Section 137 Expenditure: Limit for 2018-19

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 2018-19 is £7.86.

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 £7.86 per elector.

For the financial year 2018-19, the appropriate sum for the purposes of section 137(4) is calculated by applying the formula set out in Schedule 12B to the 1972 Act. The Retail Price Index increased by 3.9% between September 2016 and September 2017. This means that, by application of the formula, the maximum sum for 2018-19 increases from £7.57 to £7.86 per elector.

 

Staffordshire County Council – Environmental Maintenance

“Community Based Approach to Partnership” work programme

The “Bulletin” of 23rd March reflected on the outcome of a joint SPCA/SCC workshop at which the County Council outlined proposals involving the prospect of parish and town councils working in partnership with SCC and/or taking sole responsibility for certain functions, principally associated with highways and related environmental maintenance. It has subsequently been made clear that the county council will continue to meet its statutory duties with regard to routine and reactive maintenance of highways, covering major work items such as resurfacing, pothole repairs, grass cutting for visibility (at bends, junctions and signs), gritting, gully emptying and drainage improvements.  However, the County Council’s decision to end financial support for environmental maintenance through the Lengthsman Scheme and the Neighbourhood Highways Team visits will present new challenges for many parish councils.

It can also now be confirmed that the County Council will set up a new ‘micro-website’ that will address the issues arising from the decision to cut back on environmental maintenance programmes. The website branding will feature the wording “Highways Your Way: Local Communities. Local Priorities”, and put the accent on ‘self-help’, encouraging parish councils to get more involved in relatively small tasks to help neighbourhoods to look good and work well. It is intended that the website will feature all the information that parish councils will need to explore the options open to them and make appropriate decisions. There is a range of options that parish councils might consider, including weed control and enhanced grass cutting; maintenance of hedges and fences; the painting and cleaning of street furniture; ditching and clearing of debris from drainage assets. The County’s Community Highways Liaison Teams will remain on hand to provide any necessary support and advice about responsibilities when working in the highway or making changes to the highway structure.

The website will also feature case studies involving parish councils that are already successfully dealing with related work items themselves at a local level.

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.