Happy New Year to our members from DALC’s Chair

Happy New Year to all our members as DALC’s Chair, Liz Brookes-Hocking, writes an open letter reflecting on the challenges the sector is facing and the opportunities that might be available.

Happy New Year!

No sooner are the twinkling Christmas lights down and the empties put out for recycling, than councils are doubly bumped back into reality with budgeting and setting the precept. Figures are pored over to make sure that everything that is needed is covered, with some contingency for the unexpected and maybe some for new projects and ventures to benefit the community. 

Whether you’re a small council with a small precept or a large one with property, assets and a turnover to match, setting the budget and precept is a key responsibility. These days, every penny spent must be value for money. The same is true for the county and districts. Many of them have reduced or cut discretionary services and are understandably focused on their statutory responsibilities, to be delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible and that may mean more cuts on the way. It’s tough. It impacts negatively on communities.

In this context, I would like to emphasise the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among the tiers of local government. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we work hand in hand to navigate the financial constraints and collectively strive for the best possible outcomes for our communities. The synergy between County, District, and Parish Councils is the cornerstone of effective governance, ensuring that our limited resources are used judiciously to meet the diverse needs of our residents. 

DALC remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering stronger relationships between parish councils and county and districts. Our goals include ensuring effective communication channels, encouraging collaborative decision-making and partnership, while enhancing the capacity of parish and town councils.

At the AGM, I explained a reason for the rise in membership fees for DALC – the need to create capacity for strategic partnership work with the other authorities because: 

  • Town and parish councils have a key role to play in local government and need to be an equal part of the trio; 
  • By working together, councils and authorities can deliver differently, share best practice, and achieve economies of scale;
  • As a Devolution Deal for Devon approaches, we need structures where we can represent the interests of our communities and achieve the best outcomes;
  • Our communities will suffer if the three sectors don’t work together – resilience will fall, and frustration will rise.

The staff team at DALC is ready to give advice and information to members when needed; the programme of Connect Events started last year with sessions on housing, devolution and nature recovery. In terms of establishing links, DALC is already working with some districts to bridge the gap with towns and parishes and with the county on communications with our sector. It’s probably not going to be quick or easy but the opportunity to push forward is there. I’m looking forward to supporting the DALC staff as they work on these priorities. 

The staff and the Board welcome your input to the work of the Association at any time and will be pleased to receive ideas and comments. Meanwhile, thank you for your continued commitment to DALC, and I wish all our member councils a successful year and good times for all our communities in 2024. 

Liz Brookes-Hocking

You can learn more about DALC’s governance structure and if you do want to get in touch with us with any ideas, then please contact us here.

Why you should come work with us!

We are currently recruiting for a Member Services Trainee/Assistant, with a view to developing that role into a Member Services Officer. As the existing Member Services Officer, read my story and why you should come work with us!

First of all, I’m not going anywhere but I am really looking forward to having someone else on board and expanding our staff team!

I started at DALC in 2019, with a few years of experience as a clerk and a brand-new CiLCA qualification under my belt. Since then, my role has expanded hugely as the organisation has grown from strength to strength.

It’s a really exciting, and challenging role. I love getting to know many of our members through answering queries, attending events and delivering training. My working days are always different, and might include putting together e-bulletins or writing for the website, answering a wide range of queries or working out how we can best deliver services.

The Trainee/Assistant role is designed to mirror a similar professional journey to my own. There will be opportunities to get involved in different elements of DALC’s work, all while working closely with the rest of our friendly staff team.

It’s a perfect role for any clerk or council officer (or anyone else) who might be interested in learning about the sector and getting more experience. It may be particularly interesting to anyone who already has CiLCA, is working towards it, or is interested in getting that qualification (we will be offering support for that!).

There will be plenty of support available to guide you through the role; no-one will be thrown in the deep-end! And, as I like to say to my CiLCA candidates, we all know more than we think we do. We have plenty of resources for guidance, and a strong network to lean on.

If you are at all interested in the role, I’d strongly recommend contacting either Cara or myself (01392 241131 or contact us here) to have a chat; I’m really looking forward to working with the successful candidate to move DALC into the next few years.

Introducing our Connect Events

Engaging with member councils is a cornerstone of DALC’s mission. We are delighted to be introducing ‘Connect Events’ which will be instrumental in bringing councils together; to connect with DALC, to connect with each other, and to connect with other agencies whose work impacts our communities.

A primary goal of these events is to foster information sharing and collaboration.  We want to create a space where councils can engage in open and constructive discussions, receive timely information, and to pool our collective wisdom so DALC can effectively represent its membership, and help shape local policy which supports our communities. 

 Our connect events will provide a valuable source of knowledge and updates for councils.  In a frequently changing world, access to information is important for councils to make informed decisions.  We want our connect events to provide a direct channel for councils to stay up to date with the latest developments. 

 The connect events are also about building relationships too.  Councils, with their own unique experiences, can learn from one another, share insights, and build connections – with each other and hopefully other agencies too. 

 As we embark on this journey, we invite all councils to participate actively in these events – where collaboration flourishes, engagement thrives, information flows, and our network strengthens. 

Upcoming Connect Events:

Tackling Devon’s housing crisis: Learn more about the Devon Housing Commission 

It is no secret that Devon is in the grip of a housing crisis.  DALC has heard from numerous parishes about the rise of second home ownership, increasing short-term rental accommodation, and the lack of social and affordable housing in communities. Join this session to hear from Lord Richard Best, Chairman of the Housing Commission that has been established by the Devon Housing Task Force to tackle the crisis.  

Wednesday 25 October, 10am, on Zoom. This is a free online event, read more and register here.

A Devolution Deal for Devon: What is in the Devolution Deal, and why will it benefit Devon’s communities?

Devolution is a transfer of powers and funding from national to local government, and is important because they facilitate decision-making closer to people, communities and businesses. Since 2022, local authority partners and government officers have been working to prepare a final deal for Devon. But what does the deal contain? How will it benefit our communities? Hear from Phill Adams, Programme Lead for the Devolution Deal on the current status of the deal, what powers and funding will be included, and proposals for how the deal will be governed locally.

Thursday 9 November, 10am, on Zoom. This is a free online event, read more and register here.

Read more

Councils recently came together at our AGM; catch up with the proceedings, and take the chance to have your say about what matters to you and your council including what other topics you might be interested in exploring through our Connect Events

An overview of our AGM 2023

Our Annual General Meeting provides our member councils with and opportunity to review DALC’s performance in the past year, and steer the strategic direction of DALC in the future. Catch up on this year’s discussions and continue to feed back what is important to your council.

On 27th September, parish and town councils descended upon Exeter Racecourse for the Annual General meeting.  The AGM is not just a formality.  At its heart is our Annual Report which showcases a year of remarkable achievements by parish and town councils, and the wide range of support DALC provides to councils to create effective local governance and thriving communities.

At this year’s AGM, directors demonstrated commitment to providing a quality service to member councils, recognising our core purpose and priorities to be the provision of advice, information and training services, but also partnership working and member engagement for effective representation of the sector.  All of which required a greater level of resource to ease pressures on DALC’s small staff team.

Directors presented proposals for subscription increases, to boost income to support of our members services.  Feedback from participants reflected the value DALC brings to councils, and the need for it to be properly resourced.  Participants gave widespread support for DALC to reconsider proposals with a view to generate further subscription income -the current proposal was too deemed too modest.

Widespread support was also expressed for improved member engagement, enabling councils of all sizes and experience to be able to contribute to DALC’s discussions on matters of importance to councils.  It was acknowledged that the previous County Committee structure was an ineffective use of resources.  DALC will utilise a range of tools in future, such as polls, surveys and open meetings, and look to provide more face-to-face networking opportunities, like our AGM & Conference.

Catch up on this years AGM

Watch the recording

Listening to our members

Our AGM this year included a member engagement session. We wanted to learn what was important to our members and how we can help. We asked 5 key questions:

  1. What are the top 3 issues facing your council?
  2. What is the most challenging and what is most satisfying about your role?
  3. Do you have a good relationship with other authorities?  and what could be improved?
  4. How could DALC help you achieve your goals?
  5. What topics would you like to explore further through DALC networking opportunities?

We would like to give every member council an opportunity to join in and have their say, so please share your views with us. The survey is open to councillors and officers from any of our member councils; please do take a moment to share your thoughts!

Next steps

DALC staff team and directors will review all submissions and use this information to help shape our emerging business plan.  We will share our findings and future plans with all member councils.

Read more

All our members are invited to read our Annual Report 22.23, which contains all the news on what we’ve been up to the in last year and a selection of the fantastic projects our member councils have been working on.

Minutes from previous AGMs can be found on our governance page, along with details of our Board of Directors.

Keep an eye out for our new Connect Events, bringing councils together and connecting you with DALC, with other councils, and organisations whose work impacts our communities.

**Save the date for next year’s AGM which will take place on 2 October 2024**

Annual Report 2022/23

Our Annual Report is our chance to reflect on everything that has happening throughout the year, while sharing information about what we have been up to, as well as the activities of our members. Our 2022/23 report is now available for you to read!

In 2022/23, councils once again demonstrated their continued resilience and incredible adaptability, managing to get through another challenging year. We celebrated the platinum jubilee of HM The Queen, then shortly after, mourned at the state funeral. Councils supported communities through the cost of living crisis, extreme weather, and completed a range of projects. And as the year ended, we were preparing for the ordinary elections. Demand for DALC services continued to be high throughout all of this. Take a look at our Annual Report and discover for yourself the wide variety of work which has taken place over the year.

Join our Board of Directors!

We have a vacancy on our Board of Directors which can be filled by co-option; read on for more information and how to apply for the position!

Join our Board!

As a company, DALC is required to have a Board of Directors and each year one-third of the board must stand down. We asked earlier in the year for nominations to fill those vacancies but since no nominations were received, the Board is able to co-opt. Following two successful applications for co-option, the Board is looking to fill the one remaining vacancy. 

The Board of Directors is responsible for the day-to-day strategic and operational management of the Association. This is a great time to join as we are developing our next business plan to see DALC through the next few years of our development.

Who can join and how to apply?

To be eligible to stand for the Board, individuals must be willing to act as a director and permitted in law to do so, and at the time of election, be either: a parish or town councillor, or a chairman of a parish meeting, within the county of Devon. Terms are for a 3-year period.

If you are interested in standing for the board, please take a look at the role profile and submit an application. The closing date for co-option at the next board meeting is 5pm on Tuesday 6th December.

If you require any further information or would like an informal chat, please do not hesitate to contact us.