This week’s Council of the Week is a fantastic ‘all-rounder’, adopting a proactive approach to its wide-ranging work all year round.
Cranleigh is a large village and civil parish almost eight miles southeast of Guildford in Surrey. With a population of 11,241 (2011 Census), it is one of the largest parishes in the county. NALC would like to recognise the work of the council, and specifically of the Clerk Pauline Whitehead, for being one of the country’s most impressive larger councils.
Previously a Quality Council, Cranleigh has been awarded Foundation level under the new Local Council Award Scheme. The council is committed to achieving the highest level – Quality Gold – by January 2016, which is just one example of its ambitious and proactive nature.
In fact, Cranleigh Parish Council (CPC) is one of the most proactive larger councils in Surrey and nationally and provides a role model for all larger councils seeking to manage a large asset portfolio.
The council runs a raft of services including the village hall, cemetery, public conveniences, sports pavilion and recreation fields, allotments, tennis courts, a conservation area, play park and fitness equipment. It also took responsibility for the Youth Centre and Café in 2012, which are supported by external funding from the Borough Council, a local grant-giving body, the Police Community Support Officer and Surrey County Council.
The council owns land on which community buildings have been built and leases the land at a peppercorn rent to give support to organisations including Citizens Advice, Guides, Scouts and the Trustees of the Bandroom. CPC works fantastically with local organisations and employs a co-ordinator to pull together events within the community to promote economic vibrancy on the High Street and community cohesion. The Parish Council has played an active part in Cranleigh in Bloom enabling Cranleigh to win Silver Gilt in its first entry into the South and South East in Bloom competition in 2014.
CPC appoints five local people (including Councillors) to a charity which awards money to a local organisation which supports those in need and to the Cranleigh Food Bank, which opened recently.
Another area of merit that we would like to highlight and commend the council for its support of the Sustainable Communities Act. CPC has recently submitted a proposal to the Department of Communities and Local Government, lobbying for parishes running and managing public toilets to be exempt from paying business rates on them (i.e. exemption from National Non Domestic Rates). As a result of the application, the council was advised to contribute to a central government consultation, however, the consultation takes little regard of anomalies such as buildings which are used for public conveniences, which are of great value to the community and which would be of limited use commercially. The council feels that residents are being taxed twice for a facility that it runs free at the point of entry and for the wellbeing and benefit of the local community. CPC will respond to the consultation, but through NALC has asked for the original decision made at DCLG to be reviewed.
NALC is pleased to learn that the council is at the third consultation stage on its neighbourhood plan, which it launched in January 2013 so as to put residents in the driving seat, but with the council providing the impetus and background support to enable the project to move forward.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to to draw particular attention to Cranleigh Parish Council’s Clerk, Pauline Whitehead, who holds impressive qualifications and a range of responsibilities, whilst providing exemplary leadership for the council on a full time basis. Pauline has a First Class Honours Degree in CEG at the University of Gloucestershire and a Certificate in Local Council Administration. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Local Council Management, Vice Chairman and mentor of the Surrey branch of the Society of Local Council Clerks, is a CilCA trainer and mentor and trainer for the SLCC Community Engagement programme.
Congratulations to Pauline and Cranleigh Parish Council for providing exemplary work and services for larger councils across the country to follow.