This article appears in the November 2017 edition of The Clerk – the newsletter of the Society of Local Council Clerks. Terminology: within the sector Town and Parish Councils are referred to as “Local Councils” with their larger brethren which people may more instantly think of as local authorities known as “principal authorities”. My role chairing the improvement and development board is a very interesting component of my portfolio of activity…
Our local council sector is full of opportunities and challenges. Readers will be intimately familiar with the paradox that the greatest opportunity – being small enough to be very close to our communities – coincides with the greatest challenge – simply the amount of resource to get things done.
How can we organise to combine our skills and expertise, and benefit from each others’ experience? The sector does this in a number of ways, and having a specialist Society of Local Council Clerks is one of these. County Associations play an important role within each locality. NALC exists to lobby for the sector at national level and provide things that make sense at a national level.
There is a long history of collaboration between these organisations, sometimes difficult because of different perspectives, but it is impressive how much has been achieved in terms of cooperation to create the National Training Strategy, and the Council Awards Scheme. In order to bring these initiatives closer together and provide even more joined up activity the sector leaders got together and created the Improvement and Development Board (IDB) , as a vehicle for continuing to look for improvement mechanisms, and to coordinate them across the various parts of the sector. The main work of the IDB is done by its members – the IDB provides a forum for consultation, coordination and sharing. For example, the IDB does not undertake CiLCA training, but it oversees the curriculum, driven strongly by SLCC, and it provides policies to accredit trainers.
The IDB is chaired by an independent chair (me!) who has a broad background in local government and other sectors and a passion for localism, but no specific affiliation to any of the member bodies. SLCC is represented corporately by your chief Executive Rob Smith, Elisabeth Skinner and Helen Quick, and your branch representative is Linda Carter. Other bodies represented are: NALC, a CALC representative, the LGA and DCLG. Last year the IDB produced the National Improvement Strategy for Town and Parish Councils – many of the people reading this will have fed in to its content.
Key themes of our joint strategy are:
Raising the Standard, which incorporates a range of local initiatives and eg NALC’s Star Councils as well as the Awards Scheme and the development of that. We are considering the scope for “Peer Review” style mechanisms for those who want it.
Officer Professional Development: CiLCA, and the Community Governance Qualifications are here, with other SLCC work and scope to extend these eg to RFOs and to more advanced qualifications.
Councillor Democratic leadership: NALC’s guides and training materials sit here, and there is an appetite for extending and improving training, and taking the idea of a member Development Charter from parts of the country which have developed it and offering it to others.
My ask of you is simply to keep an eye out for our work, and to realise that IDB-endorsed work has gained significant support across the sector. If, for example, you are the user of some of our work, from the list above – give us feedback to help us to improve, in that and in other areas, though your IDB representatives.
I invite you to get hold of the Strategy and read it; in a sector with genuine differences of scale and need, and with fierce sovereignty, not everything that is done under the badge of the IDB will suit every council. Our aim is to create opportunities for coalitions within the sector to come together on issues of shared interest, to improve and to develop.
Jonathan Flowers, Independent Chair, Improvement and Development Board