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NALC's direction of travel

NALC's direction of travel

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) held an excellent national council meeting last week at Westminster Central Hall with presentations from senior Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) officials on the new transparency arrangements and community rights providing the opportunity for councillors to get their views across on these important issues.

The leader of the Local Government Association (LGA) Independent Group, Cllr Marianne Overton also spoke calling for the future settlement on devolution in England to involve all tiers of local government with parish councils at its heart. The Mayor of Rushden, Cllr Richard Lewis contributed his thoughts on working between the tiers based on experience in Northamptonshire. National council also agreed a new policy position on devolution to influence national political thinking, calling for parishes to be created across the UK.

View Discussion Paper of Devolution

NALC chairman, Cllr Ken Browse and NALC chief executive, Jonathan Owen were struck at how improved the session was - with key national organisations engaging with NALC and more opportunities for councillors to get involved and shape debate and topical policy. Both thought this demonstrated the progress NALC have made, with your help; and thought it would be a good time at the start of the new financial year to share with you their thoughts on that progress and our developing plans for this year and the future.

General

Last year's AGM in October agreed a three-year improvement plan for NALC focussing on value for money services, increasing membership and giving the sector a strong national voice. NALC are making good progress on all of its key actions, though there is still much to achieve: with your help over the next two-years.

There has been a tighter focus on internal performance and financial management with a "dashboard" reported to national council of key performance indicators including time taken to respond to legal inquiries and letters, and the number of press releases issued each month. We are pleased that over 95% of legal inquiries have been dealt with in the timescale set by County Association of Local Councils (CALC) or local (parish and town) councils and we are averaging over six national press releases each month.

View chairman and chief executve report to national council

Other developments include:

  • Greater involvement by CALCs and local ouncils in our lobbying work with many colleagues joining us in a series of roundtables with officials and meetings with ministers – making sure your voice is heard at the heart of government.

  • Closer and complementary working with CALCs and the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC).

  • Addressing some long standing issues including relations with the county officers forum, NALC's constitution and persuading several large councils back into membership.

  • A greater focus on NALC's customers with user groups set-up, NALC staff getting out and about more and our own attendance at over 30 AGMs. NALC are learning from feedback and shaping NALC's policies and services accordingly.

NALC's plans for this year (all of which are dependent upon your views and support) include addressing the constitutional question, putting in place a three-year budget plan and modernising our affiliation fee structure.

NALC's committees

We are working to make our committees more effective with greater scope for involvement and engagement.

  • National council and AGM have been refreshed and councillors given more of a say through roundtable policy development sessions on: employment; communications and NALC's Manifesto.

  • Standing committees have agreed work programmes for this year and we have trialled electronic voting in larger councils' committee. Increasingly NALC will be using telephone and internet-conferencing to encourage participation from across the country.

  • NALC have begun to use task and finish groups to encourage a wider involvement in our deliberations.

  • NALC have agreed role profiles for national council members and hope to attract greater interest in getting involved at a national level in the future.  View role of national council

  • NALC have begun work on improving our offer to the larger councils.

NALC's plans for this year are to propose significant changes to our committee structure with a reduction in the number of meetings and a stronger executive management board. To use more councillors in task and finish groups to address issues quickly; ranging from rural matters to devolution. In addition to having an AGM outside London, with an overnight element to encourage networking.

Lobbying successes

National council and policy committee shaped a streamlined NALC Manifesto focussing on three issues: stronger local democracy, fairer funding and more powers. We have seen some notable achievements over the last year including:

  • Referenda principles not applied - despite clear expression by ministers to do so.

  • Council tax support funding, continuing to slow down principal councils not passing on funding providing breathing space for our sector to fill the gap.

  • Electoral commission backed our stance on e-mailing electoral nomination forms.

  • DCLG consulting on extending ombudsman to larger councils.

  • Secured multi-million DCLG support for smaller councils to respond to transparency arrangements.

  • First sector meeting with DCLG officials working on parish agenda to improve understanding and ensure legislation is sensible.

  • Given evidence on rural broadband and neighbourhood planning to two House of Commons committees, representing your concerns within parliament.

NALC's plans include a lobby day on 30 June 2015 to get our message across to the new Parliament; extending our influence to other government departments and making sure parishes are given due consideration in the devolution debate and in the new government's work programme.

Communications

We are providing quicker feedback about what we do including chief executive email bulletins issued within three-days of important NALC meetings or meetings with ministers and other national bodies.

We have also:

  • Set up a new website.

  • Introduced a weekly e-newsletter of key sector developments. View newsletter

  • Consulted you on a new events programme with a planned return to overnight annual conference.

  • Had excellent coverage in the national, regional and local media in all its forms – written and online. This includes pieces in The Times and Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian, Municipal Journal, Local Government Chronical, LGA First and other trade journals and house magazines; appearances on BBC Radio and TV; and an impressive array of tweets and blogs.

NALC continue to improve the quality of our dialogue with you, further develop our website and target national publications to secure positive coverage of the sector challenging the "Vicar of Dibley" stereotype.

Better services

NALC are ever conscious of the need to provide value for money services for the 5.6p per elector affiliation fee paid by councils for NALC's work. As well as continuing to provide legal, policy and communications advice, recent developments include:

  • LCR (Local Councils Review) available online to all councils.

  • DIS available online to all councils with the current edition identifying 22 national funding streams for you to consider accessing. View DIS

  • A 'Council of a Week' feature on the homepage of the website celebrating the very best in our sector – over 20 councils have taken part so far.

  • An employment work stream to renegotiate the template/model contract and provide better advice to councillors on their role as employers.

  • Democratic oversight of the relationship with SLCC through a new protocol and regular joint meetings.

  • The launch of Local Council Awards Scheme.

  • Election hub established for CALCs to share info about how to encourage standing for election.

  • Regular meetings with the LGA and discussions around enabling the largest councils to access associate membership of the LGA through NALC.

NALC's plans for this year include delivering the transparency fund, establishing a sector led body to procure audit services, relaunching CiLCA, and hosting a new Star Councils 2015 award ceremony at the AGM.

Conclusion

NALC's progress reflects the achievements of CALC's and local councils as we work together to improve and promote the sector and deliver quality services to residents. NALC have a great opportunity at the moment to press the sector's case with the new government, principal councils, the media and political parties and NALC would urge you to work with us to shout the message that parish and town councils are improving their communities, delivering services and have a key role to play in a healthy democracy.

Finally, NALC are beginning to think of the issues that should be addressed next year - 2016/17 - to include in our strategic plan to be discussed at our AGM in October 2015.

Council of the Week: Quedgeley Parish Council
Council of the Week: Bracknell Town Council