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The Quality Parish and Town Council Scheme

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					The Quality Parish and
Town Council Scheme

     The Charter
       Part 1



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The Quality Parish and Town Council Scheme

The Charter


Introduction

1.    The parish and town councils of South Bedfordshire and South Bedfordshire District
      Council have agreed to publish a charter which sets out how they aim to work together
      for the benefit of local people. This Charter is the result of discussions locally to
      establish a new way of working and to confirm existing good practice.

2.    South Bedfordshire District Council acknowledges that parish and town councils are the
      grass-roots level of local government. By working with them and the South Bedfordshire
      Local Strategic Partnership Board, South Bedfordshire District Council aims to act in
      partnership with local communities, while balancing the needs of the wider community.

3.    In their role as democratically accountable bodies, parish and town councils offer a
      means of shaping the decisions that affect their communities. They offer a means of
      decentralising the provision of certain services and of revitalising local communities. In
      turn, the parish and town councils recognise the strategic role of South Bedfordshire
      District Council and the equitable distribution of services which it has to achieve.

4.    This Charter reflects the increasing importance attached by Central Government to
      partnership working and the development of Quality status for parish and town councils.

5.    The first part of this Charter (Part 1) applies to all parish and town councils in the area.

6.    The second part (Part 2) will apply to those parish and town councils that achieve Quality
      Parish Council Status. Part 2 will set out the services that South Bedfordshire District
      Council may delegate to Quality Parish Councils, and the financial provisions which will
      apply to such agreements. South Bedfordshire District Council and the relevant Quality
      Parish Councils may formally review it after four years in operation.




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PART 1 ALL PARISH AND TOWN COUNCILS


Sustainability

7.    South Bedfordshire District Council will work in partnership with all parish and town
      councils in its area to promote sustainable social, economic and environmental
      development for the benefit of local communities.


Community Strategies and Local Strategic Partnerships

8.    South Bedfordshire District Council will involve parish and town councils in the processes
      of preparing and implementing the Community Plan to promote or improve the economic,
      social and environmental well-being of the area, and the role which parish and town
      councils should take. South Bedfordshire District Council will consult and involve parish
      and town councils accordingly about the content and direction of the Community Plan as
      it affects the local communities they represent.


Local Governance

9.    South Bedfordshire District Council will hold an annual forum with representatives of all
      parish and town councils that wish to take part. The annual forum will take place in the
      Autumn of each year, and will provide the opportunity to discuss areas of common
      interest or concern with senior Members and Officers of South Bedfordshire District
      Council.

10.   South Bedfordshire District Council will help administer the holding of parish and town
      council elections. The respective authorities will work together to limit the costs of
      holding such elections.

11.   South Bedfordshire District Council will provide a service to the parish and town council
      clerks on Councillors’ registration of interests.


Consultation

12.   South Bedfordshire District Council will give parish and town councils the opportunity to
      comment before members make key decisions which affect the local community by
      South Bedfordshire District Council publishing its public reports to committees and sub-
      committees on South Bedfordshire District Council’s website (www.southbeds.gov.uk or
      www.citizone.org) at the same time as they are sent to members of South Bedfordshire
      District Council. Parish and town councils can request a copy of any public report and
      are encouraged to comment directly to members of South Bedfordshire District Council.
      The Executive Forward Plan listing key decisions for the forthcoming 4 months is
      published with each Executive agenda. Parish and town councils are encouraged to
      contact the nominated Officers/Members detailed in the Plan for further information.

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13.   The dates of all South Bedfordshire District Council’s public meetings will be placed on
      the website.

14.   A list will be maintained on the website stating topics of more formal consultation being
      undertaken on specific matters and the start and end dates. Parish and town councils
      may request inclusion in relevant consultation if they have not already been included.

15.   Appropriate Officers and/or Members of South Bedfordshire District Council will attend
      meetings with the parish and town councils (or groups of such councils) at a mutually
      agreed time to discuss matters of common interest.

16.   Parish and town councils will send copies of their agendas and papers to South
      Bedfordshire District Council and to councillors for their area upon request. Officers and
      councillors of South Bedfordshire District Council will be given an opportunity to speak at
      parish and town council meetings on matters of mutual interest.


Information and Complaints

17.   When South Bedfordshire District Council includes parish and town councils in a formal
      consultation process, it will provide them with sufficient information to enable them to
      reach an informed view on the matter. Whilst a reasonable length of time (at least 3
      weeks) will be given for responses it may not be possible to ensure that the timescale
      includes the date of a programmed parish or town council meeting, in which case the
      response of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman will be accepted.

18.   South Bedfordshire District Council will communicate with parish and town councils and
      others in the community by publishing Informaction regularly and making it available to
      the local community.

19.   South Bedfordshire District Council and parish and town councils will acknowledge
      letters sent by the other party, and both will provide substantive answers to letters which
      need a reply in accordance with the provisions of its Customer Service Standards. A full
      substantive reply or an acknowledgement will be sent by South Bedfordshire District
      Council within 10 days. If an acknowledgement is sent, the full substantive reply will be
      sent within 10 working days or within a time frame agreed by both parties.

20.   If a parish or town council is dissatisfied with South Bedfordshire District Council’s
      actions, the response to a request for information, or a failure to consult, the parish or
      town council may make a formal complaint by telephone or in writing to a Corporate
      Service Manager or Strategic Director – details can be obtained from the website
      (www.southbeds.gov.uk or www.citizone.org) or by contacting the Monitoring Officer for a
      complaints leaflet.


Standards Committee

21.   Both South Bedfordshire District Council and the parish and town councils have adopted
      codes of conduct, based on the national model code of conduct.

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      The parish councils will work with South Bedfordshire District Council’s Standards
      Committee to promote and maintain high standards of conduct. South Bedfordshire
      District Council has consulted and agreed the following arrangements with the parish
      and town councils for the appointment of representatives to the Standards Committee:
      Bedfordshire Association of Town and Parish Councils is invited to nominate one town
      and one parish councillor as independent co-opted members of the Standards
      Committee. Their term of office is two years. At least one member of a parish and town
      council must be present at any meeting of the Standards Committee when matters
      relating to parish or town councils are being considered.


Financial Arrangements

22.   Where a quality parish or town council takes on the provision of certain services, the
      level of funding will be agreed by South Bedfordshire District Council and the parish
      council.


Practical Support

23.   South Bedfordshire District Council will sponsor parish and town councils whose work is
      supportive of a shared interest with South Bedfordshire District Council by offering
      access to their printing services at the rates charged within the District Council. Parish
      and town councils should apply for sponsorship to the Principal Administration Manager.
      Parish and town councils may apply to South Bedfordshire District Council’s
      Procurement Officer for assistance with purchasing.

24.   Parish and town councils are offered the opportunity to participate in council training
      programmes where this supports the training needs of the parish and town council
      members. Programme of training sessions, including Planning, Licensing and Code of
      Conduct will be sent to parish and town council clerks when they become available.




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