Local Council Award Scheme

The Association is encouraging councils to apply for accreditation under the Local Council Award Scheme at an appropriate status (Foundation, Quality, or Quality Gold). The County Panel has already determined several applications from SPCA members and is keen to see more councils seek accreditation in order that their professionalism is validated and recognised publicly.

Full details of the Scheme, including a Guidance document and application form, can be obtained by emailing spca.parish@staffordshire.gov.uk

 

Vacancies on the SPCA Executive

There were insufficient nominations received by the due date for Members of the Association’s Executive in five districts to serve for a two year term concluding in December 2018.

The number of remaining vacancies is as follows:

Cannock Chase – one

Lichfield – two

Staffordshire Moorlands – five

South Staffordshire – three

East Staffordshire – three

Councils are asked to notify us of any of Members who would like to be considered for co-option to the Executive to represent the districts concerned by no later than 31st January. In the event that the number of nominees exceeds the number of vacancies a postal ballot may be necessary.

The Executive Committee holds four ordinary meetings each year, usually on the first Monday of March, June, September and December. The final meeting each year coincides with the Association’s Annual General Meeting. All meetings are held in County Council buildings in Stafford.

 

Transparency Fund

Transparency Fund 2016/17

A further reminder that the Department for Communities and Local Government is still making money available to local councils under the “Transparency Fund” in the current financial year. If a council is required to comply with the Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities; i.e. if the gross annual turnover is less than £25,000, and to do so it needs to purchase IT equipment or set up a web site, cash grants are available.

Please note that there has been an important change to the eligibility criteria enabling a greater number of smaller councils to access funding, following NALC representations to DCLG. If a Council’s turnover is usually less than £25,000 but in any one year it exceeds this, meaning they are not eligible to apply for funding, then as long as a council does not exceed the turnover limit three years in a row, they will be eligible; this is a welcome and helpful change and means more councils will now be eligible to apply. Applicants falling under this category should leave the turnover question blank and provide details of its turnover under question 29. The authority needs to state its turnover, mentioning any other grant payments it received or is due to receive, and confirming that its turnover does not exceed £25,000 three years in a row.

Also, a council does not need to have its own website in order to be compliant. Councils may opt to upload relevant information on another organisation’s website, for example, a village website. These councils are also eligible to apply for funding to cover equipment costs (computer, scanner, software), website costs (annual running costs – question 17, and set up costs – question 18), as well as staffing costs, subject to meeting the usual criteria and thresholds.

Applicants are reminded that the purpose of the Transparency Fund is to cover the extra burden incurred by smaller authorities as a result of complying with the Transparency Code. For this reason, the Fund cannot cover the cost of modernising a council’s website or purchasing more modern equipment. For example, as long as a council can upload the necessary information onto their website, even if the website has a basic design, is running on a free of charge platform, and is not mobile compatible, the council cannot claim funding from the Transparency Fund to cover the costs of setting up a new website. Also, if the council already owns a computer that allows them to perform the necessary tasks to comply with the Transparency Code, they may not apply for funding to cover the costs of a second machine. However, if the council uses a member’s equipment (computer and/or scanner) and does not have its own, then it may apply for funding to purchase its own.

It should be noted that towards the end of the financial year, NALC and DCLG will follow up on a sample of applications, asking applicants to submit evidence on how the money was spent. Applicants are reminded that it is their responsibility to hold proof of the way the grant funding was spent.

NALC’s committee considers bids on a monthly basis and the deadline for submitting bids to SPCA to meet the next meeting date is Friday, 16th December.

Filming of Parish Council meetings

Filming of Parish Council meetings: the law since August 2014

As reported at the time in the SPCA “Bulletin” (the issues dated 7th August and 14th August 2014 refer) the Government made the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, pursuant to the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, effective from 6th August 2014. The rules were changed to make councils, including parish and town councils, and other local government bodies such as fire and rescue authorities, more transparent and accountable to their local communities.

The key change was that the Regulations conferred on the public the right to film and report, using digital and social media, all those meetings of parish and town councils which are open to the public.

Member councils should refer to the SPCA “Bulletin” dated 1st December 2016 for further details.

The Association has a model “Media Policy” that councils should consider adopting in order that they can respond accordingly when members of the public choose to exercise their rights under the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014.