Parliament celebrated some of the best parish and town councils in the country this week with a cross-party group of MPs and Peers calling for more power to be devolved from Whitehall to England’s town and village halls.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on local democracy hosted a reception in Parliament on Tuesday night (9 February) to celebrate England’s parish and town councils including winners of prestigious best practice awards.
The National Association of Local Councils ‘Star Councils’ initiative showcases the work of councils, councillors, officers as well as their local representative bodies, county associations of local councils.
Over a hundred members of the Houses of Commons and Lords, councilors, council staff and other guests heard how NALC’s ‘Star Councils’ were making a difference to local people through innovations in areas such as community safety, energy use and recycling, digital communications, isolation and well-being, community transport and protecting community assets.
Local government minister Marcus Jones MP (Nuneaton) attended the reception, taking part in a group photo with ‘Star Councils’ winners and finalists on NALC’s ‘Putting the heart in the community’ heart and bench which has travelled the country as part of the ‘Create a council’ campaign.
Andrea Jenkyns MP, chair of the APPG, said: “Parish councils are a vital part of our local democracy and are at the heart of the community.
“The APPG has an important job to champion parishes in parliament, promoting the changes needed to help them do more for local people, as well as showcasing good practice and celebrating how they are making a real difference.
“It’s precisely for this latter reason we wanted to hold this event to celebrate those councils who have been recognised through NALC’s Star Councils, an initiative I wholeheartedly welcome and support.
“And it is with real pleasure I am able to launch this year’s Star Councils and I encourage MPs to nominate councils in their area and get their brilliant work recognised.”
At an extraordinary meeting of the APPG immediately prior to the event Scott Mann MP (North Cornwall) was elected vice chair. Speaking at the reception he said: “It is a privilege to be elected vice chair of this important parliamentary group.
“I believe passionately in the work of parishes who make a real difference to people’s lives and who know their communities best; more powers should be devolved to them.”
Dr Jonathan Owen, chief executive of NALC, said:
“I want to thank Andrea for hosting this event and for leading the APPG on local democracy. With devolution gathering pace and the APPG championing parishes, I am sure the future of our most local level of government and community action is very bright indeed.
“Our brilliant Star Councils show just how parishes are changing, and changing fast, doing things we'd not have expected from them in the past.
“But we need the help of everyone in this room and beyond to recognise and celebrate what parishes can and are doing, and their potential to support healthy, vibrant, prosperous local communities.
“Parishes are the backbone of local democracy in many areas, but not everywhere: we want to see the whole of England parished. Real progress continues to be made with more than two hundred set up over the last decade, increasingly in urban areas like Birmingham, London and Ashford.
“I want to call on your support to help us to make it easier for communities to set up even more councils which can deliver the kind of strong communities which are typified by our Star Councils.”