Today (1 September 2015) the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has launched its new multi-million pound ‘transparency fund’ to help thousands of small parish councils meet new audit and transparency rules and join the digital age.
NALC successfully persuaded the Government to provide financial assistance to smaller sized parish councils to help them become web-enabled and comply with new rules on publishing information about their work and finances.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is investing £4.7m in the new fund over a 3-year period, which is being delivered by NALC on a county basis working with county associations of local councils to target local needs.
From today smaller parish councils spending less than £25,000 can start applying for funding to move to online publishing of financial and other information, ensuring these bodies are transparent and accountable to their local communities and up-to-speed in the digital age.
The new rules are contained in the Government’s Transparency Code for smaller authorities to support their policy of placing more power into citizens’ hands to increase democratic accountability and is mandatory from 1 April 2015, requiring the online publication of key spending and governance information on the occasions specified in the Code.
The chairman of NALC, Cllr Ken Browse said: “It is wonderful news that smaller councils can now start applying for these funds to meet the challenges of the new Transparency Code and in turn reboot them into an ever increasing world of online information and transparency. We’ll be working closely with a range of partners to deliver this fund and much needed support, least not our important network of county associations of local councils, who will provide a crucial link in working with smaller councils to help them become compliant with the new transparency rules.”
The Transparency Code for Smaller local authorities came into force on 1 April 2015 and requires the online publication of certain information which the Government requests to provide taxpayers with a clear picture of the authority’s activities, spending and governance. It will improve the ability of communities to hold local public bodies to account.
DCLG chose NALC to deliver a £4.7 million programme to administer a grant to enable smaller authorities (those with a turnover of £25,000 or less) to comply with the code. The NALC programme began on 08 June 2015 and the application process went live on 01 September 2015. The application process has been developed in consultation with the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC), Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA) and CLG and extensively road-tested with CALCs and Parish councils. The first monies will be made available to Parish councils in November 2015 and monthly from then until the end of the 2015/16 financial year when the process will be reviewed.