We heard from 3 different councils on the way that they run, and the progress that they have made.
Cllr David Garwood
Mayor, Bradford on Avon Town Council
Bradford Town Council has been able to enact real change in their area since the election of 10 independent councillors onto their town council, which has 12 seats.
A group of independents had previously gathered together to discuss what their vision for the town would be, as well as put forward independent candidates for the town council, many of whom had no previous council experience. The success of this effort is due in part to the town’s disillusionment with traditional parties.
A year later, this council has seen success and upheaval. Through a process of team development, councillors have now settled into a new way of working together. In addition, the council has reduced the amount of time spent on non-productive activities. They no longer going out to meet businesses and organisations, who instead come in to the council, while larger organisations are now consultees. Bradford on Avon Town Council have also changed their grant process with more formal applications, encouraging more members of the public to apply, are working with councillors to ensure grants are in line with council strategy, and they have a follow up process. The council’s work has also included a youth strategy, revitalised business strategy and tourism development. It is also now seeking to achieve dementia friendly status.
Cllr Ron Simpson
Uppingham Town Council
Uppingham Town Council work in close partnership with an elected Neighbourhood Forum and Business Forum. Uppingham First, a limited company, was also formed to act as a Community Partnership for Uppingham, which works to promote the town. Its board consists of 7 business directors, 3 voluntary sector directors and 3 statutory sector directors. This deliberately gives businesses a majority of 1, so Uppingham ensures its actions stay business-friendly.
The town council is very active in engaging businesses. Through their work with the forums and Uppingham First, they aim to work in a way which gets things done, sidestepping many of the traditional administrative burdens of the town council.
The town is also greatly invested in looking forward to the future. Major projects include a voice-led online portal, aimed at engaging the increasing number of people searching the internet by voice.
More about Uppingham Town Council can be seen in the presentation slides which can be downloaded here: Spotlight on Uppingham April 2018
Town Clerk, Falmouth Town Council
Falmouth Town Council has made progress since the last council election as there has been a great aspiration for action from the new councillors. Much of the change within this council has come from asset devolution from the county. The council has had to think about what needs doing locally and create a strategy to manage the new areas of services that they are now delivering.
Falmouth has seen four phases of devolution from the county, the first starting with a desire to see public toilets kept open and well-maintained. The delivery of cultural services has been one of their largest initiatives, with the cultural strategy aiming to revitalise the town by taking on services without replicating a tired old model. In addition, Falmouth Town Council has delivered projects by working in partnership with other councils to secure services. One of their greatest successes has been the CCTV monitoring, working with Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service as well as 10 other local councils.
The council now operates under the “Spirit of the Sea” brand, and has expanded their staffing to provide services and fulfil strategic aims. Their grounds team, for example, is now in-house rather than contracted out. This has led to significant cost savings.
More about Falmouth Town Council can be seen in the presentation slides which can be downloaded here: Breaking the mould conference 2018
Having heard from all three delegates, the session was opened up for questions.
How did Falmouth Town Council go about getting the Fires Service to work with councils and take charge of monitoring a centralised CCTV system?
Mark Williams responded that the key to this success had been picking the right moment. Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service were reorganising and had recently received money and built a new control room. They needed to be seen to do work which was relevant and beneficial to Cornish towns and communities, and as such local councils were able to seize the opportunity and deliver the CCTV service.
Was Falmouth able to receive extra resources due to the abolishment of district councils in Cornwall, as well as taking on more services?
Falmouth Town Council took on services mainly due to need – they felt the community needed those services, and they would have been lost without intervention. There were issues around acquiring any freehold or leasehold, with the county council reluctant to let go, until austerity made them realise they could not afford to keep running as they did. The first three phases of devolution to the town council were about community need for services. It is only with the 4th phase, additional green space, that the devolution has needed to come with additional income-generating assets for the town council.
Do the forums in Uppingham encourage community engagement?
The Neighbourhood Forum and Business Forum are elected bodies, with people from the town able to be elected to sit on it. In addition, the Neighbourhood Forum holds a yearly AGM, with every household sent a newsletter inviting them to come along and have a chance to be heard.
How have you achieved success?
In Bradford on Avon, success has come partially from exploiting their councillors’ expertise, with individual councillors taking on specific responsibilities. For example, a councillor with experience in business has been able to contribute greatly to that area of work. Sometimes, experts have also been brought in. Success, however, also comes from their attitude to work. The council determines what they want to do, and then gets on and does it. The decision to not adopt the old model of working has allowed an opportunity to rethink.
What are top tips to ensuring concrete, sustainable, genuine engagement from the community?
There will be some false thorns – try several different models before finding the way forward. Creating engagement comes both from how you present the packet, but also the ability to deliver on it. People may engage with talk, but won’t keep coming back unless they see results. While there is no one solution to creating engagement, it is important for the council to see their relationship with the community as a partnership, and therefore work together.