NALC's Star Council Awards are the only awards in England that recognise local (parish and town) councils' contributions to their communities. The long-running awards celebrate the positive impact local councils, councillors, young councillors, clerks and county associations make on their communities. The winners will be announced at an online awards ceremony later this year.
THIS YEAR'S CEREMONY
The Star Council Awards 2022 winners were unveiled at an online ceremony on 13 October 2022 at noon (12 pm). The ceremony will be open to everyone in the sector and beyond to watch and celebrate all the winners' hard work.
BHIB Councils Insurance
BHIB Councils Insurance provides specialist insurance and risk management services to local and parish councils.
BHIB Councils Insurance is part of BHIB Ltd, one of the UK’s leading independent commercial insurance brokers with a proud history dating back over 50 years. We continue to improve our services as a proud member of the CLEAR Group, delivering bespoke insurance programmes and advice to the public, private and charity sectors, and membership organisations.
No two councils are the same. That’s why BHIB provide a range of insurance options to protect not only your council’s assets and liabilities, but also your clerks, councillors, and volunteers. From public liability, employers’ liability, and property damage insurance to the provision of risk management advice and useful templates, BHIB Councils Insurance are on hand to support you.
Aubergine is one of the UK's leading experts in providing WCAG2.1AA compliant accessible websites and apps for parish and town councils. With over 30 years of experience and a UK-based team of web accessibility specialists, Aubergine combines this with first-hand practical experience gained over years of being parish councillors and working in the public sector to deliver an easy-to-use accessible website platform for parishes and towns.
They are JISC authorised to work with .gov.uk domains, Crown Commercial Service and Cyber Essentials accredited.
Their platform features include a page builder, events and news modules, meetings calendar, document archives, ticket booking systems and online payments. All underpinned by regular support plus access to the Aubergine Learning Centre video library of web accessibility tips.
New for 2022 is their Community Engagement App for Apple & Android that comes with exciting and powerful tools to help councils engage with their community.
Begin your council's journey towards making your website more inclusive and compliant.
Blachere Illumination has been creating festive lighting for over 45 years with care and passion. They are global leaders in the production of eco-responsible lighting, as well as a new summer range.
Being the manufacturer, Blachere can help with the entire process and any budget size. They have a dedicated team of staff ready to help you create a magical scheme. The Bioprint and Recyprint eco ranges can help councils achieve elements of their climate plans.
Breakthrough Communications is a specialist communications company that helps local councils connect with their communities.
Their experienced team has decades of combined professional experience in the world of communications and engagement - and many of them have also served as councillors and clerks. That means they understand the importance of good communication, how to build engagement effectively, and the unique world of parish and town councils.
They use their wide range of skills to help supercharge council communications, whatever your needs and requirements.Whether it's communications strategies, social media support, neighbourhood plan engagement consultations, council annual reports, resident surveys or consultations, and a range of other done-for-you and on-demand services, they've got your council covered.
CCLA’s purpose is to help investors maximise their impact on society by harnessing the power of investment markets. They have been investing responsibly and ethically for more than 50 years. They don’t claim to have the answers to many societal challenges. Still, they do have specific skills and an interest in social and economic justice, which they think makes us unique in the investment industry. They are very interested in talking to delegates about what more ‘good’ they could do together for a better world.
CCLA Investment Management Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
DCK Accounting Solutions
DCK Accounting Solutions has built a reputation as the industry leader in providing accounting solutions to local councils with a client base throughout England and Wales.
Services provided include preparation of full outsourced accounting services, annual accounts, budgeting assistance, specialist advice on VAT & payroll, plus advice and feasibility work relating to capital projects.
Young people, and young councillors, in particular, are vital to the future of our sector of local government, and we are proud and privileged to be supporting them in their efforts to develop the spread of the sector’s work.
Council of the Year (Sponsored by Blachere Illumination)
WINNER: Alcester Town Council, Warwickshire and West Midlands
Alcester Town Council (ATC) has focused on the health and well-being of its residents since 2016.
By creating a Health and Wellbeing Board, including members of the local statutory and voluntary sector and other interested parties, the council’s vision and objective have been to develop a resilient community by building capacity and social networks.
The board recognises the importance of helping the community feel more connected so that people can share information, feel less isolated and increase their sense of belonging and wellbeing.
Alcester Town Council is unusual in that it employs a health and wellbeing coordinator whose job is to partner with local organisations to create new services, activities, events, and projects that meet the needs of the community; represent and support existing groups and societies that promote health and wellbeing in the community, help to initiate, develop, and lead on any new projects and services and put forward the wishes and needs of the local community through consultation and two-way communication.
Many activities and projects outlined below are a direct consequence of the ideas and responses received from the community in Alcester, most are currently delivered by the community, and all promote inclusion and build community cohesion. Funding has been sought, and relationships forged with both the private and public sectors to bring about the vision many community members have felt most passionate about.
The main projects this year have included Cook and Eat Your Tea which helps different groups of people to cook together and then sit down and eat the meal they have prepared, the Well Connected computer group, which Alcester Town Council supports alongside eight volunteers, the Repair Café Alcester which is also supported by Alcester Town Council, a weekly group for adults with learning and /or physical disabilities called The Crafty Lunch Club that is delivered with financial support from Alcester Town Council, the Gone Fishin fishing programme for a small number of residents that may find themselves suffering from health inequalities, Get A Move On fitness classes for the over 60s and a holiday lunch club funded by Alcester Town Council which provides hot lunches for local children. The lunch club was an initiative by a resident during the lockdown and now continues during school holidays.
Bridport Town Council, Dorset
Bridport Town Council in Dorset is a small town with only 8,500 residents and 18 full-time staff members, but that doesn't stop it from punching above its weight, delivering on par with some of the larger councils.
The council is outward-looking and extends its community impact through partnership and relationship-building. It works with community groups such as Bridport Local Area Partnership (BLAP), which brings together around 100 community/voluntary groups and 14 local councils. BLAP provides a forum for community working and a focus on particular issues. It is currently engaged in homelessness/rough sleeping and health and wellbeing. The council has strong links with Dorset Council and, in recent years, has worked together to deliver coastal communities projects, redevelop the town's bus station, improve access and movement, COVID-19 recovery work, and provide support for Ukrainian refugees. The council also operates a stakeholder working group and is working on a joint funding bid to improve the town centre.
When it comes to service delivery, the council has risen to the challenge of devolution and has taken on many services from Dorset Council. They include highway verge maintenance, sitting-out licensing and A-boards, tourist information centre, round-town bus service, and the popular charity car boot sale.
The council coordinates service provision, projects and priorities under a five-year corporate plan created and agreed upon in consultation with residents. The council engages widely and routinely with the community, from its Access & Movement Study, where they consulted face-to-face and online with over 6,000 residents, to writing to every household in Bridport for its consultation on Community Governance Review, which received over 500 responses. The council engages at public events and has a presence at all of Bridport's community events. The council also host as many as 50 community groups alongside their stands at the Community Charter Fair. Through their online presence, the council publish a regular mayoral blog and offer virtual attendance at all town council meetings.
The council go above and beyond for the community in several ways, such as being the UK's only Rights Respecting Town to embed human rights within the community, declaring a climate emergency with an extensive action plan, and rescuing community facilities (tourist information centre, community hall, car boot sale, the iconic Literary & Scientific Institute and the Youth & Community Centre).
Flitwick Town Council, Bedfordshire
Flitwick Town Council works with many other local authorities and organisations. The council has always worked with Central Bedfordshire Council, but recently a joint committee was established to enable both organisations to work better together and allow for project planning in line with strategies.
The council works in partnership with the Police, Central Bedfordshire Council, businesses, youth service providers and residents by engaging with them. It has regular meetings with partners to discuss issues such as anti-social behaviour and crime.
The council does not stand still. Services are evaluated regularly to ensure what is being delivered is high quality and wanted by the community. Recent improvements have included an increase in community development work, especially around vulnerable adults, youth services and a supportive role in community safety, alongside partners in the Police and the unitary authority. The council supports community projects by way of promotion and by enabling groups to meet free of charge at the Rufus Centre.
There are various communication channels available for those wishing to contact the council. As well the telephone, face-to-face and email, the council also operates on three social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Regular councillor surgeries are held online and at various locations within the town, with councillors also being present at the weekly market.
In the last year, a new strategy for services was launched following a public consultation. The feedback shaped the council’s priorities, and a delivery plan to achieve these goals is being worked on. For the first time, the council conducted a resident's satisfaction survey, the outcomes from which are actively being followed up by committees.
Last summer, the council successfully purchased a property complete with amenity space in the town centre. This allowed for a remarkable Christmas Lights Switch On event and will continue to be a site for community events going forward.
The council runs a successful café, attracting visitors of all ages and backgrounds who receive exceptional service, high-quality catering and affordable prices.
The council recently changed how they deal with planning applications by proactively engaging with developers at an earlier stage to get the best possible results for the community.
Hatton Parish Council, Derbyshire
Hatton Parish Council used the pandemic and its aftermath to truly build back better.
Despite being one of the less affluent parishes in the south of Derbyshire, the whole community in Hatton has emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic with new wellbeing initiatives, events, social spaces and partnerships and even new support charities thanks to the dynamic council.
As Hatton came to terms with the ‘new normal’ of Covid, the council adopted the objectives of its five-year plan to specifically address the community's needs.
Firstly, it employed a new warden to ensure footpaths and green spaces were kept clear. New borders were planted, and an outdoor gym and section of a circular path were installed in partnership with Western Power. The council also worked with a support group called Hatton Helpers with deliveries, errands and befriending. The group is now in the process of setting up its own charity to continue this valuable work.
In 2019, in response to a local questionnaire that showed residents wanted a space for reflection and remembrance, a national charity, People Express, was engaged to help create Hatton’s new Peace and Hope garden. Nestle, the builder of a new housing estate in the parish and energy company Mercia were enlisted to help financially and practically with the supply of machinery and materials.
On a light-hearted note, the council staged an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Comedy of Errors’ by the Oddsocks Theatre Company, partly funded by a county council grant.
Determined to ensure no part of the community felt left out, the council forged new relationships with local nurseries and schools and enlisted their help to decorate tree baubles as part of an extended Christmas lights scheme. Meanwhile, pupils from the local secondary school approached the council and explained how open spaces and play provision formed a vital part of their lives during Covid, leading to £25,000 being allocated from the 20/21 precept to build a brand-new skatepark.
Lastly the council played a pivotal role in the roll-out of the Covid vaccination scheme. Working closely with Hatton’s pharmacist, the council agreed to release clerk Jacqui Storer to coordinate the administrative set-up of Derbyshire’s first community vaccination centre. Councillors also provided practical support in all areas ranging from gazebos and barriers to biowaste bins and parking.
Totnes Town Council, Devon
Totnes Town Council takes an innovative approach to the services it offers to enhance the well-being of the people and businesses in the town and to build long-term resilience in challenging times.
The council recognises that many established community groups and organisations in Totnes are well placed to deliver the support local people need. The council has instigated an annual community grant process of £50,000 to support local initiatives directly and employs a part-time community coordinator with the expertise needed to help more local groups find funding.
In the last year, Totnes Town Council has directly facilitated £545,000 in funding for the benefit of Totnes. This has supported a range of projects, including bike repair workshops, community transport schemes, expanding the foodbank, funding for youth services, and wildflower meadow planting to enhance green spaces.
Urgently reducing the carbon footprint of travel, addressing air pollution and considering long-term projects to combat climate change is another priority for the council, which has recruited a Green Travel Coordinator to facilitate more ambitious thinking about how to achieve this. Achievements so far include a trial park and ride scheme, a traffic calming consultation, applying for 20mph limits in town, and a bicycle repair station.
Totnes Town Council’s Community Coordinator role has now developed to proactively help groups with securing funding to deliver their business plans.
A partnership network established by the council during Covid continues to meet regularly, dealing with issues such as homelessness, anti-social behaviour, youth provision, support for the food bank and community transport/outreach initiatives.
Similarly, the council’s Green Travel Coordinator brings together and supports the various local groups and organisations with similar aims.
The council strives to provide meaningful two-way communication, including through accessible town centre offices open 10 am — 4 pm daily, an active social media presence, a website updated to share news and information, a visible town maintenance officer (and Assistant) in a branded uniform so people can easily spot them to ask questions and public consultations, which are held in a variety of formats. For example, Totnes Town Council has just completed a consultation for Devon County Council regarding proposed road safety enhancements. This included an in-person event and an online survey and achieved 767 responses.
Councillor of the Year (Sponsored by Breakthrough Communications)
Cllr Tom Barkley, Syston Town Council
Cllr Tom Barkley is in his third term as chair of Syston Town Council and has been able to steer the council towards its goals, keeping members working strategically. He is invaluable to other council members and has time for anyone, even when his own time is limited. He provides advice and reads reports to identify potential improvements, endeavouring to embrace his strategic role as chair of the council by helping to develop officers and councillors alike into competent and confident stakeholders of the council.
Cllr Barkley has worked with the Town Manager on several projects. These include the provision of floodlighting at the skate park to enable it to be enjoyed for more extended periods in darker months and traffic monitoring to establish the best places for speed-activated signs to be placed. They also facilitated the Forestry Commission's planting of 71 trees in the parish council’s green spaces.
Cllr Barkley has had a particular interest in charitable work, supporting several local charities within the town and helping them to get grant funding. The council has carried out fundraising for charitable causes, with over £3000 raised at the Chairman’s Civic Reception and Fundraising Fashion Show this year for LOROS, a charity supporting hospice care in the local area.
In addition to his role as chair of Syston Town Council, Cllr Barkley is deputy leader at Charnwood Borough Council and is a Leicestershire county councillor. He uses his contacts at these different levels of local government to benefit Syston residents and the council. He also regularly meets with the local police and PCSOs to highlight issues in the town. For the residents of the parish council itself, he arranges and hoses monthly councillor surgeries on Saturday mornings.
One of Cllr Barkley’s significant projects this year was chairing a panel consisting of the town manager, councillors, architects, and builders who were involved in the refurbishment and expansion of the sports pavilion. This is a half-a million-pound project, for which Cllr Barkley ensured the council were prepared by monitoring available budgets and spending. Having had the first contractor breach contract, Cllr Barkley was instrumental in securing a new contractor and sourcing extra funding sources given inflated costs due to post-pandemic materials shortages.
Cllr Shaun Davies, Great Dawley Town Council
Cllr Shaun Davies was elected as a councillor in 2007 at the age of 21 and was elected chair in 2016, a position he continues to hold. Cllr Davies is a role model for the local community and is passionate about delivering a high-quality service.
Cllr Davies’ leadership has been instrumental in many improvements in the local community. Local services have been enhanced, for example, the refurbishment of the historic Dawley Town Hall, and new ones have been set up, such as the gardening service, which gives parish members over 70 or registered disabled access to free gardening. The free annual event programme has also been extended. It now includes community days, weekly dinners, breakfast club and school holiday activities, monthly tea dances and chatty clubs, and much more, engaging thousands of residents.
Cllr Davies has ensured that he is embedded in the local community, making himself accessible and visible through the explicit provision of contact details, diligent answering of queries on social media platforms, attending council events, and completing ward walks and litter picks in the local area. He has recently gone further and is at the forefront of the idea of relocating the town council offices to the centre of the local high street and opening a Saturday Surgery for the community to be able to meet their local councillors and discuss any issues they may have. The Saturday Surgery is designed to include those residents who can’t access town council services within core hours.
Cllr Davies uses his imagination and ambition to think outside of the box. For example, he oversaw the renovation of an empty building, bringing it back into community use, providing a free space for local organisations, agencies, charities, and voluntary groups. This was a challenging project, with both structural and utility issues, but Cllr Davies ensured that the project was kept on track and that communication of issues to relevant parties remained strong throughout.
Finally, Cllr Davies is always looking for new opportunities to enhance his support of the local community. For example, he recently gained the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA) qualification to deepen his understanding of the role of local councils.
Cllr April Gardner, Debden Parish Council
Cllr April Gardner is vice-chair of Debden Parish Council and is serving her second term as a councillor. She is driven by the desire to enhance the local community for the benefit of the residents, as demonstrated by her close involvement in projects to regenerate the centre of the village and in organising numerous local events to bring the community together.
Cllr Gardner gets the best out of people, coordinating various groups to get tasks done. Her fundraising skills are instrumental in enabling projects. This is exemplified by her leadership of a project to completely renovate the village playground, securing the required funding of £57,000 from local and national bodies and project managing the design, stakeholders and grant administration. She also engages in more novel grassroots fundraising methods involving the local community, such as Easter quiz trails and buy-a-brick schemes. She recently fundraised for the Jubilee events, covering all costs and ensuring that residents could enjoy the celebrations.
Cllr Gardner shows her passion for the community in other ways, including regularly arranging and participating in litter picks and her recent launch of a village pond restoration project, having secured National Lottery funding. She also has an impressive track record in the organisation of community events. Recently, she arranged the village centenary celebrations and a four-day programme of events for the Queen’s Jubilee.
In addition to this, Cllr Gardner has been able to use her talents as a graphic designer to benefit the community. She has designed posters, websites, and flyers to keep residents informed and engaged. She has also led the way in ensuring that the council is accessible via social media, setting up a Facebook page, and responding to social media enquiries.
She is a friendly, approachable, popular and respected councillor, as evidenced by the volunteers willing to help her achieve projects. She seeks opportunities to improve her knowledge, attending training and local forums to discuss local issues. She always maintains a positive attitude and focuses on the task at large. Her dedication and contributions have had a hugely positive impact on the Parish. She is a busy mum and has a job but somehow manages to go above and beyond for the local community.
Cllr Katherine Keats-Rohan, Wallingford Town Council
Cllr Katherine Keats-Rohan has been a councillor at Wallingford Town Council since 2019., during which time she has demonstrated a high level of commitment and dedication to Wallingford and its residents.
One of her key strengths is her position as a well-renowned historian with a wealth of knowledge of Wallingford’s rich history. This expertise has enabled her successful oversight of the Wallingford Castle Ruins Conservation Project, with the council successfully receiving grants from Historic England of £286,000 and a further £50,000 awarded by the Wolfson Foundation.
Cllr Keats-Rohan also uses her knowledge as a historian to spend time on the town’s ongoing projects, such as assessing what is needed to restore Wallingford’s nationally significant heritage, including town hall conservation, castle ruins conservation and the restoration of Saxon defences. Showing such determination and passion for historical projects is of significant help to the council.
Cllr Keats-Rohan is the chairperson of many working parties in the council, including the neighbourhood planning steering group, the historic assets working group, and the climate change working group. She is particularly passionate about the latter and runs a series of events throughout the year to raise awareness of climate change issues. These events also aim to equip residents, as both individuals and a community, to make positive changes. She has also led the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, collaborating with other parishes in the OX10 district to come together for a significant tree planting and hedge laying boost in the local area to mark the platinum jubilee.
Finally, Cllr Keats-Rohan has been instrumentally involved with the Wallingford Neighbourhood Plan, coordinating updates and working with the necessary councils and planning authorities about the local development plan, mainly focusing on the new significant sites that are planned in Wallingford. She has also been involved with delivering a new play area and pavilion and its ongoing progress.
WINNER: Cllr Jeremy Richardson, Cold Norton Parish Council
Cllr Jeremy Richardson is elected to Cold Norton Parish Council in Essex. From February 2020, he enthusiastically took on the challenge of leading a working party with not one but three demanding aims. The first of these was to secure funding and oversee the design of new children’s play equipment in the village park to replace old, outdated apparatus. The second was to design an extension to the existing village hall car park, seek funding for the build costs and identify contractors. The final and most significant challenge was to deliver a civil engineering project that sought to significantly upgrade the unmade and heavily pot-holed road surface leading to the village hall in the hopes of attracting more visitors and business.
Demonstrating his determination and public-spiritedness, Cllr Richardson worked largely alone over two years throughout the covid pandemic to bring the project to the point where phase one has been successfully completed, and both planning permission and funding for phases two and three have been secured, with completion expected later this year. To deliver the project in this timeframe, especially given business delays caused by the pandemic, has been truly impressive.
From the outset, Cllr Richardson set out a detailed project plan, identifying objectives, requirements, and funding options for each phase. Throughout the project, Cllr Richardson provided comprehensive updates to the parish council, as well as to the village hall management committee and parish residents. He went even further in ensuring that the community were included in the project by inviting views from all relevant stakeholders at critical stages, including liaising with Cold Norton School and the local playgroup and allowing the children to vote on their preferred design.
The project hinged on the submission of detailed loan applications submitted to the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) and complete planning applications submitted and resubmitted to Maldon District Council. The approval of these gave the village hall fourteen extra parking spaces and has made new play equipment and road improvement possible.
Local children are now able to play in a modern play area, and soon the village hall will benefit from the improvements that Cllr Richardson has been instrumental in bringing about, allowing it to gain new business and prosper.
Young Councillor of the Year (Sponsored by DCK Accounting Solutions)
Cllr Jake Bonetta, Honiton Town Council
Cllr Jake Bonetta is a 20-year-old student, elected to Honiton Town Council in May 2021, who participates in several community activities.
He works with all councillors and council staff through full council meetings and with the majority of councillors and officers on several committees, working groups and outside bodies. Cllr Bonnetta also has special responsibility for arts, culture and heritage issues.
Local services for the community have been improved through Cllr Bonnetta’s leadership of Food Save. Cllr Bonnetta has established and manages daily operating processes, including setting strategic direction, securing grants, including Sixth Form volunteers and working to provide longer-term community support services.
Cllr Bonnetta has also set up community fridges for anyone to donate or receive food in Honiton and surrounding areas.
Cllr Bonnetta is working with a collective endeavour to take on high street premises as a one-stop shop for TRIP and other community support organisations.
Cllr Bonnetta is currently working with Citizens Advice concerning the setting up of a local office and co-operation on Food Save. Citizens Advice also refer residents to Cllr Bonnetta for casework issues.
Cllr Bonnetta is a committee member of TRIP and is working closely with their community engagement manager to boost interaction with the public.
Cllr Bonnetta has assisted with grant applicants for The Fairtrade Steering Group and recently on a street stall.
Cllr Bonnetta writes articles for the local paper and uses Facebook to share information, post videos and elicit public comments. Following concern over parking, Cllr Bonnetta, with another councillor, visited every property in the street. After consultation at the district council level, they provided feedback to residents to allay their concerns.
Cllr Bonnetta entered a successful motion to pause all non-essential committee work. Instead, policies, standing orders and the structure of council documentation were reviewed to ensure compliance with legislation, proper working and benefit for the community.
As a district councillor, Cllr Bonnetta is a link with Honiton Town Council, providing a communication channel. Cllr Bonnetta has lobbied to keep local toilet facilities open and ensure a proper transfer of ownership to the Honiton Town Council.
Consulting school children and residents, Cllr Bonnetta has gathered ideas on the renovation of Honiton’s play areas, including the children’s design for their ideal parks.
Cllr Adam Duce, Godalming Town Council
Cllr Adam Duce was elected in 2019 and represents a ward in Godalming with the highest employment deprivation and the 8th highest area for income deprivation affecting children in Surrey.
He is passionate about the life chances of young people and, having attended sessions on youth engagement at the 2019 NALC Annual Conference, took the lead in investigating issues relating to youth provision within Godalming. The community highlighted that although there are many youth organisations such as Scouting, Girl Guiding and Cadet Forces since the county council closed the Godalming Youth Centre in 2008, there was no universal, free-to-access youth club in the area.
Cllr Duce led the task and finish the group by exploring ways in which a safe space, managed and run by professional youth workers, could be provided.
Cllr Duce worked hard to break down barriers to the idea of providing a youth club in Godalming and continued to push for a youth service provision during the pandemic. This led to the council agreeing to hold a public consultation as to whether it should fund a youth club by increasing the parish precept. The consultation came back with 89% of respondents being in favour of the council doing so. Therefore, at the full council meeting on 15 July 2021, Councillor Duce’s proposal that Godalming Town provides a universal, free-to-access youth club operated and funded by Godalming Town Council was approved.
With the council agreeing to fund premises and staff costs, Cllr Duce and his team secured donations from local groups, organisations and individuals to equip the centre. On 3 May 2022, the community saw the opening of its new youth club, which now provides activities Monday – Friday for young people by way of an after-school ‘turn up/drop in’ and evening activity clubs. With nearly 10% of young people from the town’s secondary school now using the youth centre, the centre will be expanding to provide a new music studio and a separate computing room. Funding has also been secured to provide meal service during the summer school holidays. As well as championing the opening of the youth centre, Cllr Duce also championed the Surrey Pride Festival and, in May 2022, was elected deputy mayor.
Cllr Frankie Gilkes, Rothersthorpe Parish Council
Before undertaking a formal role on Rothersthorpe Parish Council, Cllr Frankie Gilkes had been immersed in village life, preparing responses to planning applications and assisting with communication with the village via social media channels. Cllr Gilkes was co-opted onto the council in 2020 and nominated parish council chairperson in 2021. His organisational skills, enthusiasm and tenacity have meant that the council has evolved immensely, with improved councillor-to-councillor communication and councillor-to-resident communication and more joined-up working.
Much of this is down to the introduction of measures including a working tracker on Google Drive ensuring ‘matters arising are addressed’ and all councillors are clear who is working on which task, sharing of ideas on WhatsApp, updating of the website to a system that is more user friendly and through increased engagement with neighbouring local councils. An example of this was Gayton Parish Council's concern about an extensive solar farm development. Cllr Gilkes was supportive of members of their team attending meetings in Rothersthorpe to keep Rothersthorpe Parish Council updated on progress.
During his time on the council, Cllr Gilkes has been involved in several projects that have improved local services for the community. One of which was supporting the council’s decision to continue funding a bus service that was in danger of ceasing. Cllr Gilkes prepared a community survey to obtain user numbers, usage and residents' views on bus services, so the council knew the best way to progress.
Cllr Gilkes also spent time organising the village response to the West Northamptonshire strategic plan. This included running whole village meetings to ensure residents were informed and could comment on potential developments. The next phase is to write a village plan, a task Cllr Gilkes has already researched. Cllr Gilkes has also been fully supportive of the installation of a children’s play area and community space, helping to lobby the local council and getting stuck physically with the planting of new trees. He has recently taken on the role of the police liaison representative for the council and is looking to work with the council to implement measures to tackle speed within the village.
Cllr Susie Harris, Greatham Parish Council
Cllr Susie Harris was elected in 2019 as part of a group who were keen to bring about positive change in a small community.
After being elected, Cllr Harris volunteered for various projects on the council and was never afraid to try something new, always keeping in mind the projects bringing the most benefit to the community. She immediately spent time understanding the ‘rules’ surrounding local government and effectively navigated the system to great effect, bringing change to both the council and the village.
Cllr Harris is now council chairman and has shown outstanding leadership skills and fundraising abilities and forged fantastic relationships with residents, district and county councillors and the clerk.
In particular, Cllr Harris spearheaded the council’s initiatives in ecology and biodiversity. She enrolled the council on Hampshire County Council’s Pollinator Project and, subsequently, created several village wildflower verges. The council have been commended by Hampshire County Council as one of the first councils in the county to attain cultivation licenses, allowing them to maintain their wildflower verges. This has caused other organisations in the village, such as the village hall committee, to seek funding for their own wildflower spaces.
Cllr Harris also spent her free time planting hundreds of wildflower plugs with a small group of residents. She worked with the district councillor, who provided grant funding, on this project and obtained additional funding for bat and owl boxes.
In addition, Cllr Harris managed the design of ecology interpretation boards that the council is about to install in the village, fully funded by S106 developers’ contributions.
Cllr Harris has a style of chairing both persuasive and fair meetings. She has attended councillor training and worked hard with the clerk to ensure she understands meeting protocols. She uses this knowledge to bring agenda items which are thoroughly thought through, investigated and cost so that councillors can make decisions easily. She ensures every councillor has their say and will work to reach sound decisions by listening and taking all views into account.
Cllr Harris has assisted with the council’s Facebook page and has produced excellent, eye-catching newsletters, which are delivered to all residents regularly.
WINNER: Cllr Stefan Heighway, Great Dawley Town Council
Cllr Stefan Heighway was first elected to Great Dawley Town Council in 2015 aged 26 and then became the Mayor of Great Dawley between 2020-2022 at the age of 31.
Cllr Heighway has attended council meetings and event working groups, authorized payments, worked alongside staff to attend photo opportunities and events and volunteered for activities and events.
Cllr Heighway has attended events hosted by the mayors of other councils, including local carol concerts and charity events. In addition, Cllr Heighway volunteered for the borough council to help collect and deliver prescriptions for some of the community's most vulnerable members.
Cllr Heighway has been involved in the delivery of local events, consulting with the community to find out what they want to see at these events.
During the pandemic restrictions, Cllr Heighway helped deliver breakfast parcels for families on free school meals and hot meals to those that were isolated. He attended food parcel collection services at locations across the parish to remain visible with the local community, helped with signposting to partner agencies and services and hosted online videos to maintain two-way communication with the local community.
When restrictions were lifted, Cllr Heighway helped inform the community and host welcome back events. When shops and businesses reopened on the local high street, Cllr Heighway visited each business to welcome them back and thank those that worked hard during the pandemic.
Cllr Heighway hosted the Mayors Citizens Award to identify community members who had gone above and beyond for others.
Cllr Heighway opened a new building managed by the council, which offers a range of services from organisations, voluntary groups and charities that provide free local advice for the community. Cllr Heighway attended the launch event and signposted and networked between organisations and the community.
Cllr Heighway was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2010 at the age of 21. Part of this meant that he struggled in social situations and with public speaking. Since becoming a councillor and then mayor, Cllr Heighway has overcome some of the barriers and become more confident at public speaking, opening, hosting and attending public events.
County Association Project of the Year (Sponsored by CCLA)
Dorset Association of Parish and Town Councils
Dorset Council has a statutory obligation to publish the submitted register of interests for councillors at both the unitary and local (parish or town) tiers. In turn, local councils have to display the same information on their websites where they exist.
The above issue additionally provides clerks with a significant administrative burden, as well as new and existing councillors either submitting their information for the first time or making subsequent amendments.
The Dorset Association of Parish and Town Councils (DAPTC) started working with the Dorset Council on a new Register of Interest project in Spring 2020.
To support the new Code of Conduct, both unitary authorities refreshed their complaints procedures.
DAPTC saw an opportunity to combine all three changes and pulled together a comprehensive programme of training and briefings to help support member councils in 2021. Following these initial briefing sessions, DAPTC has now incorporated regular Code of Conduct (COC) / Register of Interest (ROI) training webinars within its training programme. The monthly New Councillor Induction programme includes a requirement to attend COC/ROI training.
Low-cost training can now be delivered in Dorset under this theme for member councils. Times for the training can be varied, and a significant number of sessions are also being delivered: 34 sessions have enabled as many councillors to attend as possible. A single training session has combined ROI, the Code of Conduct and the complaints procedure. Separate training for councillors and for clerks is being offered. Sessions are delivered online via Zoom. Individual / whole council training has been available.
Delegates received a copy of the training slides and access to several resources, including an ROI declaration flow chart and links to the Committee for Standards in Public Life videos about the Nolan Principles.
DAPTC’s involvement in the project saved the unitary authorities time and cost from the outset through the administration process, the training, go-live support and follow-up support.
95% of councils now have electronic ROI on the Dorset Council website.
East and West Sussex Associations of Local Councils
Since 2006 during the service of five successive chief constables, the East and West Sussex Associations of Local Councils (SALC) have developed an extremely effective working relationship with Sussex Police to the great benefit of its local councils, and since 2012 with the police and crime commissioner (PCC).
Half-yearly focus groups have been held with clusters of councils, conducted by the PCC's communications manager and SALC chief officer, asking the question 'has to police in your area improved or deteriorated in the past 6 months?' The local district commander [chief inspector] also attends.
Another example is ensuring that all communities have a named police community support officer, and through Patrol Plans, PCSOs have to indicate the process and frequency of engagement with local councils on their patch.
The SALC chief officer is the independent chair of the Sussex Police Contact Improvement Group, established to ensure that all residents of Sussex have the same satisfactory experience when contacting the police, irrespective of their ability or disability and the method of contact.
The SALC chief officer also sits on the Police Engagement Group, out of which the PCSO Patrol Plans were created and a statement of protocol indicating what local councils can expect from the police and what the police would like to see in terms of support by the local council.
A podcast was developed by SALC during lockdown to brief new entrants into Sussex Police on the role and responsibilities of local councils, originally intended for PCSOs to replace the face-to-face briefings given by SALC.
The chief constable invites relevant association chairs and the chairs of the seven District Associations to Police HQ for a half-yearly briefing on more strategic policing matters.
At the launch of the rural crime partnership in April, the SALC chief officer was invited to speak on the relationship between rural parishes and the Police Rural Crime Team.
The partnership working developed between SALC and Sussex Police helps ensure that SALC can engage relevant police support for local councils where needed.
Lincolnshire Association of Local Councils
Lincolnshire Association of Local Councils’ (LALC) standout project over the last 8 months has been its website management service. Lincolnshire County Council has supported LALC councils for many years with free websites. The introduction of new accessibility requirements caused concern for many councils, but Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) stepped forward with new, much-improved websites that meet all statutory requirements. Providing websites for over 300 councils and parish meetings was no small task, with the rollout and initial training taking much longer than expected. Nevertheless, LALC appreciated the considerable investment that LCC took to provide bright, modern, accessible websites.
Some councils, however, have found this process more challenging; like all new technologies, the websites have been better embraced by some than by others. An offer by a local resident to assist his local council by keeping the website up to date led to requests from other councils. This quickly snowballed. The initial service was free; councils wishing to acknowledge the service were asked to donate to charities chosen by the resident. It became apparent that demand for this service was much bigger than initially expected, and LALC stepped in to assist. The service was formalised to make it manageable for the resident who is now employed for this purpose. An initial trial monthly subscription has now developed into a more formal service level agreement for which councils can plan within their annual budget. This is now an established part of LALC’s offer, with currently 78 subscribing councils.
Benefits are measurable against the potential cost charged for similar services by a commercial provider. Councils can measure the time saved for their clerk, freeing them up for other activities. Less easy to measure but vitally important is the confidence of clerks and councils that websites are accessible and meet statutory needs.
The service brings additional benefits. Training is provided for clerks who wish to manage their own website; this brings increased confidence and skills which help councils in other areas. Regular communications are sent to participating councils highlighting good practice.
WINNER: Northamptonshire County Association of Local Councils
The Northamptonshire county association has delivered an innovative project to create a framework for the devolution of assets and services, build capacity, and develop a new relationship between local councils and the unitary councils in Northamptonshire.
The association worked in partnership with North Northamptonshire Council and West Northamptonshire Council, the unitary councils that were formed on 1 April 2021 as a result of local government reorganisation.
The project was funded under the UK Community Renewal Fund. In July 2021, the association bid for and was awarded £281,625. This has been used to engage a project team, provide grants to local (parish and town) councils to map assets and services in their area, procure innovative Association Management Software and engage with the unitary councils to co-design a new relationship based on the LGA’s publication Local service delivery and place-shaping: A framework to support parish and town councils.
The idea of the Asset Mapping Project (AMP) started at an Annual Conference in 2019, where Sarah Mason from Cornwall spoke on Life after Unitary Reorganisation – The Parish & Town Council Perspective. Sarah said how important it was that local councils mapped the assets and services in their parish, and that was the responsibility of the unitary council to identify what was most important to the community.
In December 2021, the association asked each of the 271 local councils in Northamptonshire to set up an AMP Working Group. The working groups were tasked with mapping the assets and services that are the responsibility of the relevant unitary council and Assets of Community Value (ACVs) and plotting them on a map by 31 March 2022.
The working groups were asked to use Parish Online. Parish Online provided a subscription for every local council in Northamptonshire and created a shared layer for working groups to use. By 31 March 2022, over 6,000 map points had been created by local councils.
Of the 271 parishes, 231 were eligible for a grant to support the mapping work (the remaining 40 being parish meetings), of which 78% claimed the grant.
Suffolk Association of Local Councils
In 2019 the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC) were invited to support and work in partnership with a range of stakeholders and collaborators in a unique campaign to plant more than 770,000 trees, shrubs and hedge plants around Suffolk to represent each resident in the county. The project recognised the benefits of using the local (parish and town) council network with a desire to benefit from the role they play as representatives of people and place and responsibilities they hold for health and wellbeing and/or as custodians of property, local knowledge and relationships. Ambitions to participate in initiatives linked to the environment and climate which offered opportunities for broader community engagement were also considered relevant.
The early discussions and concept enabled Suffolk’s Lord Lieutenancy to formally launch this local project in May 2021 to coincide with and capitalise on the Queen’s Green Canopy national campaign commemorating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June 2022.
The Queen’s Green Canopy Suffolk was added in 2022 to the Festival of Suffolk – a celebration of events and initiatives for everyone. It provided a progress report as the planting season ended and announced that over half a million trees and hedges had been planted/pledged in Suffolk as a result of the project since launch. The planting comprised 348,000 trees and 39.8km of hedging, totalling a huge 547,000 dendrological plants (woody shrubs and trees), 70% of the target of one for every resident.
SALC’s role was to present and, more importantly, translate the opportunity to town and parish councils in a more imaginative and informative way. SALC’s ambition was to inform and signpost to help encourage take up, which would be re-usable in the future – anticipating that interest in tree planting would expand for many years. The result was SALC co-designing a short film with Suffolk County Council, which premiered at a SALC webinar specifically for the local council sector, including a panel of experts allowing for questions and answers. SALC created a webpage as a reference point for resources, including a downloadable information sheet, quick links, and the recorded webinar.
Clerk of the Year (Sponsored by Aubergine)
Sarah Haydon, Biddulph Town Council
Sarah Haydon joined Biddulph Town Council as its chief officer in May 2016 and is responsible for overseeing council matters, developing strategy, good governance and managing the council’s staff.
The council has changed significantly. It is growing and ambitious, determined to improve services for the town's people. Sarah has professionalised the council, ensuring effective systems, practices, and procedures are in place and developing six key documents underpinning its strategic priorities, including a Climate Change Action Plan.
Sarah’s responsibilities are numerous and varied. She oversees a range of assets and services, including managing the town hall, Biddulph Grange Country Park Visitor Centre, a ‘Bus Hub’, public toilets, burial grounds, allotments, tourism, community events, and grant assistance to local groups. Sarah has also made the town hall and council more accessible.
Sarah has initiated, established and developed relationships with other tiers of local government and the voluntary sector to enhance Biddulph for its residents, workers and visitors. She has also embraced social media, with the council publishing on Facebook and Twitter and expanding its website to share more local information.
Sarah has been instrumental in delivering various projects. She helped to acquire management of various buildings from Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) in 2020, allowing town councillors to ensure their accessibility and smooth running, offering genuine community spaces.
Sarah also secured funds to develop a ‘Pocket Park’, transforming a neglected area. The Town Council matched the funding, and Sarah oversaw the day-to-day management of the improvements. Additionally, she worked with SMDC to identify and plant community orchards. 95 trees were planted across three sites in just one day in 2022, with Sarah instrumental in coordinating volunteers.
Finally, Sarah secured funding from Western Power Distribution and Localgiving to support residents experiencing fuel poverty. Council staff received training to provide support and advice. Working with several partners (including Citizens Advice, Support Staffordshire, and Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank), the Council hosted an ‘Energy Café’ event in March 2022.
Sarah has a can-do, enthusiastic and professional approach and is highly respected by her team and councillors, a true advocate for the profession.
Sandra Mayers, Whiston Town Council
Sandra Mayers has served Whiston Town Council as a clerk for over 40 years, joining the council in 1982 as an administration officer before being appointed to the town clerk position in 2004. Known locally as ‘Mrs Whiston’, Sandra’s expertise, passion, local area knowledge and professionalism are evident to all who meet her. She is highly regarded by current and former members of the council, the local community and key stakeholders of the council, including the local authority, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council.
Sandra has consistently demonstrated exemplary leadership that has enabled the town council and its community assets to emerge from the pandemic relatively unscathed, without compromising the employment of those working for the town council, loss of income, reduction in reserves or loss of community facilities or services. Sandra navigated new legislation and mobilised various initiatives to support the community, including food bank deliveries, distribution of testing kits and welfare calls to community members. Community facilities’ bookings are now higher than pre-pandemic levels, and the council has been in its most vital financial position for years.
In 2020, a town clerk from a neighbouring parish was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Sandra has consistently supported him following his diagnosis and has provided additional advice and guidance to the interim deputy town clerk of the council through these difficult times.
In 2021, just three weeks before Christmas, ten households living in maisonette properties in Whiston unexpectedly became homeless overnight as their homes suffered extensive structural damage due to storms and became ‘condemned’ by the local authority. Affected residents included a pregnant woman, a recently widowed elderly lady, a disabled gentleman, and young families. Residents were moved into temporary accommodation with very few possessions. Sandra informed council members and quickly mobilised a fundraising campaign. This resulted in almost £3,000 being raised in just three weeks. Sandra has kept in regular contact with stakeholders and residents to monitor progress and seek additional support where needed.
Sandra consistently performs above and beyond the requirements of her role. She acts as an ambassador for local government and the role of a town clerk and is highly regarded by former councillors, key stakeholders and the wider community.
WINNER: Terry Philpott, Ware Town Council
Terry has been town clerk in Ware since 2019. Since his arrival, councillors have been impressed with the dynamism Terry brings to his work, developing and transforming the council into one admired locally.
Terry’s strengths as a clerk come from a combination of twelve years of experience as a councillor with experience in senior roles in the commercial retail sector. His commercial instincts generate income for the council and Ware Priory Trading, the weddings and conferences business that falls under his remit. Working with others to remodel the business has transformed a £60,000 per annum loss to a profit of £100,000 per annum.
Terry embodies the principle of ‘starting with the end in mind’. Combined with his project management skills, this ensures projects are delivered promptly with value for residents. For example, he organised a strategic planning day enabling councillors and officers to collaborate to set the direction for the four-year business plan and build a one-team ethos. The ambitious fully-costed plan stabilised council finances, rebuilt depleted reserves and launched a range of projects including a £240,000 skatepark, a £140,000 play area, an enhanced grant scheme, and a range of eco initiatives including an eco-community day and a community biodiversity group.
In addition, Terry initiated the creation of the Ware Town Centre Steering Group, bringing together business, community and local government to develop the town centre. Current projects include replacing CCTV and investigating the feasibility of a community bank hub.
As part of a review, Terry introduced a paper lite office set-up, encouraging digital practices which allowed the council to operate effectively during covid restrictions. He has a management style based around coaching and collaboration, working to enable personal development and providing a balance between stretch and support. This has raised morale among council staff. Mindful of the importance of well-being in the workplace, he has just completed a mental health first aid course.
Consistently one to innovate, Terry encourages officers, councillors and community groups to have the same mindset. Initiatives include digital touchscreen noticeboards being installed in the town, a self-cleaning toilet pod included in next year’s budget, and an Escape Room under consideration for the Lido building.
Terry’s achievements and work with his staff team, councillors, stakeholders, local organisations and the community consistently attract genuine approval and praise.
Adam Shanley, City of Durham Parish Council
The City of Durham Parish Council (CoDPC) was set up in 2018 with fifteen councillors and Adam Shanley taking up the post of clerk. Adam is CoDPC’s sole member of staff and has internally organised committees’ action plans, mapped against an overall strategy, with realistic and costed budget allocations.
Externally, Adam leads on the delivery of CoDPC objectives, engaging with and bringing together many partners, including Durham County Council (DCC), Durham University, Durham Police, Durham Cathedral, businesses, and schools and colleges, the voluntary sector and the community, on citywide issues. This role ranges from supervising grant awards to a late-night levy for the night-time economy. In support of CoDPC’s commitment to tourism and healthy living, Adam realised a resident’s Seven Hills Walk proposal by resolving footpath access problems and managing the trail leaflet’s design and print process.
He maintains strong relations with ten residents’ associations over community matters. These have led this past year to his managing restoration projects, funding new blue plaques, planting schemes, and implementing an Shh! 11 pm-7 am campaign to reduce night-time disturbance in residential streets. When DCC wanted to de-register common land, he planned the legal challenge jointly with the Freemen of the City and residents, working with other statutory and civic groups to compile evidence and maintain a dialogue with all parties. It is a testament to Adam and the regard in which he is held that good working relationships with DCC were maintained through this period and continue today.
He works above and beyond the standard requirements of his role, whether it is jointly organising the annual Remembrance Parade or being the catalyst for pulling together a diverse range of bodies to deliver a week of citywide Jubilee events from a Jubilee hat competition to a BYO jubilee picnic lunch and the lighting of the city’s beacon in front of an illuminated cathedral.
In the words of the first CoDPC Chair, his achievements are remarkable, and he has genuinely been the making of the parish council. Adam has helped to make the parish council the ‘go-to’ body for tangible action in Durham City.
John Vickery, Cambourne Town Council
John Vickery has been a clerk of Cambourne Town Council (CTC) from 2005 until now. During this time, planned development has seen Cambourne grow from a collection of fields in 1998 to a thriving, inclusive and diverse community of 4,500 dwellings.
Cambourne is a popular place to live because of the quality of life on offer to its residents. This has been achieved through John's commitment, work ethic and determination to negotiate the best facilities, resources and green leisure areas for our community. These include allotments, play areas and parks inclusive of disabled children, a skate park, sports facilities, community use buildings, green spaces and a burial ground.
His knowledge and skills have been crucial in securing benefits for residents. John was central in obtaining s106 monies being paid directly to the council, empowering it to tailor amenities to the needs of a new community. His architectural skills have enabled the communities’ aspirations to be delivered to the highest specification.
John has regularly demonstrated his ability to successfully work in partnership with many groups in and outside Cambourne. For example, an innovative Energy Fund was successfully advocated for by John with developers. This saw CTC administer a fund to provide photovoltaic panels on public buildings (providing a revenue stream) and a host of other carbon reduction aids to minimise carbon footprint, such as air source heat pumps. The green agenda is mainstreamed in council functions, and this is driven by John.
2022 saw the delivery of a new youth building and a refurbished skate park. Grants and loans were successfully sourced to allow the former to be built years ahead of schedule.
John has developed a robust esprit de corps among staff, leading by example to build a dedicated staff team which is reflected in the cohesive community of Cambourne and the many community initiatives and events.
Alongside all celebratory and commemorative events, CTC supports a food bank and subsidised food distribution scheme. It is John’s ‘will do’ attitude that has encouraged the staff, councillors and residents to work together to deliver these initiatives.
LAST YEAR'S AWARDS
Watch last year’s online ceremony again below or on YouTube.
Read more about last year's winner below:
Clerk of the Year
Winner: Adam Keppel-Green, Knutsford Town Council, Cheshire
Adam Keppel-Green joined the council as deputy town clerk in 2012 becoming town clerk in 2014. In many ways, the town council had been run like a parish council. But during his tenure, it has grown from being a ‘talking shop with few events’ to one that works for the town and makes a difference. Its Local Council Award Scheme Quality Gold status would not have been possible without his input.
He leads by example, taking charge of the working environment and supporting his staff. He has developed key relationships with other council clerks and officers, creating a network for resource sharing and solving problems or managing project solutions. His use of technology has been invaluable to fellow officers and councillors and the council’s visibility and relationship with residents.
During the pandemic, he worked closely with We Are Knutsford; the community group set up to support residents. All volunteer and help enquiries were filtered through the council’s phone lines and email system until the volunteer group set up separate lines. This support meant the distribution of a leaflet to every household by 21 March. A website supporting the shops – KnutsfordHighStreet.com – was developed with a local agency and was ready by Easter 2020. Videos of the town mayor were broadcast over Facebook to show residents they were not alone.
His quick understanding of Zoom and how to use it for council meetings during 2020 meant continued public engagement. The annual town meeting took place using Zoom with presentations from We Are Knutsford and interviews with local businesses about how they had adapted during the pandemic. Under his direction, many of Knutsford’s events went online – digital versions of Bunny Hop, Pumpkin Path and Town Awards. The Knutsford Voucher was set up to offer an alternative to the main big brand vouchers. As identified by We Are Knutsford, many went to those in need to be spent in local butchers and greengrocers pre-Christmas.
County Association Project of the Year
Winner: Yorkshire Local Councils Associations
The Yorkshire Local Councils Associations (YLCA) decided to nominate its recent remote conference for member councils. This was a two-day event over 21 and 22 April 2021.
Both days commenced at 9.30 am and finished at 8.15 pm and in total YLCA provided members with an opportunity to choose from 43 training sessions on a wide range of topical issues and to also attend sessions presented by the nine external exhibitors that were attracted to the event.
The two days were intense but the whole thing ran absolutely to plan and the feedback received was fantastic - it met the needs of so many members, their councillors and clerks.
YLCA, like many others, have developed their online training offer over the past year, but this remote conference was innovative and enterprising, both locally and nationally. YLCA had one hundred and one delegates in total; a mix of councillors and clerks and that means that all of those people have learned something new about the parish sector, how it works, its administration and how to perform their roles within it. The learning value was immense and the feedback reflected this.
In terms of value for money, YLCA attracted three sponsors to the event - Streetscape Products and Services Ltd who are a Yorkshire based play product company; Imaginarium Learning and Development and CCLA.
Because of their sponsorship, we could keep the cost reasonably low at £40 per delegate. Delegates could dip in and out as they wanted but actually, many attended nearly all of the sessions on both days.
YLCA received some excellent feedback from the exhibitors who have received enquiries from the event and a couple that have received firm orders for their goods/services.
Due to careful planning and detailed preparation, the event ran smoothly. The transition from one session to another was handled professionally and again, this has been reflected in the feedback from delegates. The whole event has demonstrated that YLCA is a professional body and that it understands the needs of its member councils, their councillors and clerks.
Young Councillor of the Year
Winner: Cllr Michaella Biscomb, Kippax Parish Council, Yorkshire
Cllr Michaella Biscomb, aged 27, was co-opted on to Kippax Parish Council in 2018, having supported the council before with its social media when she was at university. She quickly stepped into roles of responsibility as vice-chair of the council and chair of the Youth and Leisure Committee (YLCA) and redeveloped the website, and managed the council’s social media.
In 2020, she stepped into the role of acting clerk while the council began recruiting a new one. This was a significant time for the council, as it had recently appointed the YLCA to do a full corporate governance review on the council.
Her attention to detail and creative skills have played an essential role in the council’s response to COVID-19. She designed and coordinated the printing and delivery of an information leaflet for every household in the community. She also designed an ‘Active Guide’ which included walking routes and points of interest in the local area to encourage people to stay active, healthy and local during the pandemic and beyond.
The council launched Kippax Food Bank during the pandemic. She helped to operate it every weekend with early morning food shops, pack and deliver parcels, and take referrals from those in need.
She has worked hard to ensure the food bank is operated correctly, doing a lot of the paperwork to support the project, including:
- the initial briefing papers to pitch the project to the council;
- detailed risk assessments;
- data retention policies and consent forms;
- updating safeguarding policies and arranging appropriate training;
- information and food safety leaflets to be distributed with each parcel;
- health and safety assessments and reports for student placements;
- posters to promote the food bank and donation points;
- grant funding application forms;
- managing the finances and donations, including cashbooks and reports.
She is always willing to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in, with creative solutions that help the council overcome problems and deliver new initiatives. She works hard both for local people and the council to ensure its operating correctly and that the council is doing its best for the community.
Councillor of the Year
Winner: Cllr Matthew Walsh, Princes Risborough Town Council, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes
Over the last six years, Cllr Matthew Walsh has led Princes Risborough Town Council in the most successful development programme the town has ever seen. Cllr Walsh has overseen the restoration of the iconic Market House and had the vision to lead the council in the purchase and let of a building in the High Street, ensuring a tenant who will enhance Princes Risborough’s nighttime economy. He has instigated a significant renewal project to enhance and expand the community centre and has developed a popular farmers market to ensure the town continues to be attractive for visitors and residents.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cllr Walsh’s primary consideration has been for the welfare of the elderly and vulnerable residents of the parish and local businesses. By 23 March 2020 Councillor Walsh had set up Risborough Market, an online platform that enabled residents in over 5,000 households to telephone local shops, buy goods and have them delivered the same day, free of charge. Councillor Walsh worked hard for up to 18 hours a day with a dedicated and loyal team to design, commission and populate the Risborough Basket website with local shops; ensure that everyone had access to produce by finding a local supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables to bring produce from wholesalers daily; design and manage a telephone ordering system with volunteers daily receiving orders from vulnerable residents and put together a team of 90 volunteers to deliver the goods daily. The website has made over 8,000 deliveries since its inception. Multiple high street businesses have managed to survive through the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of the intervention.
In September 2020 Cllr Walsh launched a new and improved Risborough Basket online shopping platform believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, extending it to over 10,000 households. The High Street remains buoyant, new businesses are opening and joining the Basket. Participating businesses have benefitted from the additional income the Basket generates.
Council of the Year
Winner: Farnham Town Council, Surrey
Farnham Town Council has a proven track record of creativity, innovation, partnership and collaboration. Achievements in 2020 show significant success despite uncertainties and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The town council formed the Farnham Coronavirus Coordinating Group (now continuing as Farnham Connects) with a community-based cultural organisation the Farnham Maltings and other community groups. It created a safeguarded framework and coordinated five hundred volunteers who managed a helpline and community response supporting over 1,800 people with shopping, prescription collections and friendly phone calls. The objective was to create sustainable long-term community-based support and it has evolved into Farnham Neighbours Network. Alongside this, the Farnham Coronavirus Support Fund was established raising £67,000 to support residents facing pandemic hardship. The town council’s staff built a temporary COVID-19 assessment centre at Farnham Hospital in April 2020 enabling those with COVID-19 symptoms to be separated from other patients and over two hundred Farnham Town Council volunteers have underpinned the successful vaccine rollout.
The high street was supported through a new partnership with We Are Farnham, a digital marketplace for local shops, and regular updates were sent to all businesses with information on a range of support.
Farnham Town Council, working alongside Surrey County Council, installed planters in the town centre to widen pavements for social distancing. This was part of the award-winning Farnham In Bloom, which planted 26,000 plants and two hundred hanging baskets in the town and surrounding villages, and again won Gold in several categories and an invitation to Britain in Bloom 2021. Community participation underpins Farnham in Bloom and Farnham Town Council organised lockdown activities including creating a Lego garden, making scarecrows, an art project and a Secret Gardens competition and COVID-19-compliant volunteer opportunities.
The town council reshaped its programme of events within COVID-19 rules including:
- farmers’ markets restarted in June 2020 with social-distancing measures in place (a model followed by other market organisers) and additional art and craft markets were held to support the re-opening of the high street;
- music in the Meadow, restarted in August - the only free live music programme locally setting a benchmark for outdoor music.