Local Community and Towns Charter

 

A SHARED COMMUNITY

 

Introduction

The Community and Town Councils of Monmouthshire and Monmouthshire County Council have agreed to publish a charter which sets out our aim to work together for the benefit of local communities whilst recognising our respective responsibilities as autonomous, democratically elected statutory bodies.

The Charter is designed to build on existing good practice and embrace the shared principles of openness, respect for each other’s opinions, honesty and our common priority of putting citizens at the centre.  This charter is based on equality of partnership and is not a top down arrangement

 

Partners to the Charter

 

 


1          Recognition

We accept the legitimacy and benefits of partnership working, whilst at the same time recognising and respecting each other’s roles. We aim to work together as a partnership of equals.

 

Monmouthshire County Council

 

Community and Town Councils

Acknowledges and recognises that Community and Town Councils are the grass roots level of local government in their role as democratically accountable bodies.

Community and Town Councils offer a means of engaging with local people, of decentralising the provision of certain services and revitalising local communities

 

Recognise the strategic importance of the County Council and the economy of scale and equitable distribution of certain services that they are able to achieve, as well as their statutory functions and responsibilities

Recognise and respect the diversity of Community and Town Councils and that their needs vary according to size, and the extent to which they participate varies

 

Recognise that community and town councils come within the common umbrella of the County Council

Also recognise that the County Council will take a balanced view to the benefit of the whole county

 


2          Local Governance

We will be clear about the expectations that we have of each other in order to facilitate a smooth working relationship.  In this regard, we will define the way in which we interact with each other. We will be clear about the role of councillors at all levels in the relationship and in community leadership.

 

Monmouthshire County Councils

 

Community and Town Councils

Will host regular joint liaison meetings with representatives of all community and town councils that wish to take part.  The first meeting will set a protocol and programme for future meetings which may be held on an area basis on appropriate occasions.

 

 

Will contribute towards the agenda of liaison meetings and contribute proactively to the attendance and discussion

Will appoint a nominated member of staff to be a liaison officer between the County Council and community and town councils.

The liaison officer will support and develop agreed communication channels between community and town councils and the County Council

 

Will use the agreed communication channels with appropriate officers and local members on general service and policy issues, but will contact the nominated officer on other agreed issues and make them aware of any difficulties being encountered

Will support inclusion of Community and Town Council councillors / officers [as appropriate] on key local statutory partnerships and committee meetings. 

 

Will invite councillors / officers [as appropriate] of the county council to  meetings and will provide a space on its meeting agenda for presentations if requested

Will administer the holding of Community and town council elections

 

Will notify the need for elections in a timely manner

 

3        Consultation

We appreciate the importance of meaningful consultation and set out a genuine commitment among all parties to consult on matters of mutual concern.  We will agree clear, specific and time limited procedures and processes for consultation

 

Monmouthshire County Council

 

Community and Town Councils

Will give community and town councils the opportunity to comment before making a decision that affects the local community [particularly on matters relating to planning and other environmental changes] In furtherance of this, the county council will make available a copy of its public reports to Cabinet, panels, committees etc, and will advise all clerks of the dates of its public meetings and make copies of its agendas available on the Councils website

 

Community and town councils will respond to consultation opportunities in a timely manner, addressing the key issues in the consultation document. Will make full use of the papers available to them to inform local decision making

Officers of unitary authorities will attend meetings with community and town councils when reasonable and within reasonable resources at a mutually agreed time and place to discuss matters of common interest when requested to do so.

 

County councillors and officers will be given an opportunity to speak at community and town council meetings on matters of mutual interest

Further detail to be agreed at future liaison meetings

Community and town councils will be encouraged to attend select committees and all agendas will be published on the web

 

Will respond to requests to input views to scrutiny committees

 

 

4        Information and communication

We appreciate the need for timely, clear and relevant information and communication in fostering good relationships and better joint working for the benefit of local people.  Where a written response is required, from either party, this should be provided within an agreed timescale except for consultations with a specifically stipulated response date.

 

Monmouthshire County Council

 

Community and town councils

Will provide to community and town councils a list of regularly updated named contacts, telephone numbers and where possible email addresses

 

Will utilise the agreed contact points and respond in the most appropriate and timely method

Will communicate by email unless required to supply a hard copy if required.  We will work towards a satisfactory way of operating effectively  as appropriate for members of community councils

To be discussed later through the action plan as detailed below

 

Will ensure that all community and town councillors have access to the appropriate documents

 

5        Joint working and engagement

The charter defines partnership as working together towards a common set of goals, based on equality in terms of ownership, decision making and recognition of each party’s distinctive contribution.  It is recognised that an equal and effective partnership brings benefits and responsibilities to all those involved. Local government at both tiers must work together to promote the economic, social and environmental well being of our area.  If doing things differently achieves a better service, we will seriously examine those methods

 

Monmouthshire County Council

 

Community and town councils

Will provide opportunities for clerks of community and town councils to meet to discuss common concerns and resolve issues at the specific requests of the clerks, when this cannot be dealt with through other channels

 

Will encourage participation by clerks in opportunities to network and share common concerns.

Will likewise meet if necessary at the specific request of the unitary authority.

 

6        Land Use Planning

Community councils know and understand their local area and must be able to comment effectively on planning matters. The unitary council is able to take an overview of the needs of the whole local area and make decisions, taking local views into account.

 

Monmouthshire County Council

 

Community and town councils

Will meet its statutory duty to consult community councils on all planning applications, and recognise the right of community and town councils to be heard in the determination of planning applications. 

 

Make appropriate responses to county council recognising the parameters imposed by planning law and agreed planning policy

Will seek the advice of the appropriate community or town council in the deployment of section 106 agreements at an appropriate stage in a development.

 

Will recognise the need for a strategic County approach to planning gain

Inform representatives from a community or town council of site visits relating to planning applications in its area within the time constraints of the organisation of such site visits

 

Offer councillors training on planning issues to ensure that they have a sound understanding of how planning law works

 

Will maintain an objective and professional approach to planning matters at all times

 

The community and town councils will maintain an objective and professional approach to planning matters at all times

Will maintain a web site and place all applications, plans relating to correspondence, decisions and officer reports on the web site within an agreed specified time

This will include a section to address representations from community or town councils where the recommendation differs from the recommendation put forward by the community / town council.

Notice will also be given of appeals and variations of planning conditions.

Special arrangements will be arranged with individual community councils where needed

 

Councillors to take up the opportunity to attend planning committee meetings of the county council

 

7        Practical support

In order to be effective, elected members and officers must be well trained and have the support they need to carry out their roles

 

Monmouthshire County council

 

Community and Town Councils

Offer where practical community and town councils access to support services, to enable them to take advantage of facilities such as printing, IT, purchasing at a mutually agreed price

 

Will follow procedures set out to access the county council support services, but also have opportunity to make own arrangements

 

8        Expertise

We will encourage continuous development of officers and members in both county council and community and town councils either in their individual groupings or together.  Improved expertise leads to professionalism and more effective joint working

 

Monmouthshire County council

 

Community and Town Councils

Will offer member induction training to community and town councillors at appropriate times, to enable them to understand the role and function of the unitary council

 

Will provide an induction to newly elected councillors to enable them to undertake their role effectively

 

9        Ethics

We will provide an ethical service to local people, taking full cognisance of the appropriate standards and codes of conduct.  We will encourage links between community and town council clerks and the county council standards committee

 

Monmouthshire County council

 

Community and Town Councils

Support through the appointed monitoring officer, support community councils in the timely consideration and provision of advice in relation to the application of the member code of conduct

 

Will not make vexatious complaints under the code, and will provide all such information as required by the monitoring officer to enable him/her to carry out his/her function effectively

 

10      Financial arrangements

Both the county council and community and town councils recognise the need for clarity and transparency in financial arrangements in developing and implementing financial arrangements, relevant national and local priorities will be taken into account

 

Monmouthshire County council

 

Community and Town Councils

Will have regard to services being delivered by community and town councils in the setting of council tax for the area

 

Will have regard to the plans for service delivery of the county council for the coming year, in setting their annual precept

11      Delegating responsibility for service provision

Services should be delivered in the most appropriate manner, with regard to value for money and added value for local people

 

Monmouthshire County council

 

Community and Town Councils

Will give due consideration to all reasonably argued cases for the delegation of appropriate service delivery to community and town councils, basing its consideration primarily on the improvement of service delivery for citizens whilst ensuring value for money is retained or enhanced

 

Will recognise that there area certain instances where it is not appropriate or desirable for the county council to delegate service delivery

Where it is not appropriate of desirable to delegate service delivery the county council will seek ways in which local information from communities might be used to enhance service delivery to meet citizen needs

 

Will engage with the citizens in the communities they serve to understand better their needs and convey these needs in a coherent and constructive manner to the county council, such that they can be taken account of in service design and delivery

 

12      Sustainability

We will work in ways that are sustainable and adaptable to climate change, reconciling the long term needs with those of the present;  and protecting and improving the quality of life of current generations without compromising the quality of life of future generations

 

Monmouthshire County council

 

Community and Town Councils

Will assist community and town councils with information on sustainable practices

 

Will proactively assess the sustainability of current practices and processes


Will outline how the county council is actively pursuing sustainable development

Will investigate projects, with the assistance of a delegated county council officer, which contribute to sustainability where beneficial to the community, where resources allow

 

13      Community Strategy

We recognise the strategic importance of the community strategy as the overarching strategic vision and priorities for the local area.  Furthermore, we recognise that the community strategy will only be fully effective if it is informed by the grass roots experiences from within our communities

 

Monmouthshire County council

 

Community and Town Councils

Will invite a representative of community and town councils to sit on any community strategy working group in recognitions of the local knowledge and experience that this will bring.

 

Shall together nominate a councillor to be their representative on the community strategy partnership

This representative shall proactively represent the sector, raising matters of general concern appropriate to the agenda of the board

Will involve community and town councils in the development of local community strategies and action plans

 

Will contribute to the development of the community strategy in its development stage

Will involve community and town councils in the implementation of the community strategy

 

Will respond actively and fully to consultation of the draft community strategy and participate in the partnership monitoring and the implementation of the community strategy


14        Local Elections

Fair and open elections are the bedrock of local democracy. We will ensure that elections are freely and fairly contested, and encourage local people to become involved in local democracy

 

Monmouthshire County Council

 

Community and Town councils

Will involve community and town councils in the local election planning process

 

Will encourage participation in the local election process by members of the local community

Will involve community and town councils in any awareness raising/publicity to encourage nominations for candidacy at local elections

 

Will ensure wide publicity of vacancies on community and town councils to maximise community representation

Will help to publicise forthcoming elections on behalf of community and town councils

 

Will facilitate public participation at all relevant meetings of the council and its committees to encourage community involvement

Will brief community and town council clerks on the nomination process so that they are equipped to assist any potential candidates who come forward for local elections

 

Will provide help and assistance with the local election legal and administrative processes and procedures

 

 


15      Action Plan

This charter will be supported by the development of an action plan addressing each of the individual topics contained herein. The action plan will be developed on a joint basis and shall attribute responsibilities to each partner. Actions will be accompanied by a timescale and will reported on at least quarterly

 

Monmouthshire County Council

 

 

Will nominate a lead officer for the development and monitoring of the action plan

 

Will collectively agree priorities for inclusion in the Action Plan

Responsible officers will have due regard to the action plan and include relevant actions in their work plan for the year

 

Will have due regard to the action plan and include all actions relevant to them during the course of the year

 

16      Monitoring and review

The charter will be fully reviewed after the first year, and every two years thereafter, or more often if there is a need to do so. The community liaison meetings will measure progress annually in achieving the measures set out in the charter through the setting and reviewing of actions contained in an action plan

 

Monmouthshire county council

 

Community and town councils

Will arrange for the charter to be reviewed every two years, following the initial review, or as agreed

 

Will actively contribute to the review of the charter

Will arrange for the development of an action plan linked to the charter and will actively contribute to achieving the action plan

 

Will actively contribute to the development and delivery of the charter action plan


Conclusion

The undersigned community councils and county council are committed to the principles and statements with the charter for the benefit of local people