Foundation Award — Starting the journey
Author: Joanne Riddle, town clerk at Bingham Town Council
After a challenging period of time for the council, the Local Council’s Award Scheme was considered as a positive way to provide residents reassurance that the council were not only meeting their responsibilities, but they were exceeding them and were striving to constantly improve. Staff know that the council meet the legal requirements expected of them and that they take their scrutiny role seriously, but after a negative time it can be difficult to change that view with the community.
The Local Council’s Award Scheme gave the council the opportunity to start that process of building back the council’s reputation. Having an independent panel from an outside organisation endorse the Award, is of great benefit to show that the council is recognised for its achievements and commitment to good governance. Starting at the Foundation Award level gives an opportunity to make sure that each stage is achieved to the highest standard. As the local elections have now taken place, the next term of office will have the opportunity to build on the Foundation success and work towards the Quality Award.
Before applying for the Foundation Award, we considered the criteria required carefully as sometimes everyday tasks can be missed by the most experienced staff. Clerks know only too well that the job involves daily multi-tasking, arranging funerals, replacing broken play equipment, reports of fallen trees and that these calls on our time often take precedence. The criteria list therefore served as a useful check and balance and it was also a great training tool for staff.
Talking to another clerk locally who had completed the process, prior to starting the application, also helped. Clerking can often be a lonely place and shared experiences will help to give you confidence and knowledge of the process, making the application stage less daunting. Start by taking the time to consider if you meet each point and if the information required is clear and accessible to the panel. Once you have done this, start the application as it is more straight forward than you may think. If you are working on the application over time, a useful tip is to spot check of all of the links prior to submitting the application on your website.
The triage stage was hugely beneficial to highlight any tweaks that were needed prior to panel consideration, giving the council the best opportunity to succeed. The feedback was constructive and only served to strengthen the council’s application and work moving forward.
On receiving the Award, it was exciting to be recognised and gave the staff a great moral boost. With a new council in place, it gives them the confidence that the Council has a good grounding to build on. The council are committed to strengthening its communication with residents to give confidence to the community and to build back its reputation. The council have committed to progressing through the Award stages to show that commitment to continuous improvement.
Whilst working on the Foundation Award application, the town council also took the Civility and Respect Pledge after working with an improvement board. It has been very successful and was a great way to show the councillors and staff are committed to working positively and we proudly display the posters around the building.
Councils are often not forthcoming in promoting the positive for fear of criticism, that’s why the Local Council’s Award Scheme should be embraced and promoted as recognition in the sector. It has been an opportunity for the council to share with others the success that can be achieved in working together. We will be taking the time to write to the local MP and principal authority to showcase the council’s achievement and their commitment to scrutiny and good governance.
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