1 What is Quality Status?
Quality Status is a sort of kite mark for local councils. It is an indication of a well run council. It shows that a Town or Parish council has a qualified clerk, keeps accurate accounts, is involved in the community and, above all, communicates effectively with the public.
2 What does that mean in practice?
It means that the clerk holds CiLCA – the certificate in local council administration – and that accounts are produced and audited promptly, that councillors are all elected and active and that the Council communicates well – for example, through a website and regular newsletters.
3 Who awards quality status?
It is awarded by a small panel of people with wide experience of the way local councils work, including representatives of the county and district councils. The panel examines a portfolio of evidence and requires proof of most of the sixty separate elements which make up the Quality Status requirements. In this area, they operate under the guidance of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, which is part of a national organisation representing Town and Parish Councils. The government, specifically the Department of Communities and Local Government, set up the Quality Status scheme in the first place.
4 So it is a statutory requirement?
Currently it is a voluntary scheme. Soon, it seems likely that it may become a scheme where the requirements are decided by a Minister of the Crown and which has it’s basic framework determined by an act of parliament. However, no local council will be required to try to achieve Quality Status.
5 What benefits does obtaining Quality Status have?
It tells people a local council has been through an independent assessment and found to be an effective organisation, providing added value to local residents.
It means a local council has more credibility in the eyes of voluntary groups and commercial organisations. The Council is more likely to be able to enter into agreements with them or to persuade them to get involved in community activities. It also has more credibility with the Borough and County Councils. Most important, the voters and people in its area can see that an outside body has found it well run and worth supporting.
A council with quality status is better able to put up an argument (if it wishes) to run services in partnership with, or on behalf of, other councils. So in Nantwich, for example, the Town Council might manage facilities like the Civic Hall or swimming pool alongside, or instead of, the Borough Council. Or, for instance, it might be able to agree with the County Council that it should run the library in the town. This is not an automatic result of Quality Status and indeed, the Town Council might not want to run such services, but if it wanted to go down that route, it would have a better chance of doing so because it is recognised as a Quality Council. It would be seen to be a competent and properly organised body. It seems possible, also, that in a year or so, Quality Councils will receive additional statutory powers from the government.
6 How many Quality Councils are there?
There are around 8,000 local (i.e., parish or town) councils in England. Only about 500 of them hold quality status. The rest either don’t want it, don’t think they would get it, or are trying to achieve it.
7 Does Quality Status last for ever, once awarded?
No, it must to be reapplied for after 4 years. You can find out more about Quality Status by going to www.ChALC.org.uk, the web site of Cheshire Association of Local Councils.