NALC Chief Executives Bulletin

 

NALC Chief executive's bulletin 17/05/19

Revised precepts data

Very welcome news this week that the average Band D precept increase in 2019/20 is actually 4.9% and not 5.7% as published in March! The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have now published updated council tax statistics which includes data on every local precepting body in England, and which has been revised due to some incorrect data from billing authorities. In short, this means the average increase in our small share of council tax remained the same as last year, clearly showing our councils have continued to invest in communities while demonstrating the “restraint” expected by ministers. We’re crunching the numbers further and this analysis will be available next week.

Improvement and Development Board

 

MHCLG kindly hosted the Improvement and Development Board on 14 May 2019 for a workshop (expertly facilitated by its independent chairman Jonathan Flowers) which considered the wider context local councils are operating in, reflected on how the Board works together, discussed existing initiatives, and reviewed the Board’s ambitions and aims.

Localis report on local leadership

 

Three stand out issues for me from the launch of the think tank Localis report Hitting Rest – a case for local leadership on 15 May, attended by our head of policy and communications, Justin Griggs, and co-champion of the Super Councils Network, Cllr Sandie Webb (re-elected this week as leader of Chippenham Town Council, so huge congratulations). The first was launch event panellist Sir Simon Jenkins consistent reference to local (parish and town)councils and call for them to have more power (amen to that!); second was we had persuaded Localis to interview two council leaders as part of their research, which rightly points out ‘parish councils are often overlooked in considerations of local government structures’, and thirdly an interesting ‘roadmap’ to decentralisation. You can read the full report here and catch up on all the conversation from the launch event on the Twitter hashtag #HittingReset.

Conference speakers update

 

I’m delighted to confirm a number of speakers for this year’s annual conference (have you booked your place yet?). Rural Coalition chair and former LCR cover star, Margaret Clark, and Campaign for Rural England chief executive, Crispin Truman, will take part in a rural issues workshop; Salisbury City Council will share their expertise on communications and resident engagement, Co-operative Councils Network will provide insight and tips on how to invest-to-save, and our partners and conference sponsor BHIB return for what I’m sure will be another packed session on the hot topic of risk. We’ll keep you updated over the coming weeks as more exciting speakers are confirmed.

The Big Lunch

 

The Big Lunch sees millions of people getting together to share food, have fun and get to know each other better and this year takes place over the weekend of 1 and 2 June. It’s also a practical initiative to help tackle loneliness – 80% of participants last year felt less lonely and 4.5 million new friendships were made. Hence I’m really keen for local councils to consider getting involved by organising your own Big Lunch and encouraging and supporting other Big Lunch organisers locally. For more information about the Big Lunch and handy tips on how your council can get involved, check out The Big Lunch For Councils webpage here.

Neighbourhood planning

 

Good news as the neighbourhood planning support programme is now live and provides welcome funding and/or technical support, so please do make sure you make use of these resources which have continued to lobby for. The May edition of MHCLG’s Neighbourhood Planning Newsletter includes some really powerful statistics, such as the 750th successful referendum has now taken place, 800,000 votes have been cast in total, 51% of Local Planning Authorities have at least one plan, and 14 million people live in an area with a neighbourhood plan. The latest update also includes provision for employment sites, broadband, housing, community facilities, rural economic development and high street regeneration – and showcases the work of Harpenden Town Council who took less than a year to submit their plan! 

Plunkett Foundation national advisory group

 

Our policy and development manager, Chris Borg, attended a meeting of the Plunkett Foundation’s national advisory group in Birmingham on 15 May 2019. The group acts as the steering board for the Plunkett Foundation/Esmee Fairbairn rural community business programme. Key issues covered included a review of stakeholder experiences on the programme so far and Plunkett’s evaluation of the programme and legacy evidence by December 2019. We will continue to work very closely with the Plunkett Foundation to the end of 2019 and beyond to encourage as many local councils as possible to help set up and sustain rural community businesses, particularly in deprived and sparsely populated areas of the countryside.

Northamptonshire announcement

 

You may have spotted the big Northamptonshire news this week: they are going unitary from 1 April 2021. One of the consequences is likely to be the full parish of the county, whereas currently, only two-thirds of residents live in parished areas. There will likely be four new town councils – in Northampton, Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby – and six or seven large parish councils in Northampton. There are only 686 days to go and Danny Moody and his colleagues are looking forward to a challenging few months!

National Audit Office consultation response

 

NALC has responded to a National Audit Office consultation (read more in our news story here) calling for a proportionate, realistic and light touch approach to audit and to minimise the costs of investigations which can be prohibitive. For example this year one small parish council with the precept of £12,000 was subject to in excess of a hundred separate objections raised by various local electors working in unison, which then had to be reviewed by the auditor. The cost to the council of the auditor reviewing all the objections and any further investigations is likely to be as much as the annual precept. We are also taking this issue up with MHCLG.

And finally...

I’m really pleased to let you know Linda Hammond has joined NALC as policy and projects intern in the member services team – welcome Linda!

 

Jonathan Owen

Chief Executive

NALC

 

NALC Chief Executives Bulletin

Judicial review outcome

I’m delighted to let you know the court has concluded a decision by Slough Borough Council to abolish two parish councils was flawed and should be quashed. The recent judicial review case of Britwell Parish Council v Slough Borough Council has given us some helpful guidance on the interpretation of the law and government guidance on community governance reviews – hopefully, this will also deter other principal authorities! Well done to all colleagues involved in supporting the parish councils, especially colleagues at the Berkshire Association of Local Councils. You can read the court judgment in full here, we will be updating our own legal guidance in due course.


The Telegraph article on local elections
 
Some of you will have no doubt seen The Telegraph on 23 April about the forthcoming local elections and reports of councils struggling to fill seats. While the story is behind the paywall I thought you might be interested in the quote they used from me: “We are pretty upfront about the challenges that the forthcoming local elections faces, given what’s happening in Westminster and the fact people lead such busy and changing lives, but it is far from doom and gloom. We already have across the country more than 100,000 people, real hyperlocal heroes, who are spending their time and energy helping their communities. This should be celebrated and recognised more. But reform is needed to the whole local election process and better collection of national data, and NALC will continue to press the government and other organisations such as the Electoral Commission on these. Local councils are actually becoming one of the most important parts of local government as they are closest to the people and covering the issues that really matter in a time of real disenchantment. They are the only growing part too as several are created each year.” Over the Summer we plan to undertake another review of the local elections in tandem with the Diversity Commission, so do look out for that which I’d really appreciate your help with.

Consultations
 
There’s still time to tell us your views on two consultations which are underway on audit and highways. Next week we will be responding to the National Audit Office Code of Practice consultation, you can read more in our news story but do get your skates on and send comments by close of play on 30 April to chris.borg@nalc.gov.uk. We’ll also be responding to the Department for Transport consultation on Traffic Commissioners, more time on this one and again views to Chris by 11 June 2019, click here to read the news story. We recently submitted a response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee Inquiry into Local Government Finance, log in to the members’ area of the NALC website here for our response.

Borrowing approval guidance
 
This week we’ve added to the Development Tools section of the member's area of the website five really helpful documents which local councils should refer to when submitting an application for borrowing approval. These include a presentation from Shafi Khan, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to the recent county officers finance day, a handy tips sheet, a hints and tips note, a resident questionnaire, and a template cash-flow forecast table.

CiLCA Trainers Forum
 
Our policy officer, Jessica Lancod-Frost, attended the latest Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA) Trainers Forum held in Birmingham yesterday. Over 25 recognised CiLCA trainers came together with Elisabeth Skinner and Di Morgan from the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) and experienced trainer Kim Bedford to discuss a range of issues including the latest report from the awarding body Ascentis, linking CiLCA to the Local Council Award Scheme, quality assurance of training and how to handle multiple referrals for the same module.

Salisbury litter free
 
Following our recent visit to Salisbury, it came as no surprise to me, nor Cllr Keith Stevens our vice-chairman (finance), the city is the cleanest place in England and one of the best places to live! Well done everyone at the City Council.

Management Board minutes
 
Just to let you know the draft minutes of the meeting of the Management Board held on 2 April are now available in the member's area of the website (login required).

And finally…
 
One of the quickest ways to keep up-to-date with NALC is by following us on Twitter. Whilst it has its fair share of critics, it's the best place to find the latest NALC news, conference updates and speaker announcements, promotional offers on publications, campaign videos, useful funding opportunities and more. You can follow NALC on TwitterFacebookYouTube and Instagram.


 

 

Bulletin 15th April

 

The Good Councillor's guides

Reprints of The Good Councillor's guides have now arrived. Orders can be made in the usual way on the NALC website.  Updated costs will be uploaded to the website very soon. These guides are part of a suite of material available to support councillors including The Good Councillor's guides to being a good employer on HR matter, The Good Councillor's guides to finance and transparency setting out simply what councillors need to know about financial planning. Both are available to purchase through the NALC website or from county associations.

NALC / LGRC EXPO 2019
 
Arrangements for this year’s NALC / LGRC EXPO on 21 June 2019 are proceeding well with the number of bookings and exhibitors up on last time. So if you will be looking for a supplier of anything from tractors to IT equipment, or signage to stationery, need to review your banking or insurance or create a new website in the next year or two this is the ideal place to start. Ticket are currently priced at £18.50. 

Plunkett trusteeships
 
The Plunkett Foundation (a rural community business membership organisation) are advertising to recruit two new trustees to take forward its work and implement its new strategic plan. The Plunkett Foundation is especially seeking candidates with knowledge, experience and contacts in fundraising, research, communications and marketing. Find out more about the role

Rural Coalition
 
Cllr Sue Baxter, chairman of NALC and Jessica Lancod-Frost, policy officer attended a Rural Coalition meeting on 16 April at DEFRA’s offices. Headlines from the meeting include:
And finally...

Just to confirm that the NALC offices will be closed on from 19 April to 22 April for Easter. Have a great Easter and try not to eat too much chocolate!

 

Bulletin 8th April

 

Management Board

Our Management Board met on 2 April at the NALC office. In advance of the draft minutes being available on the NALC website, here’s a brief summary:

  • the board agreed proposals to improve handling of motions from county associations;
  • proposals to strengthen the focus of the board on member services through a dedicated vice-chairman (member services) were approved;
  • councillors discussed ways in which NALC could modernise some of its working practices through a business transformation project;
  • welcomed proposals from the legal team and the Suffolk Association of Local Councils to make it easier to access legal and other guidance, ideally on a digital platform, and agreed to continue work on this project.


New Practitioners Guide

The new edition of The Practitioners’ Guide for governance and accountability for smaller authorities in England has been updated and reissued by the Joint Panel on Accountability and Governance (JPAG). JPAG is the multi-stakeholder body responsible for issuing proper practices in relation to the governance and accounts of smaller authorities which include local (parish and town) councils. You can read the new guidance, which is accompanied by a two-page summary of changes from the 2018 guidance, in the publications section of the NALC website (login required).
 
Data protection regulations

The Data Protection (Charges and Information) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 came into force on 1 April and have changed the rules around paying the data protection fee and means members of the House of Lords, elected representatives and prospective representatives are exempt from paying a fee. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has updated the local council FAQ’s on its website and data protection fee guidance to reflect these changes. Our own analysis of the regulations is this also includes co-opted councillors, and the ICO has indicated it agrees with this view. We are in the process of updating our legal guidance and this should be available next week. Particularly pleasing is that this is another lobbying win for NALC that will save the sector up to £4m a year!

County officers financial training day
 

I was delighted on Monday to attend the morning session of the county officers financial training day, kindly hosted by CCLA. Around 20 colleagues from county associations received excellent presentations on borrowing approval from Shafi Khan from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and on external audit from Howard Midworth, Smaller Authorities Audit Appointments (SAAA), who flagged up a number of issues with the first year of the new regime – you can read his slides, the SAAA chairman’s latest communication, and the report on the results of the auditors work in 2016/17 on the SAAA website. Other issues covered included risk assessment, county association benchmarking project, training and funding for churches. 


Purdah guidance

Just a reminder that we’ve updated and republished Legal Topic Note L01-19 on the code of recommended practice on local authority publicity which provides guidance on the pre-election (purdah) period. You can find this in the member's area of the NALC website (login required).

NALC at NCVO annual conference

Our vice- chairman, Cllr Derek Liddell, attended the annual conference of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) this week to help build relationships with the voluntary and community sectors. Here’s a few highlights: 

  • the conference – where there were 380 delegates and over 40 exhibitors – said goodbye to Sir Stuart Etherington who had served as chief executive for 25 years. His state of the sector address focused on the future of the sector and how it should set its own agenda;
  • other keynote speakers included Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam, and Ruth Ibegbuna, Reclaim youth charity and the Roots program;
  • breakout sessions covered subjects such as adapting to the digital age, charity regulation and 21st century leadership;
  • presentation slides from all talks and videos of keynote speakers are available on the NCVO website.


Local Government weekly Brexit Bulletin

This week’s Local Government Weekly Brexit Bulletin from MHCLG provides an update on recent developments and a look ahead at key parliamentary activity and upcoming events across the country. You can sign up or get in touch with comments or suggestions, by contacting: lgengagement@communities.gov.uk.

New local councils created this week
 
Certainly no April fool as I was delighted that on Monday several new local councils were legally established. Last week’s council tax statistics showed how our councils are investing an extra £35m this year in communities; the creation of these new councils is yet another indicator of the growth of our important part of local government. So welcome to the family Christchurch Town Council, Highcliffe and Walkford Neighbourhood Council and Weymouth Town Council in Dorset; Newlands Parish Council in Hampshire; Kennington Community Council and South Willesborough, Newtown Community Council and Sheerness Town Council in Kent! A huge personal thanks to all colleagues, especially in those county associations, who have worked hard to help them get this far and I’m grateful for all the support I know will be provided in the next part of their journey.
 
And finally
 
I’m keen to make more use of my bulletin to showcase and provide updates on some of the brilliant work of our county associations. So no favouritism whatsoever given I live in Suffolk, but I was really pleased this week to see the Suffolk Association of Local Councils launch its new website and logo to reflect changing times over the past 12 months. This work forms part of a series of initiatives that have refreshed communication channels and aims to improve access to information, services and advice. Amen to that! Do check it out at www.salc.org.uk.