2019 Annual Conference & AGM

The 72nd Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Northamptonshire County Association of Local Councils took place on Saturday 5 October 2019 at Moulton Community Centre. The event clashed with the England v Argentina match in the Rugby World Cup, so a low attendance had been feared. Instead, another record attendance was achieved with over 150 attendees in total, with 138 registered councillors and clerks representing over ninety member councils.

Hot sausage or bacon rolls provided an incentive for delegates to turn out on a Saturday morning and there was a good exhibitor area providing information on products and services aimed at parish and town councils (see list of exhibitors below).

Vice President, Jeffrey Greenwell, presided once again in the absence of a permanent President and he ensured that the AGM formalities were disposed of with the minimum distress. The existing vice presidents and directors were all re-appointed and delegates approved an inflationary increase in membership fees for 2020/21 (see all AGM papers below).

Northants CALC Chief Executive, Danny Moody, then launched the Building Communities prospectus, saying that the Association had organised many workshops, focus groups, surveys, and research on Local Government Reorganisation over the past two years and that all the engagement work had been distilled into the document, which sets out the role of parish and town councils in the context of unitary local government, building stronger and safer communities and acting as the bridge between communities and the unitary councils. Danny Moody thanked the parish and town council clerks and councillors who had attended the meetings and workshops and given their valuable input, and Deputy CEO, Lesley Sambrook Smith, who over a relatively short time has become an expert on LGR for the Association.

At the core of Building Communities is a proposal that each unitary council, West Northamptonshire Council and North Northamptonshire Council establishes a Community Partnerships Office (CPO) to act as a first point of contact between the unitary council and the parish and town councils in its area. Northants CALC believes that establishing good communications is fundamental to building an effective and respectful relationship between the two tiers of local government.

Jeffrey Greenwell then introduced the first keynote speaker, Sarah Mason the Chief Executive of the Cornwall Association of Local Councils who spoke on Life after Unitary Reorganisation – The Parish & Town Council Perspective (download slides).

Sarah described the journey that parish and town councils had been on since Cornwall went unitary in 2009. She outlined that services that had previously been delivered by the principal councils now fell to parish and town councils to continue if they wanted to, and the inescapable realities that brought in terms of increased Band D tax rates levied by parish and town councils (average £56.50 in 2008/9 to £124.65 in 2018/19).

Sarah described the challenges of change and said that for councils that wanted to achieve things it was a great opportunity. She said that "The biggest challenge is your mindset" and pointed out that it would take at least three or four electoral cycles for unitary local government to be considered the normal way of doing things (as opposed to the "new" way). Sarah said that parish and town council must prepare by mapping everything in their communities and having a conversation with the electorate about what was important to them to protect.

Sarah described the key role that the Cornwall Association played and continues to play in being the bridge between parish and town councils and Cornwall Council.

She ended by saying that divorce, death and moving are known to be highly stressful life events, and that Local Government Reorganisation was like all three rolled together!

After such a thought-provoking and challenging presentation there were lots of questions, with subjects ranging from how to "sell" large Band D increases to the electorate, the status of Neighbourhood Plans after LGR, and how new councils are created in previously unparished areas.

Delegates then had a break to recharge their coffee cups and sample the delicious cakes and fruit on offer. It was also another good opportunity to visit the exhibitor stands.

After the break, the second keynote address was given by Dr Jonathan Owen, Chief Executive of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) who spoke on the National challenges facing the first tier of local government (download slides).

Jonathan wished Northants CALC a happy 72nd birthday and said that it was nationally recognised as a leading CALC. He praised the Building Communities prospectus and said that he supported its central tenets of building relationships, partnerships and trust.

Jonathan listed NALC's lobbying successes recently, particularly the exemption for parish and town councils from Council Tax Referendum Principles and the removal of business rates on public loos. He said that current national events made dealing with parliament challenging but that NALC was achieving some notable wins. Jonathan noted that parish and town councils are moving into different service areas, such as health and wellbeing, and that they now provided a vast array of services. He invited delegates to state some of the things their councils were doing, and it was a big list:

  • new village hall

  • installing play equipment

  • community orchard

  • taking over library

  • electric charging points

  • village design statement

  • holding a charter day

  • greenways

  • recreation areas

  • town celebrations

  • party in the park

  • christmas lights

  • outdoor gym

  • extending community centre

  • broadband mast

  • museum

  • town ranger

  • CCTV

  • sponsored PCSO

  • taking over village green

  • providing giant hedgehogs 

He illustrated that government supports the parish sector and there had been recent positive comments from the Secretary of State and local government ministers.

NALC is working on important policy initiatives, such as reducing loneliness and social isolation, which now kills more people than smoking. Jonathan said the parish sector is alive and kicking and that press coverage was sometimes not truly reflective of all the good things it is doing. He noted the lack of diversity in the sector and urged all delegates present to encourage new candidates to come forward for election in May 2020. Finally, he called for all councils to invest more in training and development in order to build the capacity of the sector.

A range of questions followed from such diverse subjects as youth councils, parish charters with principal councils, and climate change.

Jeffrey Greenwell then read out the names of all the officers that had achieved the sector qualification, the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA), since the last AGM: Lesley Sambrook Smith (Northants CALC), Helen du Bois (Helmdon Parish Council and Greatworth Parish Council), Hanneke Soans (Irthlingborough Town Council and Pilton, Stoke Doyle & Wadenhoe Parish Council), Malcolm Stewart (Boddington Parish Council) and John Scott (Shutlanger Parish Council). Jeffrey asked for a congratulatory round of applause.

Danny Moody then read out the commendation for the Northamptonshire Council of the Year Award, which went to Daventry Town Council in recognition of its efforts to have services and assets devolved to it from Daventry District Council so that they can be delivered at the most local level possible.

Danny said "More than a year ago the council started a conversation with DDC about the possible transfer of services and it has been a resource-intensive and challenging negotiation. It came to a point when the council had to make a decision as to whether to bail out, or to go for it. It decided to go for it." "This council recognises that its core role is to do what is in the best interests of its community, and to work hard to that end... The dedicated and engaged councillors who freely give up their time to make a difference, and in particular the Clerk, whose passion and determination is the driving force to making it all happen. It's those people and their tireless efforts that this award recognises and congratulates."

The Council of the Year award was presented by Jeffrey Greenwell to the Deputy Mayor of Daventry Town Council, Councillor Lynne Taylor.

After a redraw due to the first winner not being present (never leave before the prizes!), the prize draw was won by Cllr John Coatsworth from Helmdon Parish Council. The prize of £300 in vouchers and a bottle of champagne was generously donated by Wicksteed, one of the UK's premier outdoor playground equipment suppliers, and it was presented to Cllr Coatsworth by Jeffrey Greenwell.

Jeffrey Greenwell thanked the sponsors and exhibitors for their support, Moulton Parish Council for hosting again, the Leaders of Wellingborough Borough Council, South Northamptonshire Council and Northampton Borough Council for attending as guests, and of course the two speakers for their thought-provoking talks. Jeffrey thanked all the delegates for their attendance and participation, and finally Danny Moody and Lesley Sambrook Smith for arranging the conference and for all the good work they do for parish and town councils in Northamptonshire.

Delegates were sent on their way by 1:00 p.m. and there was no mention of the result in the rugby, just in case anyone was rushing home to watch their recording without knowing the score!

The Association cannot function without the support of its member councils, so we are very grateful to everyone who gave up their Saturday morning to be with us. We hope you might come back next year to do it all over again... Saturday 3 October 2020!

Thank you to our sponsors, exhibitors and supporters:

• SLCC (www.slcc.co.uk/branch/northamptonshire)

• Streetscape (http://www.streetscape-products.co.uk)

• 2Commune (https://www.2commune.com/)

• Clear Council Insurance (https://clearinsurancemanagement.com/)

• HAGS Play (http://www.hags.co.uk)

• Wicksteed Playgrounds (https://wicksteed.co.uk/)

• Northamptonshire Neighbourhood Watch Association (http://www.northamptonshireneighbourhoodwatch.co.uk/)

• CCLA (Investments) (https://www.ccla.co.uk)

• Community Action Suffolk (https://www.communityactionsuffolk.org.uk/support/your-community/insurance-for-parish-councils/)

• Zeta Lighting (http://zetaled.co.uk/)

Papers & Presentations

2019 Annual Conference - Agenda

 2019 Annual Conference - Director Appointments

2019 Annual Conference - Minutes from 2018

2019 Annual Conference - Annual Report

2019 Annual Conference - Subscription Fees 2020/2021

2019 Annual Conference - NCALC Accounts YE31MAR2019