§ The Minister for Rural Affairs and Urban Quality of Life (Alun Michael)
In November 2001 the Government issued a consultation paper on their proposals to develop the concept of quality town and parish councils first outlined in the Rural White Paper in November 2000. The proposals aimed to develop a framework for partnership working and equip local councils to take on a stronger role for the benefit of the local community.
I am pleased to announce the details of the quality parish initiative which the Government have developed in the light of the responses to consultation. The scheme has been developed jointly by DEFRA and ODPM with the collaboration of key stakeholders such as the Local Government Association, the National Association of Local Councils and the Countryside Agency.
The scheme sets some straightforward tests that parish and town councils have to pass before they are awarded quality parish or town council status. These tests for accreditation require a quality council to (a) have initially at least 80 per cent. of its seats filled by candidates who stood for election (rising to 100 per cent. for re-accreditation), (b) have a suitably qualified clerk (c) hold at least six council meetings each year, (d) publish annual reports (e) provide regular information to residents on parish activities; and (f) produce properly prepared and audited accounts. Applications will be assessed by county panels including people with experience of both principal authorities and town and parish councils.
The scheme also includes a model charter where all parish councils are encouraged to negotiate with principal authorities to set out how these tiers of local government can promote partnership working. Once granted quality status, local councils will be in a position to give their communities a better deal on local services and a stronger voice in decisions affecting peoples day to day lives.
Copies of the summary will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.