BHIB Councils Insurance
BHIB Councils Insurance provides specialist insurance and risk management services to local councils.
BHIB Councils Insurance is part of BHIB Insurance Brokers, one of the UK’s leading independent commercial insurance brokers with a proud history dating back over 50 years. During this time, BHIB has delivered bespoke insurance programmes and advice to the public, private and charity sectors and membership organisations.
No council is the same. That’s why BHIB provide a range of covers to protect not only your local council but also your clerks, councillors and volunteers. From public liability, employers’ liability and property damage insurance to specialist risk assessment advice and templates, BHIB Councils Insurance are on hand to support you.
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.
Blachere has been a longstanding commercial partner of ours.
We’re Breakthrough Communications, a specialist communications company that helps local councils connect with their communities.
Our experienced team has decades of combined professional experience in the world of communications and engagement, and many of us have also served as councillors and clerks.
That means we understand the importance of good communication, we know how to build engagement effectively, and we understand the unique world of local councils, too.
We use our wide range of skills to help supercharge your council’s communications, whatever your needs and requirements.
Whether it’s communications strategies, social media support, neighbourhood plan engagement consultations, council annual reports, residents surveys or consultations, as well as a range of others done for you and on-demand services, we’ve got your council covered.
Find out more and book a free consultation with us at https://breakthroughcomms.co.uk/.
Over 700 local councils of all sizes now use CCLA to meet their short, medium and long term investment requirements. CCLA has managed local authority funds for over 40 years and charity funds for over 60 years. We aim to deliver strong long term returns and have unmatched experience in ethical and responsible investment, taking an integrated approach to incorporating environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) considerations in all of our decision making. We are owned by our clients with over £13.2bn of assets under management. CCLA’s funds benefit from strong governance and transparency.
CCLA Investment Management Limited and CCLA Fund Managers Limited are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
For further information, contact or call 0207 489 6045 or go to www.ccla.co.uk.
DCK Accounting Solutions
DCK Accounting has built a reputation as an industry leader in providing accounting solutions to local councils with a client base throughout England and Wales.
Services provided include preparation of fully outsourced accounting services, annual accounts, budgeting assistance, specialist advice on VAT and payroll, plus advice and feasibility work relating to capital projects.
Young people, and young councillors, in particular, are vital to the future of our local government sector, and we are proud and privileged to support them in their efforts to develop the spread of the sector’s work.
At Vision ICT, we understand how hard the clerk's role can be, especially over the last 18-plus months. That's why we are very pleased to continue our sponsorship of Clerk of the Year.
Vision ICT is best known for producing effective websites and is recognised as the most experienced provider of Council and Local Authority websites in the UK.
We provide bespoke websites for over 700 clients across the country and believe in clear pricing and ongoing support. Our friendly team is proud of the reputation we have built and is guided by our company's four pillars: collaboration, longevity and support, honest pricing, and social responsibility.
For further information, contact Maggie White on 01392 669 497, or visit our website for more information.
NALC’s Star Council Awards are the only awards in England that recognise the local (parish and town) council sector’s positive contribution to its communities, rewarding local councils, councillors, young councillors, county associations and clerks.
It has not been an easy 12 months. However, those in the sector have gone above and beyond their regular duties during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the theme of this year’s awards will focus on projects that have positively impacted communities in the context of the pandemic. So please provide examples of your work concerning your response to COVID-19.
Winning a Star Council Award not only allows you to gain national recognition for the services you have provided to your community in challenging times but also to share your expertise with your peers and learn about best practices and successful initiatives in the sector. An award will also provide your community with evidence of your successful projects.
This year’s winners will be announced at an online ceremony on 8 October 2021 – so please save the date. Further information on how to watch the ceremony and celebrate the work of the winners will be announced shortly.
Good luck to all the finalists!
Clerk of the Year — Sponsored by Vision ICT
Samantha Hughes, Camborne Town Council, Cornwall
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Camborne Town Council received news their existing clerk would be retiring immediately after being off a year due to illness. Samantha Hughes was appointed interim clerk (from finance officer) to cover the sick leave and was ‘steering the ship’ during some of the most uncertain and unprecedented times the town council had ever seen.
Despite limited experience, she rose to the challenge and has led the organisation through a significant number of structural staffing changes, legal battles over estate development, devolution, a governance review, vacant seats, corporate planning and of course, a global pandemic (to name just a few of the challenges!).
During COVID-19, she has not only maintained the relationships between staff and councillors but has looked at ways of improving them at this difficult time and has been very successful. She continues to establish new relationships and is working hard on the Town Deal – even during the lockdown. Along with her team and her engagement officer maintaining and managing relationships internally and externally for the council’s benefit has been a prime objective.
She used her weekends to hand-deliver contact sheets (her idea) to communities in the parish with little or no digital connectivity throughout the pandemic. She kept staff going, offering the required flexibility and trust needed for working parents and carers to complete their hours when they could. She ensured that every staff member and councillor had access to the right resources to work effectively despite not operating from the council building. She regularly visited the council building to arrange postage of paperwork, resources and equipment for councillors and staff and maintain processes and meetings throughout to allow the council to progress matters and continue to do good for the community.
She also worked with her team to create new ideas for how Camborne residents could engage with the library during the lockdown. Their imagination and wish to go above and beyond what is expected have been commended by all concerned.
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.
Iain Lynch, Farnham Town Council, Surrey
Iain Lynch has been town clerk of Farnham for ten years, and during that time, he has shown exceptional leadership of both staff and projects that have benefited the community. This means the council has constantly delivered above expectation and pushed boundaries – no more so than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farnham Town Council is highly regarded by its local community for making things happen, including crucially during the COVID-19 period.
From the outset, Iain Lynch took a leading role in the COVID-19 response, working with the key groups to coordinate volunteers to deliver solutions. As a result Farnham:
- secured the services of a local taxi firm to work with the council during lockdown
- secured an innovative payment system with a care company for shopping for self-isolating residents
- set up an assessment centre at the local hospital, a hardship fund and a Shareshop;
- recruited volunteers to meet wider community needs and support the vaccination rollout;
- and had a COVID-19 secure environment for a helpline and hardship fund to operate.
A weekly COVID-19 coordinating meeting was set up with over 30 community and statutory body attendees, including the local newspaper, health organisations, the borough council and MP’s office, with the intention from the outset to have improved neighbourly connections that outlasted the coronavirus.
He developed an innovative partnership with Wearelocals to facilitate a low-cost online marketplace. Farmers’ markets and live music events organised by the council were reorganised and were, impressively, the first in the area to take off in a COVID-19 secure way.
He had the foresight to set up decision-making processes before the first lockdown and well before the introduction of remote meetings in May 2019, and business has since continued with increased participation by councillors. Some significant new activities have been launched during COVID-19, including the Farnham Infrastructure Programme, a significant partnership initiative where he has been a key player.
During the pandemic, his service commitment to the community reached new levels, and he is constantly pushing the boundaries. Public service is not just a job for Iain. It’s a passion, and, quite simply, he cares and sets the highest standards.
Chris Shaw, Northwich Town Council, Cheshire
Chris Shaw is a born and bred product of Northwich, passionate and determined in everything he does to promote and support his town. He started as a gardener for Northwich Town council 32 years ago. His keenness to learn and develop new skills caused him to become a valued member of the team quickly. By 2012 he had become the council’s clerk.
His leadership and direction have been outstanding. The way he has grown ‘the business’ has been impressive. Last year Northwich Town Council generated £280,000 from outside contracts with 40 other local councils. For example, Northwich supplied and erected 46 Christmas trees across Cheshire. In 2019/20 the total income was £1.3m.
As in every town across the country, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact. But from the outset, he carefully navigated the council through the storm, and remarkably most of the council business has remained on track. He embraced technology immediately and coached the councillors in its use, and Zoom has enabled nearly all meetings and committees to continue.
He is tenacious in securing funds for Northwich projects, including illumination of the town bridge and parish church, reinstatement of Verdin Park listed gates, and upgrading the Cenotaph. These, and other improvements, have boosted residents through the COVID-19 crisis and are a testament to his dedication.
He continues to play a leading role in the town’s ‘recovery cell’ and took charge of all the COVID-19 town centre signage, and as lockdowns were lifted, he ensured that the town centre was ‘spick and span’ and ready to receive the public.
Quite simply, his response to the pandemic in terms of support and leadership has been truly inspirational.
Private and public institutions highly respect him. He leads by example, and there isn’t a task he can’t take on. A unique feature of his stewardship is the way he makes himself and his team available to people and groups who turn to him in times of peril for help and advice.
Aniko Szocs, Great Chart with Singleton Parish Council, Kent
Aniko Szocs is the ultimate “beacon of light”. She heads up a team of three others – leading with examples of care, preciseness and enthusiasm and passing on knowledge and encouragement to her assistant and the two stewards. This naturally results in always getting the best out of them. This equally applies to the way she oversees all the councillors, especially the chairman. The council thus rarely puts a foot wrong.
She constantly cultivates good relationships, and her ability to pull teams together is both innovative and incomparable. She realises that this cannot be done in isolation, so she is always cultivating partnerships with outside bodies - from Ashford Borough Council to the most obscure organisations you might think of.
During the first lockdown in 2020, and with very little input from others, she organised a team of volunteers, arranged some funding and set up weekly shopping and prescription collections for up to 45 to 50 of the more vulnerable members of the parish.
She has just led a challenge on the council’s decision to go back from Microsoft Teams meetings to face-to-face meetings, as many of the councillors were in the high-risk age group for COVID-19. She contacted many professional bodies to ensure that the council complied with the legal requirements, then made enormous efforts to keep councillors safe while returning to live meetings. She kept the council going when the rest of the world seemed to have stopped.
Not content with her clerk’s responsibilities, she is also a trustee of Singleton Spaces, works with Keep Ashford Clean, Plastic Free Ashford and organises parish litter picks on a rotation plan to cover all areas. Outside of current COVID-19 restrictions, she also runs a pop-up cafe for the community’s senior members.
County Association Project of the Year — Sponsored by CCLA
Cheshire Association of Local Councils
By mid-March 2020 the emerging impact of COVID-19 was starting to be felt across the Cheshire, Halton, Warrington and Trafford areas. The Cheshire Association of Local Councils (ChALC) wanted to capture and showcase what local councils were doing in these challenging times, and in July 2020 circulated a simple questionnaire. Some 41 councils from across the area responded and shared some amazing and inspiring stories. The association then used these responses to write a short report that explored how some councils had obtained grants and funding. The report was subsequently shared with ChALC’s strategic partners, principal authorities, and local councils
As a report is not always read ChALC also explored alternative ways to share stories and inspire. The association successfully bid for a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Grant from one of its principal authorities, and this partly funded the filming of three short videos which showed examples of local councils taking the initiative. Each film was professionally produced and edited by a Cheshire based company and consisted of short interviews with a small number of key individuals whose accounts highlighted the actions taken by the local council to engage with local volunteers.
Filming took place over two days and ChALC led on project managing the process to ensure that all interviewees, locations, schedules and liaisons worked smoothly. All interviewees received a certificate of participation to thank them for their input.
The final films were widely launched just before Christmas 2020 and with a clear aim to:
- highlight the important role of collaborative volunteering across a parish area;
- better understand how rural councils can mobilise local volunteers.
All three films can be seen on the ChALC website and demonstrate a distinct difference of approach in three rural areas. They have helped to show the real importance of local councils as innovators, leaders and collaborators within their communities, and the crucial part they have to play in addressing local needs.
Essex Association of Local Councils
- 4,987 families with children and 946 individuals helped during the January Lockdown Support Fund
- 4,453 families with children and 660 individuals helped during the Additional Lockdown Support Fund
Collaborating with Essex County Council to act as the administrating agent for grant funding to meet the challenges faced by many Essex communities and residents has been the single biggest project for the Essex Association of Local Councils (EALC) during the last 12 months.
The importance of this project relates to:
- the promotion of health and mental wellbeing,
- administering, qualifying and fulfilling essential COVID-19 related food grants and support throughout the year for local councils, charities, community organisations and food banks across Essex.
In any ‘normal’ year, EALC funding team works with Essex County Council to administer three large funding pots:
- The Microgrants (Community Chest and Communications and Technology);
- The Community Initiative Fund;
- The Community Initiative Emergency Fund, with a total budget of £450,000.
These grants enable local councils and other vital community groups to support grassroots initiatives that encourage residents to engage with the Health and Wellbeing and other important agendas.
As communities answered the call to arms and began organising their volunteers to support the most vulnerable in their communities, EALC also rose to the challenge with a determination to not only keep its services to the local council sector as ‘business as usual’ but to also take on the additional funding which ECC sought to get to the most at need across Essex.
The Emergency Foodbank Fund was created with combined funding from crowd-funding donations and Essex County Council. It was available for any organisation providing food support including member councils in response to COVID-19. In total EALC administered £40,000 and was a great opportunity for EALC to review its procedures as larger grant funding amounts were on the horizon.
Leicestershire and Rutland Association of Local Councils
The Leicestershire and Rutland Association of Local Councils (LRALC) entered these awards for its innovative and unique Financial Impact on the COVID-19 project. Like many county associations, LRALC reacted rapidly to the outbreak of the pandemic and the first lockdown in 2020. The association created a dedicated COVID-19 webpage (updated with the latest guidance daily) and rapidly moved to operate remotely, including the delivery of new COVID-19-related training and briefings.
It soon became apparent that there was a specific, and critical need from several member councils, which LRALC was best placed to address due to its knowledge and relationships with key partners. Due to the pandemic, these member councils had seen revenue losses due to the impact of closure and restrictions on various community facilities and activities.
The association also identified that a secondary, larger cohort of councils needed comprehensive support to identify and understand wider COVID-19 related considerations for the current financial year and the budgeting process for the following year.
The association submitted a proposal to Leicestershire County Council, which outlined a comprehensive range of support that LRALC could provide, acting as a conduit between the three council tiers, aided by the fact that the association has all local councils in membership and the support would therefore be universal.
Funding was secured late summer 2020, and, following a successful initial period, an additional round of funding was provided in early 2021. The project allowed LRALC to provide an additional, comprehensive level of support to its members and directly allowed it to clear blockages in grants being made available to parishes from district/borough councils.
Several member councils were initially denied access to central government provided funds that they were entitled to due to an initial lack of clarity about their eligibility, both locally and nationally.
Working with NALC and other county association colleagues, LRALC became aware that the work it was undertaking was unique, and as such, it shared resources and learning via the NALC weekly calls.
The project provided incredible value for money. For only a few thousand pounds project-funding, LRALC secured £55,000 emergency funding for member councils.
Norfolk Association of Local Councils
At the instigation of its president, Professor Tim O’Riordan, and a great deal of preparatory work, Norfolk Association of Local Councils (Norfolk ALC) launched its Well-Being Initiative in October 2019 with a budget of £500 and a Task and Finish group (with Terms of Reference and oversight by the county officer and the Executive Committee) to run it, entirely made up of volunteer parish councillors from across Norfolk.
The project addresses the core business of local councils, which is, unarguably, to look after their residents, including:
- the place (village or town) where they live; and
- their physical and mental wellbeing.
It rapidly became apparent that there was a need to incorporate a climate action project within this which set a target of reaching net-zero for the totality of the parish net emissions to be reached by 2045.
Innovative and enterprising: The project is focused on enabling local councils to deliver benefits to the six hundred thousand residents and the multitude of businesses and other organisations in the parishes of Norfolk.
The benefits of the project were:
- the raised the profile of Norfolk ALC with all local councils, other tiers of local government and many other organisations and government departments.
- that it gave Norfolk ALC greatly improved data on its councils and other contacts.
- that it gave councils access to quality information and enabled them to talk directly to experts.
Value for money:
There have been no staff costs, and the only expenditure has been on email identities and a Zoom licence. The initiative gives a new basis to seek grants.
- All work was hugely researched.
- Trusted sources were sought.
- Webinars were held – where everyone could be seen and speak.
The project helped Norfolk ALC to forge crucial new partnerships. But of particular note is that HM Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk asked to become Norfolk ALC’s patron.
The pandemic was a wellbeing issue and fell within the remit of the task force. Norfolk ALC was able to get more than its fair share of funding and help packs to rural areas.
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 — Sponsored by DCK Accounting Solutions
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.
Cllr Ryan Fisher, North Thoresby, Grainsby and Waithe Parish Council, Lincolnshire
Cllr Fisher, aged 30, joined the parish council in 2020 and made an immediate impact, designing a logo the council had long needed.
He soon used his skills in engaging with the community in new ways. He started helping with the Facebook page and brought it to life. He engaged in a very positive way with residents on a local community group, by providing help and advice such as links to Fix My Street.
On his council, Cllr Fisher is famous for scoring a hat trick of recent excellent ideas. The first idea was a photography competition and village calendar using the twelve winning entries. The calendars raised over £100 for the charity he had proposed, a local village group helping deliver shipping and prescriptions to those shielding and anyone in the village who needed support. Ryan always had COVID-19 in mind, even down to organising a team of councillors to deliver the calendars if residents could not get out.
Cllr Fisher’s second idea was to provide something for residents to do, again during lock-down. He proposed a ‘metal bird’ trail around the village. North Thoresby Grainsby and Waithe was in Tier four at this point and he thought it would get villagers out walking or give them additional interest. The metal birds arrived and he talked to the council’s caretaker. Cllr Fisher designed a wonderful leaflet which was a map of the trail and educational information about each village location and information about the bird that could be found there.
The next meeting arrived. Cllr Fisher had heard how residents were feeling the effects of lockdown. After being allowed to proceed he made an initial enquiry to the County Highways department and within three weeks there was a crepe van parked in the village. There was an outpouring of gratitude from local people, and the van has since made return visits.
Cllr Chelsey Jay, Witham Town Council, Essex
Cllr Chelsey Jay won a seat in her town council in Witham on her first run in an election in May 2019, aged 28.
Cllr Jay is/has been involved in several projects to improve services for the community. She is part of the Witham Town Council Social Isolation, Community and Youth groups. Through these groups, her work has included:
- pushing for councillors to be J9 trained to support domestic abuse victims in her town and for Witham Town Hall to be a domestic abuse ‘safe space’;
- reaching out to local mental health group, Walk & Talk 4 men, to promote Men’s mental health;
- collaborating with Essex Trading Standards to raise awareness of financial abuse to the vulnerable;
- fighting for disability rights and access to all front entrances to the Listed town hall building;
- pushing for all elected councillors to attend compulsory Unconscious Bias Training and focus on areas such as disability, race and culture, LGBTQ+;
- connecting with local schools and youth for Parliament Week and encouraging over 16s to register to vote and is setting up regular with catch up councillor sessions for youth;
- pushing for awareness-raising of the dangers of laughing gas and how easily accessible it is to young people.
Cllr Jay communicates with the community incredibly different to her councillor peers, which has seen her popularity grow. She is active on social media platforms choosing informal, open and friendly chats online to gather feedback from the town.
Cllr Jay called on the council to represent its LGBTQ+ residents by actively celebrating Pride in 2020, where celebrations included replacing the council flag with an LGBTQ+ one for the entirety of the month. She won the motion – just – which prompted her to do what she states is her proudest feat: becoming the first Witham Town Council LGBTQ+ ambassador, creating the Witham LGBTQ+ Network and a private Facebook group (to safeguard members) which has nearly is 70 members. The group has campaigned for Trans rights and lobbied to contact MP Priti Patel concerning the Gender Recognition Act.
Cllr Grant Johnson, Paulton Parish Council, Avon
Cllr Grant Johnson has been interested in local issues and how councils operate for many years. He was elected to Paulton Parish Council in 2020.
Due to the pandemic, there has been no face to face meetings; despite this, Cllr Johnson has worked hard to establish good relationships with his fellow councillors. He has built good working relations with the councillors and staff and sits on committees, making full use of social media platforms to keep in touch and up to date with council and personnel issues.
During the pandemic, he initiated a local drive to get IT equipment to families without them for homeschooling through donations of unused laptops and tablets and reset by volunteers to be suitable for the children’s use.
He was a key person in setting up the local food pantry providing free food for those in need with donations by the local community and charitable organisations. Other villages in the area have copied this model.
He used the council’s magazine to communicate with residents during a difficult time for all.
He also ensured local businesses received support during the lockdown by promoting them as much as possible. This included a dog grooming business and the local football club’s clubhouse, where he was pictured pulling a pint to help out with staffing.
He has been part of the parks and amenities committee that has organised the refurbishment of the skatepark, a heavily used local facility.
Under the green environmental banner, he has researched to find that his area is ‘under planted’ for trees and is setting up an initiative to see many more trees planted in his locality to redress the balance.
Cllr Johnson is also looking at ways to push the boundaries and raise the profile of the work the council does within the village. He is proactive in preparing professional social media updates and will always liaise with the officers within the council to encourage them to become better at sharing good news stories.
Cllr Nathan Pardoe, Winsford Town Council, Cheshire
Cllr Nathan Pardoe was aged 28 when elected to the council in May 2019.
Despite his youth, he soon emerged as the ‘father’ of the council by his outgoing and amenable personality, approachability and ability to keep people together, councillors and staff alike. He soon became the ‘go-to person.
As a professional IT consultant and software developer, he quickly initiated a new technology working group to review the council’s technology provision, resulting in an improved website, Facebook and a move to become a paperless council. Therefore, he has cut the cost and time spent in running the council by thousands of pounds each year.
His personable abilities soon demonstrated themselves as a real asset to the council. During COVID-19, he supported and encouraged staff and an elderly mayor to use technology to ensure an uninterrupted meetings schedule, kept the website up to date and residents well informed.
Despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic, last year, he volunteered to become deputy mayor. Within weeks, the mayor became ill, and Cllr Pardoe, without hesitation, stepped up to be acting mayor.
At the beginning of May, he was installed as mayor, in his own right, at only 30. His first act was to turn down the mayoral allowance and ask for it to be spent instead on CCTV for the town park, to help combat vandalism. He prioritises resident casework above all and has gained a reputation for doing all he can to help.
On his initiative, regular meetings have been set up with the town clerk and staff to oversee the smooth running of the council and help deliver its ambitious agenda during COVID-19 and into the future.
Before COVID-19, he insisted the council hold its meetings in a larger venue to enable many more people to attend, to enhance public scrutiny and involvement. Despite the challenges of Zoom meetings, public participation numbers have escalated enormously.
Cllr Pardoe is also a trustee of the local foodbank and secretary of The Hive, a community facility.
Cllr Samantha Sharp, Wyton on the Hill Parish Council, Cambridgeshire
Cllr Samantha Sharp celebrated her 30th birthday in January. However, she brings wisdom to her role as chair of her local council that is well beyond her years; the council think it is fair to say that she is the beating heart of her local council and its community at Wyton on the Hill.
Cllr Sharp is the driving force behind many projects and is always going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that all members of her community can voice their opinions, concerns, or requests, or even just have someone to talk to, whether that is in person, at a parish council meeting, stood on her front doorstep, by telephone, text, email or on the council’s active community social media. She is never too busy to help.
By forming strong bonds with her district and parish councillors, as well as with her fantastic clerk, both in a meeting setting and outside of the council’s monthly meetings, and by building up a strong network of local people from all backgrounds to participate and assist with various community events and projects, Cllr Sharp has helped to make her community a welcoming and involved place to live – even more so over lockdown, when this has become more important than ever before. Just as important, she can get the various groups to communicate to get things completed and bring the community together.
In terms of improving local services and facilities, Cllr Sharp has spearheaded a project to make the estate safer by starting an application for a PFHI to control vehicle speeds on the estate. As a key member of the Wyton on the Hill Community Activity team, she has worked with others to create and run local events throughout lockdown to prevent isolation and encourage her community to grow together over this very difficult period.
Councillor of the Year — Sponsored by Breakthrough Communications
Cllr Fiona Anable, Wynyard Parish Council, Cleveland
Cllr Fiona Anable has been a valuable member of the Wynyard Parish Council since its inception. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the community, it was obvious that Wynyard would have some residents who would struggle to cope. Wynyard has no public transport and had a number of residents who would have to shield. Cllr Anable established a local network which she branded ‘helping hands'. She designed a leaflet and persuaded a local printing firm to produce it at no cost. She also gathered a number of helpers to distribute the leaflet to 1,600 households, asking for volunteers and giving contact details where residents could request services. Cllr Anable had this publicised in the local resident’s newsletter. Soon there were over 100 volunteers on Cllr Anable’s list and she was coordinating assistance for individuals from shopping, collecting prescriptions, gardening, dog walking and assisting with repairs to essential home services and equipment.
In addition to the helping hands project, Cllr Anable set up the Tees Valley scrub-hub. Initially envisaging that this project would just be based in her community, Cllr Anable had to extend it to include the whole of the Tees Valley as so many volunteers came forward and there was such a great need for it. Cllr Anable used local radio and social media to recruit volunteers who set about making scrubs and other garments for Tees Valley hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries, dentists and social care venues. She raised money to fund the purchase of NHS approved fabrics and materials from a variety of sources. The project provided over 5,000 garments and items for a wide range of recipients and provided a much-needed service. Cllr Anable set it up, managed it, recruited over 200 volunteer staff and allocated their roles and tasks.
The legacy of these projects is extensive. Friendships blossomed, grew and are thriving today from these activities. Residents still call on the isolated to ensure they are ok and community cohesion is growing, with new ideas and projects flourishing on the roots of the initial two that Cllr Anable set up and managed.
Cllr Joanne Burke, Prescot Town Council, Merseyside
Since being elected in 2018, Cllr Joanne Burke has constantly strived to develop Prescot Town Council’s offer for residents. One of her most successful initiatives is the school uniform recycling programme. Over the past two years, this project has seen 551 families supported with 4,345 individual garments, saving over a tonne of material going to landfill. Cllr Burke has combined this project with sports nutrition and play activity sessions. These sessions are delivered twice a week during school holidays at a local park. This project provides activity and healthy lunch for all those attending, preventing stigma whilst combatting holiday hunger. The two projects were adapted for COVID-19 with record numbers of families engaging.
Cllr Burke was also at the forefront of developing Prescot Town Council’s isolation support scheme. She worked closely with Prescot Town Council’s clerk to develop a program of support that offered a three-day sustenance package to local residents who could not leave the house. Cllr Burke donated stocks of food that had been compiled for the summer holiday programme and personally went out shopping to generate stock until the council’s order arrived. Cllr Burke also delivered the first support package.
Another of Cllr Burke’s innovations worthy of note is the local democracy programme that Prescot Town Council now offers to all local primary schools. This facilitates understanding of local (parish and town) councils and role play by the children in the chamber, in the hope of inspiring young people to use their voices.
In addition to her role as a councillor, Cllr Burke is also involved in several community groups. This ensures ongoing maintenance of two-way contact. In 2019 Cllr Burke launched Prescot Mission Christmas, an initiative that saw 30 isolated residents invited to Christmas dinner at Prescot Town Hall with transport arranged, entertainment and a hamper gift. Thirty housebound isolated residents received deliveries of this offer. The COVID-19 pandemic galvanised Cllr Burke to raise the bar and in December 2020 under her leadership, Prescot Mission Christmas delivered Christmas dinner, crackers, goodies and two other meals to 200 families in Prescot and the wider area.
Cllr Clare Gamble, Billingham Town Council, Cleveland
Cllr Clare Gamble is always willing to pitch in for the good of the community. In December 2019, she set up and project managed a community lunch service from Billingham Town Council’s café, providing a free three-course Sunday lunch. Cllr Gamble identified different funding streams available to support this project, which the council was successful in receiving, and residents that attended started to build new friendship groups, reconnect with people and discover shared interests.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic meant this project was cancelled in March 2020. However, Cllr Gamble, realising how vulnerable this left a lot of residents, liaised with other local organisations and was instrumental in setting up the COVID-19 Community Support Response in Billingham. Working tirelessly, she assisted in the coordination and delivery of the service, liaising with town council staff and volunteers. Because of her commitment to this response, over 1,000 food parcels were set out to shielding residents, 642 prescriptions were collected and delivered and 62 welfare calls were made each week to those in need.
During this time, through talking with other local organisations, community groups, volunteers and local residents, Cllr Gamble identified many more vulnerable, isolated and low-income residents within Billingham who could not get out of their homes or did not have the income to provide themselves with a hot meal during the week.
In May 2020, Cllr Gamble, with the assistance of staff and volunteers, relaunched the community lunch service as a delivery service. Through contacts made from the COVID-19 Community Response, she has attracted many volunteers to help with the plating, packing and delivery of the meals.
Cllr Gamble has worked every weekend since May 2020 on this project and has cooked over 5,000 meals. Due to the success of this service (currently delivering approximately 140 meals every Sunday), and with Cllr Gamble’s commitment, dedication and passion for helping local residents, this service will continue until at least March 2022.
Cllr Richard Plowman, Chichester City Council, West Sussex
Cllr Richard Plowman has shown exemplary civic leadership during his second term as mayor. One of his immediate actions was to recognise that in a city the size of Chichester, (population 27,000) approaches to communication was not going to be the same as in a rural village. The diverse nature of the community meant that, in some areas, welfare links had to be strengthened, including in areas of social deprivation. Cllr Plowman founded the Chichester Community Network, bringing together churches, voluntary organisations the wider community and developing enduring working relationships.
Next, Cllr Plowman consolidated upon the very real issues in Chichester of those in need. Following an investigation, fully involving council officers, he established a Mayor’s Hardship Fund, giving out grants of up to £250 to fund things like new toys for a family and replacement fridges. So far over £3,000 has been given to those in need, the cases being assessed by a qualified welfare worker.
Cllr Plowman then recognised the issue of personal communication and established a series of regular open letters from the mayor. These have been published on Chichester City Council’s website and in the local newspaper. Hard copies were also circulated within the community.
Cllr Plowman threw himself into a campaign to ensure there was a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Chichester. He lobbied tirelessly to ensure that the city had a voice, including lobbying key players in the NHS. Face to face meetings between City, District and County Councillors took place, leading, in February 2021, to the Westgate Leisure Centre in Chichester being finally brought into operation as a mass vaccination site.
Cllr Plowman was also involved in another initiative, in consultation with UK Harvest, setting up a British restaurant currently affected by lockdown to provide a weekly, nutritious meal to those in need.
Cllr Plowman has done all this whilst maintaining a demanding workload as a District Councillor. He also continues to be a leading light in the city neighbourhood plan.
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 — Sponsored by Blachere Illumination
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.
Great Dawley Town Council, Shropshire
Great Dawley Town Council has always put local residents and the wider community at the forefront by providing services, investing in new initiatives and delivering events that benefit the entire parish. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Great Dawley Town Council to pause and revaluate its plans.
In April 2020, the council began regularly calling members of the community. Initially, over 450 people were contacted to see if they needed any support or a friendly voice to talk to. Since then, councillors, staff and volunteers have continued to call around 100 residents each week.
The council adopted and expanded its Great Dawley Breakfast Club service, offering free weekly breakfast parcels to all local families with children on free school meals.
All summer holiday activities normally delivered by Great Dawley Town Council moved online. Resources and activity packs were sent to children registered with the breakfast club, to ensure they could participate.
In June 2020 the council worked with a local takeaway to supply a fish and chip supper to those who had previously enjoyed a cooked lunch in the council’s community building.
The council launched two knitting challenges. The first asked the community to knit and donate squares, which were then turned into blankets and donated to the local hospital dementia ward. The second involved the community knitting Easter chicks. These were then filled with chocolate treats and donated to local doctor’s surgeries.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the council held almost all of its events online, including VE Day Celebrations, the Mainslee Big Picnic and the Christmas lights switch on.
At Christmas, the council delivered three-course lunches to the over 60's. Christmas treat boxes and Easter Eggs were sent to all pupils at the local primary schools and children registered on the Great Dawley Breakfast Club.
A grant from Telford and Wrekin Council helped Great Dawley Town Council boost footfall and support local businesses following lockdown.
Great Dawley Town Council’s gardening services had to be paused during the first lockdown. However, the council supported their environmental staff and residents by catching up with garden tidies towards the end of the summer.
Looe Town Council, Cornwall
Looe has a population of five and a half thousand, fifteen councillors, 12 members of staff, of whom only two are full time, and is a coastal, rural and isolated town reliant on tourism with the nearest city over forty minutes away. The population is ageing with over 50% aged 65 or over and it has three areas that are in the top 3% of deprivation in the UK.
When the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns first started in March 2020 Looe Town Council rose to the challenge and immediately organised a network of over one hundred and ninety volunteers, working with key organisations within the town to support those in need and the most vulnerable in the community – extending beyond its parish boundaries and supporting families and individuals in neighbouring, smaller parishes.
Looe Town Council established effective communication and support networks by creating a system of ‘street aunties and uncles’ using technology and cloud-based phones through its volunteer network. In addition, it was the first council in Cornwall to reopen public conveniences and share risk assessments and methods with other towns.
The council immediately set up new active communication channels on social media, paper-based newsletters, posters, banners, press and calls to action to both recruit volunteers and identify support needs. Twice a week the council held online communication sessions with members of the community to develop additional services and communication methods from their feedback, ensuring that the community were at the heart of the service.
The council set up Looe Community Cupboard providing key essentials such as baby milk, clothes, sanitary products, deodorant and flour free of charge for those in need. It created a hardship fund to support individuals who needed additional financial support for a variety of reasons including redundancy.
From March to October alone the Looe Town Council support and befriending helplines took over 1,340 calls, delivered over three hundred and forty prescriptions and helped over 400 vulnerable people with a range of essential weekly services, including mental health and suicide issues which were actioned by a bespoke escalation team from qualified councillors and volunteers
Newbury Town Council, Berkshire
The COVID-19 pandemic compelled Newbury Town Council to quickly adapt to new ways of working. It also enhanced the council’s profile with other local authorities and organisations operating in Newbury.
A key part of Newbury Town Council’s Strategy is to provide support for young people, the elderly, minorities and the vulnerable. Among the ways in which the council delivered this objective include: signing a three-year service level agreement with Berkshire Youth for the provision of outreach youth work in Newbury; allocating £8,000 of grants funds for people with issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic; becoming an accredited dementia-friendly organisation; making Victoria Park available for a Black Lives Matter protest and inviting the organisers, as well as Community United West Berkshire, to address the full council and securing a place on the West Berkshire Homelessness Strategy Board.
The council has worked closely with partners in West Berkshire Council, Newbury Business Improvement District (BID), Thames Valley Police, the Public Protection Partnership and the management of the town centre shopping centres. Officers meet every two weeks with these partners to review footfall, business and anyways they can support the town centre through the pandemic. The council has established a town centre working group, with the same partners, working closely with the consultants appointed to prepare a master plan for the future of Newbury town centre.
The mayor’s office became proactive in the community. The mayor visited many of the town centre businesses when they reopened after lockdown last summer. The mayor also reached out to the community through the call the mayor scheme, Christmas card competition and the civic awards pin badge competition.
The council worked extra hard to provide top class outdoor facilities for the community. The markets and public toilets operated all year round.
The council used £250,000 of community infrastructure levies to carry out major upgrades and improvements at three different parks and recreation grounds.
The council organised volunteer events to allow members of the community safe social contact while also generating civic pride in their locality, including planting a wildflower bank, a lockdown wood and a bed of medicinal herbs.
Tollerton Parish Council, Nottinghamshire
With the best-equipped park in the borough and beyond, a thriving community-owned pub, local specialist retailers operating from the village centre or as regular pop-ups and an ambitious neighbourhood plan being developed, Tollerton is a village on the up.
Ultimately it is the appetite of the community for change and improvement that is a catalyst for this, but it is the work of Tollerton Parish Council that makes any of it happen.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the council worked closely with local borough and county councils to ensure a considered and impactful response was made to large scale development and to ensure protection for residents who had been affected by heavy flooding during the winter.
The council also engaged with local partners and the police to ensure that outdoor activities complied with the rules and that the value of the local park as an outside release for families was not undermined by antisocial behaviour.
The post office, run by Cllr Parma Somal, provided a drop off service for deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council has also worked with local businesses to use expertise within the village to help build, decorate, design and market those facilities. Local businesses have been allowed to run pop up vans and pop up fishmongers, and display their art in the windows of the parish rooms. The council is giving them a voice to develop a neighbourhood plan that shapes the future of where they live.
All digital channels are maintained regularly and provide updates on everything from flood response to the village fayre. This is in addition to paper communications and a comprehensive update in the monthly village newsletter. The neighbourhood plan consultation has been delivered both digitally and by post to all residents, to ensure representative participation in shaping the future of Tollerton.
The cumulative effort that goes into achieving visible results, alongside supporting the community in less obvious ways and with less immediately tangible results, is what sets Tollerton Parish Council apart.