This week we would like to shine a light on one of the very first councils to be accredited under the new Local Council Award Scheme.
Danbury Parish Council participated in our pilot last year and was awarded Quality Gold Status on 6 January 2015 when the scheme launched.
Danbury is a large village in rural Essex situated between Maldon and Chelmsford, with a population of around 6,000. As an ‘all-rounder’, Danbury Parish Council has achieved Quality Gold Status because of the high standard of its work across the board.
The panel noted that the evidence provided was extensive and the statements on managing the performance of the Council were of a very high standard. We’d like to take this opportunity to share some of the aspects that we are particularly impressed by.
Value for Money
With good working relationships with both the Society of Local Clerks and membership of the Essex Association of Local Councils, Danbury has good links to other councils to check costings and adopt best practices.
The council works to a strategic plan and a three year forecast which is reviewed annualy. It adheres to its Financial Regulations, which are also reviewed regularly to take into account changes in the legislation.
Duties under Biodiversity and Crime and Disorder
Danbury works hard to maintain the rural atmosphere of its historical village through consultation and engagement with residents and village organisations. The council promotes schemes and devises projects that encourage people to plants trees, shrubs and hedges, tidy neglected areas and plant flowers.
Several policies are in place for reducing crime; Neighbourhood Watch Bulletins are published on the website, PCSOs will be holding street meetings with the public going forward and residents can also share their concerns at the monthly farmer’s meeting where the council holds a stall. The council’s Planning Committee also look at planning applications with a view to driving out crime.
Leadership in Planning for the Future of the Community
We are impressed by the efficiency of the council’s paperless planning system, with the Planning committee meeting every three weeks, dealing with all applications remotely from the City Council’s web site and in a timely manner.
Members of the public regularly attend the Planning Meetings and send their comments and a representative from the Parish Council is permitted to speak at the City Council Meetings.
The Parish Council has a local development framework which shapes the village for the future and is adopted by the City Council as part of their Local Development Plan until 2021.
Performance of the Council as a Corporate Body
The Parish Council is a small team of four staff members and operates through a Committee System with regular meetings for each committee. The Resources Committee receives reports to check that the Parish Council is working within budget and costs are regularly monitored at this meeting.
The Clerk is employed under the terms jointly negotiated with NALC as all staff, and the council has excellent systems in place to manage staff inductions, appraisals and training. The Clerk is a Founder Member of the Institute of Local Council Management and gives guidance to councilors at meetings.
The Parish Council’s strategic plan will be updated with the formation of the new Parish Council after the 2015 elections and the projects identified from the strategic plan have been completed.
Annual visits are made by the Council’s Insurer to ensure all correct systems are in place.
NALC would like to congratulate Danbury Parish Council on its Quality Gold accreditation and encourage others to follow in its footsteps this year.