Council of the Week: Blandford Forum Town Council
Blandford Forum Town Council has an estimated population of 10,541 with approximately 4,806 dwellings in 409 hectares of land. The town council has 16 councillors and 15 members of staff. It supplements the provision of local government services and provides a range of social and recreational facilities, while promoting and representing the town with other national and statutory bodies.
The council has evolved over the years, taking on additional services such as public conveniences, amenity areas and a commitment to fund the leisure centre at £50,000 a year.
Members of staff have adapted to their ever-increasing workload and their commitment to their roles within the community has ensured that an excellent level of service is maintained.
The council is part of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) Local Council Award Scheme (LCAS) and has achieved Quality status. The council aims to have adopted a Neighbourhood Plan by the end of 2016.
Numerous events are held throughout the year. A two-day Health & Wellbeing event, to promote the huge variety of activities available, is arranged with the community partnership, clinical commissioning group, surgeries, Dorset Community Action and local sports clubs. A community expo is also organised by the council, giving organisations the opportunity to showcase what they do. Councillors continue to arrange events for the centenary of WWI between 2014 and 2018 and also recognise and mark all Royal events, flying the Union Jack, St. George and Blandford Forum flag throughout the year. To support local families free children’s entertainment is provided during school holidays as well as a Christmas pantomime.
Since 2012 the council has been working with neighbouring councils providing a unified response to the district council on its core strategy. From this the cumulative Neighbourhood Plan has developed and the referendum will take place in 2016. The council works with Friends of the Corn Exchange group, focussing on the regeneration of the building for the benefit of the community. Due to the Camp’s location, it has close links with the council and events organised in partnership are very well supported. Two Freedom Parades will be held in 2016 and this will be the council’s third year of organising the Remembrance Sunday parade. Engagement with the business group and local police is regular and positive.
The council’s Facebook page has nearly 1,500 likes and is used as a quick and effective method of communication. In 2015 a short film was uploaded to encourage people to stand for election, which resulted in the town clerk visiting the school to promote voter registration. Facebook posts include project updates, news items, road closures, council events and links to agendas. As not everyone is on Facebook, and to present a more structured view, the website is also kept up-to-date and includes budget information, remits, policies and standing orders. Newsletters, the media and local organisations are also used as a method of communicating with the public.
The council is part of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) Local Council Award Scheme (LCAS) and was the first council in Dorset to achieve Quality Award. The accreditation panel commented that the council comes across as a very well organised and focused council with excellent administration and accountability to its residents. In addition, the council’s use of social media, the comprehensive range of well-prepared policies and the amount of information available on the website were all commended. There is a clear commitment to go on and achieve the Quality Gold Award. Both the town clerk and assistant town clerk hold the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA). The council also aims to have adopted a Neighbourhood Plan by the end of 2016.