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.

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.

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