Elections: 2nd May 2019

SPCA is aware that individual District and Borough Councils within the County will be staging meetings for the benefit of Parish and Town Councils within their respective areas to explain the procedures associated with the forthcoming elections scheduled for 2nd May 2019 (other than in Newcastle-under-Lyme district). The advice issued by the Returning Officers at each of the electoral authorities will be the definitive guidance that should be followed by candidates intending to stand for election as local councillors and will also inform clerks as to the extent of their responsibility towards ensuring that the elections are conducted efficiently.

In addition to those materials available from NALC at: www.nalc.gov.uk/elections, SPCA can provide some additional templates, including suggested formats for leaflets and posters that may assist parish and town councils in promoting the election locally to try to ensure that the 2nd May election attracts a sufficient number of candidates to stand. Should you wish to receive such draft material to adapt for your own use please email us at spca.parish@staffordshire.gov.uk

Prospective candidates, including serving councillors, should also, of course, familiarise themselves with the election procedures and reconfirm their eligibility to stand. If you are proposing to stand as a parish councillor again next May then please remember that to become nominated as a candidate you will need to submit a completed set of nomination papers to the Returning Officer by 4pm on the 19th working day before the poll (see the attached timetable); the arrangements for delivery will be confirmed by the District Council concerned in due course.

The Electoral Commission’s website offers outline guidance for those intending to stand and the following documents will be of particular interest.

www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/candidate-or-agent/parish-and-community-council-elections-in-england-and-wales

www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/141799/Part-2a-Standing-as-and-independent-candidate-P-and-C.pdf

www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/141802/Part-2b-Standing-as-a-party-candidate-P-and-C.pdf

 

Section 137 Expenditure: Limit for 2019-20

The appropriate sum for the purposes of section 137(4)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972 (the 1972 Act) for Parish and Town Councils for 2019-20 is £8.12.

Section 137(1) of the 1972 Act permits each Parish or Town Council to spend on activities for which it has no other specific powers if the Council considers that the expenditure is in the interests of, and will bring direct benefit to, the area or any part of it, or all or some of its inhabitants, providing that the benefit is commensurate with the expenditure. Parish and Town Councils are also permitted under section 137(3) to incur expenditure for certain charitable and other purposes. The maximum expenditure that can be incurred under both section 137(1) and (3) for the financial year 2018-19 will be £8.12 per elector.

 

Staffordshire County Council – Budget Pressures 

Message from Philip Atkins, Leader, Staffordshire County Council

Dear Colleague

You may recall that before Christmas, I wrote to give you an overview of the scale of the financial challenge the County Council faced and our plans to achieve a balanced budget in 2019/20.

At a meeting of the County Council on 14th February we approved proposals to close the £35m shortfall in our budget next year, made possible by a combination of early and decisive action, a tight grip on our finances and effective lobbying of Government.

We are now on track to deliver a balanced budget for 2019/20 and have a robust medium term financial strategy for the next five years.

Despite the good progress, significant risks remain around how we continue to fund care for increasing numbers of vulnerable adults and children, something which we continue to lobby Government on.

This means that despite some one-off additional funding from Government we still need to implement some increasingly difficult decisions and we cannot continue to do everything we have done in the past.

We recognise the impact this may have on our partner organisations and on local communities, but we are completely committed to open and honest dialogue as we make the necessary changes.

Part of this will be a drive to support communities to find local solutions to issues that are important to them where we can no longer fund services. We will also champion the creative and effective use of data and technology to support people.

We remain hugely ambitious for Staffordshire and are committed to growing the economy, creating more skilled jobs and supporting people to lead healthier and more independent lives, all with one of the country’s lowest county council taxes.

I look forward to continuing the conversation with you in the coming weeks and months.

Regards

Philip Atkins

 

Funding of School Crossing Patrols

An open letter from Staffordshire County Council

 

Dear Colleague

Following the Local Government Finance Settlement, we are now finalising our budget and our Medium Term Financial Strategy.

As you are aware, we faced a £35m budget shortfall for 2019/20, but by acting early we will be in a position to deliver a balanced budget for the next financial year.

In order to do this, we have faced some incredibility difficult choices about what non-statutory areas we can continue to fund, including the school crossing patrol service.

After listening to public feedback, we feel this is not the right time to pursue this option and therefore we will not be taking this any further at this time.

Although this means it will continue to cost the council £1.4m to run the service, and therefore brings with it other financial pressures which need to be met, we think this is the right thing to do.

We would also like to thank all parish and town councils, who stepped forward to offer financial support if needed to keep their local patrol.

While the one-off funding for social care and highways was of course welcome, it is the long-term funding of social care which needs an urgent solution.  We will continue to press the Government on this matter.

With less money to go around, councils can no longer fund everything they would like to do, and we are being honest with communities about that.

This means focusing more on empowering communities to deliver alternative, affordable local solutions to support their families, friends and neighbours and parish councils have a key role to play in making this happen.

An update on our budget proposals will be presented to Cabinet on 30 January, before going to Full Council in February. The Cabinet paper can be viewed here

Thank you for your continued support.

Kind regards.

Philip Atkins OBE                                                                          Helen Fisher

Leader of the Council                                                                   Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport

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

 

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.