A new dynamic and exciting leadership team will lead the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) in 2016 as it sets the direction in furthering the development of localism and devolution for local (parish and town) councils and communities.
NALC recognises that next year will be an important one with continuing excellent service delivery and representation for the membership especially as the challenges and opportunities of devolution become more apparent.
At the moment, the Government’s Devolution Deals are agreements to devolve powers and spending on public services away from Whitehall departments to local areas. These areas are represented by consortiums of local principal (county, district, unitary or borough) authorities, coming together on a county wide or sub-regional basis.
The devolution genie is well and truly out of the bottle. While these steps are welcome, this next phase of localism is by no means localist enough, nor is it bold enough. Devolution must not stop at the combined authority, county or district level. So devolution must include communities and parishes.
At the December annual meeting of NALC’s National Council, members elected Cllr Ken Browse (Devon) to be the chairman, while Cllr Sue Baxter (Worcestershire) and Cllr Derek Liddell (South Yorkshire) are to be the vice-chairs. Cllr Browse has been re-elected as the chairman. Cllrs Baxter and Liddell are elected to the offices of vice chairs for the first ever time. They respectively replace Cllr Stuart Hulse and Cllr Deryck Nash, who held the offices of vice chairs for 2015.
Cllr Browse said: "It is an honour to be given this opportunity by the members of the association to carry forward the work already undertaken by NALC. We hope the National Council and local county associations, will be able to take the association on to new levels of partnership working with local councils, especially at a time when the government seems to be channelling its efforts towards localism and devolution. This is a unique time for local councils with huge opportunities with, but there are huge challenges that go with this. The end game for the membership is that it will be even more of a force to be reckoned with in urban and rural areas.
“This government has ambitious plans for a devolution revolution, which include Devolution Deals, but I want to stress that devolution is not just for principal authorities. Parish councils have a key role to play and they should be speaking to their principal councils about opportunities for further powers and functions to be devolved.”
“We believe local people understand the needs of their area best. This is why we believe that transferring powers, so people can make more decisions locally and solve their own problems in the creation of strong, attractive and thriving neighbourhoods.“
On being elected vice-chairs, Cllrs Baxter and Liddell said: "It is a great honour and privilege to be elected to the NALC leadership team, especially at this crucial time for local councils. We are looking forward to continuing the promotion of the tier of local government closest to local communities, and serving their needs."
“It’s essential that we also develop a new approach to local democracy and local services at the most local level. That will enable us to put in place a bottom up neighbourhood democracy, unique in urban and rural Britain.”
Lord Matthew Taylor of Goss Moor was appointed as the new President of NALC. Lord Taylor said: "It was a real honour and a privilege to be asked to be NALCs new President. I was delighted to accept and take up the role at such an exciting time for parish and town councils, as they gain increasing influence in shaping the thousands of local communities they represent and champion.
"NALC is a well respected organisation with a strong and influential voice, and I'm keen to play my part in taking their work forward as champion of town and parish councils across the country."
"I'd like to pay tribute to Lord Lytton who served NALC and the sector so well over the last decade and a half. He will I know will continue to champion parish and town councils in the House."
Jonathan Owen, chief executive of NALC, said: "Cllrs Browse, Baxter and Liddell are filling these seats at a very important stage for NALC with the major enhanced role that local councils can now play in community well-being. With moves recently that enhance the role of local councils within devolution and localism, they will prove to be very effective advocates of community empowerment."
Also at the annual meeting of the National Council, chairs of the following committees were elected:
Cllr Graham Ford, chair of the Finance Committee
Cllr Jim Gledhill, chair of the Policy Committee
Cllr Hazel Williams, chair of the Smaller Councils Committee