According to the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), a sector led approach to improvement is to be the 'cornerstone of a step change' in local (parish and town) councils.
The statement comes in the week two training and development initiatives overseen by NALC and the sector's improvement body received a welcome and positive boost.
Ampthill Town Council in Bedfordshire has become the first local council in the country to be awarded Quality Gold status through the new Local Council Award Scheme, introduced in January to provide a framework for continuous improvement and standards of practice. Over 650 councils have already registered to take part in the scheme, which promotes and recognises best practice through Foundation, Quality and Quality Gold award levels.
An updated version of the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA), the core skills qualification for clerks working for local councils, was launched on 20 April. Almost 2000 parish and town council clerks have been awarded the qualification since its introduction, which run in partnership with the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC), the professional body representing clerks in England and Wales.
Early last year NALC set up a new Improvement and Development Board (IDB) to bring sector bodies such as NALC, SLCC and county associations together with other partners including the Local Government Association and central government to oversee improvement activity in the sector.
NALC's manifesto – which has three themes of stronger local democracy, fairer funding and more powers providing the key to unlocking the potential of local councils – asks the next government to support the sector to create an improvement and development strategy. This would draw upon existing strategies and initiatives and put in place a framework for good governance, community engagement and council improvement.
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC said: "The parish sector needs to take more responsibility for improvement in our councils, with room for us to be more challenging but also to provide more help and support.
"National initiatives like the Local Council Award Scheme and Certificate in Local Council Administration, coupled a wealth of local training and development by county associations, are putting the foundations and good practices in place to help councils have real impact on their community.
"An increasingly sector led approach to improvement will be the cornerstone of the step change needed to modernise how we operate and ensure our councils are resilient, efficient and effective. This is particularly important as parishes continue to play a bigger role in the delivery of local services.
"Our vision is to improve the quality of life for local communities through having vibrant, dynamic and effective local councils. Driving up standards of practice through sector led improvement can only help us turn this vision into a reality."