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Council of the Week: Folkestone Town Council
Having been awarded the Quality Standard twice under the old scheme and been awarded both the Foundation and Quality Awards under the new Local Council Award Scheme, it is clear to see that Folkestone is a town council is a high achiever, and an obvious candidate for Council of the Week.
The council is one of the first to be awarded under the new Local Council Award Scheme since its launch in January, and these accolades have been given in recognition of its excellence in community governance and leadership. An ambitious council, wanting to be at the forefront of best practice in performance management, the council is committed to achieving the highest level – Quality Gold within the next few months.
Folkestone Town Council is still in its infancy having only formed in 2004 following a referendum in 2003 and the subsequent approval of the Secretary of State. It is one of the largest town councils in the country representing a population of around 50,000 in south east Kent with a precept of £581,830. Folkestone Town Council has 18 Councillors who are supported by full and part time officers. We are pleased to learn that the council also benefits from enthusiastic volunteer support.
Folkestone Town Council provides a range of services to support the town including but not limited to Public Realm CCTV, Christmas Lighting, Allotments, Flowerbeds & Trees, Salt & Litter Bins, Visitor Information and like many town councils runs a large number of events throughout the year ranging from Civic Memorial Services, Armed Forces Day Celebrations, to Youth Sports Tournaments. The council also has various Grant Schemes which it utilises to support other initiatives and projects in the town.
The council has developed an informative and regularly updated website and distributes a Town Crier newsletter to all homes via Royal Mail every quarter. Folkestone is also a fine example for other councils with its use of social media – with active Twitter and Facebook accounts, with an impressive number of followers.
The council is notable for working closely and collaboratively with others on a number of local initiatives and projects towards a shared goal of making Folkestone a great place to live, work and play.
Having been successful in buying back the Town Hall in 2011 and gaining agreement from Kent County Council that it will gift the towns heritage and art collections back to the council if it could provide a venue that meets museum accreditation standards, Folkestone Town Council has embarked on a major project Folkestone’s HEART. The council was awarded a stage one pass and a development grant of £49,800 to work up its plans and will know in September whether it will be granted a stage two pass of £1.95m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The HEART project aims to deliver the following:
Heritage - brings together and conserves currently dispersed collections
Education - provides both formal and informal learning opportunities
Art - enhances cultural access and understanding of heritage
Regeneration - revitalises a challenged town economy
Tourism - provides a focal information point for visitors
Finally, NALC would like to take this opportunity to give personal recognition to Jennifer Childs, Folkestone’s town clerk. Jennifer holds the Certificate in Local Council Administration and is also qualified in Community Engagement and Governance. She is a member of the Institute of Local Council Management and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. Since joining council in 2010, Jennifer has been providing exemplary leadership for the council and has gained the respect of all who work with her, and leading by example has shown an impressive commitment to the town council and the towns heritage by being instrumental in securing the return of the town hall whilst raising circa £250,000 of match funding for the Folkestone’s HEART project.
Congratulations to Folkestone for its continued drive, ambition and achievement which we are pleased to recognise and share as a fine example of best practice.