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NALC go to Durham on best practice visit

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NALC sent a best practice delegation to find out how Great Aycliffe and Shildon Town Councils are improving quality of life services for residents and visitors to Durham.

Great Aycliffe Town Council (GATC) is one of the largest town councils in the country. Great Aycliffe provides a range of facilities - parks, play areas, allotments, pre-school learning centre, public events, sports complex, golf course and driving range. The council is also committed to protecting and developing its natural green spaces, woodlands and nature sites. As part of this the council have been developing a neighbourhood plan, a referendum on which will take place in June 2017.

Shildon Town Council (STC) is also a larger council based in Durham sharing a border with Great Aycliffe Town Council. The Town Council owns and manages the Shildon Civic Hall, operates a full maintenance service in all parks and open spaces in the town; it operates a full grounds maintenance service for Hackworth Park; services West Road Cemetery and provides maintenance of St. Johns and All Saints closed churchyards; and it administers 11 allotment sites and 3 community gardens.

NALC is the umbrella body that represents the interests and development of the town and parish sector of local government. Every year a delegation from NALC visits one of the leading town and parish councils in the sector and this year they made a visit to two excellent high profile larger councils in Durham – Great Aycliffe and Shildon Town Councils. Together with the local County Durham Association of Local Councils (CDALC) the National Association represents the interests of member parish councils in the County Durham area on a range of financial, policy and legal issues.

The visit took place on the 17 and 18 of July. Representatives of NALC and the County Durham Association of Local Councils visited a number of both Town Councils’ services and assets including a large sports complex, pre-school centre and golf club owned and managed by Great Aycliffe Town Council; as well as a series of assets run by Shildon Town Council including its superb Civic Centre. The delegation also learnt about how GATC is engaging with the devolution agenda and overcoming local barriers to this. Delegates also learnt about the challenges facing the wider local council community in Durham in the wake of the collapse of the Combined Authority agenda in the county.

The delegation were hosted by Councillor Bob Fleming, Leader of Great Aycliffe Town Council, Councillor Shirley Quinn Town Mayor of Shildon, Andrew Bailey (Clerk, Great Aycliffe Town Council) and Tracey Bellas (Clerk, Shildon Town Council).

Councillor Kevin Wilson, Chairman of the NALC Larger Councils’ Committee said ‘the visit was a real eye opener and our delegation learnt just what can be achieved by two well-managed; well resourced; ambitious town councils. We were hugely impressed by the array of services offered by Great Aycliffe and Shildon Town Councils and how they are overcoming local barriers to devolution in the county .’

Councillor Bob Fleming, Leader of Great Aycliffe Town Council said ‘we were very honoured to receive the delegation from the National Association of Local Councils and were pleased to be able to show them all that the Town Council is doing for Great Aycliffe. It is always nice learn that what you are doing is being recognised and appreciated by others.”

Councillor Shirley Quinn, Mayor of Shildon, said ‘we took the delegation on an extensive tour of the services and assets run by Shildon Town Council and this was very well received. Shildon Town Council works very well in partnership with Great Aycliffe Town Council and we are proud of the difference we are making to our community.”

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