Section 137: 2017/18 limit will be £7.57

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has confirmed that the appropriate sum for the purpose of section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 (the 1972 Act) for parish and town councils in England for 2017-18 is £7.57.

The 1972 Act enables local councils to spend a limited amount of money for purposes for which they have no other specific statutory power. The basic power is for a local council to spend money, subject to the statutory limit, on purposes “for the direct benefit of its area, or part of its area, or all or some of its inhabitants”. A council thus has considerable discretion in exercising the power but should be mindful at all times of the scope for making payments that might be thought inappropriate by the electors within the parish. As councillors are collectively expressing an opinion as to the commensurate local benefit, the expenditure under section 137 must be properly authorised by resolution.

Transparency Fund – Last Call for 2016/17 applications!

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.

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. Nonetheless, 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.

A reminder also that eligible councils can submit transparency fund claims more than once, if there is a continuing need in respect of the ongoing cost of supporting a web site and/or for set up costs and equipment for which funding has not already been provided. It is understood that funding under the scheme will continue throughout 2017-18. However, to ensure councils can claim for spending in the current financial year, the final submission date for applications is Friday 17th March.

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.