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NALC Chief Executive's bulletin

Happy New Year and chairman's open letter
This is the first bulletin of the 2020, so on behalf of everyone at NALC happy and prosperous New Year! And in case you missed it just before Christmas, the NALC chairman, Cllr Sue Baxter, wrote a New Year open letter to all councillors about working together to build stronger communities. Sue's letter pays tribute to the work of councillors, explains how local (parish and town councils) can be the centre of community power, and issues two challenges for the decade ahead to both the sector and the government.

Meeting with government officials
NALC had a good meeting with senior civil servants working on the new government's communities agenda on 7 January, coming just weeks after the General Election, here are some key points:

  • They are starting work on a devolution white paper, which NALC will want to have a significant input to, and NALC will be putting together a task and finish group to oversee their input to this as a major priority for NALC over the coming months
  • NALC outlined the role the sector could play in delivering many of the Conservative Party's manifesto commitments, and the desire to build on relations developed with previous governments around the localism agenda. They confirmed that early indications from the Government were that they would continue the direction set out in the Communities Framework published in July; this was welcomed especially the commitments to improve the community governance review process and continue to devolve and strengthen the sector
  • NALC flagged up concerns that the sector had been overlooked in some recent grant funding schemes such as for town centres and parks, and NALC wanted to access a number of the funding streams referred to in the manifesto
  • NALC stressed the importance of an early ministerial meeting with Sue, which they agreed to raise
  • All in all this was a very encouraging and early start to engagement with the new government.

Council tax referendum principles

More positive news as the government is proposing to continue with no council tax referendum principles for local councils in the next financial year, in response to the continued lobbying on this important issue. You can read more in the provisional local government finance settlement 2020-21 which was published on 20 December. Also see the secretary of state reply to our tweet welcoming the announcement and stating "town and parish councils play a crucial role in our communities." Nevertheless, please note the consultation document also says "The government remains concerned about the pressure placed on taxpayers by parish and town councils across England and continues to expect them to exercise restraint in 2020-21." and that "The government will keep this matter under active review for future years." Rest assured this will be one of the top issues NALC will be engaging with the secretary of state about this year!

Meeting with British Toilet Association

With the toilet tax still among the key campaigns, Chris Borg, policy manager, met with Raymond Martin and Cllr Roger Berry from the British Toilet Association (BTA) on 7 January at the NALC office, here's a summary:

  • There was unanimous agreement the 'toilet tax' campaign was an important plank of NALC's overarching work on health and wellbeing, and that public convenience provision was part of a vital social inclusion agenda which the new government should hopefully be receptive
  • BTA are expecting to attend NALC's Spring Conference in London on 17 March 2020 given the focus on building healthy communities
  • It was noted NALC's Policy Committee would be shaping next steps on the campaign at their forthcoming meeting, and BTA offered their support to the campaign including with a possible sector survey to gather updated intelligence for use as part of our lobbying

NALC Study Tour programme announced

NALC announced our programme of three study tours taking place in 2020/21 focussing on the themes of health and wellbeing, climate change and strategic planning. These events are an excellent opportunity to learn, gain knowledge, share good practice and network – places are limited so book early to avoid missing out.

Village Halls Week — 20-26 January

Village Halls Week ran for the first time in 2018 is an annual and national celebration of rural community spaces and the people whose time and dedication keep them going. Organised by colleagues at ACRE, the campaign runs in January and sees a huge variety of events happening across England – you can find out more information including how to get involved (please do!) here.

Out and about

  • The NALC head of member services, Charlotte Eisenhart, was in Abergavenny on 8 January for a meeting of the Welsh National Training Advisory Group (their equivalent of the Improvement and Development Board) which is made up of One Voice Wales, Society of Local Council Clerks, Welsh Government, Welsh Local Government Association and NALC. The meeting focussed on renewing their training strategy for 2020 – 2025, topics included the vision for the sector, training for clerks and councillors, behaviours, diversity, finance, governance, and climate change.

Posted: Tue, 14 Jan 2020 10:00 by Alison Robinson

Tags: British toilet association, GAPTC, NALC, National Association for Local Councils, News, council tax referendum principles, meeting with government officials, study tour, village halls