Docstoc

April 2011 Newsletter - final

Document Sample
April 2011 Newsletter - final Powered By Docstoc
					VOLUME 14                                                                                       APR 11




STAFFORDSHIRE
BRANCH LINES
ELECTIONS

Well we all know how many candidates are standing for our Parish and Town Councils and whether
elections will be required.

Looking at my current members, 5 out of 15 have been on the Council since I became Clerk at Eccleshall
16 years ago. Despite publicising the elections and including notices in the Parish Council Newsletter and
on the website I am not expecting many changes this year and there is little interest from younger people
within the community.

How then do we raise the profile of the humble Parish Council and encourage new members to stand for
election? This year I have found that there has been considerably less interest locally than in previous
years – perhaps all this talk of the ‘Big Society’ and Localism is actually deterring would be candidates?
Hopefully the number of elected members will fulfil the electoral mandate criteria to gain re-accreditation of
Quality Status in 2012.

For those with insufficient members after the election, vacancies should be advertised directing anyone
interested in being co-opted to contact the Clerk. Candidates are then invited to give a short presentation at
the next Council Meeting and the existing Councillors vote to determine who will be co-opted, or obviously if
you have a co-option policy in place this should be followed.

Christine Heelis
Chair



BRANCH UPDATE FROM                      THE      ANNUAL   cemetery management, war memorials, allotment
GENERAL MEETING                                           management and charity trusteeships were all
                                                          suggested topics for future training sessions. It
This year’s Branch AGM was held at Wheaton                was also noted that the SLCC’s National CPD
Aston Village Hall on 5th April and our thanks go         Officer, Di Dann had confirmed the intention to
to Lapley, Stretton and Wheaton Aston Parish              hold courses in Staffordshire next year.
Council for its hospitality on the day.
                                                          Finally, a thank you to everyone who came along
Subjects discussed included the imminent digital          and contributed to the meeting, it was pleasing to
switchover throughout the County; and how to be           see a good number (17) of our colleagues in
prepared and make information available to local          attendance. The next meeting is scheduled to be
communities, particularly to those residents who          held in July and notification of the date, time and
are difficult to reach. The Branch also spent             venue will be circulated nearer the time.
some time discussing ideas for training. and data
transparency, Freedom of Information, VAT,                Christopher Moulton, Honorary Secretary


Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                         APR 11


CONSULTATION

Some discussion took place at last week’s Branch Annual General Meeting about consultation in general
and how you find out what’s happening especially given the short time scales that are attached to most of
the consultation requests nowadays.

Unlike the good old days when documents were sent through the post, most consultations nowadays are
only available via download (which does make it easier to circulate to your Councillors – well those on
email anyway…), and the first that most clerks know about these is via the SLCC website or the e-forums,
but what if you don’t have the time to check these out. Unfortunately all Clerks are in the same situation
and it does take some effort to continually check the website out or to keep up with all the e-forums but it is
time well spent.

However, in an effort to ease the burden on us all, Ruth has offered to set up a distribution list and mail out
any details of consultations as she is made aware of them. If you would like to be added to this distribution
please email Ruth direct at: parishclerk@anglesey-parishcouncil.co.uk. Also, as some of these
consultations are relevant to different sizes of parish could you also indicate whether you classify yourself
as a small, medium or large council and Ruth will try to tailor the send outs – or if you would like to receive
them all please just say.

Not sure which size council yours is?

Larger Councils - gross budgeted income of in excess of £500,000, based in a council office, managing
staff and with a range of council projects as well as a wide range of functions. They will tend to be on the
upper LC3/LC4 salary ranges.

Medium sized Councils - £50,000 to £500,000 gross budgeted income range. They will probably work in a
Council Office but may work from home, and will probably have one or two staff. They will be on the mid
LC2 to Mid LC3 salary range.

Smaller Councils - less than £50,000 gross budgeted income will usually work from home and often be
the Council’s only employee. They will be on the LC1 to lower LC2 salary ranges.




The following articles are from the National Branch Newsletter. You will note that some of the items have
some tight deadlines for comments etc. For a full copy of the newsletter please check out the SLCC
website.

Big Society – Share Your Innovation

The SLCC website now contains a new section in the members’ area called, “Big Society”. It contains an
excellent statement of evidence presented to the parliamentary Public Affairs Select Committee by local
council students at Gloucestershire University as well as details of local initiatives. We are well aware,
especially from president Bruce Poole’s travels to branch meetings and branch conferences throughout
England and Wales, that many councils are already delivering on the Big Society, with a vast array of Big
Society initiatives in which they have actively engaged with their local communities. Bruce has heard of
everything from community orchards, car sharing schemes, local bus services, engaging young people in
bulb planting, creating a local ‘dog watch’ to act as the eyes and ears of the local council using dog walkers.
We strongly believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.

We therefore invite every member whose council has initiated ANY project in which it has engaged with the

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                        APR 11

local community to kindly drop us a brief line – we hope, soon, to be in a position to produce a library of all
the projects being undertaken, to which members can refer, and share in the experiences of their
colleagues. Please email ian.purchase@slcc.co.uk giving yours and your Council’s name, a brief
description of the project and your part in it, plus your contact details. Ian will then add it to our project
library.

Too often local councils are slow to publicise their activities. Please do not
miss this opportunity to share the good work of yourself and your Council.
The Clerk Magazine Needs You!
                                                           Code of recommended practice for Local
Each edition of The Clerk magazine contains a              Authorities on data transparency consultation
series of articles on a special theme. The next
edition, in May, will be “Localism”. The themes for        The Government has consulted on the detailed
future editions are:                                       provisions to be included in its data transparency
                                                           proposal – this includes not only all items of
July:            Tourism                                   expenditure over £500 but other underlying
September:       Engaging Young People                     information. The proposals treat Town and Parish
November:        Partnerships                              Councils as local authorities and do not
January:         Planning – a new role for parishes        distinguish between them and the largest principal
                                                           councils. In the SLCC response, whilst confirming
If you and your council have some experience in            our total support for the principle of transparency
any of the above fields which you would like to            in the conduct of parish affairs, we have pointed
share with colleagues, PLEASE do contact                   out the serious capacity issues which the
Richard Walden, the SLCC Communications                    proposals present for the smaller parish councils.
Officer at richard.walden@ntlworld.com. We are             We are seeking some detailed discussions on this
particularly interested in contributions about             point in conjunction with our partners from NALC.
Tourism for the July edition. Have you helped              The SLCC’s response can be viewed by logging
your Council with a particular tourism project, was        into the members' area of www.SLCC.co.uk under
it successful, did it achieved its objectives?             External Affairs - Data Transparency Consultation.
Please do get in touch, especially if you work for
a smaller council.

Prime Minister announces ‘Royal’ Wootton Bassett

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced in the House of Commons that the town of Wootton
Bassett in Wiltshire (where NEC Chairman, Johnathan Bourne is the Town Clerk), will become Royal
Wootton Bassett later this year. The Prime Minister said:

“I recently made a recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen, and I am very pleased today to announce,
that Her Majesty has agreed to confer the title ‘Royal’ upon the town, as an enduring symbol of the nation’s
admiration and gratitude. The town will become ‘Royal Wootton Bassett’ later this year.”

The Prime Minister took the opportunity to thank the people of Wootton Bassett for “their deeply moving
and dignified demonstrations of respect and mourning.”

The Mayor of Wootton Bassett, Mary Champion, said:

“This is a great honour for our community as the repatriations move away from Wootton Bassett. Whilst we
have never sought recognition for our simple act of respect, I am certain that this will serve to reinforce the
pride and gratitude we feel for the members of our Armed Services, who will always be in our thoughts.”
A Written Ministerial Statement from the Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox confirmed that
repatriation ceremonies for those killed in operational theatres will move from RAF Lyneham to RAF Brize


Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                       APR 11

Norton in September this year, following the closure of RAF Lyneham, which was originally announced in
2003.

Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence, said:

“I would like to thank RAF Lyneham for their excellent work in supporting the important task of repatriation
ceremonies. I am certain that RAF Brize Norton will maintain the standard of solemnity, dignity and respect
to our Service Personnel killed on operations as shown by the personnel at RAF Lyneham.

“I would also like to record publicly my thanks to the people of Wootton Bassett who have chosen to pay
their respects in a unique and special way. It is such spontaneous public support that captures the spirit of
the British people, and I am very grateful for those who have participated; such gestures do not go
unnoticed by those deployed on operations.”

Once The Queen has conferred the title, the town will for ever afterwards be entitled to be called ‘Royal
Wootton Bassett’. The new name will legally come into effect on the date the legal instrument – in this
case, Letters Patent – is signed and sealed by The Queen. Officials will be contacting the Town Council to
agree with them what form the Letters Patent should take.

The Government will be discussing with Buckingham Palace, the Armed Forces and Wootton Bassett Town
Council how best to celebrate the town’s new title and mark the end of repatriations through the town.

       The only other royal towns in England are Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Tunbridge Wells. Both
        of these spa towns petitioned for the honour in recognition of their antiquity and Royal patronage of
        their facilities. Leamington Spa was granted the title in 1838 by Queen Victoria, and Tunbridge
        Wells in 1909 by King Edward VII.
       Caernarvon in Wales is a royal town of a different kind – ‘the Royal Town of Caernarvon’ – because
        it was made a Royal Borough by the Queen in 1963 and was allowed to retain the honour when it
        ceased to be a borough in 1974.
       SLCC is therefore extremely proud that both the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the NEC are
        officially “Royal” clerks.

    Are Clerks Employees, or can they be Contractors?

    After several years of debate on this subject HMRC on 28th February published the following
    statement which applies to all Town, Parish and Community Councils in England and Wales.

    HM Revenue & Customs’ previous guidance

    Previous HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) guidance (EIM67320) on the tax treatment of payments
    made by Parish Councils to their Clerks indicated that it was acceptable for tax purposes for these
    payments to be made outside of a PAYE Scheme. This guidance was based on the premise that
    payments to Clerks fell below the PAYE tax threshold. HMRC is now aware that many Clerks earn in
    excess of the PAYE and National Insurance contributions thresholds. HMRC has therefore decided to
    issue new guidance on the tax treatment of parish clerks (see below). Guidance EIM67320 has been
    removed and should no longer be followed.

    The correct Tax and NIC treatment of Parish Clerks

    A Parish Clerk is an Office holder. All office holders are subject to PAYE. This means that Parish
    Clerks:
    • can never be considered self employed for tax or NIC purposes
    • must not be paid “gross”; and
    • must be taxed under PAYE.. .

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                      APR 11


    Parish Councils must register as an employer with HMRC and operate PAYE on the income the Clerk
    earns. This is the same position as for any office or employment; there is no other acceptable tax
    treatment applicable to Parish Clerks. Any previous agreements with HMRC or the former Inland
    Revenue under which the Clerk was paid gross or was treated as self employed are void, as are any
    ‘inherited arrangements’ under which a Clerk’s income is not subjected to PAYE.
    Where the Clerk has income from other sources (for example a pension or other employment) it is
    important to inform HMRC of this so that the correct tax code can be issued. For new employees you
    can do this by ticking the appropriate box on form P46. If you have any questions around this issue
    please contact the New Employer Helpline on 0845 60 70 143

    SLCC is providing renewed advice to members on the payment of PAYE in the May edition of
    The Clerk magazine.

Accounts and Audit Regulations Consultation                     rights of the public". (effectively part-time
                                                                clerks could refuse to make accounts
The new Accounts and Audit Regulations are                      available for inspection on Saturdays and
available at                                                    Sundays if this was not convenient in the
www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/817/made                       same way that full time clerks working
                                                                from offices are only open Monday to
The changes include raising the threshold above                 Friday)
which Councils must produce full FRSSE                         unlike principal authorities there is no
accounts from £1M to £6.5M and the following                    statutory requirement placed on local
details:                                                        councils to publish notices of audit/rights
    removing the statutory duty to review                      of inspection and notices of completion of
         annually the effectiveness of internal audit           audit on websites although those local
         and systems of internal control (although              councils that have official websites are
         this is still recommended as good practice             encouraged to do so.
         and the duty to review the effectiveness of
         internal controls remains)                      The Society was consulted on the changes and
    enforcing the 30 June deadline for the              Steve Parkinson, who coordinated our response
         approval and adoption of the accounts -         would like to thank all those colleagues who took
         it's now a "must" rather than "using best       the time to send me their comments. There are
         endeavours"                                     one or two points where Steve will be responding
    change in the wording relating to providing         directly to individuals who have contributed,
         public access to the accounts for 20 days       particularly where we have not been able to
         prior to audit. To quote from the covering      support points they have made.
         letter from CLG "The provision that access      The new regulations apply to England, although it
         is available on reasonable notice now           is understood the Welsh Audit Office will also be
         applies to all smaller bodies rather than       issuing new regulations shortly.
         only those with annual income or
         expenditure of not more than £200,000. In
         our view this change reduces a burden on
         the smaller bodies without prejudicing the

Local Authorities are urged to ‘Get a Grip’ on Road Safety

Parish and Town and Community Councils are being asked to support a new campaign, ‘Get a Grip’,
designed to reduce casualties to motorcyclists by adopting a positive solution to the road surface grip
problems faced by two-wheelers.

Composite access cover manufacturer Structural Science Composites (SSC) and lobbying organisation
Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) have got together to promote the use of composite access covers to
provide a consistent road surface which saves lives and money. According to MAG, of all the varying

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                        APR 11

potential risks presented to riders of motorcycles, the worn, cracked, displaced or stolen metal access or
manhole cover poses one of the greatest dangers in terms of stability and traction – frightening at best and
catastrophic at worst - especially when the road is wet.

Andrew Burton of SSC explains: “Of the many significant benefits offered to motorcyclists by composite
covers, a consistent grip level, no matter how much a cover wears, is perhaps the greatest. The anti-slip
properties of composites remain at consistently high levels throughout the cover’s life.

“In terms of cost, the most reliable ‘value for money’ indicator – and one which places the composite option
way out in front of it metal counterparts - can be achieved by adopting a long-term economic appraisal
based on whole-life costs, as opposed to making purchasing decisions on up-front capital costs. “The life
expectancy of SSC access covers is over 20 years and each carries a minimum 15 year product guarantee.
Compared with traditional metal covers, a typical company with a 15,000 access cover estate using
composites can save in excess of £12.5 million over a period of 15 years. In addition, composites have no
value on the scrap market so will not be stolen – a hot topic at the moment with scrap metal selling
currently at £100 a ton!” Of the many local authorities and city councils currently assessing SSC composite
covers, The London Borough of Hackney has installed ten SSC covers on several roads as part of a
programme which, according to the Borough’s Principal Engineer Melvyn Tagg, will see 10 to 20 roads
resurfaced annually, equating to a total of around 60 new composite covers each year.

Affordable Freedom Scrolls Allow Local                   the level of detail, and can be presented framed
Councils to Create Freemen at Low Cost                   or bound by a simple ribbon.

Last year saw the introduction of a new power –          Kim Leggott, Civic and Ceremonial Manager at
contained within the Local Democracy, Economic           Shaw’s, is proud to be able to extend the
Development and Construction Act 2009 – which            company’s expertise in traditional scroll
means that any local council can now give                production to Parish, Town and Community
recognition to an individual’s special service in its    Councils. “I am thrilled that we are able to make it
area of control by creating honorary freemen and         easier for local councils to grant freedoms for the
women. Previously this power was limited to              first time. Our electronically printed scrolls are not
Cities, Boroughs, Royal Towns and a select few           only attractive, they are also a fraction of the cost
Parish, Town and Community Councils.                     of the traditional versions.”

Until now, money-conscious local councils may            Local councils can call Shaw’s Civic and
have shied away from exercising this new power           Ceremonial department on 01322 621109 or visit
due     to   the     expense   associated   with         www.shaws.co.uk for more information.
commissioning traditional freedom scrolls. An
honorary freedom bestowing ceremony usually              More Powers to Bust Barriers
includes the presentation of a hand-crafted
illuminated scroll produced on vellum by skilled         Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark has today
artists using traditional methods, placed in an          unveiled new powers for councils in England to
ornate casket and costing hundreds, sometimes            hold Government to account and make sure
thousands, of pounds in total.                           requests from their local communities to remove
                                                         unnecessary regulations are properly considered.
Local government suppliers Shaw’s – who have             In plans for new measures under the Sustainable
been providing councils with traditional freedom         Communities Act, Mr Clark has set out a new
scrolls since 1750 – have just launched an               simple process by which councils can directly ask
affordable line of electronically printed scrolls        Whitehall to remove barriers that can block local
especially for local councils with limited funds.        people from improving their communities.
Although created on computers, the scrolls are           Previously, councils had to jump through hoops
founded upon hand-drawn artwork and produced             and stick to rigid timetables before any barriers
on goatskin parchment to retain an appearance            were taken seriously. The new process is direct
suitably impressive for the dignity of the award.        and straightforward - saving council officials
The scrolls cost £100-£200 + VAT depending on            precious time and the taxpayer thousands of

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                      APR 11

pounds in administrative costs.
                                                         A spokesman for Local Works commented:
Last year, Mr Clark set out an 'action plan' to
respond to proposals already submitted under the         "Both Local Works and the Sustainable
Act. He also said that the Government was "open          Communities Act are based on the fundamental
for business" to bust barriers, and that councils        principle that local people are experts in finding
could submit requests as soon as they come to            their own local solutions to their own local
light, without having to navigate deadlines or wait      problems. The Act remains one of the few
for bottlenecks to clear. Because the timetable will     genuine bottom up processes which allow
be rolling, proposals can be considered more             communities to have greater control over things
quickly.                                                 that affect their everyday lives.   are glad the
                                                         Government have recognised this and we urge
The changes have also increased transparency             local councils and communities to use this new
as councils are now able to discuss their                process to deliver real change from their
proposals directly with Whitehall. Everyone can          communities."
see the progress being made online, as well as
reasons for the Government's decision on                 The Local Government Association, the 'selector'
whether to implement suggestions. Today's                under the Sustainable Communities Act, will enjoy
announcement means the Local Government                  more flexibility and fewer burdens than before.
Association will have the power to challenge a           There will be a larger role for representatives from
decision if a particular council isn't happy with an     local and parish councils, and community groups -
outcome. Where there is a challenge, the                 allowing a wider range of people to voice their
Government will have to consult the Local                opinions on the most severe barriers to localism.
Government Association before issuing the final
decision.                                                Barriers to community action that have already
                                                         been identified include:
The new system enables councils to submit ideas
via a dedicated 'barrier busting' website and                  Criminal Records Bureau checks on
follow the progress of their suggestions online.                volunteering
People             who          use           the              rules that prevent welfare claimants from
service barrierbusting.communities.gov.uk (extern               taking part-time jobs or longer work
al link) are given a unique Amazon-style tracking               placements
number to monitor requests and a named 'barrier                competition laws that prevent businesses
buster' assigned to each case.                                  from      collaborating   on    sector-wide
                                                                initiatives
Greg Clark said:                                               health and safety regulations
                                                               public liability insurance and catering
"I've been hugely inspired by the Sustainable                   licences running stalls at events.
Communities Act. Its ethos - giving local
taxpayers a bigger say in how their money is             The full consultation can be viewed at
spent, and helping councils challenge central            http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localg
government to cut red tape - is absolutely in line       overnment/pdf/1875242.pdf and comments are
with what we're seeking to do in the Localism Bill.      invited by 20th June 2011 and it would be very,
I want to turbo-charge the Sustainable                   helpful if any comments could be copied to
Communities Act. We're getting rid of the                External    Affairs  Officer,   Sam     Shippen
bureaucracy so that it's easier than ever for            slcceao@sky.com, so she is able to compile a
people with bright ideas for improving local life to     composite response on behalf of the Society.
ask for central government's assistance. We
would, for example, welcome requests to remove           External Audit Fees
barriers from organisations such as town and
parish councils. r barrier busting website is open       The Audit Commission has confirmed that fees
for business, ready and waiting to sweep away            set for 2006-11 have now been extended to cover
the obstacles and help local people do things their      2011/12, following which new arrangements are
way".                                                    expected to be made as the Audit Commission is

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                       APR 11

unlikely to exist beyond that date.
                                                          These reflect the limited assurance audit regime
 The fees can be viewed at the following link             which was introduced specifically to minimise the
http://www.audit-                                         costs of audit for these bodies
commission.gov.uk/localgov/audit/auditmethodolo
gy/Pages/0611limitedassuranceaudits.aspx

Noise Abatement Society new online publication informs the soundtrack of our lives

The Noise Abatement Society has just launched its flagship online publication - SoundScape, where life
sounds good.

The first publication of its kind, SoundScape (visit www.noiseabatementsociety.com to download a free
copy) was borne out of the current need to reconnect with the aural environment for the benefit of
everyone’s emotional and physical health.

Designed specifically to educate, inform and inspire, the e-zine investigates the soundscape, evaluating its
influence on our health, wellbeing and environment for the benefit of all life. It brings to the fore
technologies, strategies and products that positively affect noise pollution, providing solutions and
championing industry best practice.

NAS believes that, both holistic and pragmatic, SoundScape perfectly reflects its ethos to help find practical
solutions to solve existing noise problems, to safeguard both present and future generations. It takes into
account views from academics, activists, designers, industry, parliamentarians and the public, who share
their views, experiences and hopes for the future of our aural ecology.

The launch issue pulls into focus the work of real life heroes and warns of a ticking ‘time-bomb’ that will
destroy our current teenagers’ hearing if they do not learn to listen responsibly to their mp3 players. Also
featured are perceptive opinion pieces on the state of domestic noise in Britain and the need to establish
and protect sound ecosystems.

“SoundScape intelligently investigates the sounds that affect our lives. It explores new ways of solving
noise problems by researching how sound can be viewed as a ‘resource’ rather than traditional approaches
which try to combat noise simply as ‘waste’,” explains Lisa Lavia, NAS managing director and editor-in-
chief of SoundScape.

Devolution of services from Principal Councils            community facility which would otherwise close.
                                                          One Voice Wales is developing a detailed
Up and down the country local councils are being          protocol to support those councils who wish to
asked to consider taking on responsibility for local      take up the challenge of taking on services from
services faced with closure as part of the principal      their principal authority – more information on this
council’s response to the reductions in public            will be published shortly.
expenditure. On the Isle of Wight, the County
Council has set up a fund of £50,000 from which           Localism Bill
parishes and communities wanting to take over
libraries faced with closure can make bids for            External Affairs Officer, Sam Shippen has placed
start-up grants. Brighstone Parish Council has            a summary of the main provisions of the Bill on
responded by setting up a Steering group of               the members section of the SLCC website. It can
councillors and community representatives to do           be found under External Affairs/ Localism Bill.
just that.                                                Much of the Bill’s provisions outline a broad policy
                                                          principle, the details of which will be developed in
Oxfordshire County Council has gone further and           secondary legislation or statutory guidance. The
has a fund of £600,000 for grants to parishes and         Government is presently consulting on these
community groups taking over any type of                  detailed issues at a rapid pace and Sam has also

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                          APR 11

included a commentary on each section of the                eye on this section of the website if you want to
Bill, with its current position and the Society’s           stay abreast of all the likely changes to affect our
response. She is updating this information during           profession.
the last week of each month – so keep a close

Audit Commission Keeps Communities Informed

Council clerks play a vital role in managing council finances. For the first time the Audit Commission has
published a summary of the results of the limited assurance audits at parish councils. Auditing the Accounts
2009/10: Parish Councils was published on 24 February 2011. The report is available on the Commission’s
website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk.

It shows how well English local councils are doing on the timeliness and quality of their financial reporting.
But it can also be viewed as a measure of clerks’ success in upholding proper standards of governance and
helping to keep communities informed.

The overall message is positive, which will be pleasing for clerks and their councils to hear. But there is still
progress to be made, particularly in councils’ governance arrangements.
For 2009/10, auditors were able to complete their work and issue the certificate and opinion on the annual
return at 93 per cent of local councils by the 30 September accounts publication deadline. By 31 December,
this had increased to 99 per cent. This is a notable improvement on previous years and reflects the good
work done by the vast majority of councils, often with limited resource, to ensure sound governance and
financial management.

A small number of councils, however, are persistently failing to prepare an annual return. Auditors are
highlighting their failures locally in public interest reports. The Commission’s report names the worst eight
councils that have failed to prepare an annual return for the past three years or longer. The Commission is
concerned that these councils are not providing the most basic accountability to which local electors are
entitled. In the Commission’s view it is unacceptable that parish councils should fail persistently to produce
an annual return, yet still be able to raise a precept. This is one of the issues we think needs to be
addressed in the Department for Communities and Local Government’s current review of the future audit
and accountability arrangements for parish councils.

On quality, the report notes that auditors qualified the annual return at 13 per cent of councils. Again this is
an improvement over the previous year where 17 per cent of annual returns were qualified. Auditors issue
an unqualified audit opinion where they consider the annual return is in accordance with the specified
requirements. Where this is not the case, the auditor will qualify the opinion, setting out the reasons why.

The main cause for the qualifications was weaknesses in councils’ arrangements for internal audit. This is a
matter of concern. An inadequate level of internal audit assurance may leave councils open to the risk of
financial mismanagement, or fraud. Because of their size, parish councils tend to be less resilient to the
impact of this than larger bodies, so only one serious incident can undermine their financial position.
Effective internal audit is an essential safeguard for public funds, and clerks should make sure that their
councils give it sufficient priority.

In the ten years since the limited assurance audit regime was introduced, the Commission has seen
significant improvements in the governance and accountability of parish councils. But we cannot afford to
be complacent. In the current financial climate good quality, timely and transparent financial reporting is
more important than ever. The Audit Commission advises that local councils and their clerks need to keep
their eye on the ball and continue to build on the improvements already made.

The Future of Local Council Audit                           detailed consultation paper setting out proposed
                                                            auditing arrangements which will apply after the
On 30th March the Government published a                    abolition of the Audit Commission after 2012. The

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                       APR 11

specific proposals for Local Councils in England         modern world, blurring the lines           between
are covered in section 5 of the consultation paper       professional journalists and the public.
(page     48)   which    can     be    found    at
http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localg        “There are recent stories about people being
overnment/localpublicauditconsult                        ejected from council meetings for blogging,
                                                         tweeting or filming. This potentially is at odds with
In common with charities, it is suggested that the       the fundamentals of democracy and I want to
External Auditor be replaced by an Independent           encourage all councils to take a welcoming
Examiner. One suggestion is that this Examiner           approach to those who want to bring local news
will be selected and appointed by the County or          stories to a wider audience. The public should
Unitary Council for all local councils in their area.    rightly expect that elected representatives who
The closing date for comments is 30th June and it        have put themselves up for public office be
would be appreciated if you could copy your              prepared for their decisions to be as transparent
responses to National Financial Advisor, Rod             as possible and welcome a direct line of
Latham rodlat@googlemail.com, to assist in his           communication to their electorate. I do hope that
preparation of the Society’s full response.              you and your colleagues will do your utmost to
                                                         maximise the transparency and openness of your
Access to Meetings                                       council.

Bob Neil MP, a Junior Minister in the Department         “I do recognise that there are obligations on
for Communities and Local Government, has                whoever is filming or publishing information – be it
written to all principal councils in England in the      the council itself or a citizen or mainstream
following terms. Although his comments are not           journalist – under the Data Protection Act 1998.
addressed directly to Town, Parish and                   But I do not see these obligations as preventing
Community Councils, they do indicate current             access for journalism. Nor are there grounds for
thinking which members’ councils may want to             any council seeking to obstruct a citizen or other
consider when next reviewing their standing              journalist from processing information. The
orders with respect to Access to Meetings.               Information Commissioner’s Office has told us
                                                         that:
Mr Neil said: “As part of the Government’s
transparency drive I want to highlight the               ‘In the absence of any other legal barrier to
importance of your council giving citizens the           comment, publication, expression and so on, the
opportunity to access and experience their local         Act in and of itself would not prevent such
democracy       using   modern      communication        processing of information.
methods. It is essential to a healthy democracy
that citizens everywhere are able to feel that their     In the majority of cases the citizen blogging about
council welcomes them to observe local decision-         how they see the democratic process working is
making and through modern media tools keep               unlikely to breach the data protection principles.
others informed as to what their council is doing.       In the context of photographing or filming
The mainstream media also needs to be free to            meetings, whilst genuine concerns about being
provide stronger local accountability by being able      filmed should not be dismissed, the nature of the
to film and record in meetings without obstruction.      activity being filmed – elected representatives
                                                         acting in the public sphere – should weigh heavily
Councils are now faced with important budget             against personal objections’.
decisions affecting the day to day lives of people
living and working in their communities. Council         Moreover there are within the Act itself
meetings have long been open to interested               exemptions from the data protection principles
members of the public and recognised journalists,        which might apply in the circumstances of the
and with the growth of online film, social media         citizen journalist. The first exemption relates to
and hyper-local online news they should equally          processing of information for journalistic purposes
be open to ‘Citizen Journalists’ and filming by          (section 32), the second for the processing of
mainstream media. Bloggers, tweeters, residents          information for domestic purposes (section 36).
with their own websites and users of Facebook            “In short transparency and openness should be
and YouTube are increasingly a part of the               the underlying principle behind everything

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                         APR 11

councils do and in this digital age it is right that we    democratic debate that social media and similar
modernise our approach to public access,                   tools can make”.
recognising the contribution to transparency and

Budget 2011 – the Coalition wedding story continues

Jay Kennedy, Head of Policy at the Directory of Social Change has provided the following round up of the
key policies and decisions in the Chancellors Budget that will affect the voluntary sector. This provides
much useful information to local councils. Something old, something new, something borrowed...

Chancellor George Osborne revealed his first post-spending review budget on 23 March. With inflation
rising, growth stagnating and figures for public borrowing looking worse than anticipated, pundits were
playing down the possibility of any big giveaways in the run-up.

As the Coalition wedding story continues, was there anything of note announced for the voluntary
sector? Is the Big Society fire still alive, or are there signs that David Cameron’s first love may be fading as
the practical realities of married life in the Age of Austerity set in?

The Budget usually has a few surprises, a few things smuggled through in the small print, some
announcements of future announcements, as well as a number of announcements recycled from previous
announcements. Below we give our breakdown of the main bits of interest to the voluntary sector –
something old, something new; something borrowed, and something blue…

Something old (well, kind of)

- Local Enterprise Zones (yes, LEZs) are a bit of a blast from the past, having first been introduced in the
1980s. The general idea is to encourage investment and business in deprived areas by simplifying
planning rules and creating tax incentives. LEZs will be tied to the new Local Enterprise Partnerships,
designed to bring local authorities and business together to boost economic growth. LEPs replace the
functions of the now scrapped Regional Development Agencies in England. The Chancellor announced the
creation of 21 Enterprise Zones, predominantly in the Midlands and the North of England – including
Birmingham, Liverpool and Sheffield.

- Community Investment Tax Relief encourages investment in disadvantaged communities by giving tax
relief to investors who back businesses and other enterprises in less advantaged areas by investing in
accredited Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs). It is relevant to many social enterprises
and regeneration groups. The Chancellor announced that CITR would be retained in the Budget, despite
the Government’s wider programme to simplify the tax system. However, the Budget document says the
Government will ‘renotify CITR to the European Commission and consult in advance of renotification on
how the scheme can be made more effective’, which implies possible future changes to the scheme.

- Fuel duty – the Chancellor’s big crowd-pleaser was the postponement of the previously scheduled 1p rise
in petrol duty, and scrapping the ‘fuel duty escalator’, a legacy of Labour’s last budget which scheduled
regular rises in petrol duty. The Chancellor also cut fuel duty by 1p per litre. Instead, the Government is
introducing a ‘fair fuel stabiliser’ to tax oil producers when oil prices are high. These changes could offer
some limited benefit to community transport groups or other charities that rely on volunteer drivers, which
have been hit by higher fuel prices.

- The Landfill Communities Fund provides grants to environmental groups and local councils from
charges for waste disposal. Budget 2011 announced that ‘the value of the fund will rise in line with inflation
in 2011-12 to £78.1 million. Future decisions on the value of the fund will take into account the success of
environmental bodies in reducing the level of unspent funds that they hold.

Something new

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                       APR 11


The big news for the voluntary sector in the Budget was the announcement of a range of measures to
encourage charitable giving and philanthropy. Although taken individually none are terribly radical, and
some are not very firm commitments, taken together they are arguably more significant than anything put
forward in any recent Budget. Osborne said these would be ‘a big help for the Big Society’.

- Promoting legacy giving – the rate of inheritance tax will be reduced by 10 per cent for those estates
leaving 10 per cent or more to charity, from a rate of 40 per cent to 36 per cent. This is likely to mainly
benefit larger well-known charities, as they are far more likely than smaller charities and community groups
to receive legacy donations.
- Increasing the Gift Aid benefit limit from £500 to £2,500 from April 2011 to enable charities to give
‘thank you’ gifts (i.e. the ‘benefit’) and to recognise the generosity of significant donors.

- Consulting on proposals to encourage donations of pre-eminent works of art or historical
objects to the nation in return for a tax reduction (details still to be specified, presumably in part through
the consultation process).

- A commitment to introduce a new and simpler system of online filing for Gift Aid. The Chancellor
said this would be in place by 2013, but that date is not in the text of the budget document. The document
also announced that ‘intelligent’ forms (which contain automatic checks) would be published ‘shortly’.

- A Gift Aid small donations scheme. This will allow charities to claim Gift Aid on up to £5,000 of small
donations per year without the need to submit Gift Aid declaration forms. Depending on the details, this has
the potential to significantly boost fundraising for small charities, which are less likely to claim Gift Aid
because of the paperwork.

- The Government will explore how to increase the take up of Payroll Giving, which allows individuals
to give through their pay and reduce their income tax bills.

- Some other ‘new’ proposals will affect the sector indirectly, or will affect certain parts of it:
      Government will consult on merging income tax and national insurance, with a view to
      reducing cost and complexity. Osborne said ‘it will take a number of years to complete.’ This is a
      massive reform that is likely to affect charities which employ staff over the medium-longer term, but
      it’s unclear exactly how.

     £180 million for up to 50,000 additional apprenticeship places over the next four years,
     including 40,000 places for young unemployed people, in particular through progression from the
     work experience programme.
Something borrowed

- A Green Investment Bank (GIB) will be capitalised to support investment in low carbon technology and
industry. £1bn was already committed in the Spending Review to set up the GIB, and the Chancellor
announced that it will now hold an additional £2bn from asset sales. The GIB will open in 2012 and will be
able to borrow more money itself from 2015/16. This may be relevant to charities and social enterprises
working on environmental policy or directly on green technology.
Something blue (or rather green…or perhaps blue in the face)

- The Green Deal to reduce domestic energy consumption by investing in energy efficiency measures is
being retained. Budget 2011 announced that ‘The Government is committed to the success of the Green
Deal and will act to encourage and incentivise take-up so that the Green Deal will appeal to households,
businesses and prospective providers alike, before it is introduced in 2012.

- A range of planning reforms were announced in the Budget, mainly to stimulate development and house
building. Osborne claimed that these would mean the ‘default answer to development was ‘yes’, whilst

Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM
VOLUME 14                                                                                       APR 11

existing controls to protect green belt land were retained. Conservation groups will no doubt want to look at
these measures in detail.
Some wedding gifts we expected but didn’t get…

- More details about the Big Society Bank, which is intended to grow the market in social investment and
to facilitate financing and capital investment for social enterprises and charities.

 - More about the forthcoming ‘Open Public Services White Paper’, the Government’s plan to open up
most areas of public services to competition. In previous weeks David Cameron and others have claimed
this would create the opportunity for charities to bid for £60bn of public sector service delivery contracts.




Designed by Hunnypot Cottage Designs
Author and Publisher by Ruth Redgate CertHE CEG, MILCM

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:5
posted:1/17/2013
language:simple
pages:13