Putting communities in control
National Association of Local Councils’ (NALC) Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday 29 October 2014, saw a direction forward to putting local (parish and town) councils and communities more in control of how their lives are run and public services delivered to them.
Hundreds of delegates from local council and County Association areas from around England gathered together to formulate a way forward for the sector to further turn the dreams of localism into a reality.
Kris Hopkins MP, department of Communities and Local Government (CLG), minister said: “I’m delighted to be here today. I’m from Keighley and I started my political career in local government – from the outset, I had to team up with my local parishes – they earnt my respect very early on as it was clear that they knew their local communities inside out.
“Now is a particularly exciting time for town and parish councils, as you have a crucial role to play in building localism.”
“Delivering services locally can mean people receive better services – local councils can draw on local knowledge; community support and engagement; and efficient organisation.”
The minister commented on one of NALC’s key campaigns around Council Tax support funding, where we are demanding of principal (county, district, unitary or borough) councils to pass over the monies that the Government has given them to pass on to local councils to mitigate the effects of changes in council tax support funding.
He said: “In the first year of local council tax support, Government made an estimation of how much of the grant funding ought to go to parishes – around forty million pounds. I was encouraged to see that billing authorities passed down over ninety-five per cent of that money last year. It shows that local authorities recognise the important role parishes play in local democracy and in delivering local services.
“However, I am extremely disappointed to see that billing authorities are planning to pass down 20 per cent less this year.”
“I expect billing authorities to continue to passing funding on to town and parish councils and have written [will be writing] to the thirty-one local authorities who have indicated they have no intention of passing funding down any funding this year.
“It simply cannot be acceptable to local taxpayers if parishes are left with no choice but to increase council tax precepts or scale back services to fill the void. Billing authorities and parishes must work together to ensure they secure the best outcome for local tax payers – and be answerable to them if they don’t.”
NALC’s AGM passed a motion on this calling for the Government to take further urgent action by identifying council tax support funding in the 2015/16 financial settlement; and introducing statutory guidance to billing authorities. Then finally entering into urgent discussions about how to pass on council tax support funding directly.
The other motion passed on the day demanded that NALC supports and pursues the implementation in England of a code of conduct for local government employees, as has been in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for several years.
Delegates supports NALC’s strategic pursuits of:
Delivering quality services to County Associations and member local councils
Encouraging the creation of more local councils where communities want them
Better promotion and representation of the local council sector
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, said in general about the state of the parish sector: “I believe this is tremendous time for our sector and for County Associations of Local Councils and NALC. I have attended all three party conferences over the last couple of months and have been struck by how receptive all the parties are to the cause of localism and how they are listening to our new Manifesto.
In our Manifesto we make a very simple case for stronger local democracy, fairer funding and more powers for communities and local councils.”