Quality status should be high on the list of priorities for local councils, as the accreditation demonstrates their ability to delivery efficient services to local residents and speak with greater authority to principal councils when seeking delegated functions which can be better carried out locally. There is no bar for any local council to work towards obtaining this award.
The Quality Parish and Town Council scheme was launched in June 2003, following the publication of the government’s Rural White Paper 2000 and the scheme was then refreshed in June 2008.
The scheme is designed to provide a benchmark of minimum standards for parish and town councils and enable them to better represent the communities they serve. The scheme also aims to enhance relationships between local councils, principal authorities and community and voluntary sector organisations.
The revised scheme, as of 27th June 2008 is in line with the government’s enhanced role for parish and town councils as champions of community engagement.
Changes to the Scheme are as follows:
Electoral mandate test
Councils will be required to show that at least two-thirds of councillors were elected (reduced from 80%). ‘Elected’ can mean either at a contested or uncontested election. However, they must have stood.
Council meetings test
Councils will be required to publish draft minutes of meetings within two months of it taking place and make them available for inspection by any elector in the parish. This is in place of publishing agreed minutes.
Communications and Community Engagement test (Mandatory)
Councils will be required to have a website which provides a list of council members and officers, details of how they can be contacted and which also provides access to the annual report. Councils will also be required to have an email address that is publicly available. Councils now have the option of either producing their own newsletter or contributing to a community newsletter. The information that is required to be included in the newsletter has not changed nor has the requirement that the newsletter is made readily available at public sites.
Communications and Community Engagement test (Discretionary)
Two new options have been added; A Community Engagement strategy has been formulated; and Councils provide a regular weblog on their website about council activity or encourage the community to talk to them through an online forum or through surveys on the website.
Code of Conduct test
Councils will be required to have formally adopted Section 12 (2) of the Code of Conduct which concerns the prejudicial interests of councillors and public participation.
Promoting Local Democracy and Citizenship test – New!
Councils will be required to demonstrate that they work proactively to support local democracy and citizenship. A specific guidance note is available showing the kinds of activities you may wish to consider. However, the note is intended to be illustrative only and we would encourage councils to be innovative.
Terms and Conditions test – New!
Councils with a paid clerk will be required to provide evidence that they have adopted (as a minimum) the NALC/SLCC Terms and Conditions agreement and provide evidence in the form of a statement that they have issued all paid members of staff with a contract of employment.
Training – New!
Councils will be required to provide a training ‘Statement of Intent’ which shows that the council has identified key areas of training need for both staff and members. A specific guidance note is available to help you with this test.
Full details on the changes, as well as guidance notes and application forms are available on the NALC web site at www.nalc.gov.uk/Toolkits/Quality_Status.aspx.
Northants CALC is ready to support your council in achieving Quality status. Please phone 01327 831482 or e-mail email@example.com. We can give you arms-length support, or visit your council to discuss the Quality scheme in detail. Just let us know which suits you best!