NALC Chief Executives Bulletin

 

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.


Bulletin 22nd March

 Meeting with the local government minister


Funding was top of the agenda for the meeting our chairman, Cllr Sue Baxter, and I had with the local government minister, Rishi Sunak MP, on 20 March. Here are a few key points.

  • Sue highlighted last week’s National Assembly motion and expressed our strong concern about local (parish and town) councils not being eligible to apply for certain government grants. The minister acknowledged our frustration and agreed to raise this with the high streets minister Jake Berry MP. We will also be making direct representations to him.
  • He undertook to raise directly, support for disabled people to stand for election through the EnAble Fund agreeing this should not be limited to principal authorities.
  • The exemption of public conveniences from business rates was still very much on the agenda and awaiting parliamentary time.
  • He agreed it would be important for the local council sector to contribute to the Comprehensive Spending Review, the development of the communities framework and the memorandum of understanding with the Local Government Association and he offered to assist with representations.
  • We will be writing to the minister and engaging with officials to follow-up the meeting, including setting out a range of other issues we want to see progress on, including parish polls reform and community governance review guidance.


BHIB Councils Insurance new website

I wanted to let you know that our partner, BHIB Councils Insurance, has launched a brilliant new website which will see a brand-new customer journey from beginning to end and has been designed with you in mind! The goal of the newly designed website is to create a user-friendly browsing experience for trusted and valued customers. The company has also recently created and updated a range of new and useful resources while improving the functionality of the website. What’s changed on the website includes one place for all your resources, access to policyholder exclusive tools such as a Risk Management Portal and a Risk Assessment Toolkit, and charity insurance and other business insurances. Please check it out and with the renewal period fast-approaching, don’t hesitate to get in touch with BHIB Councils Insurance to discuss your local council or county association requirements.

Updated Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR)

The updated 2018/19 AGAR has been sent to external audit firms by Smaller Authorities Audit Appointments (SAAA). These are likely to be issued to local councils by their auditors from 25 March, so keep an eye out! A number of improvements have been made including a separate form for parish meetings, updated flowcharts, and a detailed and a new briefer Step by Step at a glance guide with key dates – these are available on the SAAA website in the guidance section. Last year saw a significant change from the old regime which by and large was successfully introduced and embraced by the sector. Inevitably, there were some teething problems which hopefully we can iron out this year. But here are two lessons: firstly, please read the instructions and guidance provided by your auditors and in the AGAR before attempting to complete the appropriate form; secondly, completed forms must be returned to the auditor by the statutory deadline of 30 June, either by email or post, but not both.

LGRC/NALC EXPO

A quick reminder there’s just a few days left before the early-bird offer for tickets to the LGRC/NALC EXPO on 21 June expires! This innovative and unique event provides an opportunity for clerks and councillors to see the complete range of products and services they might need, all in one place. There will be a rolling programme of presentations and demonstrations throughout the day, plus presentations, static displays and ‘surgeries’ that will cover a wide range of currently important topics relating to our theme of ‘modern local councils’. Find out more and book your place here – I look forward to seeing you there!

Job vacancies

Two previous winners of the Council of the Year in the NALC Star Councils Awards are on the search for new chief officers. Oswestry Town Council in Shropshire is recruiting a new town clerk, and Halewood Town Council in Merseyside is seeking a new town manager. Both are brilliant opportunities to help lead highly recognised councils in the sector. If you want to advertise your jobs with us, just email: nalc@nalc.gov.uk

National Assembly presentations and draft minutes

Last week’s National Assembly included presentations from Cllr Peter Davey from Essex Association of Local Councils and Cllr Terry Oliver from West Sussex Association of Local Councils (not East Sussex as reported in last Friday’s bulletin) on health and well-being. Both presentations and the draft minutes are now available in the members’ area of the NALC website (login required).

Other meetings and events

  • On 20 March we welcomed colleagues from the Kent Association of Local Councils to the NALC offices for our latest induction day. These days are run to enable new staff at county associations, councillors on committees and new member councils to meet our officers and put names to faces, as well as finding out more about our work. Our next induction days will be held on 16 July and 17 October. Please contact: Farhana.miah@nalc.gov.uk for more information and to book a place.
  • Our head of policy and communications, Justin Griggs, was in Birmingham on 20 March at the city council’s working group which is taking forward its white paper commitment to neighbourhoods and policies to improve neighbourhood working, and help those areas that are interested to create new neighbourhood organisations or a parish council.
  • That same day Justin also had a very positive meeting with colleagues from Blachere UK, and I’m really pleased to announce they have agreed to continue our longstanding partnership for another year which will benefit NALC, county associations and local councils.
  • Yesterday I was thrilled to take part in a meeting of the Federation of East Midlands Association of Local Councils by videoconference. As part of our commitment to more modern and different ways of working, we have installed a video camera in our boardroom at the NALC office and are trialling the use of Zoom software, with yesterday being its first use. Issues covered included our meeting with Mr Sunak, membership services, LGRC/NALC EXPO and councillor training.
  • Ahead of the meeting of our Management Board on 2 April, the agenda and supporting papers are now available in the members’ area of the NALC website(login required).


And finally...

Good luck and thank you to all local councils getting involved in The Great British Spring Clean which starts today, running until 23 April. Improving the environment on our doorsteps is I know of huge importance to our local councils, which is why I’m pleased to support this campaign and would urge you to consider taking part, in whatever way you can. More information is on the Keep Britain Tidy website. And, if you are taking part and use social media, do tweet using #GBSpringClean and tag @nalc.

Previous Bulletins

NALC Elections Campaign

This week we launched a new promotional video as part of our #MakeAChange elections campaign to encourage more people to stand for election as local councillors in the forthcoming elections in May 2019. The new video aims to help people looking to stand for election to understand the steps they will have to take to become a councillor. Watch our six steps to becoming a local councillor video

Communities Framework

  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have asked NALC, as a member of the Communities Partnership Board, for input to the development of a new Communities Framework. The framework will describe the importance of strong communities, set out the department's vision for supporting the development of these alongside the vital work of other groups, organisations and sectors, and explain and take forward how they are embedding this approach across the work of the department.
  • They are focusing for now on three questions – what do communities want: to do more of, or have more control over, in their local areas; in terms of inclusive spaces (parks, community centres, shared amenities) in their local areas; national and local government to do more, or less of, to support communities who want more control over issues affecting their local areas. Let us know what you think to policycomms@nalc.gov.uk or fill in the online survey. Thank you!

Policy consultations
 
Staying on the subject of inputting to government policy-making, we’d welcome your views on the Clean Air Strategy consultation and on proposals for fighting to flood by considering NALC's policy consultation briefings in the members' area of the NALC website (login required).

NALC Open Days
 
A reminder that this year's open days at the NALC office are on 20 March, 16 July and 17 October 2019. These provide an opportunity for members of the National Assembly and committees to find out more about our work and meet our staff. To find out more or to register a place, please email NALC at NALCcommittees@nalc.gov.uk

County Officers Forum
 
The County Officers Forum, which brings together county association officers to discuss common issues and share good practice, met on 6 February at CCLA in London. NALC was represented by Justin Griggs, head of policy and communications and Gary Barker, solicitor. The meeting considered a number of subjects including digital mapping, ethical standards, a project to improve guidance on law and procedure, information management systems, skills and interests register, and the Local Council Award Scheme.

And finally...

I wanted to share a comment from an ex-colleague of mine, who is now working in a shadow unitary authority being created as a result of local government reorganisation: “You are greatly blessed at NALC having such a strong network of county associations”, and we are!


 


 

Final local government finance settlement
 
The secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, published the final local government finance settlement 2019/20 this week, and as expected council tax referendum principles have not been extended to local (parish and town) councils. To support our ongoing work on this issue, can I still ask you to keep us informed of any significant precept increases – please email policycomms@nalc.gov.uk, thank you! The government have also allocated £56.5m to help principal authorities prepare for Brexit, and I would encourage you to liaise with them about this new funding and so they are aware of any particular issues you may be facing.

NALC Management Board

 
NALCs Management Board, which brings together 11 councillors elected from the National Assembly to oversee our work, met on Tuesday 29 January, here’s a brief summary: 

  • The board noted we are set to achieve a surplus against the budget this year, had applied for cyber essentials accreditation to demonstrate we handled data securely we have, and an update on proposals regarding the annual conference
  • A report on performance over the last two months was considered, with councillors noting the legal team had dealt with 127 written queries and 34 telephone queries over the last quarter
  • The publication of our new range of materials to encourage more people to stand for election in May’s local elections was welcomed
  • Welcomed progress on the development of our new strategic plan, agreeing four new strategy aims to take forward our new vision for the sector and NALC; strong national and county voices promoting the sector, promoting and creating local councils in England, supporting councils and councillors, effective national and county associations working together

Committee on Standards in Public Life report
 
Along with our chairman Cllr Sue Baxter and other colleagues, I attended the launch in Parliament this week of the Committee on Standards in Public Life report on local government ethical standards, which I’m pleased backs NALC’s longstanding calls for reforms to the current regime including the re-introduction of sanctions. However, I’m disappointed by the report’s failure to recommend and promote more councillor training and development, this is an issue Sue raised at the event with Committee’s chairman and other members, and we will be taking this up in further dialogue and engagement with the Committee and the government over the report’s recommendations. You can read more in our news story and full media release.
 
NALC/LGRC Local Council Expo 2019
 
A date for your diary as I’m really pleased to announce we will be partnering with Local Government Resource Centre Associates to stage the 2019 Local Council Expo on 21 June at Chateau Impney, Droitwich in Worcestershire. This follows the highly successful event held in 2016 at the same venue and will be by far the largest exhibition of products and services available to local councils together with demonstrations of the latest technology. With all-day entry, there will also be an opportunity to speak in-depth to a range of experts and a programme of demonstrations, presentations and discussions throughout the day on practical topics of specific interest to modern local councils. More details on how you can book your place next week, but in the meantime do put this innovative event on your calendar!

Staffing changes
 
Firstly, I would like to let you know that we have appointed Charlotte Eisenhart as our new head of member services. She is currently head of engagement at the Royal Society of Arts, but as many of you know, she has previously worked for NALC and the Local Government Association. This post was created as a result of our recent strategic review and I see it as crucial to continuing our closer work together, at all levels. I know Charlotte will be keen to engage widely when she starts in May.

I am also pleased to announce that Farhana Miah has moved from her role as the receptionist to acting executive officer on an initial six-month basis, taking over responsibility for supporting NALC’s committees as well as continuing to provide assistance with NALC conferences, LCR and helping the smooth running of the office.

Out and abouts

  • Sue and I met with colleagues from the Society of Local Council Clerks to consider joint work to update the governance toolkit and other template policies
  • Colleagues from the policy and communications were at the launch of Youth Politics UK London to develop links with a range of national youth organisations to raise awareness and get more young people involved in the sector
  • Our head of policy and communications, Justin Griggs, attended the annual parliamentary reception of the Royal Town Planning Institute, where James Brokenshire MP spoke about the important rol ofe planning and design in building strong communities
  • Yesterday the Essex Association of Local Councils hosted a visit by our head of finance and administration, Steve Walker

And finally...

NALC's Spring Conference is less that two weeks away. And with that, we're running a super sale saving you 20% off your tickets. The deal ends on 7 February, so register your place today to make the most of the discount.