'Cry for Peace, around the World.'
  • Churches & Cathedrals 'Ringing out for Peace.'
  • Street parties and parties in pubs, clubs, Hotels, on town and village greens and in halls etc.
  • Services of commemoration and celebration in churches, including the reading of the 'Tribute to the Millions' and the playing of the Last Post

From a central location of their choice, Mayors, Leaders and Chairman of town and parish councils are being encouraged to lead them in the 'Nation's Toast to the Heroes of WW2', paying 'tribute' to those from their local communities that gave so much to ensure we all enjoy the freedom we have today by undertaking the following ceremony at 3pm on Friday 8th May next year. (The wording of the 'Toast' can be obtained from the DOWNLOAD page of the VE day 75 website – www.veday75.org).

2.55pm: Source and arrange for a local Bugler, Trumpeter or Cornet player to play the Last Post followed by Reveille. (These can be obtained from local cadet forces, school, brass and silver bands and other organisations such as the Salvation Army etc).

3pm: Source and arrange for a local Piper to play Battle's O'er and VE 75 Years, the new tune especially written for this occasion. (This music can be obtained from the DOWNLOAD page of the VE day website – www.veday75.org).

3pm: To coincide with the Piper playing Battle's O'er, Mayor's, Leaders and Chairman of council, accompanied by invited guests, along with the members of the general public, raise a glass of refreshment of their choice and undertake the attached 'Nation's Toast to the Heroes of WW2.' (The refreshment does NOT need to be alcoholic as we want the event to be inclusive and not exclusive involving people of all ages, races, creeds, colour and religion in the VE Day 75 celebrations next year).

7pm: Encourage your local church to ring their bells as part of the nationwide 'Ringing out for Peace' that evening too.

We believe the above will provide every town and parish with a very short, simple, reflective and meaningful VE Day 75 event on the 8th May 2020, that is easy to organise and will be appreciated by all.

You will be interested to know that the complete short ceremony above, including all elements and timings, will also be taking place at 3pm on the 8th May next year, on the top of the four highest Peaks throughout the United Kingdom – BEN NEVIS – Scotland, MOUNT SNOWDON – Wales, SLIEVE DONARD – Northern Ireland and SCAFEL PIKE – England.

All those taking part are being asked to register their involvement on the VE day 75 website – www.veday75.org to enable us to keep in contact with them, along with informing the media of their involvement nearer the time. (IMPORTANT: Those councils etc, already registered, do NOT need to do so again)

 

My warmest regards,

 Bruno Peek LVO OBE OPR

Pageantmaster VE Day 75

Tel: + 44 (0) 7737 262 913

Email: brunopeek@mac.com

Website: www.veday75.org

 

No referendum principles (precept capping) for one more year

 

The Government has previously announced a programme of reforms to the local government finance system. These reforms include:

  • increasing the proportion of business rates retained by the sector, to ensure local authorities have more control over the money they raise and incentives to grow and reinvest in their local economies;
  • introducing reforms to the business rates retention system, to increase stability and certainty;
  • and reviewing the funding formula that determines funding allocations through the annual local government finance settlement, based on a fairer and more up-to-date assessment of councils’ relative needs and resources.

Such fundamental reforms require time and local authorities are concerned about the need for certainty and stability to enable budget planning. Reflecting on this, the government propose to implement a ‘roll forward’ settlement for 2020-21 , which will provide stability for the majority of funding sources for local government. In 2020 the Government plans to carry out a multi-year Spending Review, which will lay the groundwork for reforms.

Importantly for town and parish councils the Government has announced that it does not propose to set ‘referendum principles’ for town and parish councils in England for 2020/21. However, the Government ‘remains concerned about the pressure placed on taxpayers from thousands of town and parish councils across England’ and expects them to exercise ‘even greater restraint’ for 2020/21. The Government will keep the matter under ‘active review’ for future years.

The details are here at Local Government Financial Settlement 2020 to 2021: technical consultation, summary para 3.2.1

In January 2026, unrecorded rights of way that existed before 1949 will be extinguished.

According to the Ramblers well over 140,000 miles of public paths criss-cross England and Wales. This network has evolved over centuries with many paths dating back to medieval times - or earlier! These paths link villages, hamlets, roads and towns – they describe how generations before us travelled to the pub, field or shops and reflect the changing patterns of human interaction with the landscape. To this day, millions of people across our towns, cities and countryside, use this fantastic network. However, miles and miles of our public paths are unrecorded and if they are not put on the map by 1 January 2026, they will be lost forever.

The Ramblers have a guide which you can download to finding lost rights of way.

Updated CIL guidance 1st September 2019

On 1st September the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issued updated Planning Practice Guidance on the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

New rules will mean councils will be legally required to publish deals done with housing developers so residents can see exactly how money will be spent.

New planning practice guidance has also been published, which seeks to further simplify advice on the CIL regime, helping communities and developers understand what is required.

Councils will be required to publish an annual report on the all the CIL agreements entered into with developers from December 2020.

The regulations make it faster for councils to introduce the CIL in the first place – so areas can benefit from getting the infrastructure they need in good time.

Restrictions will also be eased to allow councils to fund single, larger infrastructure projects from the cash received from multiple developments, giving greater freedom to deliver complex projects at pace.

ICO advice for parish councils

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published more advice for parish and town councils, in response to prolonged pressure from NALC for continued sector-specific guidance.

The ICO’s senior policy officer, Stacey Egerton, has blogged about three top issues for town and parish councils and their new bite-sized resources to reflect these issues - a fact sheet on the use of personal devices, data audit and retention resource pack, and six steps to data sharing in local councils. Also pleasing is Stacey’s recognition of growing confidence among councils and evidence of good practice, but she also highlights there is still more to do. NALC is meeting with the ICO over the next few weeks and will be discussing this latest guidance and further support to help councils with data protection.

A Planners Guide to Community Led Housing June 2019

The purpose of this guide is to provide planners who work in England with the knowledge and confidence to devise policies and adopt development management practice that supports CLH delivery. In common with any other form of housing development, the delivery of CLH is a shared activity so this guide is also relevant to local authority housing enabling staff and those supporting CLH groups.

There are key learning points for Neighbourhood Plans (page 11) and a short introduction to Community Led Housing that covers:

  • What is CLH
  • The forms of CLH
  • What type and tenure of homes will CLH provide
  • How is CLH funded
  • Who develops the homes
  • Who manages the homes
  • What makes a sound CLH proposal

The guide can be found here: https://communityfirstyorkshire.org.uk/plannersguide/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/190709-Planners-Guide-to-CLH-FINAL.pdf

Updated NALC Model Financial Regulations July 2019 and guidance

The NALC Model Financial Regulations have been updated. The previous version was issued in January 2016, these are replaced by the July 2019 version which is now available in the Members Area of our website together with guidance on their use.  NALC recommends you read the guidance before and during adaptation of the Regulations to the particular circumstances of your council.

 Please ensure you review and revise your Financial Regulations on a regular basis and ensure they are up to date and fit for purpose.

The Village Survival Guide - The Princes Countryside Trust

In 2018, over 500 community led projects were recommended to The Prince's Countryside Fund as a result of our Recharging Rural research.

That's why the Trust has decided to publish The Village Survival Guide. Based on the lived experience of rural residents from all across the UK, this book will help communities to tackle a multitude of issues and make sure that their community will thrive in the future.

Featuring advice from experts, as well as the stories of those who've made a real difference in their rural community, The Village Survival Guide will help you get your community up and running.

More information here

https://www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk/research/village-survival-guide

Connecting Town Halls: Government response on video conferencing

In November 2016-January 2017 the government carried out a consultation on whether joint committees and combined authorities could use video conferring for their meetings.

The government has finally come back with its response to that consultation.

Schedule 12 of the Local Government Act 1972 is clear that all those taking part in a council meeting should be physically present in the place where the meeting is taking place. However, the consultation was undertaken by the government to understand the appetite for giving local authorities but not councils as a whole the ability to hold meetings using video conferencing. There were only 39 responses to the consultation, of which 8 were town and parish councils.

The questions were:

  1. Do you agree that local authorities operating joint committees should have the ability to hold meetings via video conference?
  • 1% agreed
  • 1% disagreed
  • 8% gave no clear answer
  1. Do you agree that combined authorities should have the ability to hold meetings by video conference?
  • 9% agreed
  • 1% disagreed
  • 18% gave no clear answer
  1. Do you agree that the safeguards in paragraphs 14 to 20 [of the consultation document] are sufficient to preserve town hall transparency when these meetings are held by video conference?
  • 3% agreed
  • 7% disagreed
  • 41% gave no clear answer

The Government’s response is that it is satisfied that, with appropriate safeguards to maintain transparency, there are clear benefits to giving local authorities operating joint committees and combined authorities the ability to hold formal meetings by video conferencing. This would be on a voluntary basis.

To be clear “councillors should not be able to take part in their council’s meetings from their own home, or from some other public or private premises”. This “would undermine visible democratic scrutiny and public debate. For the avoidance of doubt, it is the Government’s view that only local authority premises suitable for holding meetings with public access, for example a local town hall, should be considered appropriate for holding meetings by video conferencing.”

The Government is sympathetic to the views of rural authorities expressed in the consultation and recognizes that the arguments in favour of video conferencing also apply to larger rural authorities. The Government therefore intends to speak with the sector before seeking changes to the Local Government Act 1972 with a view to extending the use of video conferencing in formal meetings to other local authorities.

The Government has taken a long time to respond to this consultation but it does give an indication of the way its thinking is going. However, do not get excited this is a very long way from allowing individual parish councillors to Skype into meetings because they are on holiday in Barbados.

NALC Points of Light - examples of interesting work by councils

Points of Light is a collection of case studies highlighting the work that parish and town councils are undertaking to support their communities. The 2019 edition contains 150 case studies, which includes; summaries, electorate, precept and expenditure, the examples cover:

Art, culture and heritage 
Campaigns 
Canals and rivers 
Cemeteries 
Community awards 
Community events 
Community safety 
Community transport 
Community venues 
Economic development 
Environmental improvement 
Flood assistance 
Grants and funding 
Health and wellbeing 
Housing and planning 
Libraries 
Parks and open spaces 
Partnership working 
Playgrounds 
Pubs 
Street furniture 
Winter readiness 
Young people and youth services

Climate emergency – what can parish councils do?

There appears to be gathering momentum behind calls for a Climate Emergency to be declared. On 1st May 2019 MP’s approved in Parliament a motion to declare a Climate Emergency, the proposal demonstrates the will of the Commons but doesn’t compel the government to act.

In November 2018, Oxfordshire County Council at its meeting agreed to:

  • Join Councils, such as Bristol City Council, in declaring a Climate Emergency
  • Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make local action on climate change easier
  • request Scrutiny to urgently review and make recommendations on revisions to the Council’s 2017-2022 Carbon Management Plan
  • Continue to work with partners across the city and region to deliver widespread carbon reductions

The wording of the agreement to sign up to or declare a Climate Emergency varies but revolves around reducing carbon emissions to zero by a set date (2030/2050). More information is available on the website of the group behind Climate Emergency, their website maps councils that have made the declaration.

Obviously, a council making the Declaration is one thing but being able to deliver on a set of measurable criteria is another matter. Frome Town Council have detailed what they intend to do in a report to their council here

A number of councils have raised this with us, asking if they able to make the declaration (yes) and what could it actually mean for them.

One of the main aims of the Climate Emergency declaration is zero carbon emissions by a set date 2050, although how this is measured for a small parish isn’t clear. The powers of a parish council to affect carbon emissions are limited. A lot is based around education and encouragement of other relevant groups, organisations and bodies. A council could look at changing its energy supplier to a renewable energy based one; investigate solar panels on the village hall etc. The council can obviously only do what is within its powers, but a statement of intent might be a starting point. A Working Party might be a way forward, tasked with identifying possible projects, methods of working towards measurable carbon  targets and other smaller associated quick environmental wins such as recycling, no plastics, more green activities, encouragement of walking rather than car use etc.

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.

 

More information here on the ICO website

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 2019.

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.

Salary scales for 2019-2020

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


The NALC briefing E02-18  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.

 

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 6th 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

 

Revised NALC Model Standing Orders 2018

NALC issued revised Model Standing Orders (July 2018) which incorporate or reference new legislation introduced since the last edition in 2013.

They are in the Members Area of this website under NALC briefings

Updated version of Governance and Accountability - April 2019

Governance and Accountabulity for Smaller Authorities has been revised (April 2019) and is in the Members Area (Finance) of the website.

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

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

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) THIS IS THE CHARGE FOR THE MAJORITY OF PARISH COUNCILS

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.

 

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, it seeks to be more influential by joining in common cause. The key principles, policies and actions which the Coalition urges the Government to apply to rural communities are

 

  • 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 which illustrate work done in rural communities to deliver on the four priorities; read more here

The Good Councillors Guide to Neighbourhood Planning

National Association of Local Councils (NALC) in association with Locality published in 2017 The good councillor's guide to neighbourhood planning.

The guide is aimed at local councillors who are interested in finding out more about their role in relation to neighbourhood planning or perhaps belong to a council who are embarking on producing a neighbourhood plan for their area.

Neighbourhood planning was introduced by the Localism Act 2011. Communities can shape development in their areas through the production of neighbourhood development plans and other initiatives detailed in this guide.

Cllr Sue Baxter, chairman of NALC, said: “Given these rights have a huge bearing on how a council engages with its community to undertake the process it is vital that local councillors understand the key principles of neighbourhood planning in order to support their communities appropriately.

“For these reasons Locality and NALC have worked together to produce this guide in order local councillors are equipped with the basic information to get them started. However it does not stop here and there will be a need for councillors to find out more as the process unfolds.”

Local councils can access print copies of the The Good Councillor's guide to neighbourhood planning by contacting their local county association

The guide is available 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 two meetings which have similar names.

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 Area 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 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.

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

Planning Aid Direct offers free and independent planning advice via e-mail at advice@planningaid.rtpi.org.uk and guidance on a range of planning issues via the Planning Aid Knowledge hub at: www.planningaid.co.uk

 

 

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 is available to download free from the Members Area of our website 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: 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

Neighbourhood Plan support from Locality

Welcome to Locality Neighbourhood Planning Support, where you’ll find everything you need to know about how to develop a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order and what support is available to you.

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

Local Council Award Scheme

The Local Council Award Scheme is designed to provide the tools and encouragement to help parish and town 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 https://www.nalc.gov.uk/our-work/improvement-and-development/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.

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 January 2014

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 MHCLG Under Sustainable Communities Act, 2007

NALC is promoting parish use of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 

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 MHCLG.  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)      MHCLG 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 MHCLG 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 chris.borg@nalc.gov.uk to ensure that the NALC SCA Board makes a decision as to whether to re-submit it (or not), to MHCLG.  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 MHCLG 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.

Introduction to Local Council Administration (ILCA)

The online Introduction to Local Council Administration (ILCA) is the level 2 sector specific qualification. The 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 requests for information, guidance from Information Commissioner

Guidance was issued by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) 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 General Power of Competence - empowering councils to make a difference

The General Power of Competence was introduced in the Localism Act 2011 and came into effect in February 2012. The 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 satisfy the eligibility criteria which are:

  • 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 GPC is limited; OALC are aware of Little Milton, Didcot, Bicester, Banbury and Minster Lovell Town and Parish Councils.

The Local Government Association published research in 2013 on the use that GPC had been put to. It is available here

Guidance from DCLG on Code of Conduct and Register of Interests

The Department for Communities and Local Government (now MHCLG) issued revised and updated guidance in September 2013  for councillors on the Code of Conduct. It is called Openness and transparency on personal interests, a guide for councillors. It supersedes the guidance 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

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

April-2010

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

April-2010

Plunkett Foundation - Community Shops Network

The Plunkett Foundation offer assistance to people involved in setting up and running community-owned village shops. 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 Community Shops Network - register online at www.plunkett.uk.net

The Public Sector Mapping Agreement

The 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 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

English parish councils have been eligible to join the PSMA since April 2011 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, was updated in 2009 (20th edition) to reflect the large amount of new legislation affecting parish and community councils.